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Inclusion of ethnic “Meetei/Meitei” community in the Scheduled Tribe List of Manipur under Article 342(1) of the Constitution of India

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Inclusion of ethnic “Meetei/Meitei” community in the Scheduled Tribe List of Manipur under Article 342(1) of the Constitution of India

By: K. Yugindro Singh, M. Manihar Singh & Sh. Janaki Sharma

It has become well aware of the fact that the Government of India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs wrote as many as 6 (six) letters during the period from 29.05.2013 to 31.05.2022, asking the Government of Manipur to submit a proposal for inclusion of ethnic “Meetei/Meitei” community in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Manipur vide Ministry’s letter Nos. 19020/05/2012-C&LM dated 29.05.2013, 12026/09/2013-C&LM dated 06.03.2019, 12026/09/2013-C&LM dated 23.07.2021, 12026/09/2013-C&LM dated 15.02.2022, 12026/09/2013-C&LM dated 07.04.2022 and 12026/09/2013-C&LM dated 31.05.2022.
Out of the six letters from the said Ministry, the five letters dated 29.05.2013, 23.07.2021, 15.02.2022, 07.04.2022, 31.05.2022 were in response to different representations submitted by five Civil Society Organizations of Manipur.
The letter dated 06.03.2019 was in response to letter No. 1/8(30)/2017-H dated 11.01.2019 submitted by the Government of Manipur, Secretariat Home Department, requesting the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for constitution of a committee in the Ministry to examine granting of Scheduled Tribes status in respect of “Meetei/Meitei” community. The contents of the Ministry’s letter dated 06.03.2019 addressed to the Secretary, Government of Manipur, Secretariat Home Department read as under:
“I am directed to refer to letter no. 1/8(30)/2017-H dated 11.01.2019of Government of Manipurrequesting for constitution of a committee in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to examine granting of Scheduled Tribes status in respect of Ethnic Meetei/Meitei community.
2. Government of India on 15.6.1999, and further amended on 25.6.2002, has approved the modalities for deciding the claims for inclusion in, exclusion from and other modifications in the Orders specifying list of Scheduled Tribes. According to these modalities, only those proposals which have been recommended and justified by the State Government/UT Administration concerned, can be processed further. Thereafter, it has to be concurred with the Registrar General of India (RGI) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) for consideration for amendment of legislation. As per extant modalities, recommendation of State Government with ethnographic report in support is pre-requisite for processing the proposal.
3. The proposal was examined in this Ministry in 2001. Documents relating to revision of Scheduled Tribes of Manipur were obtained from Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. RGI vide letter dated 24.4.1982 did not support the proposal. State Government of Manipur vide letter dated 24.4.1982 did not support the proposal. State Government of Manipur vide letter dated 03.01.2001 also conveyed that they did not recommend specifically the proposal for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community in the list of STS of Manipur.
4. In view of the above, the State Government of Manipur may if desired, send a proposal for inclusion of “Meetei/Meitei” Community in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Manipur as per above mentioned modalities, along with ethnographic report, after getting a survey conducted.”
In view of the above instructions at para 4 of the Ministry’s letter No. 19026/09/2013-C&LM dated 06.03.2019, it is clear that the Government of Manipur is solely responsible to submit a proposal for inclusion of Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list of Manipur, along with the mandatory Ethnographic Report.
Notably, the British Government of India identified and classed Meitei as a primitive hill tribe of the erstwhile Assam province essentially on the basis of the ethnography of Meetei/Meitei, provided in the Annual Administrative Report for the year 1868-1869 authored by Dr. R. Brown, the then Political Agent of Manipur. On the ethnography of Meitei Dr. Brown wrote:
“Should it be a correct view that the valley of Munnipore was at no very distant period almost entirely covered by water, the origin of the Munnipories from the surrounding hill tribes is the proper and only conclusion to be arrived at. I think it probable that when only a small part of the valley skirting the hills was capable of cultivation, the hill-men bordering it used to descend and cultivate the little land there then was, returning to their homes in the hills after reaping their harvests: as, however, land increased, some few of them settled permanently in the plain, gradually increasing in numbers. The various tribes thus settling in different parts of the valley would in time come into contact, and, after a struggle for supremacy, amalgamate. That this is what actually did take place is borne out by the traditions of Munnipore.” (Brown, 1870, p.27).
The famous book “Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal” authored by the noted ethnographer E. T. Dalton and published by the Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta in 1872 and all Census Reports right from the census of India 1881 onwards and various other books authored by contemporary ethnographers, anthropologists, linguists, and administrators, during the British rule of India, described Meitei as a primitive hill tribe of the erstwhile Assam province along with other sister tribes like – Mikirs, Khasis, Garos, Nagas, Kukis etc.”The Census of India, 1931 Volume III Assam Part I – Report”, by C. S. Mullan, M.A., I.C.S., published by the Superintendent, Assam Government Press, Shillong in 1932 which provided a series of monographs which dealt with 12 primitive hill tribes of Assam including Meitheis (Meetei/Meitei). The monograph ‘The Meithei’ authored by T.C. Hodson, an authority on the ethnology of Meitei described Meitei as having an internal structure comprising of seven clans: ‘Ningthouja’, ‘Khumal; ‘Luang’, ‘Angom’, ‘Moirang’, ‘Khabanganba’ and ‘Chenglei’.
According to a judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India passed in January, 2011 all Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis) are the descendants of original inhabitants of India.In the light of the said Judgement of the Apex Court, “Meetei/Meitei” have every right to be considered for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes List of Manipur as they are the descendants of the aboriginal tribes of Manipur.

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