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Traditional chiefs pin hopes on Cong

Shillong, June 10: After a series of meetings with the central leaders of various political parties in Delhi, leaders of traditional institutions of Meghalaya are hopeful that the Centre will take steps to empower the local bodies.

A delegation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo chiefs led by their spokesperson John Kharshiing met Union minister for tribal affairs, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, Union minister of state for water resources, Vincent Pala, BJP MP and chairman of parliamentary standing committee for home and tribal affairs, Venkaiah Naidu, and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi from June 7 to 9.

Kharshiing, who is camping in Delhi, said in a statement issued here today that the delegation got positive response from the leaders on the need to empower traditional institutions of Meghalaya. During his meeting with the central political leaders, Kharshiing apprised them that the Khasi kings or chiefs had entered into a treaty through the instrument of accession and a conditional agreement with the Centre in 1947 seeking protection of their rights.

Over 25 traditional chiefs from 25 Khasi states, individually and collectively under the Federation of Khasi states, signed the instrument of accession and annexed agreement with the Centre on condition that special provisions to safeguard their customary and social rights of their unique partyless institutions with “a recall electoral process” be incorporated into the Constitution. The Centre is yet to recognise the powers of the Khasi rulers especially in relation to the customary rights, including land, forest, water, revenue, and mineral rights.“The laws enacted by Parliament has come into conflict with several rights of the Scheduled Tribes and this constitutional anomaly needs to be corrected at the earliest,” Kharshiing said. These institutions if further empowered will ensure better governance at the grassroots level, he added.