DIMASA PROBLEM: A ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION
GUWAHATI, 10 NOVEMBER 2011

A Round Table discussion was held by Centre for Development and Peace Studies on the Dimasa problem in southern Assam. The government is now in talks with two factions of the Dimasa militant group, Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) – the Nunisa faction (DHD-N) and the Jewel faction (DHD-J). The Dimasas as well as the non-Dimasas living in the Dima Hasao district are apprehensive about the outcome of the talks. The round table aimed at bringing forward the views of the Dimasas as well as of the non-Dimasas on the issue. The round table was attended by various Dimasa and non-Dimasa organizations apart from intellectuals, academicians, retired bureaucrats, retired army personnel and journalists.
The main points raised during the round table were:

  1. Creation of a Territorial Council with provisions for direct funding by the centre.
  2. Integration of Dimasa-inhabited villages contiguous to Dima Hasao district.
  3. Creation of satellite development councils for Dimasa-inhabited villages not contiguous to Dima Hasao district.
  4. Talks should be held with both DHD factions together because there cannot be two agreements for the same problem.
  5. Reduction of arms in the district to ensure safety and security of common people.
  6. Protection of inter-state boundary that Dima Hasao district shares with Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya.
  7. Focus on accelerating the pace of development, especially infrastructure related to communication, education, health and police.
  8. Financial accountability of the Autonomous Council.
  9. To boost up people-to-people contact both within Dima Hasao and with communities in other districts of the state.
  10. Enhancing the role of civil society/NGOs in the process of peace-building, conflict resolution and boosting development.

The resolutions adapted by the round table are:
1) This Round Table calls upon the government at the centre and the state that the proposed peace agreement has to be time-bound, acceptable, honourable and able to fulfill hopes of the Dimasas as well as other ethnic groups who have been living in peace and harmony with the Dimasas for decades.
2) This Round Table calls upon the government and its peace negotiators to take into account the views and opinions of all dominant democratic groups and organizations, who have been pushing for the interest of the people of one of the most underdeveloped areas in the country, before signing a peace agreement.
3) The Round Table appeals to the government and the civil society to bring both the DHD factions together so that they can sit jointly in peace talks with the government in a bid to bring lasting peace in the area.
4) This Round Table calls upon the government to ensure that the interest of the Dimasa people living in areas outside the jurisdiction of Dima Hasao district and interests of non-Dimasas inside Dima Hasao be also considered while reaching a peace agreement.
5) This Round Table calls upon the government to make sure that the peace agreement comes up with a politico-administrative structure that enjoys maximum autonomy with provisions for devolution of powers upto grassroots level for better governance.
6) The Round Table calls upon the government to make sure that the peace talks to be concluded to the satisfaction of all within a fixed timeframe.
7) The Round Table is of the opinion that greater political representation is needed in the area and therefore calls upon the government to create a separate parliamentary constituency besides creating more assembly constituencies by bringing about delimitation of the existing assembly constituencies.

The full report is as follows:

SESSION -I  

Tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika by Arun Sarma (Padma Shri), President, CDPS

The first session begun with a tribute and a one minute silence in memory of eminent singer and lyricist, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, who breathed his last on 5th November, 2011.

Welcome and Introduction by Wasbir Hussain, Director, CDPS

Wasbir Hussain briefly introduced the Dimasa problem to the delegates present and laid down the main objectives of the round table conference.
Main objectives of the Round Table

  • To ascertain the different interpretation on the Dimasa problem.
  • To ascertain the people’s expectation from the government.
  • To ascertain the views of the people towards a peaceful solution acceptable to all groups and people of the area.
  • To adapt a set of resolutions so as to appraise the government on the views of the people.

Present scenario in Dima Hasao

  • Soon after the government’s decision to renaming of N.C.Hills district as Dima Hasao, protest from the non-Dimasas started.
  • Demands were raised for creating two separate districts, one for the Dimasas and another for all other indigenous tribes.
  • Government seems to be keen on providing a platform with constitutional sanction for the creation of a new politico-administrative structure where all the major stakeholders can join the electoral process, get the people’s verdict and administer their area with far more powers than the existing Autonomous Council.
  • Formation of a new militant group, Hill Tiger Force (HTF) in 2010, which is carrying out violent activities in the area.

