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Why tribal villages in Meghalaya want to end cooperation with the state government

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Shillong: Tribal village chiefs in the eastern part of Meghalaya on Saturday decided to end cooperation with the state government until it legally empowers the traditional institutions.

This decision – which is likely to have a major impact in tribal state Meghalaya – was adopted at the Dorbar Bah Ka Bri U Hynniew Trep (assembly of people of Hynniew Trep land), organised by the Synjuk ki Rangbah Shnong or chief of the federation of villages.

More than a lakh people from across the eastern part of Meghalaya on Saturday attended the assembly and demanded the Congress-led government to approve two bills passed by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) to empower the traditional institutions.

Almost all shops in the state capital remained closed on Saturday. Only a few local taxis were seen plying on the roads.

Saturday’s assembly was significant in the wake of an order of the Meghalaya High Court curtailing the powers of the traditional heads in issuing certificates to people unless empowered by legislation.

Adopting six resolutions, the assembly resolved to take further action if the two bills failed to get the governor’s assent by June 10.

The meeting also resolved to bring all village councils under one umbrella — that would be known as Dorbar Khasi Jaintia — with the sole intention to bring unity and preserve the customs and traditions of the indigenous people.

On Friday, Governor V. Shanmuganathan gave his assent to an ordinance to provide legal recognition to the functions of traditional institutions in the entire state.

Following the approval, the Meghalaya Local Administration (Empowerment of Traditional Institutions, Traditional Bodies and Headmen in Governance and Public Delivery System) Ordinance, 2015 was notified in the gazette.

The traditional intuitions include that of the Syiem, Lyngdoh, Sirdar, Wahadar, Dolloi, Rangbah Shnong in the Khasi – Jaintia Hills and that of A’King Nokma in the Garo Hills.

In a nutshell, the ordinance empowers traditional institutions to issue certificates to villagers within their respective jurisdictions.

The certificates may relate to proof of residence, life certificate of pensioners, no objection certificate for running hotel or guest house, and any other matter to be notified by the government.

The ordinance also provides protection on action taken under it as no suit or legal proceeding would lie against the headmen or traditional institutions in the discharge of functions.

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