ATSUM Seeks CM Attention, Disagrees with ST tag for Meitei

Imphal, August 31 2021: The All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday with regard to “the matter of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) processing for granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meitei/Meetei.

In the memorandum, ATSUM sought the attention of the Chief Minister to “defuse the claim of the STDCM for recognition of ST status to the valley people” .

The memorandum said that it doesn’t have any political affiliation or allegiance” to any political party.

“Nevertheless, as an apex hill based tribal students’ organisation living in , it is our bounden duty to share our shared opinion and displeasure over the ill-conceived demand of the STDCM for recognition of ST to the Meetei who have been living at par with the rest of the privileged sections of societies in all spheres of lives for the past seventy-four years of independence,” the memorandum of ATSUM also said.

Terming it as the “illogical claim”, ATSUM said that the Meetei fulfilled all the criteria to become a Scheduled Tribe on the basis of Mongoloid race and prevalence of distinctive religion and culture is irrational.

In other words, having religion or separate culture doesn’t necessarily mean or constitute the prime reason to include a particular community to be in the list of Scheduled Tribe, the tribal students’ body said.

In the Constitution, no criteria have been spelt out for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe, it stated.

It then said that the Scheduled Tribes are the tribes or tribal communities or part of groups within these tribes and tribal communities which have been declared as such by the President through a public notification partly by habitat and geographical isolation but even more on the basis of social, religion, linguistic and cultural distinctiveness � their tribal characteristic.

The memorandum further said that Scheduled Tribes are spread across the country mainly in the forest and hilly regions who are segregated from the rest of the world socially and economically.

The ATSUM memorandum then mentioned that during a debate in the Constituent Assembly, Dr Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee was very particular about the word Schedule to be used before the ‘tribe and the caste’ to mean the ‘selected or the chosen ones’ .

“Thus in the context of India, Scheduled group tribe means the selected tribes for protective discrimination to be valid on for 10 years after the promulgation of the Constitution of India”, it further said, adding, “But since the scheduled group couldn’t come up at par with the rest of the citizens in all the spheres of lives, protective discrimination continues even after sixty years of independence” .

The ATSUM memorandum also said that, it is quite obvious that the plain people viz.

Meetei/Meitei were included in the general category of the people by the Central Government due to the simple fact that the meitei have superseded the component characteristic of a tribe.

“In the course of a continuous process of civilization for over a period of 2000 years dating back from 33 AD, the Meetei/Meitei have abandoned their primitive culture traits from being tribal to general, from rural or urbanization, economic backwardness to economically advance people in the valley of the golden kingdom (Sana Kunung).

Therefore, the empirical points of arguments and the modalities for deciding claims for inclusion of the Meetie/Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe category involves rational philosophy to ascertain that the proposals are based on the broad criterion such as ‘way of living’; ‘social custom and religious practices; ‘dialect’; ‘educational and economic status'”, the ATSUM memorandum added.

While analyzing the above criteria, the tribal student body said that it should be well noted that the tribes in India are tribes in transition.

It added that the criterion of backwardness does remain as the main criterion.

It added that the relative backwardness of a community as compared to the society at large and other communities in the areas has therefore to be judged.

ATSUM further added that such data should, inter-alia, include the data on the representation of the community in the Government/public sectors services, political institutions like Parliament, State Assemblies and local bodies.

The ATSUM memorandum then said that in the wake of the STDCM pressurising the Central Government as well as the State Government for recognition of the Meetei/Meitei as ST status, a number of penal discussions “encompassing” tribal leaders, intellectuals and experts in the field of Anthropology and Sociology had been organized at different intervals and unanimous resolutions were adopted to protest vehemently against the move of STDCM.

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