Looking at the present scenario and analyzing the past, there are a few unresolved questions:

    • Government is talking with both the factions of DHD, but can there be two separate         peace agreements?
    • Will there be a fight for power between DHD-N and DHD-J after signing of an     agreement?
    • How can the sense of insecurity among the non-Dimasa groups in Dima Hasao be reduced?
    • How to reach at a solution acceptable to all?


       

    CDPS Director Wasbir Hussain addressing the round table participants

    1. Address by S.G.Kashyap, Northeast Correspondent, The Indian Express

      S.G.Kashyap started his talk with a brief history of the Dimasa problem. He said that it has been twenty years now that problems of autonomy to the Dimasas is lingering and nearly seven years that a ceasefire and peace talks are going on, but without any concrete resolution. The reason lies in our constitutional framework and attitude of the state towards the problem.

      He further said that if global perspective is to be seen then not a single tribe should be neglected in order to establish their identity in right perspective. The question is not only about the areas inhabited by the Dimasas but the adjacent areas also. The idea of. Dimaraji (a homeland for the Dimasas) does not represent single community but an amalgamation of Dimasas, non-tribals and non-Dimasa tribals. So, the proposed administrative set up should take all these into consideration so that the problems of the Zeme Nagas in Nagaland do not get repeated in case of Dimaraji.

    Main problems of the Dimasas.

    • Negligible parliamentary representation.(One MP in the Lok Sabha for Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts combined)
    • Lack of development and identity crisis among the Dimasas.
    • Lingering of government-initiated peace talks.
    • Growing apprehension of the non-Dimasas regarding formation of Dimaraji.

    Suggestions

      • Clear time line from the government to end peace talks and reaching an agreement.
      • Development road map to end corruption and insurgency.
      • Accountability of Government and autonomous council or the new administrative set up that would be created.
      • Concern on Human Development issues.
      • Political Parties need to provide clear stand on the issue.
      • Steps to be taken by democratic civil society organization for early resolution of the problem.
      • Empowerment of all the sections of the population.
      • De-militarization of the area for stability and permanent peace.
      • Socio-cultural exchange with other districts.
      Address by Dilip Diphusa, Advisor, All Dimasa Students’ Union

      He started his talk with the note that at one point of time there used to be a kingdom of the Dimasa consisting of four divisions – Hasao, Hawar, Dijua and Demra. Now, these areas should be included under proposed Dimaraji in order to fulfill the demands of the Dimasas. These four zones include places from Dimapur (now in Nagaland) to Nagaon. The king used to rule it together protecting their distinct identity. Dimasas have a distinct cultural practice and tradition and also religious practices. Dimaraji is a basic necessity and government has to think for permanent solution of the problem. Dima Hasao district is not accommodating their demands.

      Suggestions

      • Permanent solution of the Dimasa problem.
      • Formation of a permanent administrative set up with more districts.
      • Contiguous areas to be brought under this set up on the model of Bodoland Territorial Council in western Assam.
      • Creation of satellite development councils for Dimasa-inhabited villages not contiguous to Dima Hasao district.
      • Two DHD factions to be brought to consensus to have one concrete solution.
      • The apprehension of the non-Dimasas to be solved by incorporating their rights under the newly formed administrative set up.
      • Early and possible resolution to end the sufferings of the DHD groups in designated camps.
      Address by Uttam Bathari, Assistant Director, Indian Council of Historical Research (NE region centre)


      Uttam Bathari said that it is good if government provides a politico-administrative platform for participatory administration by all groups in the area. He said that non-Dimasa groups in Dima Hasao already have some reservation after de-limitation of the District Council. He further said that Dimasas will have no problem if non-Dimasas are given safeguards under the new politico-administrative structure that would come up after the agreement.

