Autonomous Council Demand by Rengma Nagas

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    Recently, the Rengma Naga Peoples’ Council (RNPC) in Assam has written to the Union Home Minister demanding an autonomous district council for Rengma Nagas.

    Background

    • This demand comes amid a decision by the Central and the State governments to upgrade the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) into a territorial council.
    • The RNPC President highlighted the issue that the government was on the verge of taking a decision without taking them on board.

    Key Highlights

    • RNPC has been writing to the governments for many years about the issue highlighting why it wants a different council.
    • Demographic Reasons
      • The KAAC population is around 12 lakh and out of that, the Karbis constitute only 3 lakh.
      • The remaining are non-Karbis, including the Rengma Nagas, whose population is around 22,000.
      • Rengma Nagas speak different dialects and do not know the Karbi language of Karbi Anglong.
    • Historical Reasons
      • Karbis have no history in the Rengma Hills and people who are presently living in Rengma Hills are from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
        • The Karbis, who were known as Mikirs till 1976, were the indigeneous tribal people of Mikir Hills.
      • The Rengma Hills and Mikir Hills (now Karbi Anglong) were two separate entities until 1951 and the existing Rengma Hills was eliminated from the political map and replaced with Mikir Hills.
      • Rengma Hills have witnessed aggressive influx of outsiders for vested interests.
        • Rengmas were the first tribal people in Assam to have encountered the British in 1839.
        • During the Burmese invasions of Assam in 1816 and 1819, Rengmas gave shelter to the Ahom refugees.
      • Rengma Hills were partitioned in 1963 between Assam and Nagaland at the time of creation of Nagaland State.

    Sixth Schedule and Autonomous Councils

    • The 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states.
    • This special provision is provided under Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution.
    • The 6th schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state and have been constituted as autonomous districts, with a degree of autonomy within the State Legislature.
    • Provisions have been made for the creation of the District Councils and regional councils for the exercise of the certain legislative and judicial powers. However, their jurisdiction is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
      • They have powers to form courts to hear cases where both parties are members of Scheduled Tribes and the maximum sentence is less than 5 years in prison.
      • They also have powers to levy taxes, fees and tolls on buildings, land, animals, vehicles, boats, entry of goods into the area, roads, ferries, bridges, employment and income and general taxes for the maintenance of schools and roads.
    • The Acts of Parliament or the State Legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
    • Each district is an autonomous district and the Governor is vested with powers regarding the councils. He/she, by a public notification, may:
      • Include or exclude any new area.
      • Create a new autonomous district.
      • Define the boundaries of any autonomous district.
      • Increase or decrease the area of an existing autonomous district.
      • Alter the name of any autonomous district.
    • District Councils and Regional Councils
      • District Councils: There shall be a District Council for each autonomous district consisting of not more than thirty members, of whom not more than four persons shall be nominated by the Governor and the rest shall be elected on the basis of adult suffrage.
      • Regional Council: There shall be a separate Regional Council for each area constituted an autonomous region.
      • Each District Council and each Regional Council shall be a body corporate by the name respectively of the District Council of (name of district) and the Regional Council of (name of region).
    Current Autonomous District Councils

    • Assam: Bodoland Territorial Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council.
    • Meghalaya: Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
    • Mizoram: Chakma Autonomous District Council, Lai Autonomous District Council and Mara Autonomous District Council.
    • Tripura: Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.

    Source: TH