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Tribes in Assam hill district seek separate autonomous council

  • Published
    11th Jan, 2023
Context

A forum of ethnic communities excluding the Dimasa, the largest, has iterated its demand for carving a separate autonomous district out of the erstwhile North Cachar Hills district of Assam.

Background:

  • The demand was first raised after the North Cachar Hills district was renamed Dima Hasao on March 30, 2010, to allegedly stamp the authority of the Dimasa people.
  • The North Cachar Hills District Council in Assam was set up on April 29, 1952, under Article 244(2) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. It was later recognised as an autonomous council.
  • The resentment among the other communities intensified after the North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council passed a resolution to rename itself the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council with effect from April 26, 2022.
  • There are 13 tribes that constitute about 71% of the district’s total population in the district.
  • The major tribal groups in descending order of population are Dimasa, Kuki, Zeme, Hmar and Karbi.

Need for a separate forum:

  • The Indigenous People’s Forum representing the condition of non-Dimasa communities justified its demand for a separate autonomous district.
  • The forum has also been demanding a separate Assembly constituency for the indigenous groups.

The Dima Hasao district currently has one Assembly seat.

About

About the Dimasa Community:


  • The Dimasa society is tradition-bound and guided by customs.
  • A very outstanding feature of the Dimasa culture and an important aspect of their social relation is the existence of male and female clans.
  • The male clan is called Sengphong and the female clan is known as Jadi or 
  • Hence a Dimasa bears allegiance to both male and female clans.
  • There are forty male clans and forty-two female clans. 
  • Whether in marriage, religious practices, or rituals connected with death, the clans have a significant role to play.
  • Hence the clan plays an important part while fixing the marriage of a boy or a girl.
  • If they belong to the same male or female clan, they are not allowed to be married.  
  • Affiliation to one’s own respective clan is quite strong among the Dimasa.
  • That clan ties are important among the Dimasa can be understood from instances when the entire members of the clan take offence if any member of the clan is offended by someone from outside their clan.

What is the Sixth Schedule? 

  • According to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution, the Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in-
    • Assam
    • Meghalaya
    • Tripura
    • Mizoram
  • Passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, it seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal populations through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).
    • ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.

 Autonomous districts and regional councils:

  • Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region.
  • In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts –
  • three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram
  • one in Tripura
  • These regions are named the district council of (name of district) and the regional council of (name of region).
  • Each autonomous district and regional council consists of not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections. All of them remain in power for a term of five years.

The current governing structure:

  • Fifth Schedule: The Frontier State bordering Bhutan, China and Myanmar is under the Fifth Schedule that “does not provide special rights for the indigenous communities” unlike the Sixth Schedule.
  • Sixth Schedule: The Sixth Schedule currently includes 10 autonomous district councils in four north-eastern States — Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • Article 371 (A): Nagaland, on the other hand, is governed by Article 371 (A), which says that no Act of Parliament shall apply in the State in several areas unless the Nagaland Assembly so decides by a resolution.
    • These include the administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
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