Memorandum to President APJ Abdul Kalam

August 14, 2009


Your Excellency,
On behalf of the people of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills, we extend to you our warm greetings and sincerely thank you for Your Excellency’s gracious generosity to meet us and listen to our supplication.
Karbi Anglong and NC Hills are the two hill areas of Assam inhabited by the Karbis and the Dimasa tribes respectively besides other smaller ethnic tribes and non-tribal communities. The Karbis are a major tribe of the North East and their population is as large as the Garos, or the Khasis or the Mizos. The Karbis and the Dimasas are natural political allies and have co-existed in peaceful harmony for generations.
The two hill areas have remained the most alienated, the most neglected and the most backward. But they are the richest of all the hills of the North-East in terms of agricultural, mineral and water resources.
Due to utter neglect, unrestrained infiltration and rampant exploitation, the Karbis and the Dimasas are facing threat to their very existence and have been forced to seek self-determination of their own destiny within the framework of the Constitution of India.
The growing political consciousness of the tribal people and the awareness about their pathetic socio-economic conditions, as compared to the level of development surrounding them, have given way to diverse and tribe-specific political movements, including armed insurgency. Amidst such diversity of insurgent groups with their obvious contrariety of demands, both intra-tribe and inter-tribe contradictions are bound to develop, and the entire two hills became a powder-keg that could explode under the slightest provocation.
Since early 2003, every year, the two hills have been subjected to repeated ethnic clashes which have left a trail of physical and emotional devastation and loss of hundreds of human lives. The first was the clash between the Dimasas and the Hmars (April 2003) and then the clash between the Karbis and the Kukis (October 2003) and the Khasis (November 2003) followed. Therefore the present clash between the Karbis and the Dimasas is not an isolated case, being part of a strange pattern.
The sudden occurrence of the present clash since the 26th of September has left the two hills numbed and bleeding. During the past 26 days, 87 innocent men, women and children have lost their lives (as per official statistics) with many more unaccounted for in far-flung areas, and over fifty thousands have been rendered homeless as their homes have been burnt to ashes. Apart from the loss of lives and property, there is the massive task of emotional, infrastructural and economic rehabilitation of the shaken and traumatized victims. This is our appeal to the Nation through Your Excellency’s good offices to help rebuild the lives of the Karbis and the Dimasas who now live under tragic circumstances.
Your Excellency,
The crux of the matter is the callous manner in which the government is dealing with the political problems of the two hill areas. Without understanding local sentiments the government has taken certain actions which have been proved counterproductive. For instance, the setting up of an ‘unguarded designated camp’ of the Dima Halam Daoga or DHD in short (a Dimasa armed extremist outfit under ceasefire with the government since 2003) at Dhansiri (a small Dimasa-dominated settlement in Karbi Anglong bordering Dimapur, Nagaland ) has turned out to be a serious bone of contention which created social tension in that area during the past three years and have provided fodder for the present ethnic catastrophe in the two hills. There is an urgent need to remove the camp to prevent future occurrence of the present crisis.
There is also an urgent need to understand the social, economic and political problems of the two hills in order to provide lasting solution. For that the appointment of a ‘House Committee of the Parliament’ is urgently called for to probe and resolve the various socio-economic complexities and political demandsof the hill people. As the demand of the hill people for Statehood for the past 19 years continues to be ignored and the overall welfare of the hill people remaining in the distant periphery of Assam’s consciousness, the two hills are being pushed deeper into social crisis that is dangerously mutating into ethnic bigotry. We humbly seek Your Excellency’s urgent intervention so as to ease the tension prevailing in the hills and to establish lasting peace in the two hills of Assam.
Your most humble citizens —

(Dharamsing Teron, MLA) (Elwin Teron, MAC)
On behalf of the Autonomous State Demand Committee

Chronology of events in Karbi Anglong generated by the Justice Bill 2009

August 14, 2009

Chronology of events in Karbi Anglong generated by the
‘Administration of Justice in Karbi Anglong Bill, 2009’

3 July 2009
> KAAC not to support Govt. move to scrap Customary Law (Sorkar atum Customary Law kepavirji pu along chedondunde : CEM/Arleng Daily/2 July 200) : Joyram Engleng, CEM of the KAAC, declared in a press conference that the KAAC does not support the Govt. move to replace the existing customary practices of the hill people of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills districts by judicial courts as stated by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Chandra Narah for which the proposed ‘Administration of Justice Bill, 2009’ is being introduced in the ongoing Budget Session. He asserted that the age-old practices of Customary Laws are not interfered by the proposed bill. He questioned whether the infrastructure created in the Ronghang-Rongbong, Chinthong-Rongbong and Amri-Rongbong at the expenses of lakhs of rupees will now be occupied by the State Govt.?

4 July 2009
> Different organizations condemn Govt. move to scrap Customary Law (Customary Law kepavirji pura sorkar pen kabor-I aphuthak song kaprek kaprek kapinrem/Arleng Daily/3 July 2009) : The mainstream Karbi organizations like the Karbi Lammet Amei (KLA), both factions of Karbi Students’ Association (KSA), Karbi Cultural Society (KCS) and Somindar Karbi Amei (SKA) represented by their leaders condemned the Govt. move to replace the Customary Laws of the hill people by the proposed ‘Administration of Justice Bill, 2009’ as stated by Assam Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Ch. Narah on 29 June 2009. The leaders, namely Mrinay Teron (SKA), Sikari Tisso (KLA), Chandrasing Kro (KCS), Sarthe Kramsa (KSA) et al reiterated that the Govt. had on various occasions attempted to infringe upon the autonomy of the Sixth Schedule. The introduction of ‘Assam Land and Revenue Act’ in Karbi Anglong is an instance, the leaders pointing that attempt is on to introduce Panchayati Raj as well which are aimed at curtailing the Sixth Schedule autonomy.

5 July 2009
> ASDC memo through DC to Assam CM against move to scrap Customary Law (Customary Law aphuthak ASDC pen Assam CM aphan kepanong pinpur alo DC arideng kepajir pon/Arleng Daily/4 July 2009) : ASDC leaders Robindra Rongpi, Sonasing Terang and Monsing Rongpi submitted a memorandum addressed to the Assam CM through the Karbi Anglong Deputy Commissioner opposing the move to scrap Customary Laws in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills citing the statement of Assam Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bharat Chandra Narah. The leaders warned of public protest if the Govt. insisted on introducing the ‘Assam Administration of Justice Bill, 2009’. The ASDC had welcomed the bifurcation of Judiciary and Executive but opposed the move to scrap customary practices of the hill people.

7 July 2009
> All party meeting at ASDC office against scrapping of customary law (Customary Law aphuthak ASDC saihem along All Party meeting padopon/Arleng Daily/6 July 2009) : An all party meeting was held in the ASDC office to explore a possible united opposition to the proposal to scrap customary law. CPI (ML), BJP and Karbi Anglong Peoples’ Party (KAPP) attended the meeting chaired by ASDC president Chomang Kro. The meeting decided to send an all party delegation to the Assam Governor, HAD Minister and the Chief Minister against the proposed bill. The parties also decided to mobilise public opinion against the Assam govt. conspiracy to curtail the existing autonomy under the Sixth Schedule.

8 July 2009
> KAAC Executive Committee discuss Customary Law (KAAC EC along Customary Law alam kachingvai pon/Arleng Daily/7 July 2009) : The Executive Committee (EC) meeting of the KAAC today took up 21 issues for discussion including the Customary Law which had been agitating the minds of the people. The Executive Members however stated that the EC has affirmed its earlier position on the matter relating to the Customary Law without specifying what exactly the KAAC’s earlier stand on the matter was. According to sources, the KAAC had earlier approved the Assam govt. proposal to replace the Customary Laws.
> Nationalist Karbi Youth Association and Greater Hamren Karbi Youth Society stage a joint demonstration in front of the SDO (Civil) office at Hamren against the proposed Bill to scrap Customary Law. A memorandum addressed to the Assam Chief Minister was submitted through the SDO (C) Md Farukh Alam. The leaders of the organizations criticised the role of Dr Mansing Rongpi, Congress legislator who refrained from participating in the Assembly debate on the Customary Law but who went to the Karbi Kings assuring them that Karbi customary laws shall not be effected.

