The demand of the Majority Meitei to be included in the Schedule Tribe list has raised the eyebrows amongst the ethnic tribal minority.
The demand spearheading by a group called the Schedule Tribe Demand Committee (STDC) has viewed as a perturbing development (as per the tribal).
The tribal perceived it as a potential threat invading the rights and benefits enshrine by the constitution of India.
Nevertheless, the committee mitigated the demand will bring about a ‘cohesive and harmonious’ society based on social and ethnic equality as enshrine in the preamble of the constitution.
It has been voicing that including the Meitei in the ST list is an unavoidable option today since the question of tribes in India today is closely linked with administrative and political consideration.
The STDC also claimed that the portrayal of Meitei as ‘Aryan’ race was a blunder made by some leaders with false ego which was virtually gave birth with the imposition of Hindu in Manipur.
The Committee claimed that Meitei are tribal by birth but they are not included in the ST list and categorised as a General Category and do not enjoy any constitutional safe guards as indigenous people (Yelhoumee). Over 10 Lakh odd Meiteis are apprehensive of going extinct from their land over the next 5 to 6 decades due to unabated influx from outside.
However, the tribal leaders and general population who are opposed to the idea, see it the other way round.
The lot (who are against the idea of ST demand) questioned the intent why the Meitei wants to become tribe.
As predicted by a tribal leader, if the Meitei wants to find out its root based on “Shalai Taret” (The seven clans of Manipuris) an internal conflict not only between the Meiteis and Tribal but amongst the Meiteis was imminent.
This could be indeed true as there are Brahmins and royal clan, who put themselves above all ethnic communities residing in the state. The Schedule Caste are also Meiteis, the question of who would be branded what itself is rather complex at this point of time when half of the Meitei are opposing it as predicted.
The first and foremost when we debate about the issue will ultimately lead to reservation issues.
As per record in 1953, 34 tribes were given the due recognition of being the ethnic tribal in Manipur and based on the 1971 census the tribal were benefited with 33 percent of reservation, 2 percent for Schedule caste.
As per the census of 2011 the population of tribal has increased three fold and the tribal are of the opinion that the reservation should be increased to 41 percent.
The constitution does not entertain the reservation for any community the reservation exceeding 50 percent. Given the situation, if Meiteis are granted with the status of Tribal what will become of the ethnic Tribals is a big questioned need to be answer, although the ST demand committee has been claiming that it will not infringe upon the rights of the tribals.
Above all there are no concrete policies in existence for the upliftment of the tribal, the demand would rather widen the gaps between the ethnic tribal minorities and the general Meiteis, as many perceived.
The ST demand committee must come out with a clear picture so as to avoid any complication in the future to the already fragile situation created by the demand of ILP system.
If the ST demand committee’s wholehearted intention is to bring together the tribal and Meitei closers, then the best way would be encouraging inter community marriage.
Let those who are demanding ST starts accepting a ‘hao’ as their daughter in-law or son in-law and leave the rest to time. Let us stop creating a situation for more ‘Mayophigee Macha’.
Leader Writer: Leivon Jimmy