Soon after the country (India) got its independence, the wave of political consciousness struck the hills of north east India. The spirit and ideal of the strugglefor emancipating the backward hill tribes, held till independence by the foreign rulers in ‘excluded’ and ‘partially excluded’ areas isolated from the mainstream of national life, was quickly picked up by the educated and emerging hilly leaders. Soon after the attainment of independence, the hill peoples felt that the formation of separate hill state was their only way to develop their own genius, culture and distinct way of life.
So the movement of a separate hill state first took roots in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills where the leaders preached their idea and vision openly. The movement was spearheaded by the Khasi National Durbar and submitted memorandum to the then Prime Minister, Nehru on October 19, 1952 by pointing out a number of inadequacies in the sixth scheduled.
In December, 1952, Capt. WA Sangma, the Chief Executive Member (CEM) of Garo hills convened a meeting of the representatives of tribal areas at Tura, to discuss matters relating with the promotion of tribal welfare and resolved to form the Assam Hills Tribal Union (later renamed as the Eastern India Tribal Union(EITU) in October, 1953). Besides, the meeting resolved to demand a formation of hill state which would include all the hill areas of Assam, whole of Manipur, the present Nagaland and the tribal belt of Tripura. Also another meeting was held in Shillong during June 16-17, 1954. BM Roy presided over the meeting and suggested that the deliberations might be confined to two important subjects: the formation of separate states for hill areas, and the amendment of the Six scheduled. The meeting decided to demand the constitution of a separate states for all the hill areas of Assam, with an area of 27, 599 Sq.miles with population of 11,71,098. The state would be known as Eastern Hill State. The meeting also decided that English would be the official language of the hill state untill it was replaced with Hindi.
In short, when the members of the State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) visit Shillong, the leaders of EITU and other tribal organisation like KND, the Highlanders Union, UMFO and the Hill union of Assam, the Garo National Council had submitted memorandum for a new state.
The memorandum of EITU claimed that the hill people of all the autonomous districts were one and fundamentally different from that of the plain people in every respects- social customs, morality, language, dress and even food. It also said that the autonomy given to the district council under Sixth Scheduled was not real and substantial. It has also highlighted that the Assamese were making every effort to impose their language and culture on the hill peoples, and also trying to dominate the hill peoples. The memorandum listed a number of advantages in having a hill state, and also sketched briefly the structure of the hill state. It was suggested that Assam should have its own capital, but until the construction of the capital, Assam might function from Shillong, which would be the capital of the hill state.
Not only the hill leader had submitted a proposal for a new state, but also other prominent leaders like Rev JJM Nichols Roy had chalked out another proposal. One of the prominent leader among Khasi, Rev. JJM Nichols Roy had submitted his personal memorandum ie. ‘Hill Districts of Assam - Their future’ to the Cabinet Mission in May, 1947 by suggesting that the hill areas should not be converted into a crown colony as suggested by some of the British officers like NE Parry, Robert Reid and JH Hutton. On the other hand, the Government of Assam pleaded that there should be one state for the whole of Eastern Himalayan sub-region consisting of Assam and its neighboring state. Thus, in a real sense, it opposed the demand for a separate hill state.
The State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) only recommended that special attention should be paid to the development of the hill areas, and not favour for a hill state.
Rev JJM Nichols Roy opposed the creation of a separate hill state with the argument that the district council would disappear with the formation of the hill state. In the meantime, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) directed the Chief Minister of Assam to declare Assamese as state language and BP Chaliha, Chief Minister of Assam announced on June 22, 1960 that official language bill should be introduced in the Assembly. The immediate reaction was the meeting of All Assam Hill Leaders Conference at Tura on April 28, 1960 which vehemently opposed the decision of APCC. This was the beginning of the process of disintegration of Assam and finally gave birth to the All Party Hill Leader Conference (APHLC). On November 24, 1960, the delegation of the APHLC met the Prime Minister and he assured that no legislation passed by the Assam Legislative Assembly could be enforced in the hill areas without the consent of the representatives of the hill areas and also promised that he would seriously consider the measures necessary to ensure adequate delegation of powers in order to enable the hill people to undertake development programme in the hill areas.
Scottish Pattern Plan:
In short, the government did not favour a formation of hill state and has offered a number of alternatives like the Scottish pattern, Nehru Plan etc. for the administration of the hill areas, but the hill leaders rejected.