9 July 2009
> Karbi organizations submit memo to Assam Parliamentary Affairs Minister against scrapping of Customary Law (Hamphang asong chelangpet pen Customary Law aphuthak DC aphan pinpur alo kepajir dam/Arleng Daily/ 8 July 2009) : Mainstream Karbi organizations, namely Somindar Karbi Amei (SKA), Karbi Lammet Amei (KLA), Karbi Students’ Association (KSA), Karbi Employees’ Association (KEA) and Karbi Cultural Society (KCS) today staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office and submitted a memorandum to the Assam Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr Bharat Kr Narah through the Karbi Anglong Deputy Commissioner opposing the scrapping of Customary Laws. The organisations also opposed the move to introduce Panchayati Raj in Karbi Anglong district.
> Greater Guwahati Karbi Students’ Association (GGKSA) memo to CM, HAD against scrapping of Customary Law (Customary Law, Panchayati Raj aphuthak CM, HAD Minister aphan GGKSA atum pen pinpur alo kepajir pon/Arleng Daily/9 July 2009) : Leaders of the GGKSA submitted memorandum to the Assam CM and HAD Minister opposing scrapping of Customary Law and introduction of Panchayati Raj in Karbi Anglong. HAD Minister Khorsing Ingti assured the delegation that Assam Govt. is only bifurcating Judiciary and Executive and that the Customary Laws shall not be touched. However, the HAD minister stated that the Panchayati Raj is soon going to be introduced as it is the government’s decision. Later, the GGKSA delegation accompanied by Karbi Kings met the Assam Chief Minister. The CM informed the delegation that a team is soon being sent to Karbi Anglong to know details about Karbi Customary Laws as he himself was also not very well aware of the status of the customary practices among the Karbis. The CM only assured that he will apprise the matter to the Law Minister.
The GGKSA also had decided to stage a demonstration at Dispur Last Gate on 13 July 2009.
The organizations also decided on a 12 Hr KA bandh on 13 July as a protest against the Bill. KSA, KLA, SKA, KCS, KNCA, KEA and KTUYA are in the organizations calling for the protest bandh. Prominent political parties ASDC, BJP, AGP, NCP and KAPP had also supported the bandh.

10 July 2009
> Govt. will not do anything to scrap Customary Law : CEM (Sorkar pen Customary Law kepavirji aphan klemponpe : CEM/Arleng Daily/9 July 2009) : Joyram Engleng, CEM of KAAC, had reiterated in a press conference that customary laws will not be effected in the event of bifurcation of the judiciary and executive through the ‘Administration of Justice Bill, 2009’ to be introduced in the Assembly during the current budget session. He brushed aside criticisms appearing in local papers against the Bill and said such people are only confusing the people. Meanwhile, Mr Engleng also appealed to organizations calling for ‘bandh’ to withdraw it.

12 July 2009
> UPDS opposes Govt. Bill to scrap Customary Law (Assam Sorkar pen kepangdak alam UPDS pen chedon dunde/Arleng Daily/11 July 2009) : In a statement, the UPDS General Secretary Sai Ding-eh, had protested the proposed Govt Bill to scrap the Customary Law in the name of bifurcating Judiciary and Executive. While the UPDS had welcomed the bifurcation as per Supreme Court directive, the organization had criticized the Govt. move to scrap Customary Laws.
> KUYA and KRA condemn proposed Bill to scrap Customary Law (Customary Law kepavirji pu aphuthak KRA lapen KUYA kapinrem/Arleng Daily/11 July 2009) : Karbi Unemployd Youth Association (KUYA) and Karbi Riso Adorbar (KRA) have condemned the proposed Bill to scrap Customary Law. The two organizations have stressed that scrapping of Customary Laws is a direct assault on the Sixth Schedule. They also stressed that people of KA needs Autonomous State, not Panchayati Raj.

13 July 2009
> 12 Hr KA bandh against Bill to scrap Customary Law – The 12 Hr Karbi Anglong Bandh called by KSA, KLA, SKA, KCS, KNCA, and KEA and supported by KTUYA, KRA, KUYA, ASDC, BJP, AGP, NCP and KAPP passed off peacefully without any untoward incident.
> Effigies of Assam CM and HAD Minister burnt (Song 4 chelangsi Assam CM lapen HAD Minister akumlin me kekai pon/Arleng Daily/13 July 2009) : Members of the KSA, KNCA, AIPWA and AISA had burnt the effigies of Khorsing Ingti, HAD Minister and Tarun Gogoi, the Assam Chief Minister, to register their protest against the Bill to scrap the Customary Laws.

15 July 2009
>KLA/KCS joint consultation on Customary Law : A consultation among Karbi intellectuals was held at KLA office at Rongnihang jointly organized by the Karbi Lammet Amei (KLA) and Karbi Cultural Society. State encroachment into Sixth Schedule autonomy is taking place by way of imposition of Police District in Hamren, attempts to introduce Panchayati Raj, making Assamese (script) compulsory, obstructing inclusion of KA in the SRC and violation of the MoU (of 1995) and the current conspiracy to scrap Customary Laws etc.

18 July 2009
> Political parties call 12 Hr KA bandh today : The ASDC, BJP, NCP and AGP have jointly called for a 12 Hr bandh to protest the tabling of ‘Administration of Justice in Karbi Anglong Bill, 2009’ today in the Assam Assembly which is seen as a deliberate design of the State Govt. to scrap the Customary Laws of the Karbis and Dimasa tribesmen.

22 July 2009
> ‘Administration of Justice in Karbi Anglong Bill, 2009’ passed in Assam Aassembly/ASDC’s lone MLA Jagatsing Ingti opposes the Bill : The controversial Bill was passed and adopted in the Assam Assembly by voice vote even as Jagatsing Ingti, the lone ASDC legislator, fought in vain to bring an amendment so that only the bifurcation of the Judiciary and Executive was retained in the Bill. Earlier during the proceedings of the Assembly, all opposition members walked out following a heated debates over the alleged derogatory remark made by Himanta Biswa Sharma, Minister, against the AGP which left Jagatsing Ingti alone when the matter was taken up for voting.

23 July 2009
> ASDC terms adoption of ‘Administration of Justice in KA Bill, 2009’ as design to destroy Sixth Schedule in KA: A press release signed by ASDC Finance Secretary Robindra Rongpi yesterday accused the State govt. of trying to destroy the Sixth Schedule by way of adopting the ‘Administration of Justice in KA, Bill, 2009’ in the floor of Assam Assembly on 21 July 2009.

24 July 2009
> KAAC clarifies opposition accusations on Customary Law: Joyram Engleng, CEM of KAAC, accompanied by senior party leaders Bidyasing Engleng, MLA and others reiterated that the adoption of ‘Assam Administration of Justice in KA Bill, 2009’ has nothing to do with the Customary Laws and termed the opposition accusations as only designed to confuse the people. He asserted that Panchayati Raj shall not be allowed to be implemented in the Sixth Schedule area. He blamed ASDC for having consented to Clause-8 of the BTC Accord when Dr Jayanta Rongpi was CEM in 1991.

