Meitei in Scheduled Tribe list, what?
By Oinam Thoujal Khumancha
In the present day mist on the issue of the demand of “Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur” on the inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in Schedule Tribe list of India, the tooth and nail opposition of some so-called student organisations. The ‘truth and logic’ and ‘systematic procedure’ behind the recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India by the Government of India are put in the garbage.
The general procedure of recognition of a community by the Government of India as Scheduled Tribe starts with a recommendation of the concerned state to the Central Govt. The Central Govt. then form a committee to study the merit of subject matter and this committee generally follows some guidelines (primitive traits, geographical isolation, distinct culture, shy of contact with the community at large, economically backward) and determine the community eligible for such recognition or not. If the committee satisfied with their finding, then they submit their reports to the Central Govt. After that Central Govt. request the President of India to recognise the community as Scheduled Tribe of India. Then the President in his/her authority recognised the community as Scheduled Tribe under the Indian Constitution Article 366 (25) and Article 342. So, this means that the validity of community as Scheduled Tribe is to be determined by the committee appointed by Central Government.
There is no question that a community will bar form recognition of Scheduled Tribe if they speak a language under Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution. Santal is a recognised Scheduled Tribe in many states of India and at the same time, the Santali language they spoke is included in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The same thing goes for Bodo of Assam who speak Bodo which is in Eighth Scheduled, Limbu and Tamang (Nepali speaker) of West Bengal and Sikkim (it is in the process to include remaining Nepali of Sikkim to include in Scheduled Tribe of India), Thakur and Thakars (Marathi speaker) of Maharastra and the list goes on and on. Languages have no connection with the recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India.
The continuity of a community from ancient times to present days is also a no reason to bar a community from recognising as Scheduled Tribe in India. Munda Scheduled Tribe developed their own institutions as early as 1500 B.C.E. Meena Scheduled Tribe established their kingdom as early as 6th Century B.C.E. From the Gujjar Scheduled Tribes name even the state Gujarat is derived. This Gujjar according to historian and anthropologist establish their kingdom in present-day Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra etc. as early as 5th century of C.E. Gonds Scheduled Tribes establish four kingdoms in India by 13th century C.E. developed its own astronomy and religion. Bhutia Scheduled Tribe was the ruling community of Sikkim (as king) till the inclusion of Sikkim to Union of India. Nayaks/Naikda Scheduled Tribe of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra (Katkari) were warrior class living in an urban area, even their name is derived from word naik which means military commander. In simple words survival of ancient civilization is not a valid reason to object inclusion of some communities in Scheduled Tribe list.
This Scheduled Tribe list is under the constitution of India not under the state government list. This in laymen term is in “reference with Union of India”. There are 28 lakh people identified as Kuki themselves in India, 20 lakh people identified as Naga themselves in India and 15 lakh people identified as Meitei in India. The Big Statement of Meitei as a major community is a hoax. The largeness of community also is not a subject matter in the recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India. There are 1.2 crores Gond Scheduled Tribe, 74 lakh Santal Scheduled Tribe, 40 lakh Naikda Scheduled Tribe, 72 lakh Gujjar Scheduled Tribe, 50 lakh Meena Scheduled Tribe, 23 lakh Munda Scheduled Tribe etc. in India. So, the population of a community is not criteria for recognition or not recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India.
In the recognition of Scheduled Tribe in India, religion plays no role in this process. Gonds, Santal, Meena, Naikda/Nayak etc. are Hindus and still Schedule Tribe in India. Bhutia, Monpa, Chakmas etc. are Buddhist and still Schedule Tribe in India. Kuki, Naga, Khasi etc. are Christian and still Schedule Tribe in India. This mean Scheduled Tribe classification in India has nothing to do with religion. India is a secular country, the practice of one’s religion is one’s personal choice and the Supreme Court and Constitution of India guarantee this right.
A.S.W. Shimray in his book “History of Tangkhul Nagas” expresses as Meitei is the younger brother of Tangkhul. Mawon Somingam in his article “Understanding the Origin of the terms ‘wung’, ‘hao’ and ‘tangkhul” feels the validity of truth in the folklore of origin of Meitei from Hungpung a Tangkhul village. In C.A. Thangmi’s book “The Thangal Naga tribe of North East India”, he points out that Thangal, Tangkhul, and Meitei were brothers. The Thangal is the oldest brother; Tangkhul is the middle one and Meitei as the youngest brother. Manipur king on coronation have to wear Tangkhul dress and once a year the king and queen ascent throne in Tangkhul dress even for a short period.
Cheithou Charles Yuhlung in his article “The Identity of Pakhangpa: The Mytical Dragon God of Chothe of Manipur” concluded that Chothe Thangwai Pakhangpa/ Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was born to a Chothe princess. This Nongda Lairen Pakhangba is first recorded king of Meitei and regarded as Demi-God by the Meitei till date. According to Lorho Mary Maheo’s book “The Mao Naga Tribe of Manipur”, Kahekakra (White cloud) and Dziiliamosiiro have three sons of them one become Meitei and another become Mao.
Reading the writing of these learned people, one can find that the relation of Meitei with the already recognised Scheduled Tribe of Manipur. This relationship is of brotherhood, collectiveness, togetherness making beautiful social fabric in the recent past.
The illogical statement of “Meitei can’t enlist in Scheduled Tribe list of India” is a Don Quixote’s one. Meitei is an indigenous group of people which the Government of India does not recognise yet. And according to official usages “Scheduled Tribe” is used as an alternative to “Indigenous people” in India.
(The author is a Research Scholar at Central University of Gujarat and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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