Denying Meitei ST status: feeding the ghost from the past

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By Kh. Ibomcha

Like any other commoner does, I, for a while, have been at my wit’s end otiosely trying to sort out reasons why some among us, rather those anti-tribal proponents, do not like to get Meiteis enlisted as ST under Indian constitution that could make both ‘ching’ and ‘tam’ stand on a par with each other.

But the next moment, there, on my mind, flashed up an idea—the idea of ‘honor killing— hitting me home accounting for all the whys and wherefores of their unwillingness to locate valley-men where hill-men are socio-politically placed under Indian constitution.

Looking from a sociological point of view, anti-ST champion’s non-acceptance and furor over Pro-ST proponents’ idea of clubbing ‘Ching-Tam’ together through putting ‘tam’ where ‘ching’ has already been constitutionally put, in every sense, seems to be very much akin to malevolent mental makeup of ‘honor killing’ where one kills one’s own daughter who has been perceived as soiling family honor.

If one carefully keeps on observing the polemic over whether or not Meitei has to be included in ST list of Indian constitution as widely debating now across the state, what can effortlessly be perceived is the fact how most arguments put up by anti-ST crusaders hitch onto the idea of taking Meitei as a group much more advanced than hill-people in every aspect blowing the whistle on their concealed mindset that furtively says ‘living together with hill-settlers’ is as much dishonorable as eating with Sudra or Dalit in Indian society based on caste system.

“It is a matter of pride that obligates Anti-ST campaigners to stand against the move tossed by STDC” is what a Professor teaching economics in Manipur university arrogantly said on a television talk show hosted by Impact TV closing out hills from the civilizational order he was talking about on that day making frequent slip-ups uncloaking their outlooks, more devilish than evils, which they have tried to put behind the screen, a deeply-seated attitude that makes them think mixing with ‘chingmees’ as dishonorable and impious.

Boiling down the entire argument made by them since the day this polemic over the issue was born, we can see fear of ‘Jat-Taba’ as the main cause of Anti-St’s condemnation of ST movement, while at the same time this fear of ‘Jat-taba’ subtly unmasks another eye-opening fact yanking out presence of elements highly wired with the hierarchization based on their own brand of casteism that has been transmitted into their whole psychic system as a product of mistaking Indian culture as theirs.

Almost all the intellectuals supporting anti-ST campaign including some moss-backed professors teaching MU hinge their arguments on the idea of ‘high and low’ trafficked in our state many years ago Xeroxing values alien to us wherein honor killing has been read as normal stuff besides taking it as a must to protect family-honor suggesting us the need to curb down any social or political movement attempting to bring ‘ching’ and ‘tam’ together.

To pick up on this attitude analogous to killing one’s own daughter to restore family honor, we can refer to an argument made by Professor MC Arun on May 18’s ‘Manung Hutna’ of Impact TV where you will hear his opinion on ‘inclusion of Meitei in ST list’. In that program he cried out, “I do not like to ascribe this tag of backwardness” overtly inferring highlanders as people much lesser than the group he represents.

Any sensible observer can see the inhumed ghost of hatred walking tall in their heart which STDCM enthusiastically tries to exorcise to permanently put an end to the age-old rift between ‘ching’ and ‘tam’.

But they have felt this exorcism rite as whopping threat on their psyche –a psyche that can be likened to the idea of lording it over highlanders as symbol of national pride— sensing it as dirtying their honor leading them to feel the need of doing away with such movements as ST demand attempting to let hill-settlers stand on par with valley residents.

This act of tagging adherents of pro-ST movement with obnoxious labels like ‘traitor’ or ‘betrayer’ as widely written in Imphal based daily papers bracketing pro- ST group’s attempt to blot out the proverbial line of dissection between the two ethnic sisters with the notion of crossing cultural boundary is an evident testimony to anti-ST people’s willing endorsement of hill-valley dichotomy initially borne out

of embracing Hinduism in the 18th century, now furthered by a constitutional line drawn in the name of ethnic inequality.

Because of these secret agendas on which they rest their arguments, they often fail to hide things envisioned to hide from ‘chingmees’ as well as from pro-ST group making them often landed up in a dead-end with every debate they opened fallen flat.

Their idea of Manipur having more than 2000 year’s history with a high level civilizational order would be cheapened after Meitei has been listed as ST under Indian constitution is the basis of their fear—the fear of being dishonored. But it seems that they never think the same civilization they are boasting of now is the product of cumulative efforts made by both ‘ching’ and ‘tam’.

And it also seems that they never mind shouting being scheduled tribe or tribe as of lower socio-cultural order’ adding insult to injury hitting where it hurts most to hill-people. They appear not to be able to grasp the simple fact that, what they really need now is not to thrash chingmee nor ST champions but removing their age-old idea charged with vedic values that make them obsessed of losing honor blocking all the ways leading to a new civilizational order based on justice and equality as longed by all—both hills and valley.

Based on their view that takes being ST as downward slide, one thing becomes more than clear that there are still odds and ends of old evil practices driven by orthodox meitei Hindus’ jingoistic attitudinal traits that has once spawned ill treatment on highland lasses who have been married to any meitei family.

These people are so cut off from objective realities in which they are being set that they often speak of post-modern values based on neo-liberal economy while they keep themselves shut inside a cocoon packed with values anchored to casteism that came along with Hinduism making them think it incorrect (or impure) to stand where highlanders are standing now, that is being ST.

If that cannot be read as I said above, why these people are shouting “being ST would make us inferior group” in every ST demand related meeting and public discourses? This point they frequently mention during their speeches has brought

me the idea of ‘honor killing’ enabling me to exactly say the genre in which these movements (anti-st movement) belong to.

This kind of thinking associates with illusions of ‘moving forward’ while they actually are traversing with reverse gear as they caged themselves in the past fastening against a static pole reading the past in the light of excessively twisted casteist narrative.

By doing thus, they are not only hampering possibilities we can achieve or attain but they are also encouraging violent acts that may lead us all to a point extremely close to what we may call mutual destruction.

As everybody sees, since long there is a war going on in Kangleileipak which can be meant as some sort of historic effort to remove the baggage of history dividing people inhibiting this geo-political entity hugely enveloped with conflicting interests that have every so often been problematic both in positive as well as negative sense as this effort often represents the interest of certain group of people to maintain their status quo rather than Kanglei collective interest.

Let’s exorcise the ghost from the past that has been keeping ‘ching’ severed from ‘tam’ that has also been playing key cause of every issue involving hill and valley as seen in the last few decades rather than biting people who love to rekindle the lost spark of love between highlanders and valley settlers. So, please stop rearing the ghost from the past in your heart if you really want to let your sons and daughters see a new Kangleipak that is peaceful, progressive and cohesive as well, or else we will be annihilated soon.

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