Response to three ‘Independent Researchers’ by Ngaranmi Shimray

Representative image: Worngachan A Shatsang

THIS IS in response to the article by the three ‘Independent Researchers’ namely, K. Yugindro Singh, Sh. Janaki Sharma & M. Manihar Singh on 24th October 2023 on the article and rebuttal written by Ngaranmi Shimray.

Related | Ngaranmi Shimray’s rebuttal to the views of three ‘Independent Researchers’ is entirely untenable

The article dated 10th October 2023 and rebuttal dated 18th October 2023 by Ngaranmi Shimray, both published in The Sangai Express, contains two inadvertent typographical errors. First, by calling it the second BCC report when it is the first BCC report and calling it a report of 1956 when it should be 1955. Para 2 of the article dated 10th October 2023 has already stated that the Order for the ST list of Manipur was notified in 1951, but for general discourse the initial year of SC/ST orders, i.e. 1950 in this case, is referred to and used as a reference for discussion, unless specific Orders are preferred to be quoted.

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The rest of the discourse does not deserve any response as it will merely become repetitive in nature except to reiterate that the main theme of the article dated 10th October followed by the rebuttal dated 18th October was to point out that the Meiteis were not made ST and did not find a place in the Orders of 1951 and subsequent Orders. When an occasion arose during the Kalelkar Commission the Meiteis did not seize the opportunity to stake their claim and they were categorised as an advanced community. These facts are reinforced by the article in The Hindu of 14th October 2023 written by Abhinay Lakshman in the online news based on documents obtained by him through RTI. He reported that the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) had looked into the Meiteis demand for inclusion in the ST list on a request from the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1982 and found that, based on “available information”, the Meitei community “does not appear to possess tribal characteristics”, and it was not in favour of inclusion. It went on to state that the erstwhile Ministry of Social Justice, while revising the SC/ST lists of States and Union Territories, had sought recommendations from the Manipur government and it responded on 3rd January 2001 that it agreed with the 1982 opinion of the Office of the RGI on the status of Meiteis. The Manipur government, then headed by Chief Minister W. Napamacha Singh, had stated that the Meitei community was the “dominant group in Manipur” and need not be included in the ST list. It stated that Meitei people were Hindus and have “assumed the status of Kshatriya Caste in the ladder of Hindu Castes”, adding that they have already been listed as Other Backward Classes.”
The article dated 10th October never made any attempt to question or discuss the ethnography of the Meiteis as to whether or not they were tribes or are still tribes and possess tribal attributes etc, but focused on the facts emanating from the Constitution that the Meiteis were not included in the ST Order of 1951 or any subsequent orders. The Kalelkar Commission categorised Meiteis as an advanced community and their demand was not entertained as stated in 1982 and reinforced in 2001 by the submissions made by the then Chief Minister W. Napamacha Singh, who is a Meitei himself. The Meiteis being an advanced community right from the time India became a Republic could have asserted themselves to their claim of being tribal and could have got the ST tag then if they had deserved it.

Related | Rebuttal to article written by Sh. K. Yugindro Singh, Sh. Janaki Sharma & M. Manihar Singh (Independent Researchers)

The First Backward Classes Commission, 1955 or the Kaka Kalelkar Commission Report apparently made the following submissions under the caption – “Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes” in its report that it had also examined the existing list of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes and recommended certain additions to, and deletions from, these lists. It further stated that these recommendations were duly examined in consultation with the State Governments, the Commissioner of the Schedule Tribes and the Deputy Registrar General, and the Government accepted these recommendations by passing The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1956. (Act LXIII of 1956). (Source- Wikipedia). This clearly indicates that certain additions to the lists and deletions from the lists of SC and ST were examined and recommended by the Kalelkar Commission from which it can be deduced that an opportunity was available for communities who wanted to be included or excluded from the SCs and STs lists.

