AUTONOMY MOVEMENT OF THE MISING
The North East Region of the India is the land of thousand mutiny mostly inhabited by more than 209 indigenous tribal groups recognized by Government of India as Scheduled Tribes. Not a single indigenous/ tribal peoples group of North East region are at pea at present. Almost all groups are involved in struggle, either armed or peaceful, for one or the other form of self-determination. The Misings, one of the major tribes of the plains of Assam, also have a long history of struggle for Autonomy.
The Misings, a major tribe of the North Assam branch of Tibeto-Burman family, first discovered the vast fertile plains land in the foot hills of Arunachal and along the course of river Subonsiri and Brahmaputra up to Kazironga on the south bank and river Jia Bhoroli on the north. They remained a free people with their own self governing system till the advent of British colonial force. Even during the rule of 600 years of Ahom dynasty in plains of Assam, the Misings enjoyed a great degree of Autonomy and the Ahom rulers hardly interfered into the internal affairs of the Misings in order to avoid clash.
Though the plains os Assam went under British colonial rule in 1826, the major portion of Mising territory, particularly the Murkongselek and Sadiya area, had remained free from British occupation till 1911, when a British Expedition conquered this area along with adjoining Adi territory.
The colonial rulers, only for their colonial interest, grouped and regrouped, bifurcated and joined the tribal peoples and their territories and thus played with the geography, demography and everything in a mess, which remains to be undone till date.
As per suggestion of the Montagu-Chelmsfort Reports, 1918, section 52-A was inserted in Govt. Of India Act, 1935 as a consequence of which the following territories of the then province of assam in British India were declared as backward tracts;
a. The Garo hills district,
b. The British portion of Khasi and Jaintia Hills district (other than the shillong Municipality and cantonment)
c. Mikir hills (in Nagaon and Sibsagar districts).
d. The north Cachar Hills (Cachar Districts)
e. The Naga Hills district.
f. The Lushai Hills Districts
g. The Sadiya Frontier tract,
h. The Balipara Frontier tract and
i. The Lakhimpur Frontier Tract.
The traditional Mising territory was divided and parts of the territory were placed in Sadiya, balipara and Lakhimpur backward tracts while the rest were kept under the provisional administration of British Assam. Again, in 1936, backward tracts were categorised as “Excluded and partially Excluded areas” after such recommendation was made by the India Statuary Commission, 1930 (popularly known as Simon Commission), by an order of 1936, the Govt. Of British India regrouped the backward tracts as follows:
A. Excluded Areas:
1. North-east Frontier (Sadiya, Balipara and Lakhimpur tracts),
2. The Naga Hills Districts,
3. The Lushai Hills Districts,
4. The Norh Cachar Hills sub division of Cachar district.
B. Partially Excluded Areas:
1. The Garo Hills Districts,
2. The Mikir Hills in Nagaon and sibsagar districts and
3. The British portion of Khasi and Jaintia Hills District (Other than the Shillong Municipality and the Cantonment).
Thus, a large area of the Mising territory were grouped with NEFA and separated from the rest. These areas were exempted from the power of provincial legislature. The Excluded areas were administered by the Governor himself and the partially Excluded areas were his special responsibly. This provision of the Government of India act, 1935 were, by and large, retained by the Indian (Provisional Constitutional) order, 1947 when India Became independent.
After independence, a committee named Bordoli committee was appointed for determination of the future of these excluded and partially excluded areas. The committee submitted its reports to the advisory committee on fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and excluded Areas for the consideration of the constituent assembly. The recommendation of the Bordoloi Committee were incorporated into the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and under section 19 of the sixth schedule the Governor was to ensure creation of autonomous district councils for each of the following areas:
1. The United Khasi and Jaintia Hills.
2. The Garo Hills.
3. The Lushai Hills.
4. The Naga Hills
5. The North Cachar Hills
6. The Mikir Hills
7. North East Frontier Tracts including Balipara Frontier Tract, Abor Hills and Mishimi Hills Districts
8. The Naga Tribal Areas.
The committee recommended incorporation of the sixth Schedule to the constitution of India providing Autonomy to the Excluded and partially excluded areas by creating autonomous districts councils. But, the committee, most probably, moved by the objective of assimilating the plains tribals of Assam into the mainstream Assamese nationality, did not strongly recommend for providing autonomy to the Mising and other plains tribal areas in line with other hill areas; rather, with some ambiguous observation, it recommended separation of the plains tribal areas (mostly Mising territory) and amalgamation with the general areas of Assam without providing any constitutional mechanism.