28 July 2009
> KAAC is cheating people by asserting that Customary Laws are safe from Judiciary Bill: ASDC (Judiciary Bill ajok Customary Law aphan rodamde puke KAAC CEM JR Engeng Karbi arat aphan kachongthui binong : ASDC/ Arleng Daily/ 27 July 2009) In a scathing rejoinder to the rebuttal of KAAC Joyram Engleng’s claim that the Judiciary Bill shall not interfere with the Customary Laws, ASDC leaders Chomang Kro, Elwin Teron and Robindra Rongpi in a press conference held in the party office, asserted that the KAAC is trying to mislead and cheat the people of Karbi Anglong.

Assam ranks as ‘most corrupt’ State !

August 14, 2009

Assam ranks as ‘most corrupt’ State ! (Instablogs July 2008)

Assam has earned the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt State in the country, on the basis of corruption in 11 vital services. Corruption level was alarming in four other States, as well. The latest India Corruption Study 2007 conducted jointly by Transparency International and Centre for Media Study and released by Vice President Hamid Ansari on Saturday is embarrassing news for Assam, where corruption level was described as ‘alarming’. The four States, which follow Assam include Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The grouping of States on corruption reflects position of States in the context of eleven services. The eleven services included ‘basic services’ like PDS, hospital service, school education, electricity and water supply services and ‘need -based services’, like land records, registration, housing service, forest, NREGS, banking service and police service (traffic and crime)). The study does not include operational irregularities in the system and even corruption that does not involve citizens directly.

The study covered all 31 States and Union Territories and is focused on the poorest and rural areas. It included below the poverty line people (BPL) in both rural areas and urban slums.

The level of corruption in all the 11services studied in Assam and Madhya Pradesh was alarming. In Delhi and West Bengal, for example, corruption level was moderate in most services surveyed. Among smaller States of the north-east, like Nagaland and Goa, corruption level was alarming, whereas in Meghalaya and Sikkim, it was very high. In Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur the level was high, while in Tripura and Mizoram it was found to be moderate.

The total bribe amount involved in a year in BPL households availing the eleven services is estimated at Rs 8,830 crore. Based on the incidence of bribe paid by sample BPL households, an estimate is made for the total amount paid as bribe by BPL households in the country during the last one-year in the eleven services.

School education (up to class XII and government schools) among the 11 services studied stands last in the ranking meaning the level of corruption is the lowest among all. While police service stood number one. The land records and registration and house and plot, which are specially tailored for BPL households, stand at two and three respectively in the rank.

The level and extent of corruption in police service was high in all States, as if it is universal – but the ranks of other services show variations across the States. Given the nature of need-based services, which are monopolistic or involve asset creation or volume, these services ranked high on corruption as compared to basic services.

Releasing the report, the Vice president said the report brings to light the negative impact of competitive politics on targeted schemes aimed at the poor. It has reported instances of BPL, SC/ST and other vulnerable households of being told by political activists of a linkage between benefits and electoral preferences.

“This, to the extent it is true, amounts to political corruption in its damaging form since it undermines the very institutions of democracy at all levels. A national consensus at its avoidance is thus imperative,” he opined.


August 1, 2009

The saga of the struggles of the Karbi people of Assam never really received the attention of the world outside. Not only the national media, but even the Assamese press to an extent willfully ignored their movement. The racial undertones of the policy of colonial rulers to treat the north-eastern hill tribes as “excluded” still continue to influence the post-colonial elite. In the colonial period, they were part of “Excluded” of “Partially Excluded” areas, over which the central government had direct control. After independence they became part of “autonomous district councils’, a unique mechanism that exists only for the hill tribes of north east (VI Schedule, Constitution). Presently Karbis are mostly concentrated in one such autonomous district, Karbi Anglong. ! The language policies pursued by the government in the sixties led resistance movement among the hill tribes of undivided Assam. Meanwhile the insurgent movements in Naga and Mizo areas also became strong. The formation of All Party Hill Leaders Conference (APHLC) gave an impetus to the movements of hill tribes of the state. Eventually APHLC’s demand for autonomous state was conceded and Constitution was amended in 1969 (A. 244-A). The concept was a unique experiment in the development of the Indian Constitution. Not only the state is autonomous but wi t h i n i t the district councils remain autonomous. It had powers to make laws on 61 out of 66 subjects enumerated under the state list in the Constitution. However the people of the two districts that are now called Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills did not go with the newly formed autonomous state but chose to remain with Assam. But meanwhile the application of Article 244-A turned out to be short lived as Meghalaya became full-fledged state in 1972. The provision itself was not deleted however. Two decades later former CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta described it as ‘regrettable and costly mistake’.

Excerpt  taken from “RESTLESS FRONTIER Army, Assam and its people People’s” – published by People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) Delhi May 1991

Why separation from Assam is not a mere political ambition but a historical necessity?

August 1, 2009

The government of India Act, 1919 which declared Mikir Hills Tracts (the present areas of Karbi Anglong) and NC Hills as a ‘backward tract’ and the govt. of India Act 1935, which declared the said areas as “Excluded and partially Excluded Areas’ on the recommendation of Simon Commission stood as testimony to the age old socio-political incompatibility of the peoples of the hills and the plains. Those Acts remained documentaries witnesses of the compulsion of the British rulers to administered the hills and the plains separately. In a note to the Simon Commission the provincial Govt. of Assam had contended that “the backward tracts should be excluded from the province of Assam those areas had noting in common with tracts should be excluded from the Province of Assam those areas had nothing in common with the rest of the province. Itr further contended that there was no sympathy on either side and the union of the hills and the plains was artificial resented by both parties and hence in the interest of both the hills and the plains, the present artificial union should be ended’.

The necessity of providing constitutional safeguard to the hill tribe remained and still remained cardinal to the very survival of the ethnic hill tribes. During the British time, the then Governor of Assam, Sir Robert Neil Reid even went on record to say that-“the provision of the government of India Act, 1935 had not given adequate safeguards to the hills people”. He feared that –the affairs of the hill people could not be left to the Indian political leaders (meaning provincial Assam leaders) as they neither had the knowledge, the interest nor the feeling for these areas.

Therefore, the need to give the hills tribals adequate safeguard remained alive and non-negotiable even during the birth of a Nation. The constituent Assembly indeed form an Advisory Committee on Tribal Affairs under the Chairmanship of Vallabhai Patel, a sub-committee under it called. ‘The North-East Frontiers (Assam) Tribal and Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas sub-committee under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi was constituted to look into the problems of the hill areas on which recommendation, the constitutional safeguard in the form of the 6th schedule was incorporated in the constitution of India. However, a few decades of its trials had expose the inadequacies and its impotency of the provision of the Sixth schedule necessitating the hill people demand for separation from Assam by creating a hill state.

The Govt. of India in an attempt to find solutions without having to affect territorial separation of the hills and the plains had instituted a series of Commission namely the Pataskar Commission and the Ashoka Mehta Commission and even invented an institution called the Autonomous state under Article 244(A) of the constitution. This provision was inserted in the constitution of India in 1969 with a view to strike a balance between pacifying the ego of the Assamese leadership and fulfilling the aspiration of the tribal people for self-rule but even this provision did not work due to the under interference and the persistent refusal of the Assamese leaders to give up control of the hills area. Ultimately, the states of Meghalaya and Mizoram had to be created.

