HC to review order on Meiteis in ST quota list that sparked off ethnic violence in Manipur
The Meiteis are expected to be disappointed with the government's likely recommendation that they not be included as a Scheduled Tribe.
The Manipur high court on Tuesday admitted a review petition seeking to modify its March 27 order that directed the state government to recommend inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, sparking a wave of violence that continues to roil the northeastern state, and setting off an exodus of the state’s two largest communities to their traditional strongholds.
Based on the petition, the court on Monday issued notices to the Union and state governments, seeking their response. A senior Union government official said on condition of anonymity that both would likely recommend that the Meitei community not be included as a ST, although this person added that this would likely disappoint the community and spark another round of protests.
The review petition by the Meitei Tribes Union (MTU) was admitted for hearing by a bench of acting chief justice MV Muralidharan, who also authored the controversial March 27 order. In the order, justice Muralidharan directed the Manipur government to reply to the Union tribal affairs ministry on a file related to the request for inclusion of the Meiteis on the ST list.
The high court noted that the Meiteis had submitted several requests for ST status to the Centre from 2013 onwards that had, in turn, been forwarded to the state government for a formal recommendation. But the state government never acted on it, the high court said, directing it to respond to the Union government.
In addition to this direction, the HC also said, “The first respondent shall consider the case of the petitioners for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list, expeditiously, preferably within a period four weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order…”
This particular bit of the order has been challenged in the petition.
“It is this part of the order that we have sought a modification of. There is a Supreme Court judgment that says inclusion or exclusion of any community is the prerogative of the Parliament and the President. So, this direction does not comply with that,” MTU’s advocate Ajoy Pebam said.
“We have simply asked them to revise the Single Bench order,” he added. “We want the Manipur government to respond to the letter since it is not authorised to grant ST status.”
The high court has listed the review petition for July 5.
About 115 people have lost their lives in the violence between Meitei and Kuki communities that broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the hill districts to protest against the high court order asking the government to consider tribal status to dominant Meitei community.
Meiteis account for about 53% of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute another 40% of the population and reside in the hill districts.
In another order, the Manipur high court on Friday directed the state government to provide limited internet services at designated places. The order issued by Jjustices Ahanthem Bimol Singh and A Guneshwar Sharma was put up on Tuesday. An internet ban has been on in the state since May 3.
The court also asked telecom service providers to file affidavits explaining the feasibility of providing limited internet services to the public by blocking social media websites. The bench will hear this matter next on June 23.
Despite the HC order on resumption of limited internet services in the state, the Manipur government on Tuesday extended the ban for five more days till 3pm of June 25 to prevent further disturbance of peace and public order in the state.
The order, issued by commissioner (home) T Ranjit Singh stated that the ban will continue to be applicable for all “except for those who have been specifically exempted by the government and may be exempted subsequently and Internet Lease Line (ILL) on a case-to-case basis as permitted by competent authority”.
Meanwhile, personnel from Assam Rifles arrested “four suspected cadres of United National Liberation Front (UNLF)”, a Meitei insurgent group in Manipur, at Lilong in Thoubal district on Monday night.
“Acting on intelligence inputs, mobile vehicle check post was established near police station Lilong on the night of June 19. Four suspected (UNLF) cadres in two separate vehicles were apprehended with one 51 mm mortal and handed over to police,” Spear Corps division of Indian Army posted on Twitter.
Residents of the area reportedly tried to storm the Lilong police station in protest against the arrests. But they were dispersed by the state police and Assam Rifles personnel.
(with agency inputs)