Tribals want ADCs replaced

SHILLONG, NOV. 27. The `Syiems', tribal chiefs of the Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, are now demanding that traditional customs and usages of Khasis be legally recognised and given a constitutional safeguard. These are not covered by Article 13(2).

Mr. Laborious Manik Syiem told mediapersons here that the Syiem in Dorbar had already submitted a memorandum to the National Commission for review of the Constitution. The ``Federation of Khasi States'' also met members of the Commission here on October 23.

But the Syiem and other leaders of the Dorbar were unable to specify the ``Khasi tribal customs and usages'' to be codified. Mr. W. R. Kharkongwar, a retired civil servant, who is a member of the Drafting Committee set up by the Dorbar, said the list was being prepared and the exercise might take a year to complete.

What the Syiems are really demanding but unwilling to declare is that they want the Autonomous District Councils, set up under the Sixth Schedule, to be scrapped and formally replaced as the ADCs ignore the Syiems.

A Syiem is elected by an electoral college constituted by members of certain clans in his territory. But Syiems can be and have been removed by the ADCs. They do not want to antagonise the ADCs for fear of being removed on flimsy grounds.

At the time of Independence, the Khasi Hills district had two types of administration, consisting of ``British areas'' under the administrative control of the Deputy Commissioner and 25 Khasi ``States'' ruled by Syiems, Lyngdohs, Wahadadars and Sardars, which were considered ``semi-independent states''.

Under the Cabinet Mission ``Memorandum on States, Treaties and Paramountcy'' presented to the Chamber of Princes on May 12, 1946, with the transfer of power British paramountcy was to end and the rights surrendered by the States to the power were to return to the States.

An important section of Khasi leaders, led by J. J. M. Nichols Roy, proposed that the Khasi States and British areas from all parts of the district form the ``Khasi-Jaintia Federated State'' which should be ``connected'' to Assam and be represented in the Legislature. But ``no legislation of the Assam Legislature could directly apply'' to the federated State which would have a ``National Council'' of its own and subjects including land ``should remain under the power of their legislative body.'' The Syiems now want the status quo ante restored and the District Councils dissolved.