Why Meiteis want Schedule Tribe Status under the Indian Constitution ?

2009

(Part-3)

By Dr. Khomdon Singh Lisam

Manipur-after merger to India

Maharaj Bodhchandra signed the Instrument of Accession on 11 August, 1947. But we do not know whether the agreement was accepted by the then Governor General, Lord Mountbatten or not. In case of Kashmir,  the Instrument of Accession executed by Maharajah Hari Singh on October 26, 1947 and accepted by  the then Governor General, Lord Mountbatten on 27 October, 1947. On February 15, 1954 the Kashmir Constituent Assembly cast a unanimous vote ratifying the state`s accession to India. No Manipuri was included in the Constituent Assembly formed in 1946. Tripura cannot represent Manipur. No Manipuri participated in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly on 26 November, 1948. No ratification and no referendum were conducted in Manipur regarding introduction of Indian Constitution in Manipur.  Rather the Constitution of India was imposed on Manipur with the forced annexation of Manipur.

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of article 342 of the Constitution  of India, the President , after consultation with the Governors of the States concerned, is pleased to make the following Order, namely Constitution  ( Scheduled Tribe) order , 1950 under which  34 ethnic groups were included in the  schedule Part X  of the order . While Article 14 confers equal rights and opportunities to all, Article 15 prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of sex, religion, race, caste etc; Article 15(4) enjoins upon the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes; Article 16(4) empowers the State to make provisions for reservation in appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens, which in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State; Article 46 enjoins.

Article 371C of the Indian Constitution divides Manipur into Hill and Valley.  Manipur is more than 90% hills. There are many hills in the valley and there are many valley areas in the hills. The division of the same state into hill and valley divides the same people on ethnic lines and sowed the seed of ethnic conflict between Meiteis and hill people. The division of same people with common ancestors and common origin into Schedule Tribe and General according to Indian Constitution creates a wedge in the solidarity and unity of Meiteis and hill people. Further, to add salt to the injury, the Indian Parliament in the Eleventh Year of the Republic of India passed the “Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960” exclusively for the valley districts without covering hill districts under which the hill people and outside migrants are allowed to settle in the valley whereas the Meiteis are not allowed to settle in the hills. In other words, the hill people from 90% of the land areas of Manipur are allowed to migrate and settle in the valley which is 10% of the land area of Manipur. Where the Meiteis will go? This extremely discriminatory law was enacted under the provisions of the Article 371C of the Indian Constitution. Thus Article 371C of the Indian Constitution becomes the genesis of all ethnic conflicts in Manipur. We are not blaming ethnic groups for this crisis. The discriminatory provision of Indian Constitution is the enemy of the state of Manipur.

Possible fear of the Meiteis

1. Meiteis take Manipur as their homeland.  They take pride in the 2000 year old written history of Manipur kingdom. The territorial integrity of Manipur is threatened because of conflict situation. Now the Nagas are demanding “Alternative Administrative Arrangement outside the purview of the Government of Manipur till final settlement of Naga Issue”. This means, there will be two governments and there will be no functional relationship between so called Nagas and Meiteis till final settlement of Naga issue. In other words, the anatomy will be perfect but there will be no physiology. When there is no physiology, we call it dead body.  Further, what will happen when the final settlement comes? One interesting fact is that the Government of India has offered to amend the Indian Constitution to fulfil the Naga demand. This is not due to out of love for Muivah or Nagas but to satisfy their own hidden agenda – preventing Muivah from becoming the leader of North East India and rising of an united North East. The Kukis are demanding separate Kuki State because of mistrust and conflict situation among the ethnic groups. But all the ethnic groups must realize that this conflict situation is created intentionally by the Government of India to divide the North East into fragments based on ethnicity, religion and politics. There is no animosity against the Nagas, Kukis. Our common enemy is the discriminatory provisions of the Constitution of India.

2. The division of Manipur into Hill and Valley according to article 371C of Indian Constitution is a deliberate plan of the Indian Constitution to create tension and conflict situation between Meiteis and hill people and destabilize Manipur.

3. The division of same people with common ancestors and common origin into Scheduled Tribe and General under Indian Constitution removes equality, solidarity and unity between Meiteis and hill people and poisoned the mind-set of people in Manipur.  This is a deliberate plan of the Indian Constitution to create tension between Meiteis and hill people and keep Manipur in a boiling pot. The mainland Indians still believes in the caste system.

4. Because of mistrust and conflict situation in Manipur  originated through the Indian Constitution,  some section of the ethnic groups are  trying to increase their population by encouraging  illegal migration from Bangladesh,  Myanmar  and Nepal . This is happening not only in Jiribam, Saji Tampak, Kangpokpi, Sapermeina but also in the valley and in the heart of Imphal town.  Unfortunately, our prominent politicians are treating these foreigners as vote banks. The Manipur issues have become too important to leave it only to the politician alone.

