ST status is purely to save Meetei and other bonafide indigenous communities in the State
By Dr. Th. Ranjit
Much have been said and done to clear the mindsets of many people- those of the general public, public leaders, pseudo intellectuals, STs, the so called-Advanced people or Generals, SCs, OBCs, etc. that the demand for ST status by Meetei is purely to save Meetei Community – its land, religion, customs, languages, scripts, traditions, etc. on the one hand and to help save other bonafide indigenous communities, who have been living in the state since time immemorial, from being engulfed by other people who are very much out number on the other.
There is nothing like sterile, irrational, political, emotional and un academic in Meitei’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list under Article 342(1) of the Indian constitution. These are rhetoric of some pseudo- leaders, pseudo – intellectuals and black sheep in the society who have no thoughts on the future and welfare of the people but to gain popularities on public plank for their selfish interest and ulterior motive. Again, the demand has nothing to do with the Naga-Kuki clashes or any other communities. Clashes are there between the people of equals and non-equal status all over the world. The causes of clashes are different and many.
The demand which has been continuing for the last 7 years is rather too late, considering the myriad problems that Meetei community would face in the next 1 to 2 decades when Indian Railways reaches Imphal and Trans Asian Highways passes through Imphal and Moreh in the next 2-3 years. Ever increasing influx rate in the state from neighbouring states and by foreigners from the neighboring countries are also posing a great threat to the very existence of Meetei community, as the lands inhabited by Meetei are not scheduled ones. Considering the essentiality of saving the fertile valley land, settled by Meitei mostly, which is producing food grains, vegetables, fishes etc. for the state, the inclusion of Meitei Tribe in the ST list of the country is very imperative.
Again, Meetei’s demand for ST status is to save Meetei tribe and other tribes, who have been living in this land as brothers and sisters of consanguineous relation from time immemorial, to live in harmony, love and understanding. It never aims at bringing disunity, disharmony and disintegration among the original inhabitants.
Meetei is a tribe because of its being native or indigenous people of the state and for duly possessing the five criteria laid down by the Govt. of India till date. The criteria are (a) Indication of Primitive traits (b) Distinctive culture (c) Shyness of contact with the community at large (d) Geographical isolation and (e) Backwardness. Meeteis are not demanding ST status to grab land and quotas of present STs. The only purpose for the demand is to save Meetei tribe, its lands, culture, language, traditions, etc. from possible extinction due to impending onslaught of outsiders and anti-tribals in near future.
Return of Meetei to its old fold ‘Tribe’ or ‘Scheduled Tribe’ will not entail any stigma of backwardness or primitiveness rather it will catalyze the pride of being Original/Indigenous people of this land call Meitrabak, or Kangleipak, and will shine afterwards as civilized people, as many of our ST brothers and sisters in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram etc. are have shown. Let there be no ill feeling in the minds of present STs or non STs when Meetei demand for ST status to receive constitutional safeguards of Imphal valley and Meetei Community in particular and other blood related indigenous communities of the state at large.
The demand is very much related to birth right and constitutional right of Meetei community. Therefore no one should object to it.
(The view expressed is the writer’s own.)
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