Meghalaya's tribal leaders seek constitutional status

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New Delhi, Feb.5 : Meghalaya's three major tribal groups ave sought constitutional recognition of their tribal chiefs rom the central government.
Twenty representatives belonging to three predominant tribal groups from Meghalya-- Khasi, Jaintia and Garo-were in New Delhi o demand that their traditional institutions be integrated with onstitutional bodies.

The tribal representatives presented their demands before Mani hankar Aiyar, the Union Minister for Development of the north astern region (DONER) and Panchayatai Raj. They were invited by he Centre for the first time.

During the meeting that lasted almost half-an-hour, the tribal eaders urged the government to set up a party-less upper house or chiefs and rulers of the groups to meet the aspirations of heir community. They, however, failed to get any assurance from he Union Minister Mani Shankar Ayer.

Ayer said: "It is for them in Meghalaya to come to a conclusion mong themselves as to how they would like to weld their raditional system into the contemporary system."

One of the tribal representatives John F. Kharshing said: "We elieve in the democratic process, that's how we can solve it. very time we have a new memorandum. We have also met some eople, who have advocated their own idea." He said that the ribal leaders do not want to adopt the path of violence.

The Panchayati Raj Act that was passed in 1991 upholds reservation of the "traditional systems of self-government, akin o Panchyati Raj" in the three states of the north-east - agaland, Meghalya and Mizoram.

The tribal leaders want the "roles, functions and esponsibilities of the indigenous tribal chiefs be defined in he Constitution in the same way as the role of a village Sarpanch" or Village head has been defined in the Panchayati Raj ystem. By Sanjay Kumar


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