IoA a ‘national commitment’
By John Kharshiing
At the dawn of Independence starting from 1933 onwards leading to the ultimate end of British rule from 15 August1947, the Ministry of States, under took a series of integration, accession and merger negotiations with the 565 princely states of British India and includes numerous negotiations in Raj Bhavan, Shillong, between the Governor of Assam and the leaders of the Federation of Khasi States from the Twenty Five Khasi States Federation of Khasi States.
The negotiations led to the signing of three versions of standstill arrangements known as Instruments of Accessions (IOA) that were negotiated between the Ministry of States and the Twenty Five Khasi States individually and collective as the Federation of Khasi States.
The first Instrument of Accession or standstill arrangement was a draft agreement / standstill arrived at on in Shillong on 16 July 1947 in a meeting between the Governor of Assam and the Chiefs of the Khasi States wherein among other matters clause 1 read as follows “The Dorbar of the Federation of Khasi States which include all the Khasi States as members agree that with effect from the 15th August 1947 all existing administrative arrangements between the Province of Assam and the Indian Union and the Khasi States shall, with the exceptions noted below, continue in force for a period of two years until new or modified arrangements have been arrived at between the respective authorities concerned” “ further in this draft agreement arrived at with the Governor of Assam another paragraph under Administrative Powers read as follows “The Federation of Khasi States together with the British India Khasi Territory should form an autonomous unit whose relationship with the Province of Assam would be determined by agreement”
On the same day Governor of Assam Akbar Hydari, forwarded the draft agreement to SardarVallabhbhai Patel, Member of Council, i/c Ministry of States, (refer letter dated 16 July 1947) stating quote “ the agreement provides for a standstill arrangement of two years or until new agreements are reached, in all subjects (education, police etc,.) except judicial, excise, forests and land and water rights. The standstill period will give us leisure to arrive at satisfactory arrangements regarding many rather complex questions including the position of the Shillong Administered Area”.
The letter of Governor Akbar Hydari further states “In regard to legislation the way has been left open if the Province and the States agree for the latter to send representatives to the Assam Assembly”.
All the 540 odd Princely States signed the Instrument of Accession followed with the Instrument of Merger, while the Twenty Five Khasi States refused to sign the Instrument of Merger, archival records reveal of threat and intimidation to pressure the Khasi States Chiefs to merge however the Khasi States stood their ground and to the very end refused. Hence on signing the Instrument of Merger all the princely states lost their identity while Khasi States till date are very much alive.
Finally on 17 August 1948, Shri. C Rajagopalachari, Governor General of India signed and accepted the conditional Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement with the Federation of Khasi States.
With this agreement the Khasi States initiated the formation of the Khasi States Constitutional Assembly. They conducted elections and it was an Assembly of 87 members (25 Chiefs, 54 elected representing the various Khasi States based on population, 8 Nominated -4men and 4women). The Khasi States National Assembly was inaugurated by the Governor of Assam on 29 April 1949.
Then there was no internet, and when the Federation of Khasi States came to know about the betrayal it was too late the political manipulations plotted by Assam gained the upper hand and the Khasi States were included in Assam “by description” in the First Schedule and within the jurisdiction of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
Any person with Constitutional knowledge will notice the Constitutional Anomaly that presently exist within the First Schedule of the Constitution of India.
Its is clear the Federation of Khasi States(FKS) as per the treaty terms of the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement (IOA& AA) of 17 August 1948 should have been a separate State since day one i.e 26th January 1950 and should have been placed in a special article 370-A. Similar to provisions provided for the IOA of Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the IOA & AA the signatories the traditional heads (Syiem, Lyngdoh, Sirdar, Wahadar) as per the Annexed Agreement would have representation by designation in that Assembly.
The FKS seeks to restore the Khasi States National Assembly inaugurated by Governor Assam on 29 April 1949. which consisted of (25 Rulers, 54 elected Hima wise based on population -for every 4000 one elected rep, 8 nominated (4men+4women) a total of 87 members. Technically they are the first MLA representatives of the Khasi people who sadly till date have not yet been honoured and remembered.
A provision in clause 4 of the Annexed Agreement provided for unification of other British areas and Elaka’s to join as units based on which the Jaintia National Conference(JNC) in a huge gathering in Jowai passed a resolution in Jowai on 1st Sept 1947 to join the FKS as units. The JNC sent their official resolution to the Home Minister of India with a forwarding letter on 4th September 1947. A copy of the same is also available in our archives.
