- The Meitei community in Manipur has intended to file contempt proceedings against the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
About the Issue
- The Meitei community has been seeking the Scheduled Tribe status for decades. Recently, the Manipur High Court ordered the State government to recommend the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list, following which the HAC passed a resolution opposing the high court’s order and called for the Union government and the State government to appeal it.
Procedure for Inclusion into the ST List
- HAC is of the opinion that the inclusion of Meitei community into the Scheduled Tribes should be appealed keeping in mind the sentiments, interests and rights of existing Scheduled Tribes of Manipur.
- Meitei community has said that the HAC has no jurisdiction to pass such a resolution without the Speaker’s permission and this amounts to criminal contempt.
About Meitei community
- 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.
- The Meiteis account for roughly 64.6% of the state’s population and are largely concentrated in the Imphal Valley.
- They are currently categorised as OBCs or SCs, the Meitei people dominate in more than half the State’s Assembly constituencies. A majority of them identify as Hindu while about 8% are Muslim.
Article 371C Special provision with respect to the State of Manipur
- Article 371C was not a part of the Constitution of India 1950. It was inserted by the Constitution (Twenty-seventh Amendment) Act, 1971, following the formation of the new state of Manipur.
- Under Article 371C of the Constitution of India a special provision with respect to the State of Manipur was made providing for:
- (i) constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the Hill Areas of that State,
- (ii) for the modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and
- (iii) modifications in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and
- (iv) for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such a committee.
- It protects the tribal areas, restricts the people from the Valley or outsiders from buying and acquiring land in the hill districts.
Demand of Meitei Community
- The community argued 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.
- Manipur’s Geography: The state’s geography is divided between a central valley that accounts for about 10% of the landmass of Manipur and is home primarily to the Meitei and Meitei Pangals who constitute roughly 64.6% of the state’s population.
- The remaining 90% of the geographical area comprises hills, surrounding the valley, that are home to the recognised tribes, about 35.4% of the population.
- The geography, protections extended to the hill areas, and restrictions on the buying of land there have been central to the anxieties of the Meity community pressing for this demand.
- Opposition by ST Communities of Manipur: The ST communities of Manipur have been consistently opposing the inclusion fearing the loss of job opportunities and other affirmative actions granted to STs by the Constitution of India to a much-advanced community like the Meitei.
- Other arguments against the demand have been that the Manipuri language of the Meiteis is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and that sections of the predominantly Hindu Meitei community are already classified as Scheduled Caste (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and have access to the opportunities associated with that.
Hill Areas Committee (HAC)