But the hill people of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills remained trapped in the political intrigue of the colonialist Assamese leadership. Prior to the formation the Autonomous state of Meghalaya, the Parliament had directed each tribal District Councils to exercise option by two-third majority whether to join the new hill state or to remain within Assam. The Assamese leaders of the time worked over time to persuade tribal leaders who were all part of the ruling congress party subject to party discipline and the leaders from Karbi Anglong and NC Hills were keen to prove themselves the ‘good boys’ of the party. So, on 3rd Feb, 1970. The Assamese leaders convened a special combined meeting of the District Congress Committee and Congress Parliamentary party to congress Bhavan at Haflong where the acting Chief Minister, Sri M.M. Choudhury and AICC President Sri B. Bhagawati impressed upon the leaders of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills. Sri C.S Teron, Minister TAD, Sri J.B Hagjer, minister Education, Sri S.S. Terang, Dy. Minister TAD and other hill leaders, the prudence of remaining in Assam. The Assamese leaders assured the hill leaders of the two hill districts the powers both legislative and executive along with special financial provision for the rapid development of the two hills will be given to the District Council if they remained with Assam. Moreover, the leaders of the two hills were made to realize and appreciate the fact that the matriarchal Khasis and Garos society with a heavy does Christian influence were more numerous and developed than the Hindu dominated patriarchal society of the Karbis and the Dimasas. And as such the association of the Karbis and Dimasas with the Khasis and the Garos would be like- “the dwarf making friendship with plants.” So, the members were persuaded the exercise their option in favour remaining Assam

However, in 1971 the same hill leaders namely Sri C.S Teron, Sri J.B, Hagjer, Sri S.S. Terang and Sri D.R. Rongpi issued a signed statement which was later reiterated in their memorandum to the Prime Minister of India in June, 1973, accusing the Assamese leaders of betrayal. The statement had said- “autonomy is desire by all. The Khasis and the Garos had been favoured, and so will be the Mizos. It is only the Mikirs (Karbis) and Dimasas, who are regarded and have been ‘good boys’ are denied the fruits of an Autonomous State. From the point of view of development, the need for the same was the greatest in the case of these people. Therefore, the solution of the problem of the reorganization of Assam can be complete, moral and expedient only giving the Mikirs and the Dimasas that which is propose to be given to the Garos the Khasis and the Mizos. Nothing short of this will solve our problem”.

The statement was aptly titled – “Reorganization of Assam – injustice done to Mikir and NC Hills district’. So, it is clear from the event of history that the so called potion was bogus, unrealistic and was the result of an intrigue played upon the simplistic Hillman by the colonialist Assamese leaders. The reality is that unless Karbi Anglong and NC Hills are separated from the rest of Assam, the future of the ethnic hill men is doomed.

Chronology of events

According to British records before the British took over Mikir Hills Tract (the present Karbi Anglong) in 1838, the Karbis had no semblance of organized polity. “Each little hamlet manages its own affairs” observed Rod Robinson in his Account of Assam.

1835: Parts of Mikir Hills Tract came under British rule along with Jaintia Hills.

1838: Most parts of Mikir Hills came under British rule.

1854: British annexed N.C Hills.

1873, 1st Nov: Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 (better known as the Inner Line Regulation) Promulgated in Mikir Hills Tract along with Garos, Khasis, Jaintia Hills, Naga Hills, Cachar, Chittogong Hills. The Regulation prohibits entry of all British subjects or any class of British subjects in the areas within the Inner Line without proper permits issued by a competent authority. The regulation also prohibits the inhabitants of outside the Inner Line from having property rights or business interest without the sanction of the Govt.

1884, 12th Nov: The Assam Frontier Tracts Regulation, 1880 (Regulation II of 1880) extended to Mikir Hills Tracts, which declared. “The Code of Criminal Procedure shall be deemed never to have come into force” in the areas inhabited or frequented by barbarous or semi-civilised tribes in Assam. This was intended to give safeguard to the hill people from possible administrative and judicial discrimination against them, by the provincial Govt. The Regulation was also extended to NC Hills, Naga Hills on 22nd April 1884, Garo, Khasi and Jayantiya Hills on 5th Nov. 1884 and Lushai Hills, the Sadiya, Balipara and Lakhimpur Froitier Tract later on.

1911, 9th Oct: The Chin Regulation, 1896 (Regulation V of 1896) extended to Mikir Hills Tract and North Cachar Hills, authorizing the superintendent of police or a Deputy Commissioner to order any undesirable outsider to leave the areas.

1919: British designated Mikir Hills Tracts and North Cachar Hills as backward tracts along with Garos Hills, Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills.

1935: Govt. of India Act, 1935, notify NC Hills as Excluded Areas and Mikir Hills as partially Excluded Areas. Significant of Excluded Areas, is that those areas which were predominantly inhabited by ethnic tribal community, notified as excluded areas. No act of the govt. both provincial and Federal would apply to this, except with the authorization of the Governor. No section of the Cr. PC would apply to the areas unless the crime involved was against the British subjects of European origin. In case of Partially Excluded area, the areas notified were those with predominantly tribal areas with the presence of other community, everything remaining the same, assemblance of administrative presence and political participation in the provision political system was sought to be experimented in the partially excluded Area.

1946: The Cabinet Mission suggested the formation of an Advisory Committee to look into the administration of Tribal areas.

1947: On the even of independence, the concerned of the British Govt. for the political future of the hill tribals vis-a- vis the unsympathetic and plains men centric, Assamese leadership crystallize into the so called ‘Coupland plan’ for a Crown Colony on the suggestion of N.E Parry and formulated by Reginald Coupland. The concept was to pre-empt the socio-political in subordination of the hill tribals by Assamese rulers and retained British administrative control over the hill areas like the case of Hong Kong.

1947: Middle of 1947; the North-East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded and Partially Excluded Area Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly toured the hill areas. The Sub-Committee has a special word for Mikir Hill which observed that – “the most backward areas comparatively appear to be the Mikir and Garo hills, however in the Garo Hills Christian Mission have spread some education along with Christianity. The Mikir Hill had also suffered from the fact that they were divided into two districts. Nowgong and Sibasagar and thus are from the fact that they were divided into two districts. Nowgong and Sibasagar and thus are nobody’s child”. It is therefore the Karbi and the Dimasas need a fact that autonomy the most.

1947, 15th August: India gained independence. The administrative jurisdiction of Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas passed on the Government of Assam, which henceforth acted for the govt. of India in the Areas of state.

1948, 24th Feb: The advisory committee on Tribal affairs of the Constituent Assembly met to consider the Bordoloi Sub-Committee’s report which recommended constitutional safeguard for the economic, political, cultural and judicial security of the hill people. After some modification and recommendation by the Advisory Committee, it had been accepted by the constituent Assembly and incorporated into the draft constitution as sixth schedule.

1951: United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district formed.

1952, 23rd June: The Mikir Hills District council was constituted under the provision of the sixth schedule of the constitution.

1956: State Re-organization Commission appointed recommended re-organisation of Indian states on linguistic basis. The Hills leaders of Assam Demanded the formation of separate hill state in their memorandum. The SRC rejected the demand.

1960: Assam chief Minister B.P Chaliha announce the introduction of Assamese as official language; formation of All Party Hill Leaders Conference (APHLC) to oppose the language policy.

1960, 18th Oct: The official language Bill introduced in the Assam Assembly in spite of tremendous opposition from the hill district. APHLC decided to fight for separate Hill state.

1969: Constitution 22nd Amendment Act passed in parliament. Autonomous state of Meghalaya created under Article 244. Article 244(A) inserted in the constitution of India.

1970, 2nd April: Inauguration of Meghalaya as an Autonomous state; the Mikir Hills and North Cachar Hills did not join the Autonomous state of Meghalaya due to persisted persuasion of Assamese leaders.

1971: Meghalaya conferred full-fledged state.

1973 onwards: Demand for separate state of Karbi Anglong and NC Hills raise by various organization including the Mikir NC Hills leader’s conference, separate state demand committee etc.

1986: ASDC, KAASDCOM, KANCHASDCOM formed to demand the implementation of Article 244(A) of the constitution for formation of autonomous state comprising Karbi Anglong and NC Hills.