      Suggestions

      • Lapses in working of the Council have to be stopped for proper development and to          curb corruption.
      • Reformation of the working system has to be done. Top down approach of the      government and administration has to stop.
      • To accommodate the demands of the two factions, Dimasa Territorial Council is the          best option.

                                         
      SESSION-II: DISCUSSION
      In the second session, the participants of the roundtable expressed their views on the issue.

      Marami Maibangsa, Lecturer, Maibong College.

      Dimaraji stands for Dimasa and their rights .They are a sub-tribe of Kachari. They used to have kingdom from 13th century in Dimapur but shifted to Maibong and Khaspur in 1761. Dimaraji is a political definition which is related to politico-social and economic upliftment of the Dimasas.
      Why Dimaraji -

      •  It is their historical right.
      •  To restore their identity.
      •  To promote and preserve ethnicity of the Dimasas.
      •  For Socio-cultural empowerment and promotion.

      Main objectives behind formation of Dimaraji.

      • For peaceful bonding among all the communities residing in the area.
      • Formulate development strategies for co-existence of Dimasas and non-Dimasas.
      • To get Dimapur back.

       

      Suggestions

      • To debate and discuss for early solution of the Dimasa problem.
      • Request the intellectuals, politicians and reformists to meet at a common platform to bring lasting solution to the Dimasa problem.
      Najendra Nunisa, President, Dimasa Sahitya Sabha

      He forwarded his personal viewpoint regarding the Dimasa problem that has been lingering for 35 years now.
      Main Problems of the area

      • Xenophobia.
      • Corruption.

      Suggestions

      • Remove Xenophobia.
      • Bring Financial Transparency.
      • Ensure efficient Administration.
      • Amend of financial Rules.
      • Introduce Cultural Exchange Programmes
      Arun Halflongbar, Ex-CEM, N.C. Hills Autonomous Council

      Main Problems of the area

      • Sense of deprivation.
      • Lack of representation.
      • Separatist are from outside.
      • Dimaraji state may not solve all problems

      Suggestions

      • Direct fund allocation.
      • Creation of a Union Territory.
      • Delimit the assembly constituencies and increase the number of assembly seats from the area.
      Jebra Ram Muchahary, President, Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, North East Zone

      Suggestions

        • Creation of Dimaraji Territorial Council (DTC).
        • Seek an inclusive public opinion on creation of Dimaraji Territorial Council.
        • Create at least 4 districts in the DTC.
        • Evolve mechanism to ensure equal and effective participants of all communities in the council.
        • Provide maximum financial autonomy through direct funding mechanism to run the council.
        • Introduction of Inner Line Permit.
        • Evolve and introduce local people’s Security Volunteer Force with the surrendered militants to protect their own districts.
        • Constitute a Joint Monitoring Cell comprising of concerned competent government officials and civil society members for effective implementation and smooth governance of the council.
        • Allot more Assembly segments and a separate Parliamentary segment.

        S.M.Changsan, President, Kuki Political Affairs for Dimaraji Movement

        Main problems of the area

        DHD-J has not initiated talk with other tribes. Demands of DHD-N are authentic. DHD-J has stressed on changing the nomenclature of the district and has not made others demands public.

        Suggestions

        • Early solution of Dimaraji problem.
        • Separate administrative set up for Kuki tribe within the Dimaraji state.
        • Support for separate Dimaraji state.
        Col (retd) Manoranjan Goswami, Writer

        Suggestions

        • Separate state for Dimasas is not feasible.
        • Don’t talk separately with the two DHD factions.
        • Involve Civil Society group for discussion.
        • Getting Dimapur back is not feasible.
        • Territorial Council is the best option.
        • Inner Line Permit should not be introduced.
        • Identity of the Dimasas should be protected.
        • No need for a separate Security Force.
        • Development Council for an ethnic group outside a state is not feasible.
        • Deadline should be fixed for solution of the problem.
        • No separate Kuki districts.
        • Trends of Ceasefire should be stopped.
        H.N.Das, IAS (retd), Former Chief Secretary, Assam

