The Meitei community of Manipur is predominantly Vaishnavite Hindus. They follow the caste system of the Hindu religion, and hence the lower caste among the Meiteis is included under the reserved category as Scheduled Caste. With the introduction of another form of reservation called Other Backward Classes (OBC), a large number of Meiteis are covered under this classification since 1995 and they have been successful in the All India civil services.

The Meiteis constitute more than 57% of the population of Manipur. Their share of seats in the Manipur Legislative Assembly is 40 seats out of 60 seats in the assembly. The hard-working Meiteis are also educationally and economically forward community. They have been grabbing the lion share of resources for development for the valley where they are settled in 10% of the land, leaving a paltry amount of funds for the development of 90% of land in the hill areas.  Given their predominant position in the social, economic and political spheres, they are a dominant force in the state.

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The demand of the Meiteis for inclusion in the ST list is potentially dangerous as it would upset the socio-economic and political equation in the state. It would enable them to corner all benefits of reservations for ST in Manipur and in the country too, like the Meena ST community has cornered the majority of government jobs in Rajasthan and the All India civil and allied services. A quick analysis of the All India civil services examination of 2020 results reveals that 52 Meena candidates (counting only the names that end with Meena) have made it to the selected list, representing more than 50 per cent of the ST quota in the civil services. In the same civil services examination result of 2020, five Meiteis candidates have made it. Assuming they are all from the OBC category, this number represents about 0.50 per cent of the OBC quota in the civil services seats, which is a major achievement for a small community in the context of India.

The Meiteis are already very competitive and have scores of doctors, engineers, academicians apart from top bureaucrats in the state as well as across the country. The STs of Manipur and other northeastern states would not stand a chance if they have to compete for ST quotas alongside the Meiteis. They are very advanced that their inclusion in the ST list, apart from depriving the STs of Manipur, could also displace the Meenas.

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The current position of the predominance of Meiteis in the state i.e. in business, administrative and political spaces juxtaposed with the demand for ST status would make it a curious case of the ‘Haves’ trying to take away the small share of the ‘Have Nots’. They are already at the top of the social, economic and political spaces compared to all other tribal communities in Manipur and therefore their demand raises a question about the real motive.

Considering the above facts, the demand made by several Meitei organisations for including their community as “Scheduled Tribes” can only be viewed with suspicion. Questions are being raised as to whether the objective could be an attempt to deny reservation in government jobs to the current Scheduled Tribes of Manipur. The Meiteis are advanced both educationally and economically. They could grab all reserved government jobs in Manipur, besides being a force to reckon with in All India civil services examination like the Meena Scheduled Tribe have done in Rajasthan and the UPSC examinations.

A more serious impact of the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list for Manipur tribes would be on the lands in the hill areas of Manipur. If the Meiteis are included in the ST list, they will become one of the tribes of Manipur, thereby giving them a right to buy tribal lands in the hill areas of Manipur. Land grab and land alienation of tribal lands will take place in Manipur hill areas. The sanctity of the hill areas protected by Article 371C read with the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972 (Presidential Order notified on 20th June 1972) will be diluted and violated. All citizens living in the state will become Scheduled Tribes except for a few Muslims. The Meiteis are already wealthy, and they will offer exorbitant rates to the poor tribal people enticing them to sell their lands in the hills.

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The tribes of Manipur should be wary of the demand for ST status by the Meiteis as there appears to be a hidden agenda of land-grab behind the demand by Meiteis for ST status. The inclusion of Meiteis in the ST list could have serious social, political and economic ramifications in the state and for other Scheduled Tribes across the country.  It would deprive the tribes of Manipur of government jobs. It would be tantamount to giving the most advanced community in the state a license to purchase lands in hills and reduce the tribal people in Manipur to a life of penury.

The author is a New Delhi-based activist. Views expressed are personal.

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  1. Correction… Meitei also a tribe..From the beginning of era All meitei are Hill tribe they live in the hills.. Still Half of the Meitei population are sanamahism religion(indigenous) other are Hindus and christian. .. Now most of tribal are about 5% of tribal are worshipping indigenous God… ? Meitei perform their indigenous culture and it will see in any ceremony.. Whereas christian tribal put their traditional dress only in VIP function or going to church only…this is the difference… In my opinion I want to follow our own indigenous culture with indigenous religion as ST to live together and want to protect together from the huge population of the mainland… So meitei should be in ST category is highly needed this time…

  2. So, it’s the *personal* view of a *New Delhi based activists ? No wonder it’s false and too biased. For you to note though, not all opinions are facts. This article is only a criticism so it’s not all based on facts. Pls, from a meitei myself, this is utterly ridiculous, EastMojo you’ve let me down. Tribals are the ones having it easy, with 90% land occupation, many grow rich with even only timbers. We meitei are but only a tiny minority when it comes to India as a whole, the state is not one of the most developed, education and infrastructure are also lacking. What you wrote on the meitei community having all opportunities and education and wealth is false, do facts check for once. A lot of the families in villages and even towns are BPL, tribals are blessed with opportunities. In Imphal itself, most tribals inhibiting here are sick wealthy. We tribals and meiteis and Muslims, though educated equally, when it comes to job opportunities, ST/OBC grab half of them. The few posts left are to be competed amongst the meiteis, which isn’t a small number in Manipur tho. It’s the same when we go for central jobs or for higher education outside. Even Nagas and Kukis are well educated nowadays, also vast lands and all.

  3. Wow! If 14lacs population of Meitei(which is not even 0.2% of India’s population) can threatened the rest of the Manipur population, and even the north-eastern population, just by getting equal opportunities from the govt., you are one incompetent and insecure community. Work hard instead of putting others down, for a change.

  4. The article is obviously ridiculous and have very poor insights. The point of inclusion of a tribe in ST category is not to get higher opportunities for jobs or get selected in civil services exam, but to have a personal identity, a place among fast advancing human civilization where identities are becoming vague and not respected. No community, no tribe should be wiped out from their own home land. Cultural identity should be respected and any civil person would have this in mind, this is something any person who come to stay in an ethnic land should know.
    It is the duty of a government to provide jobs and this responsibility to be misplaced on a group of people residing under the same government is baseless.
    As for reservations, it’s better taken out and filled with other opportunities, say like giving aid according to financial situation of a family. It’s a well known fact that reservations is a mockery to one’s own hard-work. One can’t have less knowledge and be a scientist. We need deserved people doing jobs cause only then we can grow as a better nation, excel in science and technology and have greater number of human resources.
    Let’s put the work as any other human would do and stop creating conflict with friends just because they need their personal space to be respected. General, SC, ST, OBC are all same when they are at the same financial group.

    That’s it. Thanks for your time

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