Manipur Unrest: Decoding the Adivasi Identity and Meitei Inclusion Dilemma in ST Status Debate

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                     Manipur Unrest: Tensions Escalate in the Land of Jewel

                                              Image Source- Google| Image By-Ndtv

Manipur Unrest: Violent protests have recently erupted in Manipur following a directive from the Manipur High Court to the state government, urging them to pursue a decade-old recommendation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the non-tribal Meitei community. Let’s delve into the ethnic composition of Manipur:

The non-tribal Meitei community dominates the Imphal valley, which accounts for around 10% of Manipur’s landmass. They comprise over 64% of the state’s population and hold 40 out of the 60 seats in the legislative assembly. On the other hand, the hills, which make up 90% of the geographical area, are inhabited by more than 35% of recognized tribes who only send 20 MLAs to the assembly. It’s noteworthy that while a majority of Meiteis practice Hinduism and Islam, the 33 recognized tribes, categorized as “Any Naga tribes” and “Any Kuki tribes,” are predominantly Christians.

The core issue behind the violent protests in Manipur revolves around the court’s orders and the arguments presented by the Meitei community:

The Manipur High Court recently instructed the state government to submit a ten-year-old recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, advocating for the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list. The court’s decision is based on a 2013 letter from the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry to the Manipur government, which sought specific recommendations along with the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report.

Meiteis argue that they were recognized as a tribe before Manipur’s merger with the Union of India in 1949 and highlight the necessity of ST status to preserve their community’s identity, ancestral land, traditions, culture, and language. The Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur also emphasizes the need for constitutional safeguards against outsiders and raises concerns about the Meiteis being excluded from the hills while tribal people can purchase land in the shrinking Imphal Valley.

However, tribal groups oppose granting ST status to Meiteis. They contend that Meiteis already enjoy demographic and political advantages, being academically and socially more advanced. Tribal groups fear that granting ST status to Meiteis would result in a loss of job opportunities for the tribes and enable Meiteis to acquire land in the hills, potentially displacing the tribal population. They also argue that the Meitei language is already included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, and many Meiteis have access to benefits associated with SC, OBC, or EWS status.

 

                                            Image Source- Google| Image By-India today               

To assess the criteria for granting Meitei ST status, it is essential to consider the recommendations provided by several committees:

The Lokur Committee in 1965 recommended five criteria for identifying Scheduled Tribes, including Meiteis, such as primitive traits, distinct culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the wider community, and backwardness. 
The Bhuria Commission, active from 2002 to 2004, focused on various issues concerning tribal communities, including tribal land, forests, healthcare, education, the functioning of Panchayats, and the status of tribal women. Additionally, the High-Level Committee (HLC) chaired by Prof. Virginius Xaxa in 2013 examined critical concerns of tribal communities, encompassing livelihood, employment, and education.

As the debate continues, finding a balanced resolution that respects the cultural heritage and rights of all communities in Manipur becomes imperative, considering the intricacies surrounding the Meitei ST status.


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1 thought on “Manipur Unrest: Decoding the Adivasi Identity and Meitei Inclusion Dilemma in ST Status Debate”

  1. Can you be more specific about the content of your article? After reading it, I still have some doubts. Hope you can help me.

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