        Suggestions

        • Development should be the key focus.
        • Political solution to the Dimasa problem is a must.
        • Satellite Council will create further problem.
        • Further Research on the problem is suggested.
        G.M.Srivastav, IPS (retd), Former DGP, Assam

        Suggestions

        • Civil Society should play more pro-active role and facilitate joint peace talks.
        • Need for widening or transforming the approach towards the historical rights of the Dimasas. They are not futuristic.
        • Thorough review of Army’s role is needed.
        • Reorganization of boundary of Dima Hasao is still possible.
        • Development Council within Territorial Council is possible.
        • Need to take care of the high religious conversions in the area.
        • Policing needs to be improved in the area.
        • An ethnic group based force cannot solve problems. Rather a combined police force can be worked out.
        • Provision for decentralized administration.
        • Overall development of the area.
        • Intellectuals should workout for workable strategies.
        • Ego-clash among ethnic group has to be worked out.
        • A little modernized approach should be adopted by the inhabitants of the area.
        Prasanta Rajguru, Executive Editor, Amar Asom

        Suggestions

        • Both the DHD factions should come forward for joint talks.
        • Reduction of Arms in the area.
        • Minimizing NSCN activity in the area.
        • Provisions for protection of non-Dimasas must be clear and not vague.
        • Power should not be centralized.
        • Re-writing Dimasa history on their own as they are still depending on history written by Sir Edward Gait.
        Shrutimala Duara, Lecturer, Handique Girls’ College, Guwahati

        Suggestions

        • Too much dependence on history for solving the current problem may not be appropriate.
        • Grievances of the non-Dimasas to be looked into.
        • No Satellite Councils, as it will increase the apprehensions of the non-Dimasas.
        • Inner-line permit is undesirable.
        I.S.Mumtaza, Reader, Department of History, Gauhati University

        Suggestions

        • Problem lies in the state configuration in modern India.
        • More autonomy should be granted to the Dimasa people.
        Hitmon Sarki, General Secretary, Joint Action Committee of Dimaraji Movement
        • Full support to the DHD-N group.
        N.J. Lal Khelma, President, Khelma Student Union.

        Suggestions

        • Fear among the non-Dimasas is without basis.
        • Full support to the movement for separate Dimaraji.
        • Prompt solution to the Dimasa problem.
        Satsang Hojai, Former Labour Commissioner, Assam

        Main causes of Dimaraji Movement

        • Politicization is the root cause behind Dimasa problem.
        • Sense of deprivation has led to the movement.
        • Lack of development is also responsible for Dimasa problem.

         

        Suggestions

        • Pace of development be speeded up.
        • Complete no to gun culture.
        • Overall Human development approach needed.
        Bankim Phonglo, General Secretary, Greater Guwahati Dimasa Kachari Association

        Suggestions
         

        • History of the Dimasas can’t be neglected while dealing with their problem.
        • Inner-line permit is not desirable.
        • Rights of the non-Dimasas should be specific in proposed Accord.
        • Civil society’s view should be respected.
        • Borders must be well fenced.
        • Consensus among various communities living in the area is important
        Mrinal Kanti Phonglosa, Working President, Dimasa People’s Council

         

        Suggestions

        • All Dimasas residing in various parts of Assam and the Northeast should be renamed under one nomenclature to preserve their identity.
        • Extremism in the area is a political creation and for permanent solution to the Dimasa problem political conspiracy has to be stopped.
        • Government should take initiative to bring both the faction of the DHD under one platform.
        • A completely new administrative set up has to be created to accommodate the aspiration of the Dimasas.

        SESSION-III: CONCLUDING REMARKS, WRAP UP AND RESOLUTIONS

        In the third session, the participants gave their concluding remarks on the issue.

