Jaintia Hills & the British

Editor,

We have read a piece written by Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh on “The Mukroh Massacre : Counting the Cost” & Dr. Omarlin Kyndiah’s letter on “The Mukroh Shooting Incident”, both appearing on the editorial page of your esteemed Daily (S.T. Nov. 24, 2022). Both writers have correctly narrated the historical position of Jaintia Hills as the oldest Subdivision created by the British under the erstwhile composite province of Assam. Unfortunately Pyrtuh blamed the British for all the mess created by the then government of Assam in April 1951 after they had left India when the latter got its Independence in August 1947. It was in fact the then composite State of Assam which created all the problems including the killings of many Jaintias that have been witnessed since 1951, by forcibly transferring the areas under Block-I and Block-II from Jaintia Hills to the non-contiguous Mikir Hills. This fact is correctly depicted in Dr. Kyndiah’s letter.
To set the historical record straight, it was the British who kept intact all the six tribes, namely, the Garos, Khasis, Jaintias, Kacharis, Nagas and Lushais, in their own respective hill areas as their ancestral homes. The British created four hill districts for four of them and two sub-divisions for the two comparatively small tribes viz., the Jaintias and the Kacharis i.e. the Jowai Subdivision and the North Cachar Hills Subdivision. What the British had done was ratified by the Constituent Assembly which drafted the Constitution of the new Republic of India signed on 26 November 1949 and promulgated on 26 January 1950.
The British did not create any district or a sub-division for the Mikirs (now Karbis) due perhaps to the fact that the Mikirs were believed to be closer to the Assamese and the Tibeto-Burman groups or Bodos. This was confirmed by Sir Charles Lyall (The Mikirs, 1904) and many others. Late L.S. Ingti, IAS, (himself a Mikir) in his chapter on “The Mikirs” in S. Barkatoki’s ‘Tribes of Assam’ (1969) at page 53 clearly stated, “In fact, many of the Mikirs living in the plains have become undistinguishable from the Assamese. They have also become bilingual speaking Assamese generally and Mikir at home. The process of assimilation can be seen at work even amongst the hill Mikirs and the complete assimilation of the Mikirs is only a matter of time.” But the then government of Assam denied the Mikirs their plains areas predominantly occupied by them when it created a new district for them in 1951 and in lieu thereof it forcibly detached a large chunk of Jaintia Hills and mechanically tagged it with the non-contiguous Mikir Hills.
The British did a lot of things for the protection and education of these tribes through different missions. But it is not possible to accommodate such details in this small letter. The British have nothing to do with what the then Assam government had done in 1951 against the ratification made by the Constituent Assembly of India insofar as the Jaintia Hills Subdivision is concerned. The then Assam government appears to have set one tribe against the other tribe diagonally different from each other – the Jaintias are following the matrilineal custom while the Mikirs (Karbis) are a patrilineal tribe. Linguistically and socially the two are poles apart. Dr. Kyndiah is right that the only solution is the re-transfer of the two Blocks to Jaintia Hills. It is for the present government of Assam now to decide whether they would like to see bloodshed and murder to continue or to restore the status quo ante so as to allow the Jaintias to live, as ever before, in peaceful co-existence with other tribes. We still hope that Assam has a big heart.

Yours etc.

Prof. P.M.Passah

Via e-mail

NEIGRIHMS nursing exam- confusion worst confounded

Editor,

Through your newspaper, I want to convey my utter frustration and I appeal to the authorities and NGO’s to examine the matter at hand. I am a resident of Meghalaya and I have applied for the post of Nursing Officer at NEIGRIHMS. The examination date has been delayed during the COVID – 19 pandemic and has been postponed several times recently. But I do not understand why there are examination centres set up all over the country when NEIGRIHMS is an Institute set up in this particular region. Perhaps the idea of having centres across the country is intended to make it easier for candidates from those regions. But we are allotted examination centres randomly. We have to go outside the State and even outside the North East to appear for the examination, which is impossible for many of us. This whole exercise serves no purpose as people from outside also have to travel all the way here for the examination. There is only one centre in Meghalaya, and there are more centres in Assam. How can NEIGRIHMS conduct the examination in such a haphazard and unnecessarily wide geographical area? This is very frustrating and it is very unfair to people of the state and region.
Why is the Head of Examination or the authorities doing this? I appeal to the authorities to make it more convenient for the candidates, especially people of the State and region to be able to write their exams. This is very unfair and creates suspicion. I also appeal to the NGOs to examine the matter and find out the reason for all this confusion in allotting examination centres.

