By: Jila S Waikhom M.D.
Recently there are a lot of news about Manipur. Unfortunately, not all of them are good news. It is quiet apparent that Manipur is in a state of crisis in all aspects of life social, economic and political.Socially,the indigenous people of Manipur are divided on different artificial and fictitious grounds.Politically,there are strong currents of division different groups going in different directions. Economically,as the local people in particular the Meiteis are not protected from taking away their land and property. There is a real danger of extinction of the minority community in a human mass of other Indians.Do not take otherwise. I am very proud of to be an Indian but we have to realise that India is a multi-ethnic country.
How we have come to this situation: a Manipur of glorious past and united country of more than 2000 years? We all read that how our forefathers defended and protected our country. The wind of change started 1890 with the the arrival of the British who divided the country into the valley and hills although the whole area is hilly. However, the British did not change any customary laws of Manipur. Then, in 1948 the annexation of Manipur to India came. All the Indian laws were introduced into Manipur immediately without exception although some of the laws are quite alien to Manipur. When states were annexed or created in India the local customary laws are protected. This was the case about Kasmir, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalay and Arunachal. As we know in the case of Manipur the merger clause did not include the protection of our traditional customs and laws which were quite different than that of the rest of India.However, there were visionaries in the early Indian leadership who saw that there were many different indigenous minority people in India who need to be protected. With that in mind they created certain groups of people in the category of scheduled tribes whose rights and properties are duely protected under the Indian constitution.Although, the Meiteis qualifies to be included in the list of the scheduled tribes and should have been included,it was not included whereas all the rest of the indigenous people of Manipur were included. The consequences of this omission are felt today in every part of our society.
Can we do anything to correct this anomaly? Yes we can but it may need some extra effort.We know from historical perspective and opinion of scholars on this subject the different groups of people residing in Manipur the Meiteis the Tangkhuls,the Kabuis,the Kukis all the rest have the same ethnic origin and DNA. So it is rightful claim to include the Meiteis in the scheduled tribes list like the rest of the other groups in Manipur and in the rest of India.
How about a good I L P system or law will do any good? It will do some good but not good enough.Right now valuable lives are sacrificed and properties are lost in the demand. ILP will monitor some incoming and outgoing people. No ILP law can protect the life properties of the local indigenous people.
In conclusion, the only solution to protect life and property of the indigenous people of Manipur is to include the Meiteis in the Scheduled tribes category as the rest of the other people in the State. This will bring peace and,harmony among the different people of Manipur and also the rest of the other Indians. To this end I urge everybody in Manipur all political parties, social workers, professionals, business people, common people in all walks of life join together proceed to claim this right through the proper channel in a peaceful and civilized way.
I wish a happy and prosperous Manipur.
** About the writer: Jila s waikhom currently lives in the United States since 1971. He was borne and brought up in Singjamei, Imphal and has served as Eye Specialist in Manipur & Nagaland before moving to US. He can be reached at jwaikhom(at)woh(dot)rr(dot)com