IMPHAL, May 22 : A public meeting held here today at Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen, Palace Compound has endorsed the demand for enlistment of Meitei/Meetei in Scheduled Tribe (ST) category under the Constitution of India. The meeting organised by the Coordinating Body on Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur (CBSTDCM) resolved to urge the State Government to take up all necessary initiatives for inclusion in the ST category ahead of the next State Assembly session which is likely in the month of July. The meeting was presided by STDCM president and College Development Council former Director Prof Y Mohendro and Manipur State Human Rights Commission former member RK Rajendra moderated the meeting. Speaking at the gathering, retired IPS officer Sarangthem Manaobi dismissed all objections to the demand for ST status as whimsical. Nonetheless, there is a need to bring an understanding with all the antagonists of the ST status. “We must prostrate before them, if necessary. If they still refuse to support the popular demand or to withdraw their objections, they must be declared as enemies of the people”, Manaobi said. Meiteis were once known for their high level of civilization and valour but now they are reduced to the status of slaves. He went on to ask if there is any Meitei Judge in the Supreme Court, or a General in the Indian Army or an Admiral in the Indian Navy. “Meiteis have now become a punching bag of every community. We are living in the past legacy. The claim that Meiteis enjoy higher social status defies both logic and reality”, he asserted. Meiteis cannot afford complacency just because they are a bigger community in the State and the only way to protect them is through enlistment in ST category under Article 341(2) of the Indian Constitution. There is no harm in enlisting Meiteis in ST category and there would not be any difficulty in removing the community from ST list. It only needs a recommendation of the State Government, Manaobi continued. CAU former Dean Dr Naorem Iboton remarked that the STDCM’s campaign for ST status is rather late. It should have been launched 10/20 years back, he added. The myriad issues plaguing Manipur at present can be reduced only when Meiteis are enveloped with the protective shield of ST status. Meiteis originated as highlanders before they migrated to the valley. The demand for ST status for Meiteis is nothing but ‘restoration to originality’, Dr Iboton asserted. Col (retd) Dr T Hemo maintained that the demand for ST status does not have any inclination to subdue other communities nor does it mean grasping all the opportunities. It is all about giving some dietary supplements to an ailing community. The ongoing demand for ILPS and the campaign for ST status are not contradictory. The two movements can be amalgamated together. He also expressed keen desire to debate the issue with all the antagonists in a constructive manner. Dr Khomdon Lisam questioned as to how Meiteis were included in SC and OBC categories when some people have been claiming that the community was quite advanced. The word ‘Meitei’ is not found anywhere in the Indian Constitution and there is not a single provision to protect their lands and rights. There is no harm for the Meiteis to take the central role in building a Manipuri Nation but the same task can also be done with the ST tag attached to them. He went on to question how a Manipuri Nation can be built while Meiteis are listed in General category and hill people categorised as ST. Dr Khomdon asserted that only the ST status can protect the identity, culture and language of Meitei community. Manipur State Human Rights Commissioner former Member Yambem Laba, STDCM secretary general Col (retd) Laishram Lokendro and MU CDC Director Dr Th Ratankumar too spoke at the meeting. Notably, Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen was packed to full capacity during the meeting.