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

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