Till such time our leaders wake up to the truth we will continue under the interim Sixth Schedule which in the words of Late Bah Gilbert Shullai, former Chief Executive Member, United Khasi & Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (UK&JHADC) and renowned author narrated to the undersigned “ the Sixth Schedule is a falsehood perpetrated on the Khasi People imposed by Assam since 1950”.
It can be termed the darkest hour for the Khasi(s) when the Assam Government forcefully locked up the office of the Federation of Khasi States, and the bank account seized and transferred to the establishment of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (UK&JHADC) during the period of 1950-1953.
Inspite of the opposition from the FKS against the moves of Rev JJM Nichols Roy for the forceful description of the Khasi States within the First Schedule – We must recall that even the opposed views of Rev JJM Nichols Roy to have a United Administration under the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council failed with notification and creation of the JHADC on 23 November 1964.
The demands for a separate United Khasi and Jaintia State should be ONLY under the terms of the IOA & AA under a special Article 370-A, some political parties have called for a Khasi & Jaintia State without having the constitutional clarity on the IOA & AA. Government of India is aware that a separate Khasi State can only be created on the basis of the treaty terms of the IOA & AA without which it will have no conclusion to the numerous legislative conflicts.
Incorporation of the IOA & AA into the Constitution of India would heal the 73 years of hurt caused to the Khasi people by the delay and create a separate Khasi States which would include Jaintia Hills and all the erstwhile British Areas, restore the unique Khasi States National Assembly (comprising of the Khasi Jaintia Chiefs and elected representatives, nominated men and women), and it would act as a speed breaker to all central acts /rules and regulations and can be extended or applied only after consent of the Khasi States National Assembly.
After the forceful description and imposition of the Khasi States into the Sixth Schedule and the Constitution of India, for the past many years generation of Khasis and Jaintia people were given a false narrative wherein the people were fed, told and brainwashed by our own leaders that the Sixth Schedule was “ka stieh ka jaidbynriew” the shield and protector of the people now we find it’s full of holes and the enlightened generation is beginning to term it as ” ka ktieh ba ngam ka jaidbynriew”.
Recall Bah PN Syiem former Chief Executive Member,(CEM), KHADC, said Para 12 has made Sixth Schedule weak and we cannot now protect the “jaidbynriew”. While in the same program Bah HS Shylla also former CEM said the Sixth Schedule is like a leaking water tank. They both made these statements during the District council day celebration on 27 June 2017 in State Central Library. But we still continue to live in self denial, no political party worth its name in Meghalaya dare to speak out the truth.
We notice that Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti both former Chief Ministers are clear on their stand on 370 for their J&K rights (recent attempt to abrogate Article 370 is under judicial scrutiny in the Supreme Court), Mr Thuingaleng Muiva, General Secretary, National Socialist Council of Nagalim-(NSCN-IM) and his people are clear on their Naga unique history, the Tamils are vehemently opposed to imposition of “Hindi” and will do what it takes to preserve their sacred Tamil language, similarly the Hindu community demolished and brought down the 464 year old Babri Masjid to reconstruct their rightful Ram Temple to restore their thousands years old history and respect, why then shouldn’t the Khasi States people restore their national solemn agreement, unique status and history within the Constitution of India?.
All the MLAs and MDCs of Khasi and Jaintia Hills should spare time to carefully read the FIVE treaty terms conditions of the people of the Khasi States agreed in the Annexed Agreement of the Instrument of Accession signed and accepted by Shri. C Rajagopalachari Governor General of India on 17 Aug 1948 (73yrs ago) which are so relevant in 2021.
Yes, Indian Government’s lack of understanding about the actual Khasi States unique status will always lead to continued legislative conflict because centers interest is to have one unified law, forgetting that India is a multitude of nations and is supposed to be a federal democratic constitution where the states were divided on linguistic lines – we can see delay in the inclusion of Khasi language in the Eighth Schedule, intentionally delay in the amendments of important resolutions from the Meghalaya Assembly these are a few glaring examples on the lack of understanding by the Government of India and the lack of time bound conflict resolution mechanisim.
It is natural for India to be continuously opposed to our rights as we are different we own our land and its natural resources and we have unique social customary laws unlike the rest of the country where land and its resources is owned by the Central Government.
The IOA & AA is a national solemn commitment yet to be fulfilled by the Government of India. It is a contract between two sides, while we kept our part of the bargain the central authorities have undermined these sacred commitments which continues to cause hurt to the indigenous Khasi people. In the present context today it will require a movement by all for election of sincere and informative Khasi & Jaintia representatives by the electorate to both the Meghalaya Assembly and to the Parliament so as effectively draw the attention of the Government of India and the United Nations.
(The author is advisor to and spokesperson for Federation of