A Synopsis On The Formation Of North Cachar Hills District Council During Its Inception.
The only case of organised attempt against the British took place in the North Cachar Hills after the uprising of Sambhudhan Phonglosa during the Second World War.
A group of youth under the leadership of a young girl named Joya Thaosen and boys like Arjun Langthasa and Jowtedao Kemprai.
They organised a protest against forced collection of food grains for the War effort by the Sub-divisional Officer.
Later they said to have proceeded to join the Indian National Army, but were ambushed at the Khiram- Khowai range near Dimapur, and Joya Thaosen was killed in the encounter. She was born in Jorai Bathari village near Haflong in 1925. (Barpjuari: 2000).
Subsequent Poltical Development and formation of North Cachar Hills Tribal Council-
The Cabinet Mission statement of May 16, 1946, stated that the Constituent Assembly of India was to form an Advisory Committee to prepare a scheme for the administration of the Tribal and Excluded Areas.
Accordingly, under the chairmanship of Sardar Vallavbhai Patel, an Advisory Committee was constituted with two sub-committees, headed by A.V Thakkar for the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas, (other than Assam) and the other under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi, the first Premier of Assam.
The latter was also known as Bordoloi Committee (North East Sub Committee to the Constituent Assembly) for the North-East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas.
Other members of the committee were J J Nichols Roy, Rupnath Brahma and B.N Rao, a constitutional expert.
Gopinath Bordoloi along with other members extensively travelled the hill areas and met the public leaders and representatives of several groups.
A section of the Dimasa youth organised themselves and formed a Tribal Council with Hamdhan Mohan Haflongbar as President and Desondao Hojai as Secretary.
The Tribal Council was formed by convening a meeting of all the indigenous tribals of North Cachar Hills,viz. Dimasa, Jeme Nagas, Thadou, Kukis, Baites, Rangkhols, Hmars and Mikirs in a general meeting held in Haflong Town Club (Now Heaven Blue Athletics Club).
The Memorandum was drafted by the Secretary Desondao Hojai which was approved in the General Meeting.
The Memorandum was subsequently submitted before the Bordoloi Committee.The Memorandum contained modalities which were subsequently accepted by the Drafting Committee to the Constituent Assembly.
The Memorandum contained the following salient features for reservation of the tribal people of the north east in general and North Cachar Hills in particular.
1. That forced labour and beggary should be abolished and the right to follow one’s own customs and usages should be guaranteed
2. The cultural life of the tribes should not be interfered with;
that outsiders should not be permitted to acquire landed property or any other kind of vested interest in the area;
only the bona-fide inhabitants of the area should be permitted to participate in the political life of the sub-division;
that village administration should be carried on as at present, by the village authorities and social institutions with social customs and usages should be respected;
and laws or regulations passed by the Central or Provincial Legislature should not be applied to the hill area without the consent of the MLAs from the area concerned.
3. The day-to-day administration of the area should be in the hands of the people themselves. The local officers must be appointed from among the local people.
4. There should be a separate portfolio in the Provincial Cabinet for the administration of Tribal affairs and it should be in charge of a tribal. He should hold office so long he commands the confidence of the tribal members of the legislature.
5. There should be a separate secretariat for the management of tribal affairs. (Rao: 1976: 171)
6.The memorandum also raised the issue of representation in the Legislative Assembly and demanded two seats in view of the multiplicity of ethnic groups.
7.In case of franchise, unlike other hills areas, the North Cachar Hills Tribal Council demanded tha it should be decided on taxpaying capacity or literary qualification.
8.It also demanded a Council for each tribe that would function like a local board.
9.As for financial administration, it demanded continuation of common holding. It demanded relaxation of qualifications for tribal candidates. (Rao, 1976: 171)
10.The most important issue which is very relevant to the point of discussion here is the demand for the integration of Dimasa inhabited areas into a single unit.*
11.It demanded the appointment of a Boundary Commission to fix the boundaries of the North Cachar Hills sub-division by bringing in the Dimasa inhabited adjoining areas
(Rao: 1976) **
After sifting through representations made by various organisations and discussing with leaders across the hill areas, the Bordoloi Sub-Committee had submitted its draft proposal to the Advisory Committee.
