Imphal March 14,
Delhi Association of Manipur Muslim Students (DAMMS), New Delhi has urged the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDC), Manipur to look into the “Unclarity” in its demand for the Meitei/Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe list under the Indian Constitution. Stating that indigenous people’s movement has taken place all over the world where there are “oppressed, conquered and colonised people,” a release from the Association said that Manipur has also recently seen the rise of indigenous people’s movement in the demand for Inner Line Permit (ILP). “However, the demand for the rights of indigenous people has now shifted to the demand for the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list,” it said while stating that the theoretical explanation of the shift is that the indigenous people are the same as tribals in the Indian context. Asserting that Indian academicians and the government of India (GOI) do not acknowledge the category of indigenous people, the release contended that the understanding of the word ‘Tribal’ according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that “Tribal people also retain some or all of their social, economic, cultural and political institutions, irrespective of their legal status” as an argument to back up DAMM’s allegation that the demand for the inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST list is a forced equation that indigenous peoples are tribals. “Yelhoumi” which translates as indigenous is now forced to mean tribal given the limitation imposed by the Indian Constitution, it added. DAMM also stated that “The Meitei Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) have settled in Manipur since the early 17th century even before the Brahmin migration in the Imphal Valley; and there is no denying that both Pangals and Bamons are indigenous to the Manipur valley.”While contending that the listing of both Pangals and Meiteis in the same category as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) is problematic given the vast economic and economic and social equality between the two communities, the release argued that the demand of the STDC leaves the Meitei Pangal community in a precarious state. It further asserted that if the Pangals remain OBC and Meiteis become ST, then it would mean that Meiteis are less economic and socially capable than Pangals while adding that the Meitei Pangal community is one of the most marginalised communities in the State.
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