The important portion of the Reports of the sub-committee is as follows:
“the population of the plains tribals, which is being gradually assimilated to the population of the plains, should for all purpose be treated as minority. Measures for protection of their lands are also in our view of necessary action. We have kept in mind the possibility of their being certain areas inhabited by tribals in the plains or the foot of the hills whom it may be necessary to provide in the same manner.”
With more reports, the sub-committee stated that-
“we have also provided that administration of the areas to be brought under the provincial administration in future should also be similar to that of the existing hill districts. We also conclude from the evidence collected at sadiya that the Saikhowaghat portion of the excluded area south of the lohit river and possibly the whole of the sadiya plains portion upto the inner line could be included in regular administration; but feel that the question needs more detailed investigation and recommend that it should be undertaken by the government”
Following the report of the sub-committee, the provincial Government of Assam separated the plains tribal areas from NEFA and amalgamated them with other advanced areas of Assam in 1951 and declared these areas as ‘Transferred Areas’ (Vide Notification No. TAD, 25/50/109, dated 13th February, 1951) and appointed asstt. Political officers at Charduar, balipara, Murkongselek and sadiya (vide notification no. TAD 35/50/154, dated 8th may,1951).
QUIRK OF HISTORY:
The constitution of independent India for two schedule in the constitution for administration of the tribal areas. These are the Fifth schedule and the sixth schedule. The sixth schedule provides for formation of autonomous district councils in the tribal areas of the north east and fifth schedule provides for formation of tribes advisory councils in all other states of the country. But the vast tribal areas in the plains of Assam and the hills of Manipur have been left out these two schedules. Dr. Bhupinder Singh committee or the three member experts committee on plains tribals of Assam constituted by Govt. Of India in the wake of Bodoland movement has strongly criticised this lapse and describe it as a “quirk of history”. This ‘quirk of history’ remains the root cause of tribal agitation in Assam.
THE FIRST RESOLUTIONS:
The first resolution to raise the demand for separate autonomy for the Misings and allied groups was North East frontier Miri-Abor sonmilon. The sonmilon, during its first session held on 20/05/1947 at Murkongselek with Mr.Howard William, the then political Officer of Sadiya on the chair adopted the following resolutions. These are the first resolutions adopted by Mising people demanding Autonomy.
Resolution 1: The sonmilon resolve to extend thanks to the British Govt. On its decision to create independent provincial administration for Assam on its declaration of 20th February, 1947 and farther resolve to supports the proposal for separating Assam from East Pakistan.
Resolution 2: Resolved that we, the Miris (with Miris of provincial administration) abors, daflas and charak communities firmly and unitedly move today to create an autonomous unit for these tribes as per specific boundary given hereinafter as the said tribes are the uniformity in language, religion, culture and manners. Formation of autonomous unit preserve the oneness of assam in general.
South: The Brahmaputra River.
East: The Nizemghat (Sadiya).
West: Subonsiri river towards Baginodi in a straight line to meet the Aka hills.
Resolution 3: The autonomous unit shall be consisting of one district legislative council represented by those tribes with their elected representatives. All administrative functions shall be confined within the indigenous Assamese people shall be treated as minority community with their right to vote and shall deserve right of citizenship.
Resolution 4: The council shall elect four representatives to the legislative council of the states.
Resolution 5: All revenues including land revenue shall be remained with district council with the approval of the legislative assembly, if necessary.
Resolution 6: No outside non tribal shall have the right to settle or claim land property to be there, no business be allowed to run by them without the prior permission of council.
Resolution 7: In case of distribution of land amongst the plains Miri-Abors and Hill-Miri-Abors, the existing inner line shall be treated as the boundary for hills and plains and there shall be equal right to settle in hills and plains for the people of hills and plains and vice versa.