        Jerrywell Tron, President , Jaintia Youth Federation.
        • Full support to the creation of Dimaraji.
        • Jaintias have no apprehension regarding the creation of Dimaraji.
        Chanchal Dasgupta, President, Non Tribal Organisation of proposed Dimaraji
        • Support the demands made by the Dimasas.
        • End the movement as soon as possible.
        • Adequate and specific provisions needed for the non-Dimasas in the proposed Dimaraji.
        Kashiram Nabensa,Vice President, Dimasa Sahitya Sabha, Lanka
        • Early solution to the Dimasa problem.
        • Proper inclusion of the non-Dimasas in proposed Dimaraji.
        Sumanta Bhattacharjee, Cachar
        • Support proposed Dimaraji.
        • Need for re-surveying the territory for proposed Dimaraji.
        • Clear demarcation of the rights and opportunities of the non-Dimasas in proposed Dimaraji.
        Santosh Rajbongshi, President, Koch Rajbongshi Samaj Unnayan Samiti of Cachar
        • Dimaraji must be granted.
        • Barak has medical and engineering college, Central University but nothing on this side. Government has failed in this regard.
        Bikash Malakar, President, Hojai Jila Schedule Caste Apex Body
        • Equality and security for all groups.
        • Joint peace talk of both the factions of DHD with the government.
        • Proper representation of the people from the area in the Parliament.
        Prafulla Hafilla, President, All Dimasa Students’ Union.

         

        • Development of the area is the key solution to the problem.
        • Respect for public sentiments can only bring permanent solution to the problem.
        • Creation of Autonomous Council in the hill districts in 1952 was a great mistake, it should not be repeated and a proper workable autonomous structure be granted.
        • The problem must be solved by considering the questions of minority, identity, security and development.
        • The final resolution must be taken after considering the practical situation on the ground.
        Wrap up:

        The major points discussed during the round table were:

        1. Creation of a Territorial Council with provisions for direct funding by the centre.
        2. Integration of Dimasa-inhabited villages contiguous to Dima Hasao district.
        3. Creation of satellite development councils for Dimasa-inhabited villages not contiguous to Dima Hasao district.
        4. Talks should be held with both DHD factions together because there cannot be two agreements for the same problem.
        5. Reduction of arms in the district to ensure safety and security of common people.
        6. Protection of inter-state boundary that Dima Hasao district shares with Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya.
        7. Focus on accelerating the pace of development, especially infrastructure related to communication, education, health and police.
        8. Financial accountability of the Autonomous Council.
        9. To boost up people-to-people contact both within Dima Hasao and with communities in other districts of the state.
        10. Enhancing the role of civil society/NGOs in the process of peace-building, conflict resolution and boosting development.

        The Round Table adopted a set of resolutions. They are:

        1) This Round Table calls upon the government at the centre and the state that the proposed peace agreement has to be time-bound, acceptable, honourable and able to fulfill hopes of the Dimasas as well as other ethnic groups who have been living in peace and harmony with the Dimasas for decades.

        2) This Round Table calls upon the government and its peace negotiators to take into account the views and opinions of all dominant democratic groups and organizations, who have been pushing for the interest of the people of one of the most underdeveloped areas in the country, before signing a peace agreement.

        3) The Round Table appeals to the government and the civil society to bring both the DHD factions together so that they can sit jointly in peace talks with the government in a bid to bring lasting peace in the area.

        4) This Round Table calls upon the government to ensure that the interest of the Dimasa people living in areas outside the jurisdiction of Dima Hasao district and interests of non-Dimasas inside Dima Hasao be also considered while reaching a peace agreement.

        5) This Round Table calls upon the government to make sure that the peace agreement comes up with a politico-administrative structure that enjoys maximum autonomy with provisions for devolution of powers upto grassroots level for better governance.

        6) The Round Table calls upon the government to make sure that the peace talks to be concluded to the satisfaction of all within a fixed timeframe.

        7) The Round Table is of the opinion that greater political representation is needed in the area and therefore calls upon the government to create a separate parliamentary constituency besides creating more assembly constituencies by bringing about delimitation of the existing assembly constituencies.