Raging debate on ST status for Meiteis : Final say rests with Delhi

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How will the inclusion of the Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India hurt the interest of the different communities, which are already included in the Scheduled Tribe list ?

This question is important in the backdrop of the strong voice of opposition, first raised by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and now the All Tribal Rights Protection Forum, Manipur (ATRPFM), to the demand that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution.

Earlier too there have been voices of opposition from amongst the Meitei people, particularly the All Manipur Students’ Union, (AMSU), Protection and Preservation Committee, Manipur and other like minded individuals to the voice raised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) that the Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India.

As said earlier in this column, the final decision on whether the Meiteis should be included in the ST list or not will not rest on anyone, that is not on any of the organisations, which are engaged in the verbal duel but on the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

It also remains that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs will take a call on the question only after it receives a recommendation from the State Government, that is the Government of Manipur.

The interesting point is, even before the State Government has submitted its recommendations or on the other hand rejected the stand of the STDCM, opposing voices have been raised and it is here that it becomes important to underline the point that it is not anyone or any organisation which can decide on the matter but the Centre.

This however should not mean that one should not study why some tribal bodies have opposed the demand raised by the STDCM.

It has not been explicitly spelt out why but could it be a sense of apprehension that if the Meiteis are included in the ST list, the lion’s share of the reservation quota will fall into the hands of the Meiteis ?

This is an important question for job reservation is not a joke and if the Meiteis are included in the ST list, it could mean tougher competition in the reserved slot.

Does this then mean that including the Meiteis in the ST list would defeat the stated objective of the reservation policy, which is basically about ensuring a level playing field for all, by giving the classified groups some benefits ?

On the other hand wouldn’t such a line of thinking mean that one is only looking at the issue from the perspective of only Manipur and not across the country ?

Moreover the State Government may formulate its own reservation policy, taking into consideration some criteria such as the size of population.

How about land ?

If the Meiteis are included in the ST list would it mean that they can buy landed properties in the hills of Manipur ?

These are some points that come to mind on why two tribal organisations have come out so strongly to the proposal that the Meiteis be included in the ST list.

However it also stands that the State may make its own arrangement to ensure that the properties seen to be in the hills are protected as earlier.

What happens if such an arrangement is made ?

These are questions at the moment and hence it would do well for all to leave the question of ST status to the Meiteis to the competent authority.

Source: The Sangai Express

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