Imphal, October 14: Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi (MTFD) today asserted, the regression of the Meitei/Meetei, as claimed by some vested interest group, spearheaded by the Schedule Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur, is a serious matter to merely keep aside, as it has the potential to widen the gap by rubbing salt in the already wounded relationship between the hill tribes and the valley community.

Manipur merged with the Union of India in 1949, since then it status has gone through series of changes: from Part-C State to Territorial Council and then to Union Territory and became full-fledged Stale in 1972 Certainly, it would be disheartening, as claimed by STDC, that the forward or advance community of the State has been regressing too low that they were even compelled to demand for the Schedule tribe status, even after completing more than 34 years of Statehood and almost 70 years of being a unit of the Union of India, said a press statement released by MTFD.

If this claimed is correct, it is rather alarming and also implies, without any doubt, that it is a fail State. However, scheduling tribes in India is aimed at affirmative action to empower the backward classes and weaker sections of the Indian population. The consequences of the state’s failure and its impact upon the advance classes is not the criterion for the inclusion of community in the Schedule Tribe list, as put forth by the Backward Classes Commission (1952) headed by Kaka Kalekar, asserted the statement.

According to this Commission the Scheduled Tribes can be generally ascertained by the fact that “they live apart in hills and even where they live on the plains, they lead a separate excluded existence and are not fully assimilated in the main body of the people. Scheduled Tribes may belong to any religion. They were listed as scheduled Tribes because of the kind of life led by them” (Backward Classes Commission’s questionnaire). This criterion was, in fact, not very rigid and gave the State/UTs of the Union of India the privilege to interpret and the Commission asked them to send the list which they deem backward to be listed. But, the Meitei/Meetei did not recommend themselves to be Scheduled Tribe, instead they recommend their own people who were outside the realm of Vaishnavism to be Scheduled Caste, which sole criteria was (ex) untouchability. But now, the criterion followed for specification of a community has been more specific viz., indications of primitive trails, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness (, said the statement.

It said, a dominant community within the State and the State Assembly, and who were not backward in the 1950s are dawning now to be backward in the 21St century is rather demeaning themselves. If at all they have to be listed, they should joined their fellow Meitei brothers whom they condemned to be Schedule Caste, otherwise it would be like granting tribal status to the dominant dwija castes, which is not consistent with the social structure of the Hindu society.

The Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi (MTFD) will always support and back the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and other Tribal Organizations in their struggle against the demand of Scheduled Tribe status by the Meitei Community. The MTFD will continue to work with all the tribal bodies including the ATSUM in their fight for the tribal rights and interests in Manipur, added the statement.

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