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To,

Shri Tarun Gogoi
Hon’ble Chief Minister
Guwahati, Assam.

Subj: Prayer for the upgradation of the Barak Valley Hill Tribes Development Council into a Sixth Schedule District.

Sir,

We, the Barak Valley Hill Tribes Federation, on behalf of all the Indigenous tribal people of Barak Valley, comprising the three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi beg to approach you with the request for the creation of a separate autonomous district council as per the provision given under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India in order to protect our tribal customs and culture, literature and language and to develop ourselves. It is essential for our survival and very existence which is at stake from the vast majority non tribals who are politically and economically more powerful. These non-tribals are also numerically outnumbering us with the ever increasing of their population, non- migration and also unchecked influx of foreign nationals, multiplying year by year.

A brief history of tribals in the Barak valley is given under the following headlines for your kind consideration

HOME OF THE TRIBALS

Cachar, once a part of Kachari kingdom and tribal Chiefs, had been the homeland of various tribal groups from pre-colonial period. When the British colonial rulers extended their hegemony in this part of the country, they termed these areas as ‘tribal backward tract in 1921’. The undivided Cachar district having 3 (three) sub-divisions, namely Silchar, Karimganj and Hailakandi (now upgraded into three separate district) are again sub-divided into Cachar and North Cachar Hills of which North Cachar Hills was granted autonomous district council and the United Mikir Hills District Counci (now Karbi Anglong District) was also created in 1952 by extending the provision under the Sixth Schedule. At the same time, the Mizo District Council was also formed during the same year.

The tribal people who were left behind in Cachar district were given hill panchayat to run their own affairs. This hill panchayat opted for inclusion into Indian Union during the partition of India and Pakistan in pre-Independence period or we might have been included into East- Pakistan (now Bangladesh). We were granted jhum permission area under Jhumland Permission Act of 1955 and set apart from Land & Revenue Act. We paid hill house tax and dao tax to the government collected by hill mauzadars appointed by the district authority concerned.

Now, with the introduction of Panchayati Raj in Assam, the hill panchayat could not function and it ceases to exist. Gaon Panchayats are now collecting house tax and dao tax by issueing panchayat certificate and clearance certificate which lessen the importance of hill mauzadars and make them obsolete thereby steadily assimilating the tribal people into the new political structure without providing any constitutional safeguards.

Tribal Areas not included in Jhumland Permission Act were declared govt. khasland (U.S.F) and Reserve Forest, Inner Line Forest, etc., (as they have no land holding) bordering North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao Dist), Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura. Due to frequent evictions by Forest Department and other harassments, eg., late permission for clearing jhum and burning of jhum, production of crops fell considerably thereby causing economic deterioration in the tribal belt. Some villages were under forest villager or tangiya village. They are compelled to plant trees like teak (shigun) or gomari in their Jhum, thus limiting areas of jhum cultivation which is the main source of livelihood to the hill tribals.

ECONOMICS & DEVELOPMENT/EDUCATION ETC

Road communication, drinking water supply, power and electricity and education are very neglected subjects in tribal areas. Mortality rate (death toll) is very high due to absence of safe drinking water supply and medical facility. As there are no proper roads in these areas, it is not possible to reach hospital for medical treatment for the malaria infested jungle areas. Literacy or education also suffers to a great extent due to this factor. Very few tribal villages get power supply or electricity. Out of 600 tribal villages, maybe about 20-30 villages are perhaps electrified. Non-tribal teachers are reluctant to stay in backward tribal villages and hence, education also suffers. Some tribes, viz. Hmars and Mizo introduced their own medium in L.P and M.V Schools and employ tribals who are able to teach this medium and they are a bit improved, for the government of Assam recognized Hmar and Mizo medium of instruction vide govt. notification no. EMI/52/67/199 dated 23/03/69 in 1979. Other Tribals are still following Bengali medium of instruction.

LAND & OCCUPATION

The main livelihood of Barak valley tribals is jhumming or shifting cultivation. Every year, a portion of jungle is cleared usually in the month of January and February and burnt in the month of March/April thereby rice, pepper (chili), cotton and til (oil seeds) pumpkins, cucumber, mustard and other beans for curry are sown. Also ginger and turmeric, kachu (alu) are also cultivated and reaped from September/October according to season. Wet cultivation is also practised wherever possible and paddy is cultivated generally in summer and alu, beans, etc., in winter after harvesting.

Due to limited land for jhum, production decreases and horticulture crops like pineapple, bananas, betel nut, pan leaves and other fruits are also cultivated for sustenance of living steadily which were sold at market/local bazaar which are more or less 6 to 3 kilometers from the tribal village or to paikars or merchant who purchase from their village though at a much cheaper rate than market value.

