ST Status of Meitei Community

On May 3, 2023, violent clashes broke out at various places in Manipur during the course of a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ called by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM). Flag marches were conducted by the Army and Assam Rifles in the regions affected by the clashes. This incident has brought to light the ongoing conflict in Manipur over the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for the Meitei community.

Demand for ST status

The Meitei community in Manipur has been demanding inclusion in the state’s ST list for at least a decade. The Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM) has been pushing for this demand. In April 2023, the Manipur High Court released an order asking the government to consider the demand after the Meetei Tribe Union filed a plea seeking directions to the Manipur government.

Opposition to the demand

Tribal groups in Manipur have been opposing the demand for ST status for the Meitei community. The opposition is based on the fear of losing job opportunities and affirmative actions granted to STs, as well as the dominance of the Meiteis in population and political representation. Furthermore, it has been argued that some sections of the Meitei community are already categorized under Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC), and that the Manipuri language spoken by the Meiteis is already listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

Population distribution

Approximately 64.6% of the population of Manipur is constituted by the Meiteis, who are the largest community in the state. There are 34 recognized tribes in Manipur, which are broadly classified as ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ and ‘Any Naga Tribes’. The remaining 35.4% of the population resides in the hills surrounding the valley.

Churachandpur violence

There has been growing discontent and tension among the hill tribes in Manipur due to several factors. In late April, Churachandpur witnessed violence after the state government issued notices claiming illegal settlements and encroachers in the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest area. The government’s subsequent eviction drive resulted in clashes. Kuki groups have claimed that the survey and eviction violate Article 371C, which confers some administrative autonomy to the tribal-dominated hill areas of Manipur.



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