The All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) had articulated the myriad of reasons and grounds of justification for opposing the Meitei ST demand in its representation submitted to the Hill Areas Committee, Manipur Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
ANSAM has considered the Meetei/ Meitei ST demand in the Scheduled Tribe list of India imperil to the aim of the Constitution as it conveyed its steadfast stand against the STDCM demand.
It stated that in the backdrop of Meitei ST demand by STDCM gaining momentum in the valley for enlisting the Meeteis/Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of India, “we felt pertinent to articulate in good faith our stand that the demand of the dominant community presently imperils the aims of the Constitution to protect, promote, and special care for a weaker section and thus steadfastly stand our ground against enlisting the Meeteis/Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of India”.
Key points why ANSAM oppose Meitei ST demand
- Meitei lost tribal traits
- Most of Meitei are descendants from Bengal, Assam and Bihar
- Meitei stays near National Highways, Asian Highways and Railways
- Meitei is closer to Airport
- Meitei language is in the 8th Schedule
- Meitei dance is world famous
- Meitei plays Sagol Kangjei
- Meitei participates in Olympics
- Meitei stays near RIMS, CAU, MU, JNIMS, CIPET etc.
Highlighting that the reversal of social strata is a backward process, it stated that ANSAM does not refute the tribal roots of any community, whether big or small due to the fact that even the most civilized community and races of the world today such as Greeks, Romans, Aryans, etc. had tribal roots and in the case of the Meeteis/Meiteis, they must have all the characteristics of a tribal trait in the process of evolution but having undergone several phases of civilization for over a period of 2000 years dating back from 33 AD, they have superseded all tribal traits to be categorized in the list of the Scheduled Tribe.
Claiming tribal roots in the twenty-first century is an “ill-conceived” and “ill-timed” demand because it is a moment of the reversal of social strata, descending from civilized to uncivilized, urban to rural, literate to illiterate, light to darkness, forward to backward with an ulterior motive to further suppress and exploit the regressed tribal society, it stated.
It also stated that in the case of the Meetei/Meitei community for inclusion in the ST list, it is crystal clear that the criteria presently laid down for the specification of a community as scheduled tribes do not match in any manner since they have superseded all the characteristics of a tribe despite the valley brethren articulating that any community has the right to demand for inclusion in the ST list as per the provision enshrined in Article 342(1) and 342(2) of the Indian constitution and no organization has the locus standi to decide one’s status provided the criteria laid down for determining ST status is fulfilled.
Schedule tribes are spread across the country mainly in the forest and hilly regions who are segregated from the rest of the world socially and economically. Thus, in the context of India, scheduled tribe means the selected tribes for protective discrimination validated for 10 years only after the promulgation of the constitution of India but since the scheduled groups could not come up at par with the rest of the advanced society/community in every sphere of lives, protective discrimination continues even after a lapse of seventy-five years of Independence, it stated.
A case study with special reference to the Meetei/Meitei community of Manipur for inclusion in the ST list is quite debatable on the question of homogeneity of such ethnic group after centuries of ethnic mixing in the course of Civilisation with various ethnic groups at different points of time, especially with Burmese and their ethnicities who came in the course of several wars and demographic movement down the line and with a sizeable proportion of people from Bengal, Assam and Bihar who were merged into the mainstream ethnic fabric of Imphal valley by ties of inter marriage and cultural assimilation after the emergence of Shanti Das Gosai, a Hindu preacher from Sylhet during the reign of Garib Niwas in1728 AD. Thus, given to understand the above background, it is quite empirical to wonder or question as to whether the most advanced Meetei/Meitei group as a whole would even qualify to be a homogenous society leaving aside qualifying the definition of a tribe, it further added.
It also stated that the classification of social strata in the Meetei/Meitei community viz, General, Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Caste (SC), and the social fabric woven underneath its strata will be impossible to dissect or segregate.
It also indicated that as per the NER District Development Infrastructure index 2009, Imphal West ranked number 1 in the NE states, Imphal East ranked no. 6, Thoubal – 11, Ukhrul – 68, Tamenglong -75, Churachandpur – 76 and Chandel – 78 respectively.
As against the characteristics of a tribe/tribal, the Meeteis/Meiteis have the following indication of advancement.
Unlike the hill areas of Manipur, the habitation of the valley is well connected by 3 National highways, one (1) Asian highway, one (1) international airport (Tulihal), and railway line. The Meeteis/Meiteis have a rich cultural heritage and a well-developed sense of hygiene. They have a well-developed script/Meitei mayek and are in the 8th Schedules of the Indian Constitution. The Meitei classical dances and music are of unparalleled finesse in the classical world.
The Manipuri dance, referred to as the Manipuri Raas Leela is one of the eight major Indian classical dance forms originated and performed only by the Meiteis surpassing many well-placed Indian states. In terms of shyness of contact with the community at large, it is just the reverse with a significant Diaspora within and outside the country.
Unlike the tribal whose occupations are mostly hunting animals, trapping birds and stone carving, the Meeteis/Meiteis are well represented in service sector viz UPSC, MPSC, RBI, SBI, academician, and professional sectors like Medical, Engineering, sports, etc.
In the Legislative Assembly that has 60 seats, they are represented by 40 seats in an area just 10% out of the geographical expanse of 22,327 sq km having 90% of the hill areas with 19 +1 representation.
The Meiteis have all the amenities of a civilized world with all the mega projects concentrated in the valley. To cite a few, Manipur University, DM University, National Sports University, Manipur University of culture, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), JNIMS, NIT, CAU, NIELIT, Manipur Technical University, JN Manipur Dance Academy, CIPET, ICAR, SAI, ITP, and B.Ed Centres, etc are all in the valley.
The literacy rate being as high as 76-87 %, they are well represented in govt/public and private sector, political Institutions from local bodies to parliament.
Revered as the powerhouse of sports in India, Manipur is studded with Olympians and star sportspersons shining bright on India’s Map for being at the forefront of producing world class champions in Boxing, Weightlifting, Judo, Archery, Hockey, etc all belonging to the Meitei community except for MC Mary Kom.
Interestingly, Manipur is the birthplace of Polo known to Meiteis as Sagol Kangjei, an egalitarian game of the Meitei family owning a pony – a position even well-developed nations find it hard to achieve.
Similar to the Gregorian Calendar, the Meiteis had not only invented the lunar calendar but also claimed that the concept of Era had been claimed to be well developed in the Kingdom of Kangleipak, the erstwhile name of Meitei kingdom, during the reign of Maliyapham Palcha in 1397 BC.
Unlike other Indian states, the tribals of Manipur are neither safeguarded by the sixth schedule nor administered within what the constitution calls “Tribal Areas” of the Fifth Scheduled, ANSAM stated. “We are merely governed under Article 371(C) which has become redundant due to the non-implementation of the ‘Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business”, they stated.
While placing its unequivocal and shared opinion before the HAC Chairman justifying its grounds of opposing Meitei ST demands by STDCM for inclusion of the advanced community in the ST list of India, ANSAM stated that intimidation in social media will exacerbate the fluid situation beyond repairs and to this end, it is beseeched to initiate prompt action to ensure that “fair play” is executed for the well being of all ethnic communities.