1995, 1st April: Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between ASDC, KSA and the Union and state Govts. To give more powers under the Sixth schedule of the constitution by effecting the constitution of India (Sixth schedule) Amendment Act, 1995


Broken Promise

July 30, 2009

In his historic meeting with the hill leaders of Assam on the 4th December, 1962, the late Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had expressed his keen desire to resolve the age-old socio-political incompatibility between the people of the hills and the plains, by advocating “highest possible autonomy” for the hill people within the territory of Assam. He had taken immense effort to convey his desire that a convention be established whereby the hill areas would be looked after by the MLAs from the hills as Ministers and that everything about the hill area would be decided by all the MLAs from the hill area together irrespective of party affiliations. The recommendations of the Patashkar Commission and the Ashoka Mehta Commission formed the embodiment of Mr Nehru’s visions. The Garo, Khasi and Mizo leaders rejected the idea as impracticable, but the Government of Assam had imposed the idea on “the good boys” among the tribals — the Karbis and the Dimasas. So while Meghalaya and Mizoram were created for the rest of the hill areas, HAD Ministry and the Hill Planning Board were created for Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, keeping the implementation of Article 244(A) for the two hill areas on hold. It has seemed now that the move was just a ploy to retain the two hills within Assam so that the territorial contiguity of the State with the Barak Valley is maintained. The reality has been that it was only during the heat of the re-organisation of the State in 1969 that Assam had three Ministers from the two hills — Chatra Sing Teron as TAD Minister, Jaybhadra Hagjer as Education Minister and SoiSoi Terang as Dy. Minister, TAD — after which the so called convention was forgotten. Appointments of Ministers from the hills has later on become a party affair; if there was no MLA belonging to the Ruling Party, there was no Minister from the hill areas. There were times when the HAD Ministry was held by Ministers from the plain districts. The fate of the Hill Planning Board has not been different. It has been the wishes of the Chief Ministers that decide the planning for the hills, the wishes of the hill people through the MLAs are not reflected. Unless approached, the Chief Ministers on their own have no inclination to invite the MLAs from the hills to discuss matters concerning the hill areas. The Hill Planning Board therefore has seemed to exist just as an avenue for conferring political rewards to political surrogates of the Ruling party. The deviation from the intended convention has reduced the MLAs from the hills as mere pawns, being hopelessly a minority block in the House. In the circumstances, there remains very little scope to represent the interest of the hill people. The results have been disastrous —whimsical release of funds to the Autonomous Councils by different government departments leading to confusion and failure in implementation of development schemes, system failure to check anti-hill tribal trend in government appointments leading to accumulation of more than 18,389 posts as back-log against the reserved quota of ST (H), helplessness in ensuring the safety and security of the life and property of the hill people. The fact of life must therefore be admitted that while written laws are broken every other day, conventions do not stand a chance to survive. The fears of the hill leaders have been vindicated that the convention sought to be established by India’s first Prime Minister for the administration of the hill areas of Assam has failed to take root. Now there remains no alternative after over three decades of trying to come to terms with Assam, but to invoke the provisions of Article 244(A) of the Constitution of India, if Assam’s territorial integrity is to be preserved. As the elected representatives from Karbi Anglong, irrespective of our party affiliations, we the undersigned MLAs jointly appeal to you to recommend the creation of Autonomous State for the two hill areas of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills by implementing Article 244(A) of the Constitution of India.

Administration of Justice in Karbi Anglong Bill 2009

July 30, 2009

The Assam Administration of Justice in the Karbi Anglong District Bill, 2009
A Bill
For the Administration of Justice-both Civil and Criminal in the Karbi Anglong District in the State of Assam to facilitate the trial of suits and cases by regular Civil and Criminal Courts subject to provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

Whereas it is expedient to provide for the administration of Justice both Civil and Criminal in the Karbi Anglong District in the State of Assam to facilitate the trial of suits and cases by regular Civil and Criminal Courts in order to effect the Constitutional mandate of separation of Judiciary from Executive pursuant to the directive of the Apex Court subject to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India and the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Whereas it is expedient for bringing the Judiciary separated from the Executive to take away the existing system of Administration of Justice by the Deputy Commissioner or his assistants within the scope and ambit of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India and to set up regular Civil and Criminal Courts for discharge of Judicial functions. The Karbi Anglong Areas being the Tribal areas contemplated under Article-244 of the Constitution is covered by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. Therefore, the regular Civil and Criminal Courts shall be made functional subject to the provisions of Para – 4 and 5 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
It is hereby enacted in the Sixtieth Year of the Republic of India as follows :-

Short title, the extent and commencement (1) This Act may be called the Assam Administration of Justice in the Karbi Anglong District Act, 2009
(2) It extends to the whole of Karbi Anglong District in the State of Assam.
(3) It shall come into force immediately.

Application of the provisions of the of the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in the
District of Karbi Anglong. 2. (1) On and from such date as the State Government may notify in this behalf in the
Official Gazette under the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 1 of the Code
of Civil Procedure, 1908 and under the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 1
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 respectively, the provisions of the
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 as amended and the
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 as amended shall apply Central Act No.5 of 1908
in the whole of the Karbi Anglong District for the Central Act No. 2 of 1973
Administration of Justice-both Civil and Criminal
subject to provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

(2) The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 shall
apply mutatis mutandis to all proceedings, enquiry, investigation, trial and other incidental matters
connected with the conduct of Civil and Criminal cases subject to provisions of the Sixth Schedule.

(3) The powers and functions of the police under the existing system which have been prevailing in the
Karbi Anglong District so far the suits and cases covered by this Act shall be exercised by the State
Police authorities in exercise of the powers conferred and functions assigned to them under the relevant
Provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Repeal and
saving 3. (1) The provisions of the Rules for Administration of Justice and police in the Sibsagar, Nowgaong and Mikir
Hills Tracts framed by the Governor under the powers vested in him by section 6 of the Scheduled
District Act, 1874 (Act XIV of 1874), hereinafter called as the Rules, insofar they are inconsistent with
provisions of this Act, shall stand repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding such repeal- (i) anything done or any action taken or any case already disposed of
under the Rules shall be deemed to have been done or disposed of as if this Act has not come into force.
(3) suits, cases, appeal, application, proceedings, or other business relating to both Civil and Criminal
Justice pending before the Court of Deputy Commissioner or the Assistants
to Deputy Commissioner shall stand transferred to the Competent Central Act No. 5 of 1908
Civil and Criminal Courts of the appropriate jurisdiction to be Central Act No. 2 of 1973
established under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Code
of Criminal Procedure, 1973, as the case may be , with effect from
such date as may be notified by the State Government.

(iii) (a) In the trial of suits and cases arising out of any law in force in the Karbi Anglong District, the
Civil Courts of competent Jurisdiction shall be governed by the provisions of the Code of Civil
Procedure, 1908 as amended.
(b) In the trial of Criminal cases in respect of offences punishable with death, transportation for life,
or imprisonment for a term of not less than 5 years under the Indian Penal Code or under any other laws
for the time being in force, the Courts of competent Jurisdiction shall be governed by the Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1973 as amended.

Statement of Object and Reasons

In the Karbi Anglong District, Judicial functions are still being administered by executives namely Deputy Commissioner or his assistants. However, the Constitution of India provides for separation of Judiciary from Executives. That apart, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued directives to bring separation of Judiciary, interalia, in the Karbi Anglong District. Situated thus, it has been considered necessary to enact a legislation providing for setting up of regular Civil and Criminal Courts in the Karbi Anglong District for discharge of Judicial functions.
Karbi Anglong Areas being Tribal Areas is covered by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. Therefore, the proposed regular Courts can only be made functional within the scope and ambit of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution more particularly subject to provisions of Para-4 and 5 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
Hence, the instant Bill namely “The Administration of Justice in the Karbi Anglong District Bill, 2009”.