It divided the entire tribal territory of Assam into two parts. The first part included the backward tribal areas which largely formed parts of Assam whereas the second part consisted of the tribal areas administered by the Central Government on behalf of Assam.
Further, it recommended continuation of the Frontier Areas with the Central Government, i.e. in the Sadiya and Balipara Frontier Tracts, the Tirap frontier Tract (excluding the Lakhimpur Frontier Tracts) and the Naga Tribal Area, where the Governor of Assam would act as the Centre’s agent.
Moreover, it proposed six autonomous districts namely the Khasi and Jayantia Hills District, the Naga Hills District, the Lushai Hills District, the North Cachar sub-division of Cachar district and the Mikir (Karbi) Hills District.
The Governor was to set up a District Council for each of these tribal districts and if there were different tribes inhabiting certain areas within a district, each area or group of areas could be divided into autonomous tribal regions with Regional Councils.
The District Council was to consist of not more than twenty-four members, out of whom not more than three-fourth were to be elected from the territorial constituencies on the basis of adult suffrage. (Rao, 1976: 56)
The Sub-Committee also delineated the powers and functions of the District and Regional Councils.
The Councils were empowered to make laws on subject like allotment, occupation or use of lands, the managements of forests other than reserved forests, the use of canal and water courses for agriculture, regulation of the practice of jhum or other forms of shifting cultivation, the establishment of village or town committees or councils, the appointment or succession of chiefs or headmen, the inheritance of property, marriage and social customs etc.
The scheme of the sub-committee also gave the District Councils the power to run primary schools, dispensaries, markets, cattle-ponds, ferries, fisheries, roads and waterways. (Rao: 1976: 171)
On the question of the administration ofjustice the committee stated that, the District and the regional councils were empowered to constitute village councils or courts for the trial of offences.
But the offences related to punishable with death, transformation for life or imprisonments for over five years were beyond the jurisdiction of the councils.
Any provincial legislation in respect of subjects entrusted to the councils should not apply to an autonomous district or region except through an order of council itself.
As for regulation of prohibition of rice-beer, the issue was left to the council whether to permit or prohibit thus removing from the state purview of state prohibition policy.
The Councils were empowered to collect tax on, house, poll, land revenue, village forest; the council would be financially assisted by the State and Central Government.
Moreover, during the World War II, the British officers developed a sense of separation and isolation in the minds of tribal people.
They were also assured of an independent state at the end of the war.
A plan of creating a separate state in Assam, called Crown colony comprising the entire hill areas into a single province, under a Governor, was also hatched in England.
Moreover, Bordoloi tried to justify the claims of the Tribal people for the self-rule institution on the very basis of the democratic set-up of the Tribal societies.
"It is necessary to mention here that there are certain institutions among these hills Tribal which, in my opinion, are so good that if we wanted to destroy them,I considered it to be very wrong.
One of the things which I felt was very creditable to these Tribal was the manner in which they settle their disputes.
Cases which would go in the name of murder according to our Penal code were settled by these people by the barest method of panchayats decision and by payment only of compensation.
Then the democracy which prevails there though limited in the sense it is confined only to the Tribal of a clan or region will rouse the admiration of any disinterested student.
And again take the instance of their village administration .The district authorities have indeed very little to concern themselves with the way things go on there.
Take again the case of Ao Nagas who distributed the entire functions of the society though certain age groups of people in their society.
The boys would perform certain simple functions, leaving the sturdier function ofthe state to the adults, while the elders would give their judgments in cases of disputes and order, distribution of land for Jhuming and things of that kind.
In other words, they are exercising a certain amount of autonomy which, I thought and the members of the Tribal sub-committee thought should be preserved rather than destroyed.