Yours etc.,

Arlangki Laloo,

Via email

Of border disputes

Editor,

When a person buys a plot of land the first and the wisest thing he/she does is to secure the boundaries. This will not only safeguard one’s land but it will also prevent encroachment. Once the land is secured one is free to do what one wishes within that property.
The leaders who fought earnestly for a separate state must be respected for giving us our very own state that we can self-govern for the greater good of our people. With the attainment of statehood in 1972, the exercise of demarcating clear-cut boundaries should have been undertaken. Perhaps our leaders then were too happy to put up a fight to resolve the boundary issues. Since 1972, many governments have come and gone yet not even a single government was able to resolve the border issues with Assam. Intrusion, tussle, fear, unrest and even loss of lives due to border skirmishes and the lack of well demarcated borders date back to the Block I, Block II, Langpih tension. But no matter how many people were killed in border skirmishes our governments remained somnolent. Each government that came in was only interested in filling their pockets and making the best of what they can. If those in government really cared for the people who elected them, the border dispute would not have been left simmering for fifty years. To settle border disputes requires consistency on the part of the government. Alas, thatb is missing!
When such horrific border disputes take place, the pressure groups take to the streets to express their angst. This often leads to violence and breach of peace. They are provoked by every incident and their protests turn violent but they don’t follow up the matter. Nor do they put pressure on the government to resolve the border disputes. Pressure groups as the name suggests must put pressure on the government to perform. Sadly, these pressure groups are stirred only to the point of creating law and order problems and fear among the people. Nothing concrete ever comes out of their actions. It is never wrong to raise voices but it is certainly wrong to disrupt peace and tranquillity.
From past experiences we have seen that such agitations finally end with no concrete solutions. The loss of lives and property (public) boils down to nothing. Pressure groups will be less pushy while the government will also pretend that everything is alright. We the public too suffer from short term memory loss and will equally forget these issues until another incident happens and pushes us to the streets. The question is – how long do we need to wait to have secure borders?
As border settlements must be done at the level of state governments, we wait to see if the MDA government will rise above all odds to solve the border issue and thereby create history by giving Meghalaya secure borders where border residents can live in peace with a sense of belonging to the place they rightly are citizens of?

Yours etc.,

Jenniefer Dkhar,

Via email

USTM a role model to uplift education in the State

Editor,
The University of Science and Technology (USTM) Meghalaya which is situated in Ri-Bhoi District should be a role model for the Government of Meghalaya and for higher education in the State. The University within a short period has achieved National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) A grade in its first cycle which is an uphill task to achieve. The University has set a target to produce students who will crack competitive exams by paying them back the whole amount if they clear the National base competitive exams. They had enabled two hundred plus students to crack NET and they paid the whole amount of fees that the University charged from them.
Being a past pupil of USTM I had seen how the University functions and how it encourages the students to crack various competitive exams. The Hon’ble Chancellor is a visionary leader, and our politicians should be inspired by him on how to uplift the education sector in our State or they should seek suggestions from USTM on how to solve the education problems in our state.
The University has begun the process of construction of the Medical College in our State which shows that if there is a will there’s a way. However, our government is lacking the will to set up a Medical college or even a State University. It is a reminder that Meghalaya is now 50 years old but there is no State University or even a Medical College. But USTM within 10 years has shown the path on how to achieve it. I do not doubt that if our politicians are serious about uplifting the education sector in our State they will find ways to do so.
Yours etc.,
Kenneth Nongsiej,
Via email

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