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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

ST status demand backlash in Manipur

Curfew imposed in 10 of 16 districts, internet services suspended in the state

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 04.05.23, 05:39 AM
The ATSUM solidarity march in Churachandpur town of Manipur on Wednesday

The ATSUM solidarity march in Churachandpur town of Manipur on Wednesday The Telegraph

Curfew was clamped in 10 of Manipur’s 16 districts and mobile data services were suspended in the entire state for five days on Wednesday after the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) organised a solidarity rally in the 10 hill districts of the state opposing the demand of the majority Meitei community for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list.

Curfew has been imposed in Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Jiribam, Pherzawl, Tengnoupal, Kakching,Kangpokpi and Thoubal districts.

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The home department said there were “reports on incidents of fighting among volunteers/youths of different communities”.

The rally had started around 11am and ended peacefully between 1 and 2pm.

The majority of the Meitei community members, most of whom fall under the OBC or SC categories, have been demanding ST status for decades now.

The protest comes close on the heels of Manipur High Court, acting on a writ petition filed by the Meetei (Meitei) Trade Union, on April 19 directing the state government to “consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list expeditiously, preferably within four weeks”.

The court also directed that a “recommendation” be sent to the Union ministry of tribal affairs, which had said that a proposal for inclusion in the ST list should come from the state. The court noted that the state government had not responded to the ministry letter.

The driving force behind the demand for inclusion in the ST list appears to be a desire to protect the “Meiteis’ ancestral land and ethnic identity”. L. Lokendra Singh, working president of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur, said that now outsiders can buy land in the valley districts which cover only eight per cent of the state’s geographical area.

“Once we get ST status, we will also get constitutional protection of our ancestral land as is the case in the hill districts where no outsiders can buy land. Our population is around 14 lakh. The ST status will help us protect our land and identity. This is our main objective,” Singh said.

Inclusion in the ST list will also help access other regular benefits such as reservation in government jobs, seats in educational institutes and scholarships.

Churachandpur town, where an uneasy calm prevails following a confrontation between security personnel and local people on Friday in protest against the BJP-led state government’s move to survey forests and evict encroachers, saw thousands turn up for the 2km solidarity march

All Manipur Tribal Union (AMTU) general secretary K. Lalboi Neihsial told The Telegraph that the ATSUM-organised marches wanted to send a message to the central government not to include the Meiteis in the ST list.

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