What is it with some hill-based organisations? Just as the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur (STDCM) started a campaign among the Meitei MLAs for support to the demand for ST tag, the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) has also began a campaign among the hill MLAs and MPs to oppose the demand.
Once again, they are up in arms as the Manipur High Court gave a direction to the state government to send a recommendation to the central government for inclusion of Meitei (Meetei) in the ST list. Decrying the High Court judgment and even terming it as an ex-parte judgment, ATSUM raised apprehension that the interests and rights of the hill people will become uncertain if the demand for ST status is fulfilled. On the other hand, the organisation is holding the RIMS authority to ransom over the question of reservation in Class ‘C’ and ‘D’ posts.
Even if RIMS is a central institution, ATSUM wants it to follow the state reservation norm instead of the Central norm as the institution is located in the state. They did the same thing in Manipur University also in the past and they swore by a DoPT notification. They even manage to arm-twist RIMS authority to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the help of some powerful bureaucrats in their favour on April 3.
While they are ready to block or deny others, they want both sides of the bread buttered which they consider their exclusive domain. They say, RIMS authority had deliberately feigned ignorance of the DoPT office memorandum for a reservation quantum of 34 per cent for ST since 2005 and the tribal people have been deprived of their rightful share in every job recruitment at RIMS ever since. Meitei organisations could have challenged the DoPT memorandum in the past. But, they did not in the larger interest of communal harmony and co-existence.
A few years ago, ATSUM and a bevy of hill-based organisations rose against the three bills pertaining to constitutional safeguards of the valley people. They opposed the bills tooth and nail and agitation went on for more than three years.
The Meiteis simply wanted constitutional safeguards for their identity and land and the demand did not in any way seek to infringe on the rights of the tribals. Yet, they sternly objected to it. ILP system had since been implemented in the state and there are still no question of infringement on their rights and land. With regard to the ST demand by Meiteis also, ATSUM has no locus standi in the matter.
Among the Meiteis, there is still some objection to this demand in certain quarters. There is no doubt that the ranks of those demanding ST status have swelled in the last few years. Still, it is an internal matter to be decided by the Meiteis alone and certainly not by others. Other communities simply have no business or say in the matter.
The Meiteis has long been at the butt-end of allegations of robbing the benefits meant for the hill people while blindsiding the fact that it was mostly bureaucrats from the hills who are at the helm of state affairs with only a sprinkling from the valley.
While one can still count the number of direct IAS and IPS officers from the majority community, there are plenty from among the hill communities who enjoy the benefits of being from the Scheduled Tribe communities and they have been ruling the roost all this time and even enjoying the double benefit of reservation at both entry point and promotion avenue as well. This has been the prime reason for sections of the majority community coming up with a demand for transformation into the ST category.