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Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community

Published: 4th May, 2023

Context

Members of the Meitei community in Manipur, which has been seeking Scheduled Tribe status for decades, have now said that they intend to file contempt proceedings against the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, which recently passed a resolution opposing their inclusion.

What is the issue?

  • The Manipur High Court recently directed the state government to consider a demand to include the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list.
  • The order revived old anxieties and further widened ethnic fault lines in the state.

Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly

  • The HAC was set up through a 1972 order and comprises legislators of all constituencies that fall partly or wholly within the State’s hilly areas.
  • The tribal hill districts of Manipur enjoy special protections under Article 371C of the Constitution, which says that all laws affecting the districts must be vetted by the hill areas committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.

Major tribes of Manipur

  • Naga and Kuki: Manipur’s two major tribal communities – Naga and Kuki – live in the hill districts, which account for about 90% of the state’s area. 
    • But these 10 districts send only 20 legislators to the 60-member legislative assembly since they are more sparsely populated than the Valley. 
  • Meiteis: The Meiteis, who account for 60% of the state’s population, are largely concentrated in the Imphal Valley.

Points made by Meitei Community

  • The community, through the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur, has been demanding ST status for decades now. 
  • They argue that they had been listed as one of the tribes of Manipur before it merged with India in 1949 but that they lost this tag when the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 was drafted. 
  • Claiming that they had thus been left out of the ST list, they had persisted with their demands.

Analyzing protection given to Meitei Community

  • The Meitei community, a majority of whom follow Hinduism, is already protected under the Constitution. 
  • Most of them are categorised either as Other Backward Classes or Scheduled Castes.
  • The upper castes among them are also entitled to reservation under the economically weaker section (EWS) quota.

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