(P Gogoi)
Minister, Law, Assam

(SP Das)
Assam Legislative Assembly.s

Karbi Population Trend

July 30, 2009

By AP Thaparia
[An Essay from ‘Population Poverty and Environment in North East India’
Edited by B Dutta Ray, HK Mazhari, PM Passah, MC Pandey]

The Karbis or Mikirs constitute a major tribe of Assam. They are mainly concentrated in Karbi Anglong districted. They are also foundin some pockets of Nowgong, Kamrup, Darrang, Golaghat, North Cachar Hills of Assam as well as in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland
A study of the physical aspect of the Karbi land has shown that the Karbi habitations are considerably diverse particularly respects of physiography, vegetation etc. This diversity in the geo-physical structure has formed a distinctive ecological background that has greatly influenced the settlement pattern, economy, population as well as socio- political life of the people. There prevails cool climate in the plains and low-lying areas. Vegetations vary from thick forest in the Dhansuri and Kopili valleys in the higher elevations bordering Nagaland and Meghalaya at the thin forests in the Brahamaputra plains.
It is in this physical setting that the Karbis came to inhabit in the present habitat long before the coming of the Ahoms in the early thirteenth century. The Karbi linguistic and socio-culture affinities with other Tibeto-Burman families and their myths and legends form sufficient gorunds to accept the view that the Karbis immigrated in to the present Karbi Anglong district crossing over the hills ranges lying between Southern Nagaland and North Manipur, and further proceeded through North Cachar Hills to their present habitat.. Here, the Karbis came into contact with the historically powerfully principalities of the Kacharis, the Jaintias and the Ahoms. Much later, they came into contact with the British. It is during the Ahom and the British period that Karbis spread themselves territorially covering the major part of their present habitat Their relation with the Ahoms was cordial and that with the British was somewhat indifferent, if not inimical, and this specially encouraged them to settle in the foothills and the plains. During the British period, the Karbis came under the influence of developed to an appreciable extent. They were so much influenced that they developed an aspiration to have a separate administrative entity for themselves, which they could manage to achieve in the form of a separate autonomous district in the post independence period.

The Karbi Land:
During the British period present Karbi Anglong district was included partly in Nowgaon and sibsagar district and partly in Khasi and Jaintia district. The areas inhabited by the Karbis were called ‘Partially Excluded Area’ and ‘Excluded Area’. The provisions of ‘Partially Excluded Area’ order operated in the district of Nowgaon and sibsagar. The Karbi settlement in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills came fully under the provisions of the ‘Excluded Area’ order.
After independence, the areas inhabited by the Karbis were carved out from the district Nawgaon, Sibsagar and United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and added to what was formed as the new United Mikir and North Cachar Hills District, On second February, 1970:
Mikir Hills was declared as a separate administrative district, and renamed as a Karbi Anglong on the 14 October, 1976.
The district lies between latitude 25 degree 30 inch and 26 degree 41 inch and between longitude 72 degree 7 inch and 93 degree 52 inch with a total geographically area of 10, 332sq. Kms. It has three civil sub – divisions –Bokajan Sub-divisions came into existence on 15 August, 1989.
There are 6 Police Stations-



Diphu [2009 sq.Km] – 253 Villagers 

Baitholangso [1030sq.Km] – 

503 villagers 

Bokajan [2263sq.Km] – 

377 villagers 

Howraghat 1985sq.Km]- 

318 villagers 

Hamren [5005sq.Km] 

Kheroni [2005sq.Km.] 




Population Trend-

Lyall [1908-?] mention that the number of Mikirs was 87, 046 in the 1901 Census, and the speaker of the Mikir language was 82, 283. Thus there was discrepancy in the two figures .The author further observe that in no districts the number of speaker was identical with the number of those returned as Mikirs. It was indeed remarkable that more persons were returned as speaker of the language of the tribe then belonging to the tribe. On the other hand, in the North Cachar Hills none of the 1446 Mikirs were shown as the speakers who were manifestly absorbed. The figures of Census 1901, regarding as Mikirs as a tribe and as speakers of one’s own language was quite interesting as can be seen in the following table –


Mikirs by race 

Speaking Mikirs 

Cachar plains 


















North Cachar 



Khasi & Jaintia 









Source: Lyall, 1908:1

It is clear form the above table that in Kamrup, Nowgaon and Sibsagar, the Mikirs or the Karbis have returned higher than the other places. Lyall [1908:1-2] assumed that the Mikirs returned as speakers also spoke some other language [probably Assamese], being bilingual like others non-Aryan races in Assam; and the 809 person in Darrang, the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, and elsewhere, returned as speaking mikirs, thought not as by tribe Mikirs by tribe, must really have belong to the tribe. The author further opined that since 1891, when the number of Mikirs was returned as 94,829, has been a considerable falling of, due to terrible ravages of the decease called kalaazar in the Nowgaon and Kamrup districts.
During the first ever Census of 1872 under the British, the total Karbi population was 47,328. Separate figures for male and females were not shown. By, 1881, their number rose to 77,765 over the previous Census population figure accounting for the decadal growth rate of 64.12 person. It was later observed that this almost abrupt decadal growth was perhaps due the reason that the enumeration of the first year was not so comprehensive as the next enumeration was. In the following there was and increase of the Karbi population figure which returned 94,829 showing a decadal growth of 31.94 pc.
During the period of 1891- 1901 the total Karbi population showed a marked fall by 7.90 pc. Records could not be accounted for this sharp fall the relevant Census. How ever, as has already been mentioned by Lyall[1908] it must have been due the terrible disease of Kalaazar the Nowgaon and Kamrup districts.
The Census of 1872, 1881 and 1891 have showed considerable increase of Karbi population in the district of Kamrup , Nowgaon , Darrang , Sibsagar and Lakhimpur . It is to be noted that Nowgaon district showed highest growth of Karbi population [36 percent] during 1872-1881. This mainly due to the fact that what was showed as Naga Hill 1872 later came to be include in the Nowgaon district where Karbi population concentrated. Further, the large increase of Karbi population in Darrang , Sibsagar and Lakhimpur was showen to be due to immigration of the Karbi most probably from Nowgaon district where they lived in a large concentration .
The Karbis living in Goalpara district did not figure (?) in the 1881 Census. It was perhaps due to their emigration to other districts. Till 1891, the Karbi population continued to increase considerately in the district of Khasi and Jaintia Hill and Darrang at the decadal growth rate of 81. 75 percent and 79.69 pc respectively. The high growth rate in the Khasi and Jaintia Hill is perhaps due to more careful Census enumeration, and in Darrang , due to immigration from the southern bank , especially from Nowgaon district , which recorded slight increase [0.81 pc] . How ever, North Cachar and Kamrup recorded a decrease during the decade 1881-1891. The decrease in the former was 49.91pc and in the later it was 12. 56pc. This is due to the immigration. There was also slight decrease in Cachar and Sibsagar district.
The disappearance of Karbi population of Lokhimpur in interesting, the reason being suspected confusion of the Census enumerations of the Mikirs [Karbi] and the Nishis [Missings]. The Karbi must have recorded as Missings. This, therefore, accounts for the surprisingly high numerical figures for the Missings and small figures for the Karbi s in the Census in 1891.
In the decade of 1901- 11, the growth rate of population was 21.67 pc. During the 1911 –1921,there was epidemic out break of influenza besides kalaazar which both swept over Kamrup , Nowgaon and Sibsagar district.This against resulted in a very low growth rate of 5.05pc of the Karbi population during the decade . In the following two decades, the growths rate recorded was 16.28 pc [1921-1931] and 15. 37 pc [1931-1941] respectively. Census of the succeeding decade indicated a fall in the growth rate to 1.86 pc [1941-1951] which was perhaps due to the separation of Sylhate district from India. Following the partition in 1947, a large number of the Karbis who also live in that district went over to the then East Pakistan [now Bangladesh].
In the 1961 Census there was a sharp fall in the Karbi population to the tune of 20.62pc. This surprising fall, however, was not because of any epidemic or such natural calamity but because of the Government of the modification order scheduled and schedule tribe in 1956 which excluded all the Karbi population living out side the autonomous Hill district , namely, united Khasi and Jaintia Hill , united Mikir and North Cachar Hills , Garo Hill and the Lushei Hill. This involved the exclusion of a good number of Karbis living in the plains district of Assam.
The figures shown against 1971 Census give a 58.04pc decadal growth over 1961 Census. This clearly indicates quite high growth rate of Karbi population during the decade. This decadal growth was perhaps due to the migration of the Karbis from the plain district to the autonomous district of Karbi Anglong .
To sum up it can be said that growth of population among the Karbis according to the earlier Census of 1891-1901 was slow . The negative variation shown in 1901 Census was chiefly due to the effect of natural calamities such as the outbreak of black fever and other epidemic which had done ravages to the most Karbi inhabited areas. The negative variation in 1951-1961was due to the government notification on the constitution of the autonomous district Council under the provision of the sixth schedule to the constitution the excluded all Karbi population living out side the autonomous district of United Mikir and North Cachar Hills. By 1971, the Karbi population showed a considerable upward trend. This has happened due to migration of the Karbi from plains districts to the autonomous district of Karbi Anglong. However, it is observed that in all Censuses, the growth male population more than that of the females.

1. Chari, RB, 1975: Census of India, 1971Series –1, paper1, Schedule cast and schdule tribes, Tables –c, viii parts, A&B , New Delhi : Govt. Publication.
2. Lyall. C., 1098: The Mikirs, London: David Nutt.
3. Lyndoh , FB and BK Roy Burman, 1972: Census of India 1961, vol,1 monograph Series, part V-B, Mikir of Assam , Delhi: Manager of publication.
4. Saikia, PD, 1968 : Changes in Mikir society, Jorhat , Agro economic Centre for North East India.

Tribal Customary and Formal Law Interface in North Eastern India:

July 30, 2009

Implications for Land Relations

Walter Fernandes[1]

The Northeast is known in the rest of India mainly for its conflicts. One cannot deny that this home of many ethnic groups and tribes has for five decades witnessed armed conflicts that are integral to its people’s search for a new identity amid the economic and cultural crises they face. One of their reasons is the interface between modernisation and their traditions with no preparation. It has had an adverse impact on many tribes. An area in which this interface has made a major impact is the legal framework governing land relations. Most tribes of the region run their civil affairs according to their community based customary law but the individual based land law of the country is superimposed on them. Because of the disruption it has caused in their lives one of the demands of many tribes is recognition of their customary law. It has been recognised through constitutional amendments in Nagaland and Mizoram. Community ownership also gives women some control over land but this paper will limit itself to the land laws and will only allude to its gender and class implications.
The community ownership tradition has not remained unchanged but has been modified over time. Even when their customary law is recognised, the elite among them tend to interpret it in their own favour. For example, the Sixth Schedule was meant to be a protective measure but it has not always gone in favour of the community, especially women. For example, the Garo of Meghalaya who come under the Sixth Schedule have experienced a changeover to commercial crops and individual ownership that goes against women and leads to class formation. Signs of its beginnings are visible among the Dimasa of Assam, the Aka of Arunachal Pradesh and others. This paper will discuss some of these issues, especially the interface of their customary law with the formal law and its implications for land relations[2].

Land Laws and Tribal Communities
Though the complex phenomenon of the conflicts has often been oversimplified as secessionist or terrorist, in reality an identity search is central to it. Their land and customary laws are closely linked to their identity which is in fact built around them. Today land relations are being modified by immigration, encroachment and the changes that the modern legal system introduces in their tradition. They do not begin the conflicts but exacerbate those existing already. The conflict was initially against “outsiders” who, the local people felt, were controlling their economy, alienating their livelihood and were attacking their culture. Because of this combination of causes, the conflicts combined economic demands with sub-nationalism and cultural resurgence (Datta 1990: 36-37) including the customary law.
In other words, commercialisation of their resources is only one of the causes of the conflict against “outsiders”. Central to it is the homogenising tendency of the Indian State. In attempting to turn itself into a nation, the Indian State rarely respects the cultural and ethnic identity of different groups. It often fails to recognise that the tribals have a culture and a religion of their own (Singh 1990: 234). The tribals react to the effort to homogenise cultures and monopolise their livelihood. Thus, most struggles in the north-east are in reaction to the tendency of the dominant “one State one nation” thinking of the Indian State and “to take the degree of Aryanisation as the measure of Indianisation” (Datta 1990: 41).
An example is the meeting of A. Z. Phizo, the Naga Nationalist leader with Mahatma Gandhi in 1946. There are reasons to believe that the Mahatma was sympathetic to the idea of the type of autonomy Phizo demanded. It was based on the specificity of their culture, customary law and livelihood resources that the Nagas wanted to safeguard. However, most leaders of Independent India failed to understand the specificity of the Northeast that is different from the rest of India (Sanyu 1996: 116-118). Most of them seem to view the region as the extreme end of India whose territory has to be secured. As such their national belonging is suspected and the region is considered a security risk. Very little thinking goes into the possibility of considering their difference from the rest of India an asset or as a link with Southeast Asia. Most leaders seem to judge the nation from the homogenising rather than the pluralistic perspective. Diversity suffers because of it (Mishra 2000). In reaction to it, many communities proclaim their “sovereignty” which others call anti-national.
That is one of the reasons why in most struggles a major demand is recognition of their identity linked to their land and customary laws. Their laws have changed in many ways in response to formal education and the new economic, religious and political relations. In some cases individual land ownership has come to be accepted as the norm. However, most tribes continue to treat their customary laws and the community ethos as intrinsic to their identity. That is also the reason why the negotiations leading to the formation of Nagaland and Mizoram States had recognition of their customary laws as one of the conditions. It was granted to these two States through Articles 371A and G respectively of the Constitution.

Implications for Land Laws
The tendency to view the nation from the point of view of the Centre rather than the periphery also has implications for the land laws and land relations in the region. Most tribes are community based but the formal land laws are individual based, and are founded on the principle of the State’s eminent domain. In this view land is only a commodity for cultivation and construction (NCHSE 1986) while to the tribals it is an ecosystem with the local community at its centre. For centuries their communities have treated the resources as renewable and have built a culture and economy of their sustainable use (Iyer 1996: 375-377).
The 19th century land laws made to suit the colonial need of exploiting the resources to the benefit of the British Indus¬trial Revolution ignored the latter view. The colonial regime needed to change the Indian economy and turn the colony into a supplier of capital and raw material and a captive market for its products. It required monopoly over land for coal mines, coffee and tea plantations, roads, railways and other schemes. New land laws were enacted to facilitate the process of land transfer to the profit of British plantation and mine owners. The effort to turn the liveli¬hood of the local communities into a commodity began with the Permanent Settlement 1793. It continued in the Assam Land Rules 1838, the Calcutta law of 1824 and others meant to make land avai¬lable for purposes like salt pans and culminated in the Land Acquisition Act 1894 that remains in force today (Upadhyay and Raman 1998).
The colonial regime based these laws on the principle of eminent domain. In Australia it is called terra nullius (nobody’s land). White colonisation of native land there and in the Americas is based on the principle that land without an individual title belongs to none as such anyone can occupy it. In 1992 the Australian judiciary declared it unconstitutional (Brennan 1995: 4-5) but Indian land laws continue to be based on its American version of eminent domain. Its first facet is that land without an individual patta is State property. The second is that the State alone has the right to decide a public purpose and deprive even individual owners of their assets. This State power is overriding (Ramanathan 1999: 19-20).

