October 20. This is the deadline served by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee to the State Government to submit its recommendation to the Centre that the Meiteis be included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India.
Tough to say whether the Government will be able to meet the deadline for in submitting such a recommendation, due homework has to be done.
The demand to include the Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution is not a new development and if one goes by what STDCM has had to say then a memorandum to include the Meiteis in the ST list was submitted to the then Governor of Manipur and the Chief Minister in 2012.
Moreover the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is understood to have conveyed to the State Government to forward specific recommendations along with the ethnographic reports and socio-economic survey of the Meiteis for inclusion in the ST list on May 29, 2013.
Tough to say how far the State Government has gone to prepare the report but more than likely that not much headway has been made or else surely it would have come to the notice of the interested quarters, particularly the STDCM.
Then in 2015, former Chief Minister O Ibobi had assured to consult experts and historians to take up necessary actions during the Budget session of the Assembly on June 29 of the same year.
Present Chief Minister N Biren had followed suit and on August 2, 2017 informed the Assembly that the matter would be referred to the Manipur State Commission for Scheduled Tribes for examination.
All indications that the State Government too has taken note of the demand raised by the STDCM but the question at the moment is, whether it would be in a position to forward the recommendations to the Centre by October 20 this year.
Other than the question of whether the State Government would be able to forward the recommendations to the Centre by October 20 or not, there is also the question of how well the move of the STDCM will go down with other civil society organisations and student bodies.
This question is important for the past has shown how voices of opposition were raised over the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list.
Moreover there still remains the question of how the Centre would respond to such a recommendation from the State Government.
Apart from this, it stands that Manipur certainly do need some kind of a Constitutional protection in the face of the numerous pulls and pushes that have come along with the time.
The demand to include Meiteis in the ST list should not be seen only through the prism of job reservation but also on the growing need to protect the land and the people from the onslaught of outside forces.
The demand to regulate the inflow of non-local people into the State will fall along this line.
Whatever the outcome may be, tough days are ahead of the BJP led coalition Government here.
And it remains to be seen how deftly the Government is able to handle the issue.
A look back at the last few years should suffice that Manipur can remain crippled on issues for months and it is this which the State Government should not forget.
Source: The Sangai Express