5. The Government of India is encouraging population invasion –a War without weapons – encouraging large scale   migration from other states in the name of secularism. Do they want convert Mongoloid Manipur.  Into Aryan Manipur by controlling our business and economy, violating our rights, identity, language, land and mineral resources, marrying local girls and permanently settling in Manipur in the name of secularism. We should learn from the history of USA, Canada, Australia, Andaman & Nicobar, Tripura and Assam. We should not allow repeat of communal riots in Assam and elsewhere in Manipur. Who will awaken our respected politicians from slumber?                                                                  

Possible grudges against the Meiteis by the existing Schedule Tribe population of Manipur .

1. The hill people were treated as untouchables by the Meiteis.

The newly converted Hindu Meiteis under the influence of Mayang Gurus had practiced this during the 18th to first half of twentieth century. With the conversion to Hinduism, the Mayang Gurus had inculcated the idea of caste system to the Meitei Hindus. Those who refused to accept Hindusim even among the Meiteis were treated as untouchables. This happened at a time when slavery and caste system was practiced all over the world. However, the problem was much more serious in the rest of India in those days as compared with that of Manipur. This was a dark spot in the history of Manipur.

2. The hill people were oppressed by the Meiteis

The oppression happened during the days of the kings. Both the hill people and Meiteis who refused to accept Hindusim were tortured and oppressed. Garib Niwaz tortured and punished those who disobeyed conversion into Hinduism with death penalty to many people including eminent Meiteis. Maharaja Churachand implemented the “Mangba –Sengba” culture which was the root cause of division between the Meiteis and the hill people and even among the Meiteis. During 1913-1941, many hill tribes came to the Manipur palace with a request to allow them to convert to Meitei Hindu. But they were required to pay Rs. eighty four, three sikees, one anna and six pai as a tax to the Maharaja , which was a lot of money for the common  people in those days. Thus this Mangba –Sengba culture was a cause of irritation to both the Meiteis and hill people. It was not only the hill people who suffered but also the Meiteis at the hands of the Maharaja. This was a black spot in the history of Manipur.

3. The Meiteis looked down the hill people as tribal

In olden days, meat and wine were taboo to the Meitei Hindus. Rearing of chickens, dogs and pigs were strictly forbidden. Meiteis considered these things as dirty.  But the hill people were eating meat including pig and drinking rice beer. Further the economic conditions of most of the hill people in those days were not good. Many of them came to the valley in search of work for earning money. Meiteis used to look down anybody including Meiteis who indulged in such food habits and practiced these trades.

4. The development schemes were confined to valley and the hill people are deprived of their share.

This allegation is not correct. There is a separate department to look after the affairs of tribals in Manipur. There is a separate tribal minister and tribal director in charge of these affaires for last so many decades overseeing the allocation and use of funds for hill areas in Manipur.  There is a strong monitoring mechanism to monitor allocation and use of in hill areas in Manipur. The Governor of Manipur is submitting a regular report direct to the President of India at regular intervals regarding use of funds for hill areas. Blaming the Meiteis for all the ills of tribals is a quick way to gain popularity and win votes at the time of election.  No tribal politician got elected without blaming the Meiteis. This is a political gimmick. Rich and influential tribal are the big exploiters of other poor and innocent tribals.

Possible fears of the existing Schedule Tribe population of Manipur .

The main fear  of the existing tribals in Manipur is that by becoming Scheduled Tribes, the Meiteis  are going to  grasp the reservation quota of tribals in education and employment at All India level and state level under Article 335 of Indian Constitution. This is not true. The existing tribals of Manipur will continue to get their due share proportionate to their population size. Reservation quota for Meiteis is not the main agenda for the demand of inclusion of Meiteis in the Schedule Tribe list under the Indian Constitution.

What are the criteria for being a Schedule Tribe?

Under Article 342(1), “the President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be”

Under Article 342(2) of Indian Constitution, the “Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.”

Do Meiteis fulfil the basic criteria or characteristics of Scheduled Tribe

The Meitei belongs to the Mongoloid race and the first settlers of the country.  They still believed in animism and partially Hindunised.  They are microscopic minority in India –being 0.06% of India’s population. The mainland Indians do not believe that the Meiteis are Hindus and belonged to General category.

Conclusion

Whatever had done cannot be undone.  The conversion to Hinduism, Christianity cannot be undone.  Manipur cannot exist without Nagas and without Kukis or without Meiteis. We are one people. We need to stand united and strong.  We need to ensure solidarity and unity among Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis. Then how can we ensure the solidarity and unity among Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis. Is it not our collective responsibility of all the ethnic groups in Manipur to do something to ensure equality, solidarity and unity of all the ethnic groups in Manipur and bring about lasting peace, prosperity and development of Manipur? All of us should jointly demand inclusion of Meiteis under the Schedule Tribe category under the Indian Constitution to restore equality, solidarity, unity among all ethnic groups in Manipur and bring about lasting peace, prosperity and development of Manipur.

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