What is behind Manipur’s widespread unrest?

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“Imphal On Boil – Normalisation in Northeast is key to solving inter-ethnic tensions. India must also talk to Myanmar” published in The Times of India on 5th May 2023.

“What is behind Manipur’s widespread unrest?” published in The Hindu on 5th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 1 – communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Relevance: About ST status for Meiteis.

News: The All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) organised a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’. The march was called to protest the Meitei demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The march was organised by tribals including Nagas, Zomis, and Kukis who comprise around 40% of the state’s population.

About Manipur’s ethnic composition

Manipur Valley comprises about 10% of Manipur’s landmass. This valley is dominated by the non-tribal Meitei who account for more than 64% of the population of the State.

The Manipur hills comprising 90% of the geographical area are inhabited by more than 35% of recognised tribes.

While a majority of the Meiteis are Hindus followed by Muslims. There are 33 recognised tribes, broadly classified into ‘Any Naga tribes’ and ‘Any Kuki tribes’ who are largely Christians.

Note: The Meitei community have 2/3rd of the assembly seats.

Must Read: Who are Meiteis

What is the reason behind the inclusion of Meriteis as STs?

The Meiteis cite their own historic indigenous tribe status to bolster their ST claim. The Meiteis were recognised as a tribe before the merger of the State with the Union of India in 1949. They argued that the ST status is needed to “preserve” the community and “save the ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language” of the Meiteis.

A representation submitted by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM) in 2012 demanded ST status for Meiteis in 2012. The STDCM also said the Meiteis needed constitutional safeguards against outsiders, stating that the community has been kept away from the hills while the tribal people can buy land in the “shrinking” Imphal Valley.

In response, the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry sent a letter to the Manipur government in 2013 seeking specific recommendations along with the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report.

The Manipur High Court directed the State government to submit a 10-year-old recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST list. But tribals in the state fear this will erode their access to reservation benefits.

Why are tribal groups against ST status for Meiteis?

This is because a) The Meiteis have a demographic and political advantage besides being more advanced than them, b) The ST status to the Meiteis would lead to loss of job opportunities and allow them to acquire land in the hills and push the tribals out, c) The language of the Meitei people is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and many of them have access to benefits associated with the SC, OBC or EWS status.

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