Shillong, Aug. 14: It has been 66 years since India tasted freedom and 65 years since 25 Khasi states have been trying to get a special place in the country’s Constitution.
On August 17, 1948, the conditional treaty, Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement, which was entered into with the Khasi states, was accepted and signed by C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India. But the commitment of incorporating the agreement in the Constitution is yet to see the light of day.
The Constituent Assembly provided the Sixth Schedule instead and now, even the Sixth Schedule is in the process of being amended by Parliament.
The Federation of Khasi States call the failure to incorporate the agreement a “constitutional anomaly” and for over two decades now, they have been demanding thatthe Centre rights the wrong.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first deputy Prime Minister of India, had visited Shillong on January 1, 1948 to discuss the agreement, which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had wanted to be tailored in a manner that would suit the indigenous people of the Khasi states.
An October 13, 1947, letter from Nehru to Patel says it all. The letter, which was dug out in New Delhi last year, has now given more steam to the tribal chiefs to continue their fight for space in the Constitution.
“These tribal people have given us a lot of trouble in the past and we have repeatedly given them many assurances. If there is a feeling in these areas that we are going back on what we have agreed, there is bound to be difficulty and trouble. I feel that the question is wholly different from any other applicable to states generally because of the tribal position,” Nehru had told Patel in the letter.
Nehru had shot off the letter after it came to his knowledge that the states department (the present Union ministry of home affairs) had turned down the agreement arrived at between Sir Akbar Hydari, governor of Assam, and the Khasi states. He had suggested a new instrument of accession, in keeping with what most states had signed.
“The letter shows the importance attached by the first Prime Minister of India to the demands, and especially the agreement arrived at between Hydari and the 25 Khasi states, and urging Patel to give favourable consideration to the conditional accession and agreement. Another aspect of importance was that Nehru had emphasised the importance of fulfilling the national commitment made to the Khasi people,” Federation of Khasi States spokesperson John F. Kharshiing said.
He said the federation would pursue the matter with the Centre with this latest discovery of the assurance given by Nehru.
Talking about the constitutional anomaly, Kharshiing said, “On the one hand, the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement had expressed the commitment of the Centre towards constitution of the Khasi states assembly or council of the chiefs while on the other, the non-fulfilment of such commitments has resulted in the contradiction of laws, acts, and rules vis-à-vis the customary laws of the tribes of Meghalaya.”