By Elwin Teron
The Statistical Account of Assam, Vol. 2, Trubner& Co., London. Pp.203). The District, therefore, did not represent an ethnic dominion as other hill tribes, more specifically, the Mikir (Karbi) and the Kuki (Biete), were also present in homogenously specific areas. In Jaintia Hills alone there were 25 British Fiscal Divisions of which Chapduk, Mulshoi and Saipung were Kukis and Mynriang was Mikir (Ibid, pp-204). And so, it is natural that when the idea of creating a separate administrative subdivision for the Karbis is contemplated to give them political identity and security in Independent India, the unification of the three Karbi dominated areas would have to be considered. It was therefore natural that the Mikir administrative subdivision became a part of the administrative plan of post-Independent Assam.
The move for a unified Karbi district:
The seed of the Mikir Hill administrative district plan was sown in the minds of the British administrators when Governor Sir Robert Neil Reid toured the Mikir area in October-November of 1940 and received a memorandum of the Mikir people at Mohendijua on 28th October and later on when Governor Sir Andrew Clow met a Karbi A-Dorbar delegation and received a memorandum in March 1947 at Lanka. The memorandum at Lanka had urged the Governor to recognize the Karbi A-Dorbar as the organization representing the Mikir people.
Earlier, the British Parliament had brought out the Government of India Act, 1935 which provided for the native participation in governance through the process of election and for the first time the unification of the Karbi dominated areas of Sibsagar and Nowgong districts was made possible through the creation of the territorial Assembly Constituency for the Partially Excluded Areas of which the Mikir Hills tract was a part. The village headmen and mouzadars were the electorate as adult franchise was yet to be introduced and Khorsing Terang was elected to the Provincial Assembly in the 1937 election.
The desire of the Karbi people for the consolidation of the tribe under a single administrative unit who, otherwise, had to exist under different district administrations during the British period by circumstances not of their choosing, got the positive response of the Provincial government as plan was set rolling to bring all the Karbi areas to form the Mikir Hill subdivision after Samsonsing Engti led the delegation of Karbi A-Dorbar before the Bordoloi Committee of the Constituent Assembly and submitted a memorandum on 18th May 1947 (Rao, VV, 1975, A Century of Tribal Politics in North-East India, 1874-1974. S Chand & Co., New Delhi. Pp.170) “Primarily the memorandum had demanded that all the Mikir people should be politically united to form a separate district comprising of Partially Excluded areas of Sibsagar and Nowgong districts along with all Mikir inhabited contiguous areas and Mikir areas of United Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Leaders like Chatrasing Teron insisted that even if the Mikir could not be united geographically, they should be united administratively so that all of them could stay secure in Independent India” (Ibid).
The Bordoloi Committee echoed the circumstances, the sentiment and the process of Karbi unification in its report to the Constituent Assembly. The report had noted that the Karbis were the most backward of all the tribes and described their plight in the following words: “the irregular shape of (the) area makes the administration from outside the area rather inconvenient which apparently is the reason why the district has had to be split up between two plains districts. Being a rather sparsely populated area with rather less than 50 persons to the square mile and containing no communications other than the railway passing through it, it has apparently not been considered suitable for treatment as a separate district. The Provincial Government has at present under consideration a proposal for the making of the whole of the Mikir Hills area into a separate subdivision.” (Hansaria, Vijay (2016), Justice BL Hansaria’s Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India: LexisNexis. Pp.319). In its recommendation to the Constituent Assembly, the Bordoloi Committee said that the hill areas should be classified into two sets of districts, autonomous districts and non-autonomous districts. The autonomous districts were the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, excluding Shillong, the Garo Hills, the Lushai Hills, the Naga Hills, the North Cachar sub-division of Cachar district and the Mikir hills portion of Nowgong and Sibsagar districts. The other hill areas like Sadiya, Balipara Frontier Tract, Tirap Frontier Tract and Naga Tribal areas of the frontier tracts should be made non-autonomous districts; and the Constituent Assembly accepted the recommendation (Rao,VV, 1975, pp-186-87).So, it was the recommendation of the Bordoloi Committee and its acceptance by the Constituent Assembly which eventually clinched a separate district for the Mikir tribe. Immediately after the Constitution of India came into force, the Government of Assam carried forward the proposal to create a separate administrative unit for the Mikir people and a Commission was set up by the Government through Department Notification No. TAD/R/31/50 dated the 3rd October, 1950 to decide on the areas which should form the district of Mikir Hills.
Creation of the new district of Mikir Hills:
Following the recommendation of the Commission, certain part of Khasi and Jaintia Hills, popularly known as Block I & II, were excluded from the K&J Hills vide Department Notification No. TAD/R/31/50/148, dated the 13th April 1951 and another Notification was issued vide No. TAD/R/31/50/149, dated the 13th April 1951 to make the area a part of the newly formed Mikir Hills.
