By Debananda Medak
GUWAHATI: Reiterating its demand for a separate autonomous district with a separate autonomous council, the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum (IPF), an umbrella body of the non-Dimasa indigenous communities settling in Dima Hasao district on Wednesday said, “Separate us from the radical Dimasas.”
Significantly, the IPF has intensified its demand right after the Assam Council of Minister’s decision to upgrade the Bajali sub-division as a new district. The Assam cabinet upgraded Bajali sub-division of western Assam’s Barpeta district as the 34th district of the state on August 10.
IPF secretary L. Hlima Keivom said, “We have been demanding for bifurcation of the Dima Hasao, erstwhile North Cachar Hills District – one for the Dimasas and the other for the Non-Dimasas with separate autonomous councils for the last one decade, not out of ambition but, out of compulsion.”
Keivom said, “We feel badly suppressed and neglected due to the fact that even after the creation of several districts in the state, our demand is yet to be given due consideration by the government of Assam.”
Taking reference of the state government’s announcement for the creation of a separate district bifurcating the Dima Hasao district while placing the budget for the 2019-2020 sessions, the IPF Secretary said, “To our disappointment, no further steps have been taken up by Dispur to materialize the announcement even after one and half years.”
The Dima Hasao district is inhabited by indigenous communities like the Zeme Nagas, Hmar, Karbi, Khasi, Biate, Hrangkhol, Vaiphei, Rongmei, Khelma, Mizo and a host of non-tribal population.
The Dimasas constitute 34% of the total population. However, occupies 60.71% of the seats in the NCHAC.
“The disproportionate representation has led to the dominance of Dimasas in the NCHAC and is clearly reflected in the biased recruitment to jobs and allotment of developmental facilities under NCHAC,” Keivom said.
According to the IPF, during the inception of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council in 1952, there were 12 members – sixth from the Dimasas and six from the non-Dimasa communities, in the Council.
“There was a gentlemen agreement among the then political leaders to the effect that if the Chief Executive Member of the Council was from the non-Dimasa, the MLA from the district would be from the Dimasa and vice-versa. Accordingly, a Hmar gentleman Late C.H. Khothlang (non-Dimasa) became the first CEM of the Council and a Dimasa gentleman Late J.B. Hagjer became the first MLA from the district. However, this agreement was sidelined and Late C.H. Khothlang remains the first and last CEM of the Council from the non-Dimasa to this day,” Keivom added.
Notably, on August 12, the IPF also submitted a memorandum to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal highlighting its long-standing demand.