Sh. K. Yugindro Singh, Sh. Janaki Sharma & M. Manihar Singh (Independent Researchers) have written in The Sangai Express on 14th October 2023 and in Ukhrul Times on 15th October 2023 that the article of Sh. Ngaranmi Shimray under the heading ‘Kalelkar Commission Report of 1956: Meiteis’ exclusion from the ST list is by their own choice’, which appeared in the editorial page of the esteemed English local daily, The Sangai Express in its publication dated 10th October 2023 and in Ukhrul Times on 8th October 2023, as misleading and devoid of truth.
The article of Sh. Ngaranmi Shimray just stated that the Meiteis were not included in the list of STs in the Orders as they were not interested and was considered as an advanced community. It never went into the ethnographic claim of the Meiteis being a tribe which is entirely a different matter. A community can be a tribe but that does mean it should be declared as ‘Scheduled Tribe’ under article 342 of the constitution. To be a ST under the constitution the tribe has to fulfill specific criteria laid down by the Lokur Commission in 1965 which include indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness. The same criteria are used to this day by the Registrar General of India (RGI).
Incidentally, it has now come to light that a proposal on the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list has been examined and rejected twice over the last four decades, according to documents seen by The Hindu of 14th October 2023 written by Abhinay Lakshman in the online news and also published by Sangai Express dated 16th October 2023: once, in 1982, by the Office of the Registrar General of India; and again, in 2001, by the Government of Manipur. The Union and Manipur governments have not made this information public during the ongoing ethnic conflict in the State, nor presented these records in the Manipur High Court court case on the Meitei petition for inclusion.
The Hindu online news continued to state that “in fact, officials of the Tribal Affairs Ministry fished out these historical documents in late April this year, just days after the controversial Manipur High Court order to send a recommendation on ST status to Meiteis was made public. Officials in Delhi were recording these findings in files related to the Meiteis’ demand, even as the Hill Areas Committee in Manipur passed a resolution against the order amidst growing opposition by tribal groups.”
It went on to state that “The records, accessed by The Hindu under the Right to Information Act, 2005, showed that the Office of the RGI had looked into the Meiteis’ inclusion in the ST list on a request from the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1982. It found that, based on “available information”, the Meitei community “does not appear to possess tribal characteristics”, and said it was not in favour of inclusion. It noted that historically, the term had been used to describe the “non-tribal population in the Manipur valley”.
It further added that “Almost 20 years later, when the erstwhile Ministry of Social Justice was revising the SC/ST lists of States and Union Territories, it had sought recommendations from the Manipur government. In response, the Tribal Development Department of Manipur on January 3, 2001, told the Centre that it agreed with the 1982 opinion of the Office of the RGI on the status of Meiteis.”
The Hindu further stated that “The Manipur government, then headed by Chief Minister W. Napamacha Singh, had said that the Meitei community was the “dominant group in Manipur” and need not be included in the ST list. It noted that Meitei people were Hindus and “assumed the status of Kshatriya Caste in the ladder of Hindu Castes”, adding that they had already been listed as Other Backward Classes.”
In respect of the court case it stated that “The Union government, however, did not submit any of these records before the Single Judge Bench of Acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan, which was hearing the Meiteis’ petition.”
These revelations of the new facts is very serious as it shows at best the tardiness of the State government not basing their submissions in the Manipur High Court as well as the Supreme Court on facts and records. At worst it indicates that it could have been done deliberately by suppressing facts from the courts and also misleading the people. If the facts revealed in The Hindu online news is true there should be accountability for the State government, it’s legal fraternity representing the State government in the courts and should be charged with conspiracy and perjury as it has caused hundreds of deaths, heavy loss of property and made two communities fight. The standing counsel of the Government of India representing the Tribal Affairs Ministry should be made accountable for his performance and omissions in court. I have written about “Scheduled Tribe” status for Meiteis and not about whether they are tribes or not. The independent researchers have responded out of the context.
The new revelation, if true, only goes on to prove that Manipur government is not a government for all the communities of the state as facts which does not favour the Meitei are suppressed and divisive false narratives are foisted to make communities clash. The genesis of the current conflict smacks of a conspiracy warranting inquiry. People should demand accountability from all responsible for the carnage. Truth always prevail in the end.
“Satyameva Jayate”-“truth alone triumphs”.
Ngaranmi Shimray is an activist and political observer based in New Delhi. Views are personal. Shimray2011@gmail.com