Related | Ngaranmi Shimray’s reasons for exclusion of Meitei in the ST list are misleading and incorrect

The Meiteis being an advanced community, right from the time and even before India became a Republic, could have asserted themselves to their claim of being tribal and could have got the ST tag then if they had deserved the lower status. This only points to the fact that they did not want to be in the same low status as the backward tribes or the castes of Manipur as they considered themselves to be chaste Hindus belonging to the higher caste.

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An interesting article has been written by Dr. Arambam Birajit with the heading “Misinterpretation of Meitei as a tribe in the name of indigenous people; Meitei have outgrown their tribal social evolution” published in Ukhrul Times News daily on 21st October 2023. He stated, among many other interesting discourses, that the Meitei civilization evolved as a historical process since the time of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33 AD) till the formation of Nation State eventually developing the Meitei identity. Dr. Arambam Birajit stated that “In many ways, without considering this journey of Meitei detribalization process from prehistoric experiences to their transformation into Nation State, the claiming of being tribal status for the purpose of scheduled tribe status clearly smacks of intellectual and academic dishonesty.” This opinion could be bitter bile to many, but it is the truth and the only way forward is for the Meiteis to accept that times have changed and that they are an advanced community. They have discarded all their tribalistic characteristics, embraced a civilised way of life, evolved refined culture, dances, customs, language and traditions. They were comparatively not backward then and certainly not now. Any socio-economic survey conducted now would find them as the most advanced and progressive community in Manipur. They are undoubtedly the dominant community in all spheres of life controlling the Manipur government and are firmly in the saddle of power. In their dominant position the current attitude towards the Kuki-Zo is disturbing and could prove to be counter productive as it may have already sown the seeds of balkanisation of Manipur with the likelihood of tribal population surpassing that of the Meiteis when the delimitation after 2026 delimitation takes place around 2050. That is a good 25 years plus ahead but the risk of an inevitable trifurcation will loom heavily on the minds of all players. The agenda behind the desire of the Meiteis to be ST mainly to grab tribal lands in the Hill Areas has been exposed by some elected representatives from the valley. Now the Union Minister of State Shri Rajkumar Ranjan Singh has clearly pointed out in para 9 of his letter to the Hon’ble Prime Minister dated 20th May 2023 that Article 371-C of the Constitution should be amended further adding that the entire State should belong to the people of Manipur without any distinction to hill inhabitants or valley people – in the pattern of Himachal Pradesh. Article 371-C provides for “Special provision with respect to the State of Manipur”. The insertion of Article 371-C, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 and the Presidential Order dated 20th June 1972 was made to continue the provisions for Manipur after it becomes a full fledged State. Section 52 provided for – “Special provision for Hill Areas of Manipur” under the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (implemented when Manipur was a Part C State). The cat is out of the bag and the deceptive hegemonic manoeuvres will not work anymore. No one will believe that the objective is for getting more of all India level posts. The tribals of Manipur will have to unite as the overt target now is evidently for grabbing tribal land in the Hill Areas. The current attitude of the Meiteis towards the Kuki-Zo needs serious thinking and introspection as it appears to be a strategy of divide and rule by dealing with one adversary at a time. The ball is in the court of the dominant Meitei community to prevent the current impasse from escalating and snapping ties permanently. The time is not too late to bury the hatchet and extend the hand of friendship to live together by stopping the attempts to continue the domination of tribals with the objective of grabbing tribal lands in the hill areas by becoming ST, amending Article 371-C, not allowing extension of the Sixth Schedule to the hill areas and keeping the Nagas and Kuki-Zo disunited through divide and rule policy.

Related | Meiteis’ exclusion from the ST list is by their own choice; Kalelkar Commission Report of 1956

As regards the current discourse, why should we quibble over typographic errors when the main theme of the article dated 10th October 2023 and the rebuttal dated 18th October 2023 was about the fact that Meiteis, who were the advanced community then and even today, have not found themselves included in the list of STs. By doing so, we will be missing the forest for the woods.

Ngaranmi Shimray is an activist and political observer based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

This is not a Ukhrul Times publication. UT is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse its content. Any reports or views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of Ukhrul Times.

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