The Hill Area Development (HAD) Minister of Assam, Sum Ronghang has demanded either autonomy or adequate funds for development for Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, the two hill districts of the State. He has defended the demand for autonomy and not a separate State under the provisions of Article 244(A) of the Indian Constitution, claiming that his demand is justified since he was demanding only a State within a State and not a separate State. Article 244(A) of the Constitution deals with the “Formation of an autonomous State comprising certain tribal areas in Assam and creation of local Legislature or Council of Ministers or both therefor.” This is what (inter alia) Article 244 (A) has to say: “(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may, by law, form within the State of Assam an autonomous State comprising (whether wholly or in part) all or any of the tribal areas specified in [Part I] of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule and create therefor—(a) a body, whether elected or partly nominated and partly elected, to function as a Legislature for the autonomous State or (b) a Council of Ministers, or both with such constitution, powers and functions, in each case, as may be specified in the law.”
There are many provisions in our Constitution that are unfortunate because they are discriminatory and designed exclusively for one or two States. Article 244 is one of them. No one in India really needs a State within a State unless a particular State government is functioning so inefficiently and with such complete disregard of the aspirations of smaller ethnic groups that such ethnic groups have no option but to seek a State within a State. The government and the people of Assam must begin to appreciate that the urge of smaller ethnic groups to demand a State within a State is a consequence of our failure to give them the feeling that they are a part of us.