Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)
Integration of the Tribals III
- On the whole certain positive developments in the tribal sphere have occurred since 1947.
- Legislation to protect tribal rights and interests, activities of the tribal welfare departments, Panchayati Raj, spread of literacy and education, reservations in government services and in higher educational institutions, and repeated elections have led to increasing confidence among the tribal people and greater political participation by them in the constitutional political processes.
- They are now insisting on a greater and more active political role for themselves, and acquiring increasing representation in different political structures and institutions.
- Above all, they are demanding a greater share in national economic development.
- Protest movements have sprung up among tribals out of their frustration with the lack of development and welfare. These are bound to produce positive results in time.
- Some of the protest movements have taken to violence, leading to strong state action against them.
- The growing tribal antagonism towards the non-tribal people or outsiders living in tribal areas has been another unfortunate development.
Integration of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura
- The tribes of north-eastern India, consisting of over a hundred groups, speaking a wide variety of languages and living in the hill tracts of Assam, shared many of the features and problems of the tribal people in the rest of the country .
- But their situation was different in several respects:
- For one, they constituted the overwhelming majority of the population in most of the areas they inhabited.
- Then, non-tribals had not penetrated these areas to any significant extent.
- The virtual absence of any political or cultural contact of the tribals in the Northeast with the political life of the rest of India was also a striking difference.
- The tribal policy of the Government of India, inspired by Jawaharlal Nehru, was therefore even more relevant to the tribal people of the Northeast. A reflection of this policy was in the Sixth Schedule of the constitution which applied only to the tribal areas of Assam. The Sixth Schedule offered a fair degree of self-government to the tribal people.
- Nehru’s policies were implemented best of all in the North-East Frontier Agency or NEFA, which was created in 1948 out of the border areas of Assam. NEFA was established as a Union Territory outside the jurisdiction of Assam and placed under a special administration. NEFA was named Arunachal Pradesh and granted the status of a separate state in 1987.
- While NEFA was developing comfortably and in harmony with the rest of the country , problems developed in the other tribal areas which were part of Assam administratively. The problems arose because the hill tribes of Assam had no cultural affinity with the Assamese and Bengali residents of the plains.
- Soon, resentment against the Assam government began to mount and a demand for a separate hill state arose among some sections of the tribal people in the mid-1950s. The demand gained greater strength when the Assamese leaders moved in 1960 towards making Assamese the sole official language of the state.
- In 1969, through a constitutional amendment, Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as ‘a state within a state’ which had complete autonomy except for law and order which remained a function of the Assam government.
- Meghalaya also shared Assam’s High Court, Public Service Commission and governor. Finally , as a part of the reorganization of the Northeast, Meghalaya became a separate state in 1972, incorporating the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia tribes. Simultaneously , the Union Territories of Manipur and Tripura were granted statehood.