Manipur BJP MLA moves SC against HC order on ST status to Meiteis tribal outfit seeks probe by SIT

New Delhi: A batch of pleas has been filed in the Supreme Court on the Manipur situation including one by a ruling BJP MLA challenging the high court order on the issue of Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community and a PIL by a tribal outfit for a probe by an SIT into the violence that rocked the northeastern state last week.

The clashes started in Churachandpur district last Wednesday after tribals held a protest opposing reservation to the Meiteis following the March 27 high court order asking the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status by the Meitei community.

Appeals have been filed by Dinganglung Gangmei, BJP MLA and chairman of the Hills Area Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, challenging various orders passed by the Manipur High Court on the ST status to Meiteis, including the contempt notices on the criticism of the HC order.

Gangmei in his appeal said the HAC “was a necessary and proper party and the proceedings before the High Court were vitiated on account of not making the HAC a party”.

He said, “Even if directions were to be given they could not have been given without notice to the HAC (Hills Area Committee) and hearing the HAC.”

He said that due to the impugned order tension between both the community have taken place and violent clashes have erupted across the state.

“As a result of it so far 19 tribal people have been killed, various places in the states are blocked, the internet is completely shutdown and more people are at risk of losing their lives”, the appeal said.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute another 40 per cent of the population and live mostly in the hill districts.

The PIL filed by an NGO ‘Manipur Tribal Forum’, through advocate Satya Mitra, said it has moved the top court under Article 32 of the Constitution on account of the extreme situation arising out of the attacks on the tribal community in Manipur by a “dominant group”.

It alleged that “these attacks have the full support of the party in power … which supports the dominant group” and sought directions to the Centre and Manipur to evacuate Manipuri tribals who have fled their villages.

The PIL by the tribal outfit alleged that the attacks began on May 3 and several churches and hospitals were also damaged when the mobs went on a rampage, burning houses and vehicles and business establishments belonging to tribals.

It claimed that 30 tribals were killed and 132 people were injured but “neither FIR was registered nor is there any investigation taking place”.
The PIL sought directions to the Centre and the state government to deploy central forces to protect all churches and places of worship of the tribal/Christians in Manipur with immediate effect.
It urged that a team of professionals be put together to conduct an inquiry into the villages destroyed and make an assessment of the damage. It also sought payment of compensation to the victims and reconstruction of buildings including churches.

“A prayer clause has been made for the appointment of former DGP Assam (Harekrishna Deka) as the head of an SIT to investigate and prosecute and with a mandate to put together a team of his choice of police personnel and other support secretarial staff so that final reports are made expeditiously,” it said.

The appeal filed by Gangmei against the March 27 order of the Manipur High Court said that three basic errors were made in the judgement which includes directing the State to make a recommendation to the Central government to include the Meitei community as a scheduled tribe in the Presidential list.

“The second mistake is the conclusion that the issue of inclusion of the Meiteis was pending for nearly 10 years and the third mistake is in concluding that the Meiteis are tribes’ ‘, the appeal said.

The appeal said that the Meitei community is not a tribe and has never been recognised as a tribe and in fact they’re very much an advanced community though some of them may come within SC/OBC.

The appeal said that the high court passed the order on a writ petition filed by some members of Meitei communities seeking a direction to the state government to recommend to the Centre to include their community of Manipur in the scheduled tribe list of the Indian constitution as a tribe of Manipur.

The plea by the BJP MLA said there is no recommendation of the state government for inclusion of the Meetei/Meitei community in the scheduled tribe list and there is no recommendation for such inclusion pending before the central government.

“Merely because the state of Manipur may have received some representation by the Meeteis/Meiteis does not oblige the state to do anything unless the state is convinced first, that the Meeteis/Meiteis are tribes and second, that they deserve to be in scheduled tribes list.

“No one can force the state to send such a recommendation in the absence of the state concluding that the Meeteis/Meiteis are a tribe and they deserve to be in the scheduled tribes list”, it said.

One more appeal has been filed by the chairman of the Hill Area Committee challenging the order dated May 3 of the High Court in which notices were issued to them in a contempt petition filed by members of Meitei community.