Manipur HC cancels order for examining inclusion of Meitei community in Scheduled Tribes list

Manipur HC cancels order for examining inclusion of Meitei community in Scheduled Tribes list

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Imphal, February 22 (IANS) The Manipur High Court has modified its March 2023 order in part, whereby a contentious direction was issued to the state government for considering the inclusion of Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, observing that a paragraph of that order was in conflict with the Supreme Court's constitution bench observation, court sources said on Thursday.

The single judge bench of Justice Golmei Gaiphulshillu was hearing a review petition filed against para 17 (iii) of the decision dated March 27, 2023 rendered by the then acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan in a petition by a Meitei organisation.

"....the direction given at Para No. 17 (iii) needs to be deleted and is ordered accordingly for deletion of the Para No. 17 (iii) of the judgment and order dated 27.03.2023 passed in W.P.(C) No. 229 of 2023," the order of Wednesday said.

The contentious paragraph no 17 (iii) of last year's High Court verdict instructed the state to expedite consideration of Meitei community inclusion in the ST list.

Then acting Chief Justice M.V. Muralidharan, who was subsequently transferred to the Calcutta High Court, in his March 27, 2023 order directed the state government to send a recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry to consider the ST status for the Meitei community.

The directive is believed to be a catalyst for ethnic conflict between the non-tribal Meitei community and tribal Kuki-Zo community claiming over 200 lives and injuring 1,500 and displacing over 70,000 people of both communities.

Erstwhile princely state Manipur merged with the Indian Union in 1949.

Justice Gaiphulshillu’s order said: "The Meetei (Meitei) of Manipur has lost the identity of the tribe while merging with the Union of India on September 21, 1949 and earlier Manipur was a simple classless tribal society. However, at the time of merging, 29 communities of Manipur have been included in the Scheduled Tribe list of Indian Union and thereafter, as per the order of May 26, 2003 of the Gauhati High Court’s Imphal bench, Chongthu, Khoibu, and Mate have been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Accordingly, now there are 34 numbers of tribal communities of Manipur included in the list of Scheduled Tribes of the Indian Constitution, but the Meetei (Meitei) tribe was left out."

After the outbreak of ethnic violence on May 3 last year (post the March 27 High Court order), several petitions, including challenges to the high court directive, were filed to the Supreme Court.

The ethnic violence broke out in the northeastern state after March 27 High Court order as a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for ST status.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's estimated population of about 36.49 lakh and live mostly in the six Imphal Valley districts, while tribals, which include Naga, and Kuki-Zo, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the 10 hill districts.