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

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


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