Imphal, September 13 2021: Manipuri Meitei Association, Bangalore (MMAB) has submitted a memorandum to chief minister N Biren urging for inclusion of the ethnic Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list and complete protection of valley districts in Manipur like other scheduled lands under Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India.
In a memorandum submitted to the CM on Monday, MMAB president Major (Retd) Rajkumar Jhaljit Singh said that Meetei are one of the smallest indigenous communities based in the valley of Manipur with unique customs and traditions.
Population-wise, Meetei are smaller than Naga and Chin-Kuki groups in the Northeast.
It is important to note that Meeteis are most eligible for inclusion in the ST list as they fulfil the criteria laid down for inclusion of a community in the ST list.
As indications of primitive traits, many Meetei follow only Sanamahi religion, which in itself is unique and also primitive.
The presence of maibi (Meetei priestesses) is indicative of belief in primitive healing tradition.
It is not a personality trait of Meetei but a collective cultural belief rooted in animism (belief or worship in nature, stones, trees, rivers, forest, etc.), it emphasised.
MMAB continued that Hinduism is not followed to the full by Meetei and old Sanamahi religion is still followed which in itself is unique with belief in unique creation stories.
Lai Haraoba festival is an unequalled religious festival which makes Meetei distinctive and different from any other culture or religion.
Manipur is landlocked, mountainous and historical detailed records of contact with outside civilisations are not available.
Meetei were always secluded with self-contained culture.
Meetei lands were never conquered by major power except by the Awas (Myanmar), hence, Meetei culture has been preserved for hundreds of years, but this is being influenced and is changing due to foreign illegal immigrants and Indian legal migrants, it said.
MMAB also noted that per capita income of Meetei is very low and comparable to ST Na-gas and ST Kukis.
Contact with financially rich communities from other parts of India make an unfair and unequal competition ecosystem in the trade and business as financially rich communities from other parts have an unfair advantage in economic spheres due to their networks and access to capital foreign and Indian.
Therefore, certain protection for Meetei are needed and can be given through only ST inclusion, it asserted.
MMAB pointed out that approval of ST for Meetei community will ensure there are restrictions on procurement of land in the valley districts which will preserve Meetei community.
“While we understand there have been different opinions on the demand of ST for Meetei community and inclusion of valley districts under Sixth Schedule, we would like to emphasise that Meetei have a unique culture and identity which need to be protected at all cost.
This can only be done when their land is protected completely.
Our land should not be transferable to non-indigenous citizens of India, as without land, a culture or group ceases to exist.
A very valid example is the state of Israel,” it mentioned.
The memo further stated that the current resources in the valley are completely exhausted and it has been further aggravated with no protection from any migration/settlement leading to disparity and inequality.
Hence, they can now only live in the valley which constitutes 10 per cent of the state and the remaining 90 per cent of Manipur is reserved and protected for the indigenous tribal groups.
The shifting population has caused signincant demographic imbalance.
And to make it worse there are no constitutional protections of any sort for the indigenous Meetei people so that they can live securely among the 1.3 billion-plus Indians.
They are also of the opinion that wherever there is differentiating laws there will be injustice to certain segment of the society which will always impact the fabric of peace and harmony.
Whenever certain privileges were granted under the Constitution of India, it had its limitations, responsibility and time.
When the nation is also talking about Uniform Civil Code, to provide level playing field for all communities, having common land reform in the state will strengthen peace and harmony in the state in long run, it said.
MMAB made it clear that the request for land protection should not be seen as a hindrance to national integration by the much larger majority as the request is only for a small portion of the state of Manipur, the valley areas.
The land area requested to be protected is small as a major portion of Manipur is already protected as tribal areas.
It would be justified and fair to include the remaining areas of Manipur as tribal areas.
Further, the limited population of Meetei makes it aggressively important and necessary to protect Meetei community.
MMAB strongly believes these are common concerns which the people in Manipur will also share.
Addressing these will help in eliminating some of the disparity and restoring peace and harmony in the state of Manipur.
Hence, after thorough discussion on the matter and based the merit of the matter MMAB has decided to support the demand of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) and World Meetei Convention (WMC) urging the state government to recommend to include Meetei in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
Therefore, MMAB earnestly appeal to the chief minister to do justice by sending recommendation to the Government of India as soon as possible, it said.