Hukavi T Yeputhomi
Chairman, United Naga Tribes Association on Border Areas
Various publication appearing in local Media demanding stricter imposition of ILP all over and extending the same to cover Dilai Gate et al goes to imply that the imaginary “Inner Line” can become the boundary between Assam and Nagaland without realizing that this is exactly the demand of the Government of Assam.
Many Nagas appears to be oblivious of the fact of the ongoing litigation process on the Writ Petition filed by the Government of Assam in 1988 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court demanding the “Inner Line”, in particular the 1925 Notification of the British Government to be the boundary between the two States.
To talk of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 (BEFR) vis-à-vis the ILP has nothing to do with the regular District Administrative jurisdiction of border areas. It is merely to prohibit the Naga “Land Lords” to cross over to the then Revenue District of British Administration in Assam with arms to collect “Khat” money because the appearance of the Nagas in full war gears or traditional attires causes exodus of labors. From Ahom Kingdom probably by 16th. Century onward, there were more than 50 Naga “Khats”. These areas were under the suzerainty of many chieftains of various Naga tribes. Even though Naga people do not directly cultivate in these areas, the lands under such areas were under their control. When the British administration started to usurp these areas and started to issue land grants on lease to new prospectors, Nagas objected and in many areas, raids were frequently conducted against the laborers mostly the nascent tea industries in those days. Therefore the British Administration recognized such arrangement between the Ahom Rajas and Naga chieftains and allowed to pay “Khat” money to Naga people. The “Khat” money was paid by the Government of Assam till 1962 and the last “Khat” money distributed by the Government of Nagaland was upto 1968 on the instruction of the Government of India. There were as many as 23 ‘Khats’ that were being paid money according to the letter written by Shri SC Deb, the then Commissioner, Nagaland to Chief Secretary to the Government of Nagaland on 14th July 1972.
Therefore without full understanding of the history of the ILP and demanding the same to be imposed at this stage to Dimapur district will be extraneous to the Naga issue. It should be noted by all concerned that once the boundary is demarcated, the ILP will be extended accordingly as per Article 371 A of the Constitution of India.
The history of BEFR of 1873 has to be understood very clearly before we jump into ILP issue. According to the historical record of Ahom Kingdom called “Burangi”, it was during the reign of Raja Pratap Singh whose Ahom name was Susanpha who was also called Bura Raja by his citizens because of his wisdom. He ruled Ahom Kingdom from 1601 to 1640 AD. During his reign, he found out that the “Pykes” or cultivators of the land who constitute the Ahom army men slowly left their fields and homes in the Ahom kingdom for fear of Tibetan subjects from present Arunachal Pradesh and Naga raids in the northern Naga Hill areas destroying their “khetis” and also demanding yearly taxes. To overcome this problem, he entered into understanding with the tribal Chiefs and demarcated the foot hill areas into various “Dhars”, the trading points. And to facilitate the tribals to buy their essentials, he set up markets in every ‘Dhar’ and designated officials who will hand over their Dhar money to them every year. It was found to be very successful and his “Pykes” returned to their usual places.
Having succeeded in the Arunachal side, he turned his attention to the Naga raids into the plain sector of his Kingdom. Here he made understanding with various Naga Chiefs and demarcated a boundary by constructing a “Bund”, an uplifted mound of earth called “Ladaigarh”. The Nagas were not allowed to cross this boundary. They were to collect their “Khat” money from the designated officials called “Katokies” and thereby avoid any confrontations with the “Pykes” who cultivated only within Ahom territories and not across the “Ladaigarh”.
“Ladaigarh” was extended towards the south by another “Bund” called “Dhodar Ali” upto the conjunction of Doyang and Dhansiri and from there through a stream to Koliani river to its source. And from Koliani, a line from headland to headland to the conjunction of river Jamuna with Kopili forming a trijunction of Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Nowgong District and Naga Hills District. The boundary of the Naga Hills continue its south-west following Kopili river to its conjunction with Dhansiri river. Rest of the south and eastern boundary remain unexplored and unsurveyed even now.
This demarcated boundary originally formed the “Inner Line” which was from time to time extended towards the hill for the economic convenience of the British traders. Finally after the establishments of the tea gardens and railways, the entire areas beyond the imaginary “Inner Line” were transferred to the British Eastern Frontier of Assam Province who assumed the rights of the land lord leaving the rest of the Naga Hills unexplored. This is the historical background of the “Inner Line” and its permit.
BEFR of 1873 was just a regulation and not an Act of law. Based on this regulation the so called ‘Inner Line’ was first notified in 1876, 1884, 1910 and lastly in 1925 so as to draw an imaginary line of British administrative control over the illegal occupation and usurpation of Naga areas for its lucrative economic consideration. In the Government of Inida Act, 1915, this regulation was made to continue in the Assam Frontiers however, the Government of India Act, 1935, most of the NEFA areas including the Naga traditional and ancestral lands were excluded thereby BEFR and any other Acts which were imposed in erstwhile Naga Hills District were made irrelevant till the 16 Point Agreement wherein the Point No. 16, the BEFR was made to be continued in Nagaland.The sole idea of mentioning Inner Line of 1925 is merely to indicate the up gradation of NHTA to a full fledged state and never it’s final boundary. We therefore strongly urge the Government of Nagaland to take appropriate legislative steps to ask the Government of India to stop Government of Assam to stop sending immigrants into the Naga territories without finalizing the boundary.
Also, we have to remind ourselves that this being the case, we should have no doubt that the Nagas have never agreed to such an imaginary line to be a boundary of the State of Nagaland. This was pointed out in 1929 Memorandum to Simon Commission refusing to come under the teaming millions of India who have never conquered the Nagas and for which it was clearly put into a written Agreement to return all Naga territories in the famous 9 Point Agreement to be the precondition to joining India Union. This was reiterated in the 16 Point Agreement on which basis the Sate of Nagaland was created. But the Government of India continues to fail its commitment and attempting to hoodwink the simple Nagas to accept monetary benefit in place of our traditional, historical and inherent rights over our own land and inhabited areas by surreptitiously pushing the immigrants of doubtful origins and landless people to settle in Naga lands.
Therefore the aftermath of the repercussion of NRC of Assam, it is an opportune moment for the Government of Nagaland to redirect its attention on the serious issue and prioritize its attention and take up the boundary issue in its rightful perspective so that the wrongful history of the Naga people can be righted for posterity.
In this regard, the UNTABA on behalf of the sensible Naga people had submitted a practical draft proposal of Resolution to be adopted in the August House of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly demanding the Government of India to immediately implement its political commitments made in the 16 Point Agreement, in particular, Points No. 1, 12 an 13 among others so as to settle the inter State boundary between Assam and Nagaland in its rightful perspective.
While fervently appealing the Government of Nagaland to do the right thing, we solicit the Naga people irrespective of different political affiliations or social obligations to come forward in our common pursuance for better tomorrow.