IMPHAL: The Meetei Pangal Schedule Tribe Demand Committee has demanded the Government to include the Meetei-Pangal community in the schedule tribe list and has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister N. Biren Singh in this regard on Tuesday.
In the memorandum, the Committee said that Meetei Pangal community which is backward socially and economically has every reason to be to be included in ST list under Article 342 (1) of the Indian constitution.
It is an accepted fact that Meitei Pangal community in the state has evolved centuries back due to inter-marriage between Meitei women and Muslim men. It is clear from old literary texts, written in old archaic Meitei, such as Nongsamei and Pangal Thorakpa and is complemented by the entries in the Cheitharol Kumbaba. Their primitiveness is clear from the observation of British writers such as Mc Culloch (1859) and R Brown (1874) in the colonial period. Though professed to have followed Islam, they were ignorant of their religion and they had no Mosque (R Brown, 1874), the Committee said in the memorandum.
Culture of Meitei Pangal is different from other Muslims in the country. They are different from other Muslims in certain key components of culture such as social arrangement, marriage, language etc, the Committee stated. Their social arrangement system as sociological work on Meitei Pangal has shown is completely different from that of the Muslims. They are arranged in terms of what is known as Sagei, which signifies a lineage group. A Sagei is a cognate group because of their consanguineous relationship, the Committee stated adding that Meitei Pangal follow patrilineal descent system and are patrilocal.
The members in the Sagei are determined by birth. There is no elaborate rule which governs the inter-Sagei relationship, it stated while adding that the importance of Sagei notably comes in the time of marriage and the Sageis are arranged in a horizontal spread with no notion of high and low being attached to them unlike other Muslim communities in the country. Thus, they have an egalitiarian social set up, which is an important anthropological feature associated with tribal communities. They are not divided in terms if Ashraf, Ajlaf or Arzal categories or any other biradari concepts unlike other Muslim in the country, the committee noted.
Thus, though arranged in a Sagei based social set up, society is not segmented. Neither the Sageis are arranged in a hierarchical order nor are there any restrictions on social intercourse and commensality. However, there are restrictions on marriage, the committee further stated. As a rule, a Meitei Pangal Sagei is exogamous, though exceotions occur, which are frowned upon.
The committee further stated that different Meitei Pangal Sageis form an exogamous cluster which constitutes the community. Since they are exogamous groups, the Sageis that constitute the Meitei Pangal society may be said to be marked by affinal relationship. Meitei Pangal community speak Manipuri language. It is their mother tongue. The community live in the Imphal valley surrounded by hills on all sides. Historically, they are cut off from the rest of the world and suffered complete geographical isolation. The geographical isolation naturally leads to lack of contact with outside world. They are reluctant to meet other fellow human beings outside their environment. They feel secure in their own closed environment and insecure in exposing themselves to outiders. They are backward in all parameters of human life. A socio economic survey carried out by the Government in 2004 has clearly shown the degree of their backwardness. They have been included in OBC catergory and because of their backwardness, government reserves four percent reservation in job recruitment.
Briefing reporters at Manipur Press Club, Meetei Pangal Schedule Tribe Demand Committee Spokersperson Advocate Rabi Khan said Article 342 (1) of the Indian constitution provides five key eligibility criteria for inclusion of a community in ST list. After thorough discussion, different Meitei Pangal CSOs united together to form the Meetei Pangal Schedule Tribe Demand Committee as the community is eligible for ST tag.
Earlier, representatives of Meitei pangal also became members of STDCM but they left the committee. The committee had earlier met the Manipur Governor Dr Najima Heptulla and titular Manipur King Leishemba Sanajaoba on the issue.
Representatives of the committee today met Chief Minister N Biren at CM Bungalow and urged him to include Meitei Pangal in ST list. Chief minister also assured to take up necessary action regarding the issue, he added.
He also sought support from the people to include the community in ST list.