Areas taken from the Jaintia Sub-division roughly corresponded with the areas described as Jinthongs, Mynris and Ryngkhongs as part of the Bhoi country in Major PRT Gurdon’s ethnography “The Khasis” (Gurdon, PRT (1906) Pp.62). While describing the Khasi tribal organizations he had mentioned that the Syntengs or Pnars could be sub-divided into Syntengs proper, Nongtungs and Kharwangs; the Wars into War proper and War Pnar and the Bhois into Jinthongs, Mynris, Ryngkhongs and Khasi Bhois. “It must, however, be remembered that the Jinthong, Mynri and Ryngkhong Sub-divisions of the Bhoi Division are not Khasi, bur Mikirs”, Gurdon had mentioned. Therefore, it is evidently clear that when the proposal to form a separate district for the Karbi tribe was made, this particular area would necessarily form a part of the district.
Similarly, areas traditionally known as Mikir Hill tract predominantly inhabited by the Mikir tribe under Nowgong and Sibsagar Districts were taken out for the purpose of including them in the newly formed District which is specified by notification No. TAD/R/31/50/149 dated the 13th April, 1951. From the Sibsagar District, the areas included were the predominantly Mikir inhabited areas of Duarbaguri Mouza, Duardikharu Mouza, West Rengma Mouza, Duardisa Mouza, Naga Rengma Mouza, East Rengma Mouza and Borjan Mouza.
Finally, Notification No TAD/R/31/50/151 dated the 13th April, 1951 defined the boundary of Mikir Hills District.
The Assam United District of Mikir and North Cachar Hills (Administration) Regulation 1951 Regulation No. X of 1951(Published in Gazette vide Notification No. TAD/R/31/50/190 dated the 27th August, 1951) came into force on the 17th November, 1951 through a notification issued on the 3rd November, 1951vide Notification No. TAD/R/31/50/20 by the Governor of Assam Jairamdas Daulatram at Shillong. This Regulation defines Mikir Hills in the following manner (Pakyntein, EH (1965). Census of India, 1961, Assam; District Census Handbook, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills; Tribune Press, Gauhati; Pp. 5).”Mikir Hills” means-
(a) as respects the period before the commencement of the Constitution, the Partially Excluded Areas of the Mikir Hills (in Nowgong and Sibsagar Districts) declared as such under the Government of India (Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas) Order, 1936
(b) As respects the period after the commencement of the Constitution and before the appointed day, the tribal areas of Mikir Hills specified under paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule to the constitution; and
(c) As respects the period after the appointed day, the Mikir Hills Autonomous district comprising the tribal areas within the boundaries defined in Notification No. TAD/ R/31/50/151, dated the 13th April, 1951.”
The Regulation signed by the Governor of Assam was assented to by the President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad at New Delhi on the 21st August, 1951. The decision to unify all the Karbi inhabited areas from three contiguous districts was made at the highest level, right up to the Constituent Assembly and records have shown that all possible consultations were made before arriving at that decision, at the level of the Bordoloi Committee deliberations and the consequent Border Commission that made way for the passage of the Assam United District of Mikir and North Cachar Hills (Administration) Regulation 1951 Regulation No. X of 1951. There is no evidence to show that the Karbi inhabited areas of erstwhile Khasi and Jaintia Hills were truncated to include them in Mikir Hills by force.
Pakyntein in his Census Report of 1961 made a detailed listing of the villages transferred from Jaintia Hills to the Mikir Hills which had Khasi-sounding names but were inhabited by the Mikir tribe. For instance, Umkhirmi, Umpanai, etc have Khasi-sounding names but not a single Khasi family lived there. It is usual for the language and culture of the ruling power to influence upon the subjects they ruled which may be manifested in the name of village, place, institution or even the way of life.
The boundary of Mikir Hills defined by Notification No TAD/R/31/50/151 dated the 13th April, 1951 has stood the test of various Constitutional amendments and the notification No TAD/R/31/50/149, dated 13th April, 1951 by which Block-I and II was transferred to Mikir Hills District has been validated during the creation of Meghalaya Autonomous State in 1969 and the Meghalaya Statehood in 1971. The galaxy of the leaders of Meghalaya that included stalwarts like BB Lyngdoh, Capt, W.Sangma, Hoover Hynniewta, Edwinson Bareh, Hopingstone Lyngdoh, Martin Narayan Majaw, and many more who frequently visited Mikir Hills during the Hill State movement understood the position of the Karbi people very well. The competence and articulation of these leaders, who led to the successful creation of Meghalaya Statehood without firing a single shot and without having to send a single leader to jail, could not be doubted to act if they had felt the need to review the boundary with Karbi Anglong. The message from these leaders is crystal clear: Karbis, Khasis and Jaintias, as always, will have to co-exist in peace and harmony, more so with the residents of the 30-odd Khasi-Jaintia villages in Karbi Anglong and the 60-odd Mikir villages in Meghalaya whose progress and happiness much depend on our patience and mutual good behavior at the border. In the frequently troubled ethnic mosaic of the North-East, we can no longer choose our neighbor, but we can choose the way we treat and relate with each other. (Concluded)
[The writer studied International Politics in JNU, New Delhi and has been elected twice to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council. The views expressed are entirely his. He can be reached at [email protected]]