Explained: What is Article 244 (A), how will Assam benefit?
New Delhi, Mar 31: On Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a video message promised to implement Article 244 (A) of the Indian Constitution to safeguard the interests of the people in Assam's tribal-majority districts. "The BJP is attacking the culture and traditions of hill tribes by withdrawing Article 244(A). The upcoming Congress government will ensure that Article 244(A) is not diluted and all its clauses are implemented to protect the interests of indigenous people," said Rahul.
On April 1, the hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong go to polls in Assam.
What is Article 244(A) of the Indian Constitution?
It can be seen that Article 244(A) allows for creation of an 'autonomous state' within Assam in certain tribal areas. This article was inserted into the Constitution in 1969 by the then Congress government, it also has a provision for a Legislature and a Council of Ministers.
How is Article 244(A) different from the Sixth Schedule?
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution - Articles 244(2) and 275(1) - is a special provision that allows for greater political autonomy and decentralised governance in certain tribal areas of the Northeast through autonomous councils that are administered by elected representatives.
In poll-bound Assam, the hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi and the Bodo Territorial Region are under this provision. It can be seen that Article 244(A) accounts for more autonomous powers to tribal areas.
How did the demand arise?
A demand for a separate hill state arose around certain sections of the tribal population of undivided Assam in the 1950s. In 1960, several political parties of the hill areas merged to form the All Party Hill Leaders Conference, demanding a separate state. After prolonged agitations, Meghalaya gained statehood in 1972.
In the 1980s, this demand took the form of a movement with a number of Karbi groups resorting to violence. It soon became an armed separatist insurgency demanding full statehood.
While in February 2021, 1,040 militants of five militant groups of Karbi Anglong district ceremonially laid down arms at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the entire political discourse here still revolves around the demand for grant of 'autonomous state' status to the region.