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‘Scheduled Tribe status demand may ignite communal carnage’

Imphal : A Manipur group which is demanding implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Manipur to regulate the entry and stay of non-locals feels that the demand for Scheduled Tribe status for the Meiteis will ignite communal carnage.

In view of the fast polarisation on the issue, the government may deny permission for a procession on May 22 by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDC) in the Imphal areas where prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC are in place.

The official stand of the group, Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), vis-a-vis the STDC campaign was formally announced on Friday during a public meeting.

Some civil organisations are also against this demand.

Arjun Telheiba, co-convener of the JCILPS, said: “If the Meiteis are converted to Scheduled Tribe there may be bloodshed among the different communities. It is deplorable that the STDC has been spreading baseless and tendentious rumours among the people saying that if the Meiteis become Scheduled Tribe there will be no need for ILP as tribal lands will be protected by a constitutional provision.”

Regretting such “disinformation, Telheiba said: “If it is so then why is there ILP in tribal states like Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh?”

The STDC activists are so far not giving a comprehensive reply to this simple question.

JCILPS feels that the urgent need of the hour is to get assent to the three Bills which have been in the office of the President of India all these months.

Some indigenous people in the North Eastern region have already been “swamped and Manipur is not lagging behind. Telheiba said that there are 700 voters in a particular ward in Thangmeiband near Imphal. The number of Meitei voters in this ward is just 21. It means that an outsider could easily get elected in the Imphal Municipal Corporation elections to be held on June 2.

JCILPS suspects that there is a “hidden agenda in the Scheduled Tribe demand.

On the other hand, some more organisations have announced that they will take part in the May 22 demonstration to be organised by the STDC. As there is likely to be some law and order problems the government may intervene.

Police sources said that the situation is being closely monitored. However a formal instruction from Home Minister Gaikhangam is yet to come.

The All Manipur Students’ Union is also against the demand. It said that the grumblings of the tribals should not be suppressed. Some of them said that the advanced Meitei community ought to extend a helping hand to the tribals.

However they feel that “plans are afoot to usurp job reservations and other benefits for the tribals in the state.