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Mar 03, 2008 at 12:43am IST

Meghalaya's tribal courts cry for recognition

Shillong: As Meghalaya goes to polls on Monday, the issue of local self-governance remains on the sidelines. Tribal chiefs in the state want legal recognition for the unique forms of grass-roots democracy that are still popular in Meghalaya.

Tribal courts unrecognised by the state and managed by Syiems or local chiefs, are still very active in Meghalaya.

At the recent Second People's Parliament, there was a big demand for creating Meghalaya Legislative Council.

"Of course ours is also institution but with its own politics, which is not party based," Dr Blajied Syiem Hima Khyrim says.

The Khasis, Garos and Jaintias had come together at the sacred forest of Mawphlang to chart a common future for all of them. Could this be a new beginning for traditional forms of self-governance?

"The problem we have been facing is that for the last 60 years since independence these institutions have not been constitutionalised," John Kharshiing, General Secretary, GDAC, says.

Indian Constitution recognises the need for Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram to preserve traditional forms of self-governance. Empowering community leaders may just make the government more effective at local levels.

"Give some powers to the local head in checking illegal immigrants and it will serve India better," KM Syiem says.

The urban-rural grass roots democracy allows space for regions and sub regional identities to strike a new federal balance.

Oflyn Dohling, a village headman, has been functioning out of his cramped home for the last 18 years without a fee.

"It is high time for the government to recognise our services and render financial assistance as it did to the Panchayat," Dohling says.

The voter in Meghalaya is still waiting for the transfer of power to grass-roots institutions. Till that happens, elections here may just remain a formality.

(With inputs from Mukut Medhi and VK Shashikumar)

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