The Karbi Memorandum

On 5 August 2002, a Memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on behalf of the CPI(ML), the Autonomous State Demand Committee (Progressive), the Karbi Students Association (KSA) and the women’s organisaion Karbi Nimso Chingthur Asong (KNCA) on the issue of creation of autonomous state comprising the area of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills as per Article 244(A) of the Constitution as well as other burning issues. The delegation comprised Dr Jayanta Rongpi, MP and Secretary of the Hill District Committee of CPI(ML), Chandra Kanta Terang, President of ASDC (P), Bidya Teron and Amlong Ingti, President and General Secretary of KSA, Ms Kajek Tokbipi and Ms Anjali Teronpi, President and Asst. General Secretary of KNCA, ASDC(P) Members of Autonomous Council Rabi Kumar Phangcho and Mohan Bey, Members of Karbi Anglong Committee of CPI(ML) Rajen Rongpi, Francis Teron and Daniel Teron, and Rajatmani Thaosen, Ex. General Secretary of Dimasa Students Union and Member of North Cachar Hills Party unit.

The memorandum emphasises five points. Firstly, presenting the historical facts, the memorandum holds that Article 244(A) is a national commitment “given by the nation to the people of this area at the time of creation of smaller Hill states in the North East region in the year 1971.” For, when under North East Reorganisation Act, the States of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal and Manipur were created, “the only exception … was the two Hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills as they decided to remain in Assam with a future provision for autonomy.” And “the provision for creation of an Autonomous State within the State of Assam was retained even after the process of reorganization of all the other Hill areas into smaller States was completed…”. Even after 1971, when Meghalaya along with other Hill areas was upgraded into separate state, “the Article 244(A) was not only retained but also made applicable exclusively for the area appended to Part I of Paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, i.e., the area of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills”, the memorandum states.”

However, later “the people of these two Hill districts were rewarded for their decision to remain in Assam with step-motherly treatment on all fronts. When these crossed the limits of tolerance the people under the leadership of above mentioned organizations from 17 May 1986 launched a popular mass movement to materialize the demand of Autonomous State.” After protracted struggle and protracted discussions, a MOU was signed by the three sides on 1 April 1995 to upgrade the autonomy of the existing Hill Councils of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills.

Now after seven years of the MOU, it is clear that the government has gone back on its words. Firstly, at the time of signing the MOU the Union Govt. had declared their policy not to create any new states in the country and open the “Pandora’s Box”. But when it really opened the “Pandora’s Box” by deciding to create three new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal, it did not consider the proposal of Autonomous State, even though in the case of Autonomous State even the precondition of Assembly resolution is irrelevant and Constitution need not be amended. Secondly, the MOU had promised “devolution of substantial executive, financial and legislative powers to the Autonomous Hill Councils of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills”, but it has “remained largely unimplemented especially on the issues of direct fund flow from the union to the Autonomous Councils or in the crucial areas of the Councils’ say in the maintenance of law and order in the Hill region...” on the basis of the arguments that these clauses of the MOU cannot be implemented since only states can be entrusted with such powers.

The memorandum has asked the Union government to check the Assam government’s conspiracy of dismembering Karbi Anglong in the name of transfer of Block-I and Block-II to Meghalaya, because Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam has agreed to hand over 1743.79 square km of Karbi Anglong to Meghalaya in the name of solving the so called dispute. In fact, the memorandum says, there is no existence of the so called blocks in the post-British Karbi Anglong. “Any attempt to revive the colonial legacy of the imperialists who segregated the Karbi territory as Block-I and Block-II is not only shameful but also reflects one’s mindset bogged down with colonial hangover.” The memorandum has asked the Union Government to intervene and “preserve the territory of Karbi Anglong as notified in the notification of TAD/R/31/50/148 and 149 dated 13 April 1951.”

Drawing attention of the Union Govt. to the fact that in Assam there is a vast difference between Scheduled Tribe (Hills) and Scheduled Tribe (Plains) and therefore there have been two separate reservations since the inception of the Constitution, the memorandum informs that some ST(P) communities landing up in Karbi Anglong are demanding ST(H) status. In this regard, the memorandum demands: “not the NOC from the Assam Govt. but the opinion of the Autonomous Council Authority should be made mandatory”.

Lastly, the memorandum urges the government to review the policy on surrendered militants. “All the surrendered youth must be rehabilitated in true sense and they must not be used for any purpose that doesn’t have the sanction of the Constitution”, it says. Raising the problem of armed extortionist groups emerging out of such negotiations, the memorandum asks the Union government to “ensure that ceasefire ground rules are modified and adhered to in such a way that people do get the benefit of peace from such exercises.”