Manipuri students oppose ST status for Meiteis


IMPHAL: The All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) has strongly objected to the demand for granting the Scheduled Tribes (ST) status to the Meiteis, a majority community in Manipur.

Manjit Sarangthem, secretary general of AMSU, said: "It will be a wrong step to demand the ST status for the Meiteis."

The objection has come at a time when the Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee (STDC) is making preparations to stage a mass demonstration on May 22 to press the demand for the Scheduled Tribes status to the Meiteis.

More social, cultural and religious organisations have announced their readiness to participate in the demonstration to intensify the agitation for the demand.

The STDC maintains if its demand is conceded, there will be unity and equality among communities. It said that economy will get a boost since income tax will be waived for the Meiteis if they are included in the ST list. Besides, they will also be entitled to job reservations.

Disagreeing with such a rosy picture, Sarangthem said the Meiteis have a great role to play in Manipur's context.

The STDC is unable to furnish the details sought by the tribal welfare ministry, which is demanding a socio-economic survey, ethnographic origin, life, society, custom and tradition of the Meiteis.

To declare a community as a Scheduled Tribe, five criteria are needed to be fulfilled — low status, ancient identity, segregation from others, and inability to mingle with others.

The Meiteis have been bringing about settlements of the bloody clashes and other differences for generations. They took the leading role in making this kingdom known to the world, he said.

Sarangthem said: "It is made out that once the Meiteis become an ST, the Inner Line Permit will automatically come to protect the land from the outside land grabbers. In the northeast region, the ILP (Inner Line Permit) is a failure except in Mizoram."

Many prominent citizens also have opposed this demand. Many of them said the Meiteis should not jettison their social status for some benefits.