What is necessary for good government is already there. (Rao: 1976: 126)
Meanwhile Bordoloi Sub-Committee had rejected the demand of the North Cachar Hills Tribal Council for inclusion of all Dimasa inhabited areas into a single administrative unit, which led to a series of problems in later times.
Even in the debates to the Bordoloi Sub-Committee Report, at Constituent Assembly; Kuladhar Chaliha, the founder President of Assam Provincial Congress Committee and a member of the Constituent Assembly from Assam raised the point of inclusion the Dimapur Mouza, the one-time capital city of the Dimasa monarchy.
However that point was rejected as the Dimapur Mouza was included in the Naga Hills District for administrative convenience.19
The Dimasa dominated North Cachar Hills sub-division was separated from the Cachar district.
The sub-division was amalgamated with the erstwhile Mikir Hills. A new administrative district was constituted as United Mikir and North-Cachar Hills district.
The new district was formally created on 17 November 1951 by the Government Notification T.A.D / R 31/50/204, dated 3 November 1951 including some parts of Nagaon, Sibsagar, Cachar and United Khasi and Jayantia Hills districts. (Bordoloi: 1972:
As per the provision of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, the North Cachar Hills District Council was created along with the Mikir Hills District Council.
On 29 April 1952, the Chief Minister of Assam, Bishnuram Medhi inaugurated the District Council.
The Council consisted of 16 members.12 members were elected and 4 new members were nominated by the Governor.
Twelve constituencies were demarcated to elect its representatives to the Council.
These constituencies were Haflong, Kalachand, Mahur, Khunglul, Laisong, Maibang, Hajadisa, Langting, Lobong, Gunjunj, Garampani Christian villages and Harangajow.
Meanwhile, the other Dimasa inhabited areas of Cachar, Nagaon. Mikir Hills and Dimapur were adjusted in the same districts.
The people were recognized in the several scheduled lists.
Accordingly the Barman of Cachar and Hojai Kachari of Nagaon districts were recognised as Scheduled Plains Tribes, The Dimasa of Mikir Hills as Schedule Hills Tribe and Kachari of Dimapur as the Scheduled Tribes category.
As per the provisions of Sixth Schedule, the Deputy Commissioner would be the Chairman of the District Councils.
However, in the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district, the Deputy Commissioner had to look after the general administration only.
The Sub-Divisional Officer became the Chairman of the North Cachar Hills District Council, who was assisted by an Extra-Assistant Commissioner and one Sub-deputy Collector.
The Chairman was to serve for a period of six years. Within this period, he had to guide the Council.
This special provision was made with to the intention of providing the District Council with the advice and guidance of experienced officers for the smooth running of the District Council in its initial stage.
The Sub-divisional officer of the North Cachar Hills Sub-Division acted as the Returning officer during District Council elections. (Bordoloi: 1972)
According to the provisions of The Assam Autonomous Districts (Constitution) Rules 1951; the duration of District Council, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting.
The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman would be elected by the members of the Council.
The Executive Committee was to be formed with the Chief Executive Member and two other Executive Members.
The members of the District Council elect the Chief Executive Member. The Governor has the power to appoint the two members, amongst the members as Executive Member, in consultation with the Chief Executive Member.
The Chairman and Deputy Chairman are not eligible to hold office of either the Chief Executive Member or the Executive Members.
Whenever, the day to day administration of the Council gets paralysed, the Governor appoints an administrator to run the administration.
In June 1952, the North Cachar Hills District Council elected C.H Khothlang as the Chief Executive Member.
He selected Sonaram Thaosen and J.B. Hagjer as the Executive Members.
The Council office was started at the private house of Nityananda Daulagapu. Hagjer was later appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary of the Government of Assam and so he resigned from the office of Executive Member.
D. B. Thaosen was elected as the new Executive Member.
The most vital issue before the North Cachar Hills District Council was the question of hereditary land.
Therefore the Council adopted a land settlement policy resolution in 1954. According to this policy resolution, the first preference was given to the indigenous local tribal in settlement of government land.
The second preference was given to the permanent non-tribal residents of the district, who were the electors to the District Council constituencies.