Some of the features of the Scottish Pattern, as offered by the Government of India to the hill leaders for the future administration may be summarized as follows:
1) There would be a Regional Committee consisting of all the elected members of Assam Legislative Assembly representing the autonomous hill district similar to the committee constituted by the British House of Commons for Scotland.
2) Special development programme of the hill areas at the state level would be under the control of a high-powered statutory state council. This council would consist of representatives from the hill areas. it would have all the functions including planning and execution, and would not be interfered with by the Chief Minister or by any non-hill Minister of the Assam ministry. The Council would have full authority to allocate funds for the development of all areas financed by the government of India under Article 275 of the constitution.
3) As regards legislation, the MLAs representing the hill areas would form a committee, presided over by a hill minister. No legislation affecting the hill areas would be applied to the hill areas without their consent.
4) There would be a minister of cabinet rank from any of the hill districts, one or more deputy minister might be appointed in order that the entire autonomous hill district were adequately represented. The hill minister would be the main executive authority so far as the hill area was concerned.
5) In case of disagreement between the Regional council and the legislative assembly, the matter would be referred to the Governor who would act in his own discretion and his decision would be final.
6) The funds required for the execution of plans and development schemes in the autonomous hill district would be shown separately in the budget and they would be administered separately.
7) The Sixth Scheduled might be amended so as to enable the district councils and the regional council to get more autonomy.
Nehru Plan :
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India had also chalked out one administrative system ie. Nehru Plan and offered to the hill leaders for future administration. The Government of India has offered to them but they rejected. The main features of the Plan may be listed as below:
1) It contemplated that the hill areas of Assam should remain within the state of Assam, enjoying 99% autonomy of a state, the remaining 1% was complete separation from Assam.
2) The sixth scheduled was to be retained but ammended on the lines recommended by the Hill Advisory Council.
3) Each hill district would be represented by one member in the Lok Sabha, and the constituency for an MLA would be for every 40,000 population. The autonomous district council and the P-L Regional Council (in Lushai hills) would be given wide powers and greater financial assistance.
4) The MLAs of autonomous district would form a Regional Committee of the Assam legislative assembly. All proposals relating to legislation concerning the hill areas would be referred by the state assembly to the regional committee. The Regional committee might also initiate legislative proposals. Normally, the recommendation of the regional committee would be accepted by the legislature. In the event of disagreement between the regional committee and the state legislature, the matter would be referred to the Governor, who acting in his discretion might take decision, after obtaining directions from the President where necessary.
5) As regards planning for development, the representatives of the hill areas would have direct assess to the planning commission. The hill people would have complete control over certain department such as development, agriculture, PWD and education.
6) As regard common subjects not transferred for separate administration, the share of allocation of funds to be spent on the hill areas would also be separately indicated under the budget heads. Certain others subjects such as state electricity board, the high courts etc. would remain as common subjects.
7) In matter of appointment, postings and transfers of officers, the group of hill ministers would have full control in transferred subjects.
8) The hill people would have full control over grants given under Article 275 of the constitution and over the revenues of hill areas. But the state legislature would have some say over the grants that might be given to the hill areas for the state revenue.
9) For the purpose of administration of the hill areas, English would be the official language until replaced with Hindi. But at the district level, the district or regional council would decide the language to be used.
10) The hill areas would have a separate university.
11) Provisions in the constitution safeguarding the interests of the hill people would continue as long as the hill people themselves reasonably felt the need for such safeguards.
12) At the beginning of each financial year, a separate complete budget allocation for the subjects allocated to the hill areas would be made. This would take the form of an Area Budget under the subjects meant for separate administration. This area budget would be referred by the assembly to the Regional Committee for considerations.
13) If the hill people could agree to the proposals in principle, a commission would be appointed to work out the details of the administrative set up for the hill areas in consultation with the hill people.
14) It would be collective and joint responsibility to the state legislative assembly. There would, however, be a cabinet minister in charge of the administration of the hill areas, assisted as far as might be necessary, by possibly a minister of state (MoS) and one or two deputy minister.
15) In the appointment of the minister for the hill areas, the chief minister will be guided by the recommendation of the MLAs of the hill areas.
16) There would be a separate wing or department of the secretariat for the hill areas, and have its own financial adviser.
The Nehru Plan contemplated that, the objective to be kept in view is full autonomy for the hill districts subjects to the preservation of the unity of the state of Assam.
Thus, the article simply attempts to highlight the process of a formation for a separate hill state in north east India with special reference to the Nehru Plan and the Scottish Pattern.