abode of clouds, Assam, coal mining ban, demographic changes, Khasi Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya, Muslim population, National Green Tribunal, necessary evils, religion census, sparesely populated demographic block, statehood
Meghalaya is just seven years away from its golden jubilee. It is just a little over two decades junior to th parent state of Assam. Along with two erstwhile princely states of Manipur and Tripura, Meghalaya was declared independent state by the Indian Union on January 21, 1972. The erstwhile Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills districts of undivided Assam were aptly named ‘Meghalaya’ meaning abode of clouds although the phenomenon is typical to Khasi Hills only. Since then the state has gone through many transformations and challenges. It’s a matter of debate whether the state has achieved anything that it could not have under the state of Assam.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of a small state carved out of a big state. A big state gets more attention from the Centre. It gets bigger share of Central funds. National political parties pay more attention due to its huge population which means more votes for them. However, the small and sparsely populated demographic blocks within such states tend to remain neglected for ages. This is the primary reason for statehood demands across the country. Such blocks, once granted statehood, have to struggle for Central attention but they run on their own and don’t face ‘step-motherly’ treatment within the state anymore.
Could Meghalaya have developed more had it been under Assam till now? The answer is perhaps yes, but at the same time the state would have had to bear the burden of all necessary evils of Assam, which has witnessed serious demographic changes over the decades. The religion census, figures of which were concealed by the then UPA government and declared by the NDA government recently, shows that growth rate of Muslim population is highest in Assam. On the other hand, Meghalaya despite being a neighbour of Assam is one of the three states that witnessed minimum growth of Muslim population in the past decade. Meghalaya would have had to share the burden of Assam had it not separated in 1972. But, had it been under Assam, coal mining in the state might have been regulated. It would not have faced the embarrassment of the ban imposed by National Green Tribunal (NGT). Likewise, many other changes, both positive and negative, could have been noticed had the state been under Assam.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 23, 2015)