Khasi ‘kingdoms’ to revisit 1947 agreements

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Guwahati, April 26: A federation of 25 Himas or Khasi kingdoms that have a cosmetic existence today, plan to revisit the 1948 agreements that made present-day Meghalaya a part of India.
The revisiting in consultation with legal experts and academicians is aimed at safeguarding tribal customs and traditions from Central laws in force or could be enacted, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to bring in if voted to power again.
“Yes, the bill is one of the factors in our move to strengthen the Federation of Khasi States that were ruled by a Syiem (king-like head of a Hima). But things are at an initial stage. We will be holding a series of meetings to come to a conclusion on how best to insulate our customs and traditions from overriding central rules and policies,” Pynshngaiñ N Syiem, chairman of the Advisory Legal Committee to discuss the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement, told The Hindu from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on Thursday.
Syiem is also the chairman of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
The 25 Khasi states had signed the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement with the Dominion of India between December 15, 1947, and March 19, 1948. The conditional treaty with these states was signed by Governor General Chakravarty Rajagopalachari on August 17, 1948.
The Khasi states, though, did not sign the Instrument of Merger unlike most other states in India.
“During the British rule, the Khasi domain was divided into the Khasi states and British territories. At that time, the British government had no territorial right on the Khasi states and they had to approach the chiefs of these states if they needed land for any purpose.
After independence, the British territories became part of the Indian dominion but the Khasi states had to sign documents beginning with the Standstill Agreement that provided a few rights to the states,” Syiem said.
Though the Constitution has provided self-rule to a considerable extent through tribal councils, there has been an increasing demand for giving more teeth to the Khasi states.
(Courtesy: The Hindu)