Centre Initiates Review of ST Status for Kukis and Zomis in Manipur

News Reporter News Reporter
Tuesday, January 09, 2024
Centre Initiates Review of ST Status for Kukis and Zomis in Manipur
Indian Government Prompts Examination Following Representation by Republican Party Leader
New Delhi, 9 January, 24: In a recent development, the Indian government has launched a review process to assess the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status of specific communities, particularly the Kukis and Zomis in Manipur. This decision comes in response to a representation submitted by Maheshwar Thounaojam, National Secretary of the Republican Party of India (Athawale), urging a reconsideration of the "Nomadic Chin-Kuki" inclusion in the ST list in the state.

Thounaojam, in an interaction with Media, disclosed that a memorandum was presented to Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda during a parliamentary session. The memorandum, supported by documents, contends that Kukis and Zomis should not enjoy the benefits of ST status as per the Indian constitution.

The Republican Party leader referred to a Supreme Court judgment in Maharashtra, emphasizing that individuals not originally from India cannot qualify for ST status. Thounaojam asserted that, based on the documents submitted, Kukis and Zomis are not indigenous to India and are classified as refugees, making their ST status illegal.

In correspondence dated December 26, 2023, the Union government conveyed that the process of inclusion or exclusion from the ST list necessitates a proposal from the concerned State government. Accordingly, the representation was forwarded to the State government for its recommendation.

This development is part of a broader discourse on the inclusion and exclusion of communities from the ST list, governed by criteria established by the Lokur Committee in 1965. The criteria encompass primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness.

The ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, particularly between the valley-based Meitei people and hill-based Kuki-Zo people since May 3, 2023, adds complexity to the situation. The conflict was triggered by a Manipur High Court order directing the state government to recommend ST status for Meiteis to the Centre, leading to unrest among existing ST communities.

Thounaojam's argument revolves around the idea that indigeneity should be the primary criterion for defining STs, asserting that Kukis and Zomis do not qualify as original inhabitants of Manipur.

The process for altering the ST list involves a proposal from the concerned state government, followed by approvals from the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, the Office of the Registrar General of India (ORGI), and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. The proposal must then advance to the Cabinet for an amendment to the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, with the final decision resting with the President, who issues a notification specifying the changes.

This inquiry into the ST status of Kukis and Zomis reflects ongoing discussions about the criteria for ST classification and the adequacy of the current inclusion procedure. While the Centre deemed the existing procedure satisfactory as of March 15, 2023, it faces criticism for being outdated and inflexible, potentially causing delays or exclusions. The response from the Manipur government to the Centre's request will play a pivotal role in determining the future ST status of the Kukis and Zomis in the region.