Revival of demand for autonomous councils triggers the move for changing the State’s Fifth Schedule tag
The revival of the demand for two autonomous councils has made political parties and community-based groups call for bringing the entire Arunachal Pradesh under the ambit of the Sixth Schedule or Article 371 (A) of the Constitution.
The Frontier State bordering Bhutan, China and Myanmar is under the Fifth Schedule that “does not provide special rights for the indigenous communities” unlike the Sixth Schedule.
The Sixth Schedule currently includes 10 autonomous district councils in four north-eastern States – Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
Nagaland, on the other hand, is governed by Article 371 (A), which says that no Act of Parliament shall apply in the State in several areas unless the Nagaland Assembly so decides by a resolution. These include administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
“The demand for autonomous councils does not hold water as Arunachal Pradesh is a Fifth Schedule State. Some States in the northeast have autonomous councils because they are under the Sixth Schedule,” said Gicho Kabak, the State unit president of the National People’s Party (NPP).
He was referring to the renewed demand for Mon Autonomous Council (MAC) comprising Tawang, West Kameng and parts of East Kameng districts, and Patkai Autonomous Council (PAC) comprising Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts.
“The way forward is to seek Sixth Schedule status for entire Arunachal Pradesh or bringing the State under 371 (A) for special rights to all communities equally so that there is no need for demanding autonomy,” Mr. Kabak said.
The NPP, which supports Pema Khandu’s Bharatiya Janata Party government, has four MLAs in the State’s 60-member Assembly.
The demands for the MAC and the PAC were raised in December 2003. The State Assembly approved these councils through a resolution three months later.
Apart from the NPP, the Congress, the BJP and the People’s Party of Arunachal have been seeking the inclusion of Arunachal Pradesh in the Sixth Schedule for making the State’s indigenous communities “owners of all natural resources instead of being protectors only”.
Organisations such as Galo Students’ Union and All Nyshi Youth Association have also demanded a shift from the Fifth to the Sixth Schedule besides strengthening the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873. Outsiders have to possess an inner-line permit, a temporary travel document, to enter Arunachal Pradesh and other north-eastern States where this regulation is in force.
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