Why Manipur’s tribes are alarmed by courtroom push for Scheduled Tribe standing for the Meitei neighborhood

The Manipur Excessive Court docket’s order final week, directing the state authorities to contemplate a requirement to incorporate the Meitei neighborhood within the Scheduled Tribes listing, has revived outdated anxieties and is more likely to widen ethnic fault traces within the state.

The tribal teams have reacted sharply to the courtroom’s order, calling it a case of “judicial overreach”.

On April 19, the excessive courtroom in its order requested the federal government “to contemplate the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei neighborhood within the Scheduled Tribe listing, expeditiously, ideally inside a interval of 4 weeks”.

The courtroom, whereas appearing on a petition filed by the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union, famous that the difficulty of inclusion of the Meitei neighborhood within the Scheduled Tribes listing of the Structure has been pending for practically 10 years.

“No passable rationalization is forthcoming from the facet of the respondent state for not submitting the advice for the final 10 years,” the order stated.

In Might 2013, the Union ministry of tribal affairs had sought the views of the Manipur authorities on the matter.

For near a decade now, the dominant Meitei neighborhood has been demanding Scheduled Tribe standing, arguing that it wants authorized safety in opposition to outsiders and “infiltration”.

The petitioners argued that earlier than Manipur’s merger with the Union of India, the Meiteis have been recognised as a tribe.

A protest at Imphal’s Ima market earlier this yr to demand ST standing for Meiteis. Courtesy: Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur.

Land politics?

Manipur’s two main tribal communities – Naga and Kuki – reside within the hill districts, which account for about 90% of the state’s space.

However these 10 districts ship solely 20 legislators to the 60-member legislative meeting since they’re extra sparsely populated than the Valley.

The Meiteis, who account for 60% of the state’s inhabitants, are largely concentrated within the Imphal Valley.

The tribal hill districts of Manipur take pleasure in particular protections below Article 371C of the Structure, which says that every one legal guidelines affecting the districts have to be vetted by the hill areas committee of the Manipur Legislative Meeting.

Reacting to the order, the committee, which incorporates 9 legislators from the Bharatiya Janata Occasion, stated it was “aggrieved and perturbed” by the courtroom directive, which was handed regardless of “sturdy opposition” from the tribal teams of Manipur.

In a decision, the hill areas committee chairman and BJP MLA Diganglung Gangmei identified that the panel, which is empowered to observe laws and administration for the hill areas, was “neither made a celebration to the case nor consulted”.

Gangmei stated the Meitei neighborhood, a majority of whom comply with Hinduism, is already protected below the Structure. Most of them are categorised both as Different Backward Lessons or Scheduled Castes. The higher castes amongst them are additionally entitled to reservation below the economically weaker part quota.

The hill areas committee unanimously urged the state authorities and the Centre to file an attraction in opposition to the Manipur Excessive Court docket’s order, “taking into consideration the “sentiments, and pursuits/ rights’ of Scheduled Tribes (ST) of Manipur.

Gangmei didn’t reply to calls and texts from Scroll.

A BJP MLA and member of the hill areas committee, who didn’t want to be named, known as the courtroom order a case of “judicial overreach” and an intrusion on the manager’s powers.

The MLA alleged that the demand for ST standing was a method to encroach on land rights of tribal communities.

“Article 371C of the Structure, which protects the tribal areas, restricts the individuals from the Valley or outsiders from shopping for and buying land within the hill districts,” the legislator stated. “The politics behind the demand for ST standing is [driven by a desire] to intrude on the land of the tribals.”

‘For the survival of the Meiteis’

For years, nevertheless, the Meitei neighborhood has argued that it must be shielded from the inflow of outsiders and “infiltration”.

“Any citizen of India, together with our personal hill individuals, can come and settle in Imphal Valley,” stated Ok Bhogendrajit Singh, normal secretary of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur, which has pushed for tribal standing since 2012.

There may be resentment over the truth that whereas tribals have been shopping for land within the Imphal Valley, the Meiteis have been avoided the hills.

Singh alleged that the neighborhood is below demographic stress.

“Our numbers have declined, from 59% of the entire inhabitants in 1951 to 44% in 2011,” he stated. “We have now nearly grow to be outsiders in our personal ancestral land and we can’t purchase land within the hills.”

Whereas welcoming the courtroom order, Singh stated: “Our intention is neither to hurt them [hill people] nor to seize their alternatives. It’s for the survival of the Meitei neighborhood.”

‘Black letter day’

It’s not an argument that convinces the tribal teams.

The All Tribal College students’ Union Manipur, an influential tribal physique representing the Naga and Kuki communities, stated April 19 was a “black letter” day for the tribal individuals of Manipur. It described the Excessive Court docket path as an “ex parte judgement that solely heard the pursuits of the petitioners”. It blamed the BJP-led state authorities due to “whose consent such an ex parte judgement was delivered”.

“Non-tribals can’t purchase land within the hill areas. But when the Meiteis get ST standing, they’ll personal and buy land within the hills,” stated Paotinthang Lupheng, president of the coed physique. “If our land is taken away, what’s going to we’ve got? Nothing.”

A recipe for rancour

A number of politicians and consultants additionally questioned the rationale of awarding ST standing to Meiteis.

Based on Thongkholal Haokip, who teaches political science on the Jawaharlal Nehru College, the Manipur Excessive Court docket has neglected the “anthropological standards” for recognising a neighborhood as a Scheduled Tribe.

“How can a neighborhood after 75 years of Indian independence all of a sudden realise that they’re backward and primitive?” Haokip stated. “The place is the two,000-year-old civilisation and written literature that Meiteis declare [as theirs]?” Haokip stated.

Lupheng identified that not like the tribals, the Meiteis are a relatively socially and economically superior neighborhood, who maintain key positions within the authorities.

Political scientist Kham Khan Suan Hausing appeared to agree. “If the Meiteis are profitable in together with themselves within the ST listing, they’ll arguably grow to be the one neighborhood in India to nook all the advantages of protecting discrimination alongside the 4 axes of recognition – ST, SC, OBC and EWS,” he stated.

The transfer is more likely to unleash rancorous political and authorized contentions between the hill tribes and the Valley-based Meiteis, he added.

The courtroom’s transfer, Haokip stated, might have vital political implications.

“The tribals, who see it as a ploy to encroach into the hills, might demand a separate administration within the type of Union Territory, which is able to compromise the territorial integrity of the state,” Haokip stated.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles