Broken Promise

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.

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