The Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) today said that it will renew its demand to bifurcate Meghalaya in order to see a separate state for the Khasi-Jaintia people take shape.
The HSPDP has a relatively minor presence in the political scene with just two MLAs in the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly. This decision to renew its demand was taken at a central executive committee meeting.
In order to work towards a partition of Meghalaya, the party has been in contact with leaders of the Garo Hills State Movement Committee, which shares the HSPDP’s aims of bifurcating the state.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, party Acting President KP Pangniang, justified its demand for a Khasi-Jaintia state, saying that this was in line with the State Reorganisation Act of 1956, which created states anew out of the old British-era provinces.
A unified Meghalaya, with its non-indigenous name, means that people in the rest of the country do not know enough about the tribes of the state.
Pangniang noted that the Khasi and Garo languages are not recognised in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, adding, “We feel that we have not yet been recognised as Khasis and Jaintias even if we are one of the major tribes in the North East. To identify ourselves as indigenous people we need a separate state.”
He also claimed that if separate states are created, then access to government jobs will be easier; currently there is 80 percent reservation in the state civil service for Khasi-Jaintias and Garos split evenly.
Any such Khasi-Jaintia state should be created under Article 371 of the Constitution, Pangniang said, adding that this was a demand of ex-MLA Ardent M Basaiawmoit.
Article 371 provides for special provisions for certain states, including six in the North East – Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.