“This demand of the dominant community presently imperils the aim of constitution i.e. to promote, protect and special care for a weaker section”, argues ANSAM.
All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM) on Thursday submitted a memorandum to Hill Areas Committee (HAC), Manipur Legislative Assembly offering the grounds of justification for its stand against The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) demand for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list of India and “diffusion of the movement”.
In the memorandum, ANSAM argued that it was pertinent to “articulate in good faith, its stance that this demand of the dominant community presently imperils the aim of constitution i.e. to promote, protect and special care for a weaker section and thus steadfastly stand our ground against enlisting in the scheduled tribe list of India for myriad of reasons”.
The reasons provided by ANSAM is listed as follows in its own exact textual language:
Reversal of Social strata – a backward process.
ANSAM doesn’t refute tribal roots of any community big or small due to the fact that even the most civilised community and race of the world today viz, the Greeks, Romans, Aryans etc. had tribal roots. In the case of the Meetei/Meiteis too, they must have all the characteristic of a tribal trait in the process of evolution but having undergone several phases of civilisation for over a period of 2000 years dating back from 33 AD, they have superseded all tribal traits to be categorised in the list of the scheduled tribe. Whereas, claiming tribal roots in the twenty first century is ill-conceived and ill – timed demand because it is a moment of reversal of social strata, descending from civilised to uncivilised, urban to rural, literate to illiterate, light to darkness, forward to backward with an ulterior motive to further suppress and exploit the regressed tribal society.
Suppression of the criteria lay down by the Government of India.
Truly articulated by the valley brethren that any community has the right to demand for inclusion in the ST list as per the provision enshrined in Article 342(1) and 342(2) of the Indian constitution and no organisation has the locus standi to decide one’s status provided the criteria laid down for determining ST status is fulfilled. As however, in the case of the Meetei/Meitei community for inclusion in the ST list, it is crystal clear that the criteria presently laid down for specification of a community as scheduled tribe do not match in any manner since they have superseded all the characteristic of a tribe. Schedule tribes are spread across the country mainly in the forest and hilly regions who are segregated from the rest of the world socially and economically. Thus, in the context of India, schedule tribe means the selected tribes for protective discrimination validated for 10 years only after the promulgation of the constitution of India but since the scheduled groups couldn’t come up at par with the rest of the advanced society/community in every sphere of lives, protective discrimination continues even after a lapse of seventy five years of Independence.
A case study with special reference to the Meetei/Meitei community of Manipur for inclusion in the ST list is quite debatable on the question of homogeneity of such ethnic group after centuries of ethnic mixing in the course of Civilisation with various ethnic groups at different point of time, specially with Burmese and their ethnicities who came in the course of several wars and demographic movement down the line and with sizeable proportion of people from Bengal, Assam and Bihar who were merged into the mainstream ethnic fabric of Imphal valley by ties of inter marriage and cultural assimilation after the emergence of Shanti Das Gosai, a hindu preacher from sylhet during the reign of Garib Niwas in1728 AD. Thus, given to understand the above background, it is quite empirical to wonder or question as to whether the most advanced Meetei/Meitei group as a whole would even qualify to be a homogenous society leaving aside qualifying the definition of a tribe
Classification of social strata in Meetei/Meitei.
The classification of social strata in Meetei/Meitei community viz, General, Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Caste (SC) and the social fabric woven underneath its strata will be impossible dissect or segregate
Characteristic of advancement.
NER District Development Infrastructure index 2009 shows that Imphal West ranked number 1 in the NE states, Imphal East ranked no. 6, Thoubal – 11, Ukhrul – 68, Tamenglong -75, Churachandpur – 76 and Chandel – 78 respectively. As against the characteristics of a tribe/tribal, the Meeteis/Meiteis have the following indication of advancement stated as follows:-
- Unlike the hill areas of Manipur, the habitation of valley is well connected by 3 National highways, one (1) Asian highways, one (1) international airport (Tulihal) and railway line.
- The Meeteis/Meiteis have a rich cultural heritage and a well-developed sense of hygiene.
- They have a well-developed script/Meitei mayek and is in the 8th Scheduled of the Indian Constitution.
- The Meitei classical dances and music are of unparalleled finesse in the classical world. The Manipuri dance, referred to as the Manipuri Raas Leela is one of the eight major Indian classical dance forms originated and performed only by the Meiteis surpassing many well placed Indian states.
- In terms of shyness of contact with community at large, it is just the reverse with a significant Diaspora within and outside the country.
- Unlike the tribal whose occupation are mostly hunting animals, trapping birds and stone carving, the Meeteis/Meiteis are well represented in service sector viz UPSC, MPSC,RBI,SBI, academician and professional sector like Medical, Engineering, sports etc.
- 4In the Legislative Assembly that has 60 seats, they are represented by 40 seats in an area just 10% out of the geographical expanse of 22,327 sq km having 90% of the hill areas with 19 +1 representation.
- The Meiteis have all the amenities of a civilised world with all the mega projects concentrated in the valley. To cite a few, Manipur University, DM University, National Sports University, Manipur University of culture, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences(RIMS), JNIMS, NIT, CAU, NIELIT, Manipur Technical University, JN Manipur Dance Academy, CIPET, ICAR, SAI, ITP and B.Ed Centres etc are all in the valley.
- The literacy rate being as high as 76-87 %, they are well represented in govt/public and private sector, political Institutions from local bodies to parliament.
- Revered as the powerhouse of sports in India, Manipur is studded with Olympians and star sportspersons shining bright on India’ Map for being at the forefront of producing world class champions in Boxing, Weightlifting, Judo, Archery, Hockey etc all belonging to the Meitei community except for MC Mary Kom. Interestingly, Manipur is the birthplace of Polo known to Meiteis as Sagol Kangjei, an egalitarian game of the Meitei family owning a pony – a position even well developed nations find it hard to achieve.
- Similar to the Georgian Calendar, the Meiteis had not only invented the lunar calendar but also claimed that the concept of Era had been claimed to be well developed in the Kingdom of Kangleipak( Erstwhile name of Meitei kingdom) during the reign of Maliyapham Palcha in 1397 BC.
- Unlike other Indian states, the tribals of Manipur are neither safeguarded by the sixth scheduled nor is administered within what the constitution calls “Tribal Areas” of the Fifth Scheduled. We are merely governed under Article 371(C) which has become redundant due to non-implementation of the “Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business”.
We, therefore, beg to place our unequivocal and shared opinion of the association before your honourable self – Justifying grounds of opposition against the campaign of the STDCM for inclusion of the advanced community in the ST list of India.
Intimidation in social media will exacerbate the fluid situation beyond repairs. To this end, it is beseeched to initiate prompt action to ensure that “fair play” is executed for the wellbeing of all ethnic communities.
(The memorandum is signed by ANSAM president THIIRTUNG WANGLAR and general secretary AC THOTSO).