By: Heigrujam Nabashyam
Rich or poor, intelligent or foolish, handsome/beautiful or ugly a man or a women remains a tribal or a Dalit even if he or she lives in a metropolis, if he or she happens to born by a tribal or a Dalit father —- a mother, in case of a matriarchal society.
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, educated in America and England and happened to be the most brilliant brain of the country and probably one of the best brains in the world of his time remained a Dalit, despite his assuming a Deshastha Brahmin surname/family name ‘Ambedkar’, because he was born in a Dalit family in the then Bombay state, now in Madhya Pradesh. This is what a tribal or a Dalit is. It is by birth. The child of a top national leader or of a top bureaucrat shall remain a tribal or a Dalit. You cannot question it.
The point of argument of ATSUM in the ST debate, I am afraid, have again come back to where it had started — the land grabbing theory by the ‘advanced Meitei’ tribe from the ‘backward hill’ tribe; Meetei ‘hidden agenda’ to grab 90% of jobs in the state; ‘advanced Meitei’ exploiting ‘HAOS’ ; Meiteis are not tribal because they have script and civilization since the time of Jesus Christ, etc.
I believe ATSUM have been carried away by pent-up emotions and hatred. This is exceedingly unfortunate because in such a state of mind there can be no sensible dialogues, debates or discussions.
However let me state that the issues or the points raised by ATSUM on November 6, 2017 have already been addressed in our earlier discourses and ATSUM I believe would not have been that forgetful. Anyway at the risk of repeatition let me summarize the points that have already been made.
(i) When the hill tribe prefer to live in the valley, how do you foresee that the valley tribe would come up the hills and grab the lands to live. If someone tries to grab your lands, my suggestion is, put him in the jail.
(ii) Things you own cannot be taken away by the ‘advanced Meetei’ either by force or by law.
(iii) The ‘Meitei govt.’ too, cannot take away the lands own by hill tribe. Forget land, the govt. cannot even implement the rules of law without the consent of our hill brothers. The latest incident being the Churachandpur incident where 9 precious lives were lost — a leaflet in Paite played on the Churachandpur public’s fear of losing their homes and properties and etc. and the rest is history.
(iv) The fear of ATSUM that Meitei would gobble up all the major share of jobs, etc. of the state can be taken care of precisely by enacting appropriate laws or by continuing the present roaster system of reservation, etc. STDCM has already expressed their position in this regard.
(v) After Manipur became part of India, the government of India had listed the ‘LOI’ — the untouchable Meitei, in the SC list and the remaining Meitei in the general list assuming that the Meitei — as the Indian government authority was influenced by the Meetei Hindu Gurus, belonged the Kshetriya caste of Hindu Mythology without going into the facts. However later on, finding the position of the Meitei dismal, the govt. of India on their initiative put the Meitei again in OBC category to redeem their past wrongs.
(vi) Now, what STDCM is doing is, asking the govt. of India to rectify the wrong that was thoughtlessly committed by it in 1951.
And today Meiteis are not valid Kshetriyas; but back to their roots, they are ‘Chinky, Momo’, etc. Their donning of Aryan name ‘Singh’ do not help them, but they are the north-east people — Arunachali, Meitei, Naga, Zomi, etc.
While in Poona in early 1980s my friend Morandi, a tribal from Bihar, now Jharkhand took me as a Mizo, because he could not distinguish me from his Mizo friends in Spicer; like we can’t distinguish a UPite, a Bihari, a Rajasthani, a MPite, etc.
Today the Tripuris have been marginalized in their own homeland by immigrants from the East Pakistan, present Bangladesh. The Tripuris had their long history of civilization like the Meiteis. Likewise, Naga had their village republics like the Greek city state since time immemorial, so also the Chin-Kuki.
In Meitei Mythology our hill brothers are our elder brothers — “Chingna Mayambani, Tamna Manaoni”. Like in any family, one brother may become more advance than the others. But that does not mean that the advanced brother cease to be a member of the family. Even among the Naga groups some groups are more advanced than others; and any Chin-Kuki family knows who the more advanced family than others are; so, what is this argument of ATSUM of ‘advanced tribe and non-advanced tribe?
The truth is, the present trend shows that the Chin-Kuki are more advance than the Meitei and the Naga in academics, social mobility and economic activities.
In social aspects the Chin-kuki and the Naga are more forward and progressive than the Meitei. Once a Tangkhul lady told me in quite a jolly way, ‘Nakhoi Meiteisi Karigino Mapaanda Thengnabada Kanasu Tinnaningde, Mayangsu Tinnade Nakhoi-Khakta, you move in flocks’ — when I met Meiteis in other cities and towns, you seem to be a closed group, you do not mix with the mainland Indians; and you always move in flocks, why? She was telling me her own experience.
The fact is, till today the Meeteis are not at ease with other communities. In any Meitei ceremony or function — marriage, birth, death or any Meitei religious function, Meetei do not mix with other community; maybe because they are isolated emotionally and hence socially from other communities. However it is quite commendable that Chin-Kuki and Naga are more or less cosmopolitan.
We are young tribal societies shifting from our tribal age to the modern age. You are given all the opportunities to develop and progress. Therefore, instead of threatening to Balkanize Manipur, why can’t we ponder why we are legging behind. We say, our economy is in the hands of the business community — Marwaris, Punjabis, etc. But what do we do? We keep on attacking and grappling each other among ourselves and have wasted tremendous amount of our valuable time and energy — what the national media used to call as inter-tribal rivalry.
This must be stopped; what we need today is to work hard to feed ourselves and stand on our own. Most importantly, this would leave a legacy of work culture for our children. Threat or no threat, this is the only way.