The events of the past few weeks in Manipur have disturbed people all over the globe, not just those who are inclined to think deeply.
Let us first examine the perspective of the majority, the Meities. It is high time they perceive other groups in the state not solely based on their origins and communities, but as fellow inhabitants of the state.
They still refer to Muslims as 'Pangals,' tribals as 'Haus,' and those who do not fall into either category as 'Mayang.' Unless the majority starts thinking inclusively, these events will persist. They limit themselves by adopting a minority mindset and lack the overarching attitude of a majority community.
It is crucial for the Meities, if they wish to maintain their dominant position, to identify other groups by the names chosen by those groups themselves, not by the designations used during the era of the ruling Ningthouja princes.
(We must never forget that there has never been a popular rebellion against the state in recorded history, and any conflicts noticed were merely members of the ruling family fighting amongst themselves.)
What should be noted is that the same divide and rule policy employed by the British still persists even after seventy years since their departure. Misinformed individuals may claim that the Maharaja did not allow the spread of Christianity in the Manipur valley, but it was actually the British policy to confine that religion to the hill areas of Northeast India.
For example, the American Baptists are prominent in Nagaland, while the Welsh Presbyterians practice in the former Mizo hill district of Assam. This explains why we have different denominations of Christianity in the Northeast, with the exception of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Therefore, just as the British divided the state based on religious affiliations, the central government divided the state into reserved and non-reserved categories. There is a belief that if a state is categorized as reserved, the entire state should fall under that category, and similarly, if a state is categorized otherwise, the entire state should be considered general without any classification.
However, this has not been the policy of the central government thus far. When insurgency is added to the mix, the situation becomes highly volatile. The present situation is a direct consequence of the policies of the central government.
Consequently, there is no guarantee that a similar situation may not arise in any other part of the country if the same policy is pursued. Nonetheless, in the Northeast, there is a prevailing tendency to align with whoever is in power in Delhi, even if it were a dog or donkey.
To alleviate the fears of people living in scheduled tribe areas of the state, a suggestion is being put forward: why not bring everyone under the unreserved category? Another argument is that the Meities fall under the Other Backward Classes category.
However, within this category, there exists a distinction between the creamy layer and non-creamy layer, much like the difference between toned milk (fat-free) and regular milk (with natural fat). In contrast, under the SC/ST category, a son of a civil servant can write exams without any fear, as there is no creamy layer among SC/ST.
Those who wish to remain in this category must realize that there is a system in place where one can renounce further advantages once they have entered service. However, as far as one can recall, no one from this state has exercised that option, and just as the politicians cling to Delhi, whether dog or donkey, individuals who enter the services adopt a similar policy.
Looking back to 1976, when I appeared for the competitive exam to enter the Reserve Bank of India, there were a total of 20 vacancies. Vacancies in the RBI only arise due to death or retirement, as no other vacancies arise otherwise.
After deducting the statutory SC/ST quota from the total number of around 60,000 who wrote the exam (fortunately, the OBC matter had not yet come up at that time), there were 12 vacancies. To secure the fourth position in the All India Merit list was a testament to our abilities, and indeed, we accomplished it.
There was also a system in place where vacancies that were not filled due to various reasons were allowed to be carried over to the next year, and sometimes the spill-over was significant enough to warrant special recruitment drives. This aspect requires a re-evaluation, and no spill-over should be allowed.
Another reason why policies need to be revised relates to the existing income tax laws. Individuals belonging to the scheduled tribe category who are domiciled or posted in the Northeast are exempted from paying income tax.
Consequently, people who do not have to face intense competition and are financially better off are purchasing land in the valley. This exacerbates the fact that, under existing laws, tribals who are exempted from income tax are allowed to buy land in the valley, while valley residents, who are required to abide by all laws of the country, are not permitted to buy land in the hills.
This issue of land is a major concern, especially considering that previous attempts to change the land laws were defeated, thanks to the former late President of India.
The common man is left to believe that becoming a scheduled tribe is the only solution, although that may not necessarily be the case. There is also a strong opinion suggesting that it is too late for the demand for SC/ST status, and this viewpoint holds weight.
If jobs are what the people want, the whole globe is a market, with medicine, information technology, and sports being areas where the valley population has a global market. If one cannot withstand the competition, they will lose their edge. After all, to obtain the best, one must strive to be the best. However, under the reservation system, one does not necessarily have to be the best to secure the best opportunities.
A potential solution lies in derecognizing those who were previously recognized as scheduled tribes and completely scrapping the reservation system. However, none of these justifications excuse the events of the past few weeks, and one can only imagine... (imagine there's no heaven, imagine there's no hell, imagine all the people... John Lennon in the Beatles song of the same title, 1976).
(This piece has not been edited by Pratidin Time and has been published as it is.)