THE SECOND PHASE OF THE MOVEMENT:
Though denied their right of self rule, the Misings were also carried away by the euphoria of end of British Colonial rule and hoped for better treatment under independent India. The extended full supports to the congress. They hoped that their territories would be restored, their right over their ancestral land and forest would be back and they would again be free to unite their community and territory and would be able to live as a distinct people with pride. With such hopes and dreams they kept their autonomy demand in the cold storage for almost two decades. But their hopes and dreams got shatterd very last. The Mising people exhibited their first aspiration to live as one people by forming “Misings Agom Kcbang (Mising Language Society)” in 1972 and launching a movement for preservation, development and recognition of their language.
The Mising educated youths and students played a leading rule in organising the Mising community. Till this time,There was no common Mising students organisation covering the whole of Mising inhabited areas. The first missing Student body was formed in 1933 named as Asom Miri Chatro Sonmilon. This was renamed as North Bank Mising Students Union after independence. In 1951, Murkongselek Mising Students Union was formed and 1959 saw formation of South Bank Mising Students Union. All these groups were united in 1971 by forming Assam NEFA Miri Chatro Sonmilon. In 1974, this sonmilon was renamed as Assam Arunachal Mising Students Union. The next session of the union was held in 1978 at Dergaon and the name was again changed to All Assam Mising Students union. The next session was held in September,1982 at All Assam Miri High School, Matmora, Dhakuakhana and it was in this session that an unanimous resolution was passed to demand autonomy for the Misings under the provision of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution. Finally, in the session held on 22, 23 and 24 February, 1985 at Jengraimukh, majuli the union was permanently named as “Takam Mising Porin Kcbang (all missing students union)” and a popular mass movement was launched on the Autonomy demand.
THIRD PHASE OF THE MOVEMENT:
As the autonomy movement grew stronger and popular, a new batch of young political leaders emerged out of the community and they soon developed differences with the existing old generation leadership of “Mising bane Kcbang”, the so-called parent body of the community. Most of the leaders of ‘Mising Bane Kcbang’ belonged to the rulling political partys and therefore, they did not supports the autonomy movement. In this political polarisation of the community, all other missing organisations took the side of pro-autonomy movement and walked out of the 31st general conference of the ‘mising bane kcbang’ held at bodoti in lakhimpur district in 1992. All the organisations jointly announced ‘social boycott’ of ‘Mising Bane Kcbang’ and a convening committee was formed immediately to form a new broad platform to organise the Mising people in supports of Autonomy demand. Later, in February, 1993, ‘Mising Mimag kcbang (Mising Action Committee) was formed at a Mising National Convention held at Jonai in Dhemaji district. Democratic agitational programmes, such as Bandh, picketing, mass mobilisation started.
Considering the growing popularity of the Autonomy movement, the Govt. Of Assam led by late Hiteswar Saikia announced grant of autonomy to the Misings and invite Takam Mising porin Kcbang (TMPK) and Mising Mimag Kcbang (MMK) for negotiation. The Govt. Gave a written proposal to create an autonomous council named as Mising Autonomous Council (MAC), which said that:
1. There shall not be any definite boundary and compact area for the MAC.
2. Revenue village having 50% or more Mising population would be identified and included unto the MAC.
3. The MAC will not have any legislative power; it will have only executive powers on 34 subjects enlisted under 11th schedule of the constitution of India incorporated after the 73rd amendment.
