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Manipur High Court allows tribal bodies to appeal against order on ST status for Meitei community

Imphal: The Manipur High Court has allowed tribal organisations in the state to file an appeal against the controversial March 27 order which directed the state government to send a recommendation on ST status for the Meitei community.

A division bench of Justice Ahanthem Bimol and Justice Guneshwar Sharma in its October 19 order allowed the tribal bodies to appeal against the order, saying, “the main grievances raised by the applicant is that they will be prejudicially affected if they are not given a chance to have a say or to raise objection in the matter of granting ST status to the Meitei community.”

A single-judge bench had passed the controversial order on a petition filed by members of the Meitei Tribes Union, seeking that the state government be directed to act on their pleas for inclusion in the ST list.

The March 27 order by then acting Chief Justice M V Muralidharan led to widespread objections from Kuki Zo bodies which was followed by a rally, organised by the All Tribal Students Union (ATSUM) on May 3, during which violence broke at Torbung in Churachandpur district and became the trigger for the ethnic violence which has so far claimed at least 180 lives.

The court informed, “taking into consideration the nature of arguments advanced by the learned counsel appearing for the parties which needs to be examined and decided on the basis of the materials available in the connected writ appeal and writ petition and taking into consideration the grievances raised by the applicants, we are inclined to grant leave sought by the applicants in the present application.”

Advocate Collin Gonsalves appearing for the tribal bodies in his arguments remarked that “if the Meitei community is wrongly granted ST status, then this will adversely affect the existing tribal ST in employment and education where reservation for STs exist and that the Meitei community being dominant and advanced politically, economically and educationally will grab majority of the ST reserved seats.”

Senior advocate M Hemchandra, appearing for the respondents, informed, “inspite of having records of Meitei community as Meitei tribes” they “had been left out at the time of preparation of ST list under the Constitution of India” and that “Meitei tribes have approached authorities concerned for the last so many years but failed to consider for initiation of process for inclusion into the ST lists.”

Even though the March 27 order has been interpreted as the immediate cause for the ethnic strife in the state, Chief Minister N Biren Singh has consistently linked the violence to the state government’s campaign against drugs and poppy cultivation in the hills as well as due to the unrest caused by illegal immigrants from Myanmar.

On August 9, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had remarked in Parliament that political instability in neighbouring Myanmar had forced many Kukis to flee to Manipur for safety.

(Published 21 October 2023, 10:04 IST)

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