Will SC ruling on Mukul Sangma ST status open up a Pandora’s Box beyond anyone’s imagination?

Will SC ruling on Mukul Sangma ST status open up a Pandora’s Box beyond anyone’s imagination?

SHILLONG: Questions raised over the ST status of Meghalaya Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma has brought about a whole lot of confusion amongst the St Community of the state whose spouses are non-tribals.

With the hearing of the case in the Apex Court scheduled for March 20, it would seems like the much talked about issue challenging the ST status of the Chief Minister would culminate into a whole new level affecting not only the head of the state but also the tribals who are treading in the same direction.

It seems like the long wait is about to take a new turn on the political scenario of Meghalaya at present, even as mystery shrouds over the judgement of the Supreme Court on the much-pending case related to the Meghalaya CM’s status.

It may be reminded that a PIL was filed by All Northeast Indigenous Garo Law Promoters’ Association and Tennydard M Marak with the Apex Court last year seeking its direction to hold inquiry into the ST status of Sangma and cancellation of the certificate issued to him on June 23, 1982.

The apex court on January 20 last year had requested the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to verify and dispose off the case within eight weeks on merit and in accordance with the law.

The All North East Indigenous Garo Law Promoters’ Association, in its PIL, said that the Garo tribe of Meghalaya is a matriarchal society where mother presides over the family and the family inherits her surname.

It was contended by the association that Sangma’s biological mother is a Muslim. Thus, going by the Garo tribe’s customs and traditions, adoption could not be a basis of getting tribal status. They alleged that Sangma does not belong to the ‘Sangma’ clan, and that he had used his surname only to obtain a Scheduled Tribe certificate.

This challenging case pending with the Supreme Court was supposed to come up for hearing on January this year but the same was deferred.

This case was deferred on several occasions and everytime a hearing was deferred, predictions, questions and anxiousness creeps in and as some organisations came in full support of Dr Sangma, others are determined that Dr Sangma will lose his ST status.

It may be reminded that the Manda clan, to which the Meghalaya chief minister belongs, has come out in defence of the Garo hills leader following allegations that the chief minister does not belong to the Scheduled Tribe community.

Going by the book of law, it may be recalled that a Supreme Court’s ruling of 2006 states that a non-tribal woman marrying a tribal man will have no privileges of that of an ST, however, the children will enjoy the privileges and reservations of the tribals, hence it maybe safe to assume that while the Chief Minister cannot claim to the ‘Sangma’ surname, his status will remain that of a tribal.

It maybe also be mentioned that the Supreme Court had observed that the offshoots of the wedlock of a tribal woman married to a non-tribal husband cannot claim Scheduled Tribe status. This however remains ambiguous since there has been no clarity if this ruling will be applicable to a matriarchal society which is prevalent in Meghalaya .

Hearing of this case was deferred on several occasions and it also took several turns, raising confusions with queries popping out from various quarters of this matrilineal state.

So come March 20th not only will the Chief Minister be waiting for the verdict anxiously but also many others who do not occupy the high office of his. In the end we must remember the Law is applicable to all and in this matter an unfavourable ruling to the Chief Minister may perhaps open up a Pandora’s box to many .

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