Speaking to media persons at the office of Wangkhei Angom Leikai United Youth Club this afternoon, the coordinating body’s convenor Mutum Churamani said that the relay hunger strike which began on August 7 has been called off today.
As a part of the ongoing campaign, a mass rally would be taken out on September 18 from THAU complex to Khuman Lampak Main Stadium.
Almost 70 per cent of the total Meitei/Meetei population are farmers and they have been living a wretched life during the past 66 years after Manipur was merged into the Indian Union.
They are poverty-stricken and they cannot afford good formal education. Nor can they afford inevitable medical expenses.
They constitute a frustrated lot who have been denied any development opportunities, Churamani said.
Manipur is the second poorest State in the country and it occupies the top position in terms of urban poverty. One major factor for such a sorry state is non-inclusion of Meitei in the Scheduled List of the Constitution of India under Article 342-I.
At the same, Meetei/Meitei whose total population is around just 10 lakh out of India’s total population of over 100 crore compete against the vast multitude of Indian people in all aspects of life. This only aggravate the community’s precarious situation.
Meiteis were advanced in some aspects and they are still visible.
However, Meetei/Meitei constitute a minority in their own homeland and they are living like immigrants. Given all these realities, there is a growing need for a Constitutional support.
The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur submitted a representation to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India in 2013 seeking enlistment of Meitei in ST category. The representation was supported by logical explanations on why Meitei should be enlisted in ST category.
In response to the representation, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs asked the State Government to make necessary recommendations and submit a detailed report on ethnography and a socio-economic report.
However, the State Government has not yet made any recommendation, Churamani decried.
Enlistment of Meitei in ST category can remove the psychological barrier that exists between the hill people and plain people. It can also bring uniform development and mutual respect.
He then appealed to all the people to join the mass rally scheduled on September 18 and refrain from calling any bandh or general strike on the day.
To oversee preparations of the mass rally, an organising committee has been constituted, Churamani added.
Later, participants of the last leg of the relay hunger strike shouted slogans like “Indigenous peoples should be protected”, “Meitei should be enlisted in ST category” etc.