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Hill State Movement in Shillong - Personal Encounter

Already there was the tendency of the then Assam Government to uphold their superiority being the holders of the reins of power over the hill indigenous people. They felt themselves, they were the rulers, and the local Khasi and other tribals of undivided Assam were the ruled. There was the Assamese Chief Minister, almost all ministers were Assamese, never in the Assam era did we have a tribal Speaker in Legislative Assembly. 98 percent of heads of departments were manned by Assamese. In course of time, the tendency of a certain citizenship margin cropped up because the Assamese thought of themselves as 1st class citizens, and the tribals were 2nd class citizens. This kindled resentment between the Assam and local indigenous people. In practical life, the seed of chasm between the two communities widened.

The spark of open protest against the Assam Government by the Khasi people especially the students was perhaps in 1958 when the then Assam Government proposed to nominate a non-tribal to represent in the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District Council. The students made demonstrations to protest against this attempt of the Assam Government to poke its nose in the District Council which basically was established to protect the rights of the and Jaintias people. The main leaders for this street demonstration were (L) Bah Hoover Hynniewta, (L) Bah Hopingstone Lyngdoh and a number of other Khasi leaders. This march protest was in Shillong because Shillong was the then capital of Assam and the seat of administration. The Assam police fired tear gas against the Khasi people most of them were students, for the first time in the streets of Shillong to curve down the protest procession.

Consequently, Bah Hoover Hynniewta and Bah Hopingstone Lyngdoh were arrested. My father (L) Lobendro Soanes visited the two leaders in Shillong jail, he read from the Bible Psalms 23 and prayed. The anti-Assamese resentment by the }Gasi people increased. Subsequently, the Assam government introduced the Assamese language in the state as the official language. This was the biggest mistake on the part of the Assam Government which enraged the Khasi and Jaintia communities to solidly stand against the Assam Government.

Consequently, the All Party Hill Leaders Conference (APHLC) was formed in 6th July 1960. The main cause was to fight for a separate State out of the Assam State. The following series of agitations for a separate Hill State was conducted.

  1. 14th October 1961 — The 1st open official demand was launched to demand a separate state.
  2. On 22nd May 1966, the APHI_,C decided to launch Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). The movement gained momentum as the whole Khasi and Jaintia hill people with one voice made a slogan "No Hill State no rest and we oppose congress". These were the main slogan in the towns Of Shillong and in far flung villages of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills Districts. As volunteers we are to sign a pledge containing 9 (nine) code of conduct. The heading to put in Khasi "Ka Juban Lak ki Riewtrei Mon lade".
  3. Series of bands which were called at that time as hartals were held in Shillong in order to paralyse the Assam administration. The main agitator was always in Shillong, being the headquarter of the Assam government.

Hundreds and thousands of NVDA volunteers were raised and even trained to undergo as Satyagrahis in the Non-Violent Direct Action. Myself a 21 years old young man at that time was enrolled. We had to undergo trainings so that we can be disciplined, physically fit and to face arrests and hardships as volunteers in the NVDA. In the mean time fervent prayers were made in homes and respective families to invoke the Almighty God to protect the volunteers and to achieved statehood under the banner of APHLC headed by (L) B.B. Lyngdoh, G.G. Swell, S.D.D. Nichols Roy, Bah Ripple Kyndiah, Bah Hopingstone Lyngdoh and others.

The organization of NVDA was solid as it was the mass movement of the people. Finally, the 1st batch of volunteers was sent to picket the Assam Secretariat on 10th September 1968. Myself, I was included in the first batch to face the unknown treatment from Assam Government if I am arrested. As God fearing family my father, my mother and myself we prayed at home for God's intervention since we fought for a Just cause with good sense and sincere motive. As a group we were about 20/25 volunteers from Riatsamthiah, my locality, we collected in Madan Topsaw. Before we proceed ahead, a local gentleman name (L) Mini-us Starwell Mawlong prayed, then we marched to National Dorbar Hall Mawkhar, Shillong, along with many NVDA volunteers from other localities. We were released from National Dorbar Hall after a very heartfelt prayer from (L) Pastor Moore LÄloo of the Church of God, Qualapatty, Shillong.

Myself, and others picketed the main Assam Secretariat. Midday food was supplied by my mother (L) Trosila Mawlong along with some local women. The APHLC Leaders were seen moving and mobilising in different picketing areas. As a young man I was impressed to see (L) Bah Stanly Donbar Nicholsroy, a 6 feet tall donning with the APHLC, NVDA barret cap. On seeing the discipline and the perseverance of the volunteers and the solid unity of the APHLC, the Assam police did not dare arrest us. We remained in the post till around 4:00 Pm on that day 10th September 1968, then we were told to return and assemble in the main road adjacent the main Secretariat and at that point of victorious march, the people honour us by clapping their hands cheeringly.

This successful Satyagraha Movement effected the central government and next day September 1968, the Prime Minister of India (L) Indira Gandhi announced to give us Autonomous State. On 15th October 1968, the APHLC made a tactful decision to accept the autonomous state initially. Subsequently, on 2nd April 1970, the Autonomous Hill State was formed. The idea for a full state still inspire and kindled us and on June 1970, the interim government of the Autonomous State passed a Resolution emphasizing that only the Full Fledged State will saåsfy the aspiration of the hill people and the Government of India was communicated. On 10th November 1970, the Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi made an announcement in Parliament that the Central Government accepted the demand for the full Sätehood of Meghalaya that the APHLC made continuous demand. In course of the movement PM Indira Gandhi visited Shillong two times 1st on 27th December 1966, 2nd was January 21st 1972 (this was the inauguration of Meghalaya State). The inauguration was held in Polo Ground, Shillong in which Mammoth crowd from different districts of Meghalaya not less than 50 thousand people were present in the ground.

The Achievement of the APHLC to get a full Hill State named as Meghalaya earned a special Record in the history of the country as no bloody conflict was ever there all throughout. This was the grace of our Almighty God who see the sincerity of the people answering all their prayers.

(Apple Star Mawlong)

NVDA Volunteer

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