4. Fund to the MAC would be provided only from the tribal sub-plan of the state.
5. The MAC would be created under a state Act and not under any provision of the constitution.
Nine rounds of discussion were held between the Government of Assam and the leadership of TMPK and MMK. The TMPK-MMK insisted that ‘autonomy without boundary’ was an absurd proposition and was not acceptable. They also objected to the creation of 50% Mising population in a revenue village for identification and inclusion into proposed MAC. The TMPK-MMK strongly demanded that the existing ‘tribal belt & Blocks’ and the tribal sub-plan areas in Mising dominated areas should be included into MAC and that the MAC should be provided with powers and function similar to Bodoland Autonomous Council. But, the Assam Govt of congress-I party refused to concede to divide the Mising people. Overnight, a fake organisation named ‘Mising Autonomous deemed Committee (MADC)’ was launched with full patronisation of the Govt and put into dirty fight against the TMPK-MMK. Simultaneously, the Congress-I took up a plan to revive the ‘Mising Bane Kcbang (MBK)’ to use it against the struggling missing people. The MBK and MADC agreed to accept the boundaryless farce Mising autonomous council and organised the 32nd general conference of the Mising bane Kcbang on 21, 22, and 23 april , 1995 at bilmukh under dhakuakhana PS and invited the chief Minister of Assam for formal declaration of the council. This move sparked strong resentment among the Misings and TMPK-MMK vowed to resist the conference. A 60 hour Bandh was called. On the first day of the conference,about five thousand Mising people took out a heroic protest march at Bilmukh and when the procession was advancing towards the venue of the conference to register their protest , CRPF and Assam Police opened indiscriminate fire killing two person namely martyr Mahananda (Boga) Medok and Martyr Noresh Taid. Hundreds were injured. As the 60 hour Bandh continued, police atrocities started in almost every Mising inhabited areas. Thousand people came out to the streets to protest. At Gogamukh in dhemaji district, police brutally lathicharged on hundreds of woman picketers and a young girl named Anjana Pegu was wounded by bayonet. She later succumbed to her injury. The Band turned violent. Roads were blocked by felling trees, bridge were burnt down and markets were ablaze. Amidst such wide spread and strong protest, late Hiteswar Saikia, the then chief Minister of Assam came to Bilmukh by a chopper and addressed a very thinly attended meeting. He however, could not venture to announce his boundaryless autonomy.
Police repression continued and more than 500 activists of TMPK-MMK including all the top leaders were jailed and when most of the TMPK-MMK leaders were in jail, the Govt signed a so called Mising Accord on 14 july, 1995 with MADC and MBK. Later, the Govt. Constituted and interim Mising Autonomous Council headed by a person named Laxminath Pangging known for his closeness to the Chief Minister. After some month, he was replaced by one Mr. Doneswar Modi, a Congress-I leader from Jonai.
The TMPK-MMK continued their democratic agitation against the farce boundaryless Mising Autonomous Council and successfully prevented the leaders of MADC and MBK from entering into Mising Villages. The Mising villagers gave punishment to many persons involve with MADC and MBK by imposing social boycott, shaving of head and parading through village. At many places, violent clashes took places between supports of TMPK-MMK and MADC-MBK.
MISING AUTONOMY DEMAND AND ELECTION:
The Mising people, for the first time in their history, participated in the general election of 1996 with the demand for Autonomy. The MMK fielded candidate in Jonai, dhemaji, dhakuakhana, majuli, lakhimpur and bokakhat assembly constituency and in Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency. However, it could not win a single seat. The Mising people are not in majority in these constituencies excepting Jonai. As they contested the election under the banner of MMK, a Mising-non-Mising polarisation took place resulting in defeat of the minority Misings. The MMK polled more than one lac votes in these constituencies.
ANOTHER PHASE OF NEGOTIATION:
After the 1996 election, Asom gono parishad came to power in Assam defeating Congress-I. The TMPK-MMK, with the strength of one lac peoples supports, demanded immediate dissolution of the interim MAC and holding a fresh talk for a permanent solution of the autonomy issue. But AGP failed to recognize the democratic aspiration of the missing people and neglected issue. Meanwhile, the matter of dissolution of the interim council got mired in a legal battle in guwahati high court. Finally, on 10,march, 1998, the guwahati high court vacated a stay order issued earlier against dissolution and Assam govt dissolve the interim MAC on 11 march, 1998 following which negotiation started with TMPK-MMK for an acceptable solution. After a series of discussion, the TMPK-MMK along with TMMK have signed a memorandum of understanding with Assam govt on 28 april, 1998. The MoU, describes the previous MAC as farce, ineffective and defective. The major points of agreement are:
1. The govt of assam will freshly review the whole MAC act by constituting a high power review committee and the committee will submit its reports within three months.
2. the MAC act will be soon amended after submission of the reports.
3. all the police cases pending against TMPK-MMK members relating to the autonomy agitation will examined for withdrawal.
4. charges of corruption and misappropriation of public money by the functionaries of the previous council will be investigated and action would be taken against those found guilty.
5. election to the Mising autonomous council will be held within five months after review and amendment of the act.