Constitution and reorganization  of Assam

Constitution and reorganization  of Assam

The British took over Assam in 1826 to make the eastern frontier of the British possessions secure, although the architect of the British possession of the extended north-east frontier, David Scott, initially was against the permanent occupation of Assam. But the scene completely changed with the discovery that the tea plant was a native of Assam. The realisation that the plant was genuine tea and capable of manufacture into a marketable item and later discovery of open seams of coal and presence of petroleum and other minerals made Assam attractive to British capital investment in progressive measure. The initial hesitancy . vanished and Assam was finally annexed in 1838. Assam underwent rapid transformation after this and British investment increased. With the final annexation of Assam, the Government of India assumed as successor government, the paramountcy over the north-east Hills. Like the Ahoms, the Supreme Government pursued a policy of non-interference tempered by conciliation and display of force. During the period of 1826 and 1874, the British authority extended over the hills bordering Assam and Barak valley.

During this period, relations with the hills had been handled on an adhoc basis by the officials in the neighbouring areas. The degree of authority exercised by the British on becoming the paramount power had varied in different areas and in reference to different races of hillmen. The object of British policy towards the hills had been conciliation and penetration giving the northeast India a new territorial and administrative unity.Constitution and reorganization  of Assam

With the coming of the Constitution of India in 1950, the tribal areas of north-east India were placed in two parts, A and B in the Table appended to the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. In the part A,the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District, the Garo Hills District, the Naga Hills District, the North-Cachar Hills and the Mikir Hills District were placed. The North-East frontier Tracts including Balipara Frontirer Tract, Tirap Frontier Tract, Abor Hill and Mishmi Hills and the Naga Hills Tribal Areas were categorised in Part B . Part A areas formed the Autonomous Districts and were administered by the Government of Assam with the Autonomous District Councils established in 1952 except in Naga Hills District. The Governor of Assam continued to administer at his discretion Part B areas as Agent to the President of India. The Naga Hills were restive and refused the scheme under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. In 1954, after minor territorial adjustments, the North-East Frontier Tracts with Abor Hills and Mishmi Hills Districts were transformed into NorthEast Frontier Agency, under Ministry of External Affairs. Subsequently in 1965, the Ministry of Home Affairs took charge of it. The Lushai Hills District became Mizo District in 1954.

The Government of India Act, 1935 and the Constitution of India kindled the aspirations of middle class leadership of the Brahmaputra valley for an expanded Assam. The inner contradiction of the emerging society, the emergence of new middle-classes in the Hills, ethnic and linguistic assertions, the lack of sensitivity for equitable economic development in the leadership led to the break up of Assam as it stood on the coming of Constitution of India which released new social forces all over the north-east. Insurgency for ethnic identity broke the fragile administrative unity believing that homelands would give better chance in the changing geopolitical scenario. History is a hard taskmaster. Like nature, it asserts itself. Reorganisation is a continuous process. So, further reorganisation of north-east, within the broad frame of the Union of India cannot be ruled out.

With the partition and independence of India in 1947, the district of Sylhet (excluding the Karimganj subdivision) was ceded to Pakistan (the eastern portion of which later became Bangladesh). Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950. In 1961 and 1962 Chinese armed forces, disputing the McMahon Line as the boundary between India and Tibet, occupied part of the North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh but then part of Assam). In December 1962, however, they voluntarily withdrew to Tibet.

Between the early 1960s and the early 1970s Assam lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders. In 1963 the Naga Hills district became the 16th state of India under the name of Nagaland. Part of Tuensang, a former territory of the North East Frontier Agency, was also added to Nagaland. In 1970, in response to the demands of the tribal peoples of the Meghalaya Plateau, the districts embracing the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills were formed into an autonomous state within Assam, and in 1972 it became a separate state under the name of Meghalaya. Also in 1972 Arunachal Pradesh (the North East Frontier Agency) and Mizoram (from the Mizo Hills in the south) were separated from Assam as union territories; both became states in 1986.

Communal tensions and violence remained a problem in Assam even after the four ethnic-based states were created. In the early 1980s, resentment among the Assamese against “foreigners”—mostly immigrants from Bangladesh—led to widespread violence and considerable loss of life. The antiforeign campaigns were spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union, which was led by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. Subsequently, disaffected Bodo tribal people (in Assam and Meghalaya) agitated for an autonomous state. They were joined by the militant United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which waged a vigorous guerrilla campaign for the outright secession of Assam from India.

In 1985 Mahanta helped form a new political party, the Assam People’s Council (Asom Gana Parishad; AGP), which won legislative elections in the state that year and formed a government with Mahanta as chief minister (head of government). There followed a period of greatly increased violence, which was attributed to the ULFA. When it was revealed that AGP members had forged direct links with the ULFA, the national government in 1990 dismissed Mahanta’s government. The Indian army subsequently undertook a series of military campaigns against the separatists (1990–91), and membership in the ULFA was made a criminal offense.

The AGP, which had struggled with internal dissension after being ousted from power in 1990, again took control of the state government in 1996. The party had campaigned on a platform calling for greater autonomy and self-determination in Assam, but it came to oppose the ULFA. However, after it was learned that the AGP government had recruited former ULFA members to kill family members of ULFA leaders, the AGP was voted out of office in the 2001 legislative elections. The ULFA and other separatist groups continued guerrilla and terrorist activities into the 21st century, and the government stepped up counterinsurgency operations. The group, however, also engaged in discussions with government officials, which resulted in the signing of a preliminary peace agreement in 2011.




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