Updated: March 3, 2019 10:20:23 pm
Thousands of people on Sunday took out a rally in Imphal demanding the state government on immediate inclusion of Meitei (also known as Meetei) community in the Schedule Tribe (ST) list.
Several politicians, students and members of several civil bodies took part in the rally organised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDC).
The STDC has been spearheading a different form of agitation since 2014, demanding ST status for the community, which falls under the general category. According to the 2011 census the total population of state is above 28 lakhs, of which 40 per cent are the general Meitei/Meetei.
Despite being the largest community, the STDC claim that they (Meitei) are constantly under threat of extinction without constitutional protection in the wake of influx of illegal immigrants.
The rally which started from the THAU ground in Imphal West, was concluded at the Hapta Kangjeibung, prior where a public meeting was also held. The meeting unanimously resolved to call for a 36-hour general strike from March 9 evening if the state government fails to sent a recommendation to the centre to include the community in ST list.
The meet also resolved to boycott candidates and political parties in the up coming general election if they failed to extend support to STDC’s demand.
“As per the Indian Constitution the indigenous people are considered as scheduled tribes. As Meiteis/Meeteis are indigenous people we demand that we are included the community in the scheduled tribe list,” Romesh Meetei, convener STDC said.
“If the indigenous community are considered as generals we will not have constitutional protection as different laws have been framed to build a common platform for all the citizen and we are fearful that we might be pushed to brink of extinction”, Meetei said.
The committee said that despite several attempts to convince the State Government on the urgent need to include Meitei/Meetei in ST it has failed to fulfil the demand of the STDC, showing the sheer negligence of Government towards the plight of the community.
RK Nimai, retired civil servant (IAS), pointed out that six communities of the North East (Koch Rajbongshi, Moran, Matat, Tai Ahom, Chutia and Adivasi/Tea Tribes) were recently included in the ST list.
“Among all the indigenous people in the Northeast the Meetei/Meitei will be the only one which is excluded from the ST list”, said RK Nimai, retired civil servant (IAS).
He said that the Meitei/Meetei are very much concerned that the six valley districts of Manipur that have a population density of 730 as against the whole state density of 138.
“In the hills non-tribal cannot buy lands. So any group or immigrants will settle only in the valley districts. If this remains unchecked it will go out of control. If we don’t protect the land many of the people here who are economically marginalised will become refugees in their own land which is why we need constitutional protection”, said RK. Nimai.
The tribal perceived it as a potential threat infringing the rights and benefits enshrine by the constitution of India.
Nevertheless, the committee mitigated the demand will bring about a ‘cohesive and harmonious’ society based on social and ethnic equality as enshrined in the preamble of the constitution. It is of the opinion that including the Meitei in the ST list is an unavoidable option today since the question of tribes in India today is closely linked with administrative and political consideration.
The portrayal of Meitei as ‘Aryan’ race was a blunder made by some leaders with false ego, said Yambem Laba, the Advisor STDC adding that the idea was virtually given birth with the imposition of Hindu in Manipur.
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