A tribal belonging to the same community but coming from another village also got settlement of land in the village; on condition that co-villagers showed no objection. Moreover that person had to express his capability of cultivating land. (B. N Bordoloi: 1999: 31)
Regarding the transfer of tribal land to the non-tribal, the District Council issued some executive instructions.
The instruction vide memo No GA/ REV/5/14/62/21. Dated 6 July 1962, laid emphasis on this issue: so for as land under periodic lease is concerned, the tribal settlement holder cannot transform his land to a non tribal without prior permission of the District Council Authority.
In according permission the District Council sees whether the person to whom the land is proposed to be transferred is a permanent resident in the district and secondly whether he has enough land in the possession already even if he is a permanent resident.
But despite this policy and instruction, the issue of protecting the hereditary land remain unsolved.
Unlike as in the Karbi Anglong district, where there are suitable laws for prevention of transfer of land and a well-defined land settlement policy, in the North Cachar Hills there has been no law barring transfer of land from tribal to non-tribai.
Therefore the whole question of land remained as it was on paper only viz. in the executive instructions and policy of resolutions in respect of land settlement.
In the field of judicial administration, the North Cachar Hills District Council founded a court at Haflong in 1956.
The Council Court was headed by a judge.The first judge of the Council Desondao Hojai was appointed by the Governor of Assam.
The Government of Assam deputed another Sub-judge Jatan Kumar Thaosen as a subordinate at the Council Court.
Moreover the District Council had passed numerous rules and regulations during the period of 1951-1970.
From the very beginning, the North Cachar Hills sub-division was a part of United Mikir and North Cachar hills district. Despite the attempts of District Councils, the district had to face a number of developmental bottlenecks.
The financial condition of the people was far from pleasing.
An assessment report on 18 tribal villages in 1967 revealed that:
82 87 percent of the surveyed families are found to have agriculture as the basis of occupation for means of sustenance. 16.57 percent of the families are found to be partly agricultural.
Besides agriculture some members of these families have other occupations like teaching jobs in the elementary schools, service in the police organization and army, trade etc.
Only 56 percent of the families are In the case of loan in kind (paddy) the usual rate of interest is 50 % to be paid in kind at the time of harvest along with the Principal. (Bordoloi: 1972: 106)
This new economic arrangement did not benefit the common people. In fact it made their condition worse.
Therefore it can be argued that, the activities of Council did not reach the grassroots of Dimasa society.
The whole system was channelized for the benefit of the upper structure of the Dimasa society, i.e. the Dimasa Intelligentsia, during the period of 1951-1970.
The Assam Government at Dispur sowed the seeds of discontentment among the Tribes of the Sixth Schedules districts of Assam by introduction of Assamese Language as the official language of the state including the autonomous districts in all the sixth schedule areas of Assam.The movement for a separate hill state started in 1960 spearheaded by the All Party Hill Leaders Conference(APHLC) and Khasi Students Union.
The movement was historic as the agitation was bloodless and late Mrs Indira Gandhi was compelled to come down to Shillong in 1969 and promised to give autonomy to the hill districts.The "Assam Reorganization(Meghalaya) Act,1969" was passed and the state of Meghalaya was created.
The district of N.C.Hills was put to District Council elections with an option to join the Hill State or not.The Democratic Party under Late Sonaram Thaosen for the motion (to join Hill State) was elected by defeating the Congress Party who was against the motion in the election by a difference of four MDC seats.However,the Government at Dispur then ruled by the Assam Congress gave the four MDC nominated seats to the Congress Party of N.C.Hills making the number of seats equal to both the parties.This was unfair to the democratically elected Democratic Party of the Council because the result.was a tie(equal numbers of MDCs on both sides as the 4 nominated MDCs were given to the Congress by the Governor on the advice of the Council of Ministers).That was how North Cachar Hills District was deprived from joining the Hill State sometime way back in 1970 or so.
(Authored by Dr Dhruba Hojai.Source: Internet and personal experience).