The Law and the North Eastern Communities
That is the background of the interface of the customary and formal laws that has modified many tribal laws but its extent depends on the nature of their contact with the world outside their own, the application of the Sixth Schedule and of their customary law. The Constitution was amended in 1963 and 1987 to recognise the law in Nagaland and Mizoram under Articles 371A and 371G respectively. The Sixth Schedule that recognises community ownership of land and forests is applicable to parts of Tripura, two districts of Assam and to the whole of Meghalaya (Fernandes, Pereira and Khatso 2005: 22-23). In the remaining States, the tribes live according to their community based customary law but the formal law recognises only individual ownership. It has changed their customary law to various degrees.
The Aka of West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh are close to their tradition and govern themselves according to their customary law. The Sixth Schedule does not apply to them but it has not had much impact on them because their contact with the outside world is recent (Sinha 1962). This jhum practising tribe lacks the very concept of land ownership and only has the tradition of community control and of usufruct right over the CPRs. In the jhum season every family cultivates as much land as it needs. After it the land reverts to the community. However, slow change is visible among them. Today some claim individual ownership but others with a salaried job call themselves landless since they have lost their right over the CPRs by not practising jhum any more (Fernandes and Bharali 2002: 7-8).
The Dimasa of North Cachar Hills in Assam have been exposed to the dominant cultures since their Hinduisation by the Bengali administrators who accompanied the British colonial rulers but have retained their internal autonomy, continue to be governed by their CPR based customary law, come under the Sixth Schedule and have a district autonomous council. Many of their clans have dual descent with property inheritance through the male line and the clan and family name coming through the female line (Bordoloi 1984). However, their elite are moving towards individual pattas. One of their leaders owns over 200 acres (Barbora 2002: 1287). On the other side, a voluntary agency has introduced oranges and other commercial crops in some villages without changing the ownership pattern. Some families that have accepted individual ownership have conferred inheritance rights also on women. Thus the trend towards individual ownership goes hand in hand with change of their land use without changing the land ownership pattern drastically (Fernandes and Pereira 2005: 37).
The matrilineal but patriarchal Garo of Meghalaya are governed by their customary law and the Sixth Schedule. Many of them in the East Garo Hills have begun to show signs of class formation and of strengthening patriarchy. An important reason of this change is the introduction of rubber plantations. It got them to interact with the administration that gives loans and subsidies only to individual owners and “heads of families” that most financial institutions interpret as male. The families we studied in West Garo Hills continue their CPR culture and have not planted commercial crops. Thus, they have not combined the modern with the traditional that the Dimasa families can become if more accept recent changes.
On the other side, the Adibasi of Jharkhand origin whom the British brought to Assam in the 19th and 20th centuries as indentured labour to work in its tea gardens are not included in the Schedule though they speak of a customary law that has very little value today. So they represent the type of modernisation that results in impoverishment and exploitation (Fernandes, Barbora and Bharali 2003: 33-34). Landlessness is the highest among them and literacy very low (Toppo 1999: 133-134). Though they have lived in Assam since the 1850s, they continue to be considered non-indigenous. As late as the May 2004 general elections a candidate appealed to the voters to recognise himself as indigenous and reject his opponent from the plantation labourer community as non-indigenous (The Telegraph May 5, 2004).
The Boro, a plains tribe not under the Sixth Schedule, have won a Boro Territorial Council (BTC) after a struggle but till recently their community based customary law was not recognised (Roy 1995: 16-17). As a result they have almost fully internalised the ideology of individual ownership in the sense that those living on the CPRs call themselves encroachers while others like the Aka and Dimasa consider themselves CPR dependants. The BTC has recognised their right partially but has not granted them the Sixth Schedule status. Also the Rongmei, a Scheduled Tribe of Bishnupur district in Manipur are not governed by the Sixth Schedule. Several have lost their land to ethnic conflicts and some to the Loktak project but have not even been compensated since much of what they sustained themselves on was CPRs that the law does not recognise as their livelihood. These two tribes represent the interaction of their CPR based customary law with the individual based administration that can deprive them of their livelihood with no right to any alternative (Fernandes and Bharali 2002: 16-17).
The Angami, a major tribe living mainly in the Kohima district of Nagaland numbered 97,433 in 1991. Terrace cultivation based agriculture was their main economic activity till recent years many took up salaried jobs. They were in the forefront of resistance to the British regime and after 1947 they led the Naga Nationalist movement and played a major role in the ethnic movement under the leadership of Z. A. Phizo. In the process they underwent rapid social change and gained access to modern education and political systems. They have the Village Development Board that also has women among its members. Thus, tradition and modernity live side by side (D’Souza, Kekrieseno and Nokhwenu 2002: 26-27).

Land Laws and Ethnic Conflicts
We have mentioned these tribes as examples of various degrees of interaction of their communities and tradition with the formal law. Its implications have come out clearly in most of our studies. We give in the Table below an example from two of them. One can see from it that landlessness is all but non-existent among the Aka whose interaction with the external world is recent. The “landless” are persons with a salaried job and have stopped jhum cultivation and have thus given up their usufruct right over the CPRs. The slow change is visible in the two persons who claim to own one or two hectares each of individual land. They belong to the elite that have appropriated to itself irrigated land near the river.
The extent of landlessness among the Adivasi shows their exploited state. Alienated from their land in Jharkhand and later from their customary law and community, they have slowly lost their tribal identity itself and have internalised a non-tribal psyche of subordination. Such internalisation has been intensified by the regimented work structure of the tea gardens and by the denial of a Scheduled Tribe status to them. Among them we chose 50% of the respondents from the bastis outside the gardens. They are not regular workers in the garden and are expected to be cultivators but their land ownership remains low.

Pre-Independent Memorandum

July 30, 2009

H.E. Robert Neil Reid, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.F., I.C.S,
Governor of Assam,
Camp: Mohongdijua, Mikir Hills, Assam,
Dated Mikir Hills, the 28th October, 1940
May it please Your Excellency,
We the Mikir people numbering nearly a lac and a half beg most humbly and respectfully to accord Your Excellency a most hearty and cordial welcome on the occasion of Your Excellency’s gracious visit to our hills that have not hitherto been graced by any august homage like Your Excellency and we take this opportunity of Your Excellency’s visit to convey through Your Excellency the sincere homage and loyal devotion of our Mikir people to their gracious majesties, the king emperor and the queen empress and earnestly pray for their sound health, long life, peace and happiness and the welfare of their empire at this troubled time.
Yours Excellency, words fail to express how happy and fortunate we the Mikirs feel today for the opportunity so kindly allowed to us to offer our ruler in our own humble way this address of welcome in the midst of the hills, the sweet abode of the Mikirs. Cut off from the civilized world, isolated as we are, Your Excellency, we the Mikirs may fail to accord you a proper and suitable welcome but we earnestly hoped that sincerity of our purpose.
Your Excellency, on this auspicious occasion, first of all, we the Mikirs who have been kept in perpetual subordination by their progressive neighbours beg to express our deep gratitude to Your Excellency for taking in for the first time a Mikir representative in the provincial legislature an act which has not only received appreciation from the Mikir youths for improving the status of their tribe; and we sincerely hope that however busily engaged Your Excellency might be with multifarious activities, Your Excellency would be graciously pleased to bear in mind the deplorable condition of the Mikirs due to complete isolation in the jungle area of the hills and further be pleased to redress their legitimate grievances as embodied in the memorial annexed herewith.
Your Excellency, our heart if too full of gratitude for the patient hearing Your Excellency has so kindly given us, it is earnest and sincere prayer to the Almighty Father that He may grant Your Excellency sound health and long life and may Your Excellency continue to the immense benefit of us all.
We have the honour to be Sir,
Your Excellency’s most humble and loyal Mikir subjects.
(So far, the first recorded and preserved memorandum of the Karbis submitted by their leader, the late Semsonsing Ingti, to the colonial governor towards the fag end of the British rule.)


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