People may wonder how the tribals lost their land to the non-tribals. This is mainly due to bad economic condition of the tribal people in the Barak valley. Most of them are below poverty line (BPL), their fellow tribal brothers in other states or areas have their own tribal government or council to run their own affairs and develop themselves in their own tribal pattern and customary practices. Here in the Barak valley, they are ruled by the non-tribals who do not know our ways of living and thinking. They try to develop us through their own way and we suffer. Many a time we therefore run in debt to our neighbours in times of difficulties, illness, cases in the court of laws on petty matters and we have to spend money we could not afford and at times mortgage our lands and could not recover them later and in this way lost our land. Also unproductive jhum cultivation makes us poorer and poorer and helps from government get delayed and the number of times for going to procure something from government is time wasting and loss of daily labour wages. So, steadily we are pushed into the frontier and jungles and unproductive hills ranges bordering other states. A policy is to be adopted by the government for checking of the transfer of land from tribals to non-tribals and restoration order for lost tribals lands are passed as it was passed in the case of Tripura.

BARAK VALLEY HILL TRIBES DEVELOPMENT

Barak Valley Hill Tribe Development Council with an annual grant of Rs. 5 (Five) Lakhs only is usually released for the upliftment of hill tribes in the field of social, economics, education, etc., vide Notification No. 740/BC/88/61/8 dated 18.3.96. The fund sanctioned for development is from welfare of plain tribal (WPT & BC) and hill tribe fund is not allotted for the hill tribes of Barak valley. Think how they are to develop hill tribes numbering more than 2(two) lakhs on so small amount like five lakhs of rupees.

This council is the result of an uprising of hill tribals of Barak Valley Under Cachar Hill People Federation. But the 417 cadres of volunteers/militant have not yet given any relief or rehabilitation till today which is unlikely in any revolutionary movement of Assam and other states of India.

Another Notification TAD/BC/513/10/50 Dt 22.1.11 for restructuring and strengthening of Barak Valley Tribe Development Council for maximum participation of Indigenous people of Barak Valley was issued and what is supposed for hill tribes is omitted and hill tribes so mentioned before are replaced for indigenous tribes of Barak valley and seats (quota) reserved in the earlier notification was also omitted thus making the constituents of the Council to be a controversial topic in the legal term of view.

It needs not be reiterated that the word indigenous tribe is ambiguous and controversial for the plain tribes/tea garden tribes or hill tribes as notified earlier. Hence, modification or corrigendum be made as in future the Barak Valley Hill Tribes Development Council is to be still functioning in the name of the Barak Valley Tribes Development Council in future also.

TRIBALS OF BARAK VALLEY

The tribals of Barak valley are falling into 3 (three) categories, viz., (a) plain tribals (b) hill tribals, (c) hill tribals without ST Status.

(a) The Barmans (Kacharis) are recognised Scheduled Tribes in Cachar.

(b) The Hmars, Mizo, Kuki, Khasi and Jaintias, Nagas, Chakmas and Kabis were recognized Scheduled tribes under Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribes Act 1950 vide Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India Notification No SRO 510 Dt 6-9-1950 but not Recognised in plain district due to Areas Restriction.

(c) The Bru (Reang), Tripura (including Kewa, Laitong, Gurjung, Gabeng) etc. Hrangkhol, Chorei, Sakechep, Saihriem, Aimol, Khawchung, Chiru, Vaiphei, Ranglong, Halam, Rupini (Barman). The lost tribe (clan) Rupini is a constituent of 12 Halam recognized in Tripura but opted for Barman here in Assam.

All the hill tribes are not recognised as Scheduled Tribes by the Govt. of India till date nor in Barak valley or plain district of Assam due to area restriction.

POLITICAL BACKGROUND OF TRIBAL

The tribals of Barak valley are now scattering in the three districts facing a very dark future in political field due to disadvantageous delimitation as Assembly Constituency, formation of wards in G.P level and even formation of G.P area as they fall in a disadvantageous position for contesting election. Though the total number of population of all tribals in the Barak valley may be over 2 (two) lakhs which is a qualifying number for one Assembly Constituency in Assam, even to become president of Gaon Panchayat may be a feat difficult to qualify in the present set up of area, ward or constituency which is clearly divide & rule setup by the people who are in power. Our fellow S.Ts have reserved seat in M.P/AC and Panchayat and the tribals of Barak Valley are not even enlisted or recognized except Barmans. One reserved S.T seat is a must or nominated M.L.A in the assembly to voice our plight and pitiful condition in Vidhan Sabha.

Demands of Autonomy Under Constitunal Protection of Sixth Schedule.

What the tribals of Barak valley have to do is to raise a demand for constitutional protection as envisaged under Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India in order to escape elimination of our very future existence and try to survive as respectable citizen by enjoying autonomous council for safeguarding our ethnic identity, custom, culture and heritage, and to administer and develop ourselves by our own self and try to prosper in our own style and time-tested values, and to get back all the land we have lost through mortgage through restoration policy like in other neighboring tribal ttates and try to enjoy our constitutional rights like other citizens of India.

OUR PRAYER

Therfore, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam is humbly prayed for to grant us protection under Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India bytaking up our case to the Prime Minister of India for the upgradation of the Autonomous Council in Barak Valley as soon as possible for our very existence and survival. We don’t want to be like Red Indians of America or Maoris of Australia or New Zealand and we shun violence of the like in Tripura. We only wish to enjoy our rights as envisaged in the Indian Constitution for survival.

Yours Faithfully

(SUMLAKSANG AMO) Gen. Secretary

(MALSAWMA) President

Barak Valley Hill Tribes Federation
HQtrs. Hmarkhawlien
P.O. Fulertol, Cachar Dist. Assam

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