Captain Williamson A Sangma, Meghalaya’s first chief minister, is honored on the 31st anniversary of his death. His contribution to the creation of Meghalaya will be remembered forever, and the state’s people will be forever grateful.
On January 21, 1972, Williamson Ampang Sangma, a Garo leader, was sworn in as the first Chief Minister of Meghalaya, India’s twenty-first state.
He also served as the first Garo Governor of Mizoram in 1989. Captain Williamson A. Sangma was a lawmaker, tribal leader, and pioneer in the fight for the creation of the state of Meghalaya, which is home to three ancient hill communities: the Garos, Jaintias, and Khasis. The Khasis and Jaintas are thought to be descendants of the earliest Mongolian migration to India, whereas the Garos migrated from Tibet’s Torus area.
Captain W.A. Sangma was born in the South Garo Hills district of Baghmara. Even after uniting his political organization with the congress party, he continued to represent the Baghmara assembly constituency.
He started politics in 1952 after serving in the military and was later elected as the Chief Executive Member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC). The executive committees of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC), the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, the Lushai Hills (Mizo Hills), and the North Cachar Hills District Council met in Shillong on June 16, 1954.
They asserted that the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution did not provide appropriate protection for the hill people’s identity and that a separate Hill state should be created.
The gathering urged for the creation of an “Eastern Hill State” that would encompass all of Assam’s hill regions. As a result, they sent a collection of ideas for amending the Sixth Schedule to members of the Indian parliament, including W.A. Sangma as a Chief.
He held a convention of the people of the independent hill districts of then-Assam at Tura on the 6–8 October 1954, as the first Chief Executive Member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District CouncilGHADC, to consider the demand for a hill state. The heads of all tribal organizations and parties in the autonomous districts were urged to sign the memorandum. The conference endorsed a decision to send a memorandum to the States Reorganisation Commission SRC proposing the formation of a separate “Eastern Hills State” under his leadership. SRC received a communication emphasizing the following points:
The Assamese people’s attempt to force their language and culture on the hill tribes, as well as their supremacy in the legislature and the services.
The people of the hills and the plains had distinct cultures.
The autonomy provided by the Sixth Schedule was insufficient..
W.A. Sangma was the inaugural chairman of the “All Party Hill Leaders Conference.” The APHLC’s Council of Action issued an ultimatum to the Assam Chief Minister in September 1960.
W.A. Sangma resigned from the government as a cabinet minister in protest over the Assam government’s official Assamese language policy. On the night of October 24, 1960, the Assam assembly adopted Assamese as the state language. After that, the third APHLC gathered in Haflong, North Cachar, and sought the construction of a separate Hill state right away.
However, on July 7, 1967, members from various Plains political groups and the APHLC met in Delhi for a collaborative discussion in the hopes of reaching an agreement on Assam’s reorganization. The APHLC boycotted the commission because it opposed the federal concept and withdrew all of its seats in Khasi and the Garo Hills on May 25, 1968. On September 10, 1968, the APHLC began a nonviolent Satyagraha for statehood.
As a result of the Satyagraha protests, the Indian government took action and issued the Autonomous State Plan for the Garo Hills and United Khasi-Jaintia Hills districts on September 11, 1968. The districts of Mikir and North Cachar Hills were given the option of joining the Autonomous state, but they chose to remain in Assam. The “Assam Reorganization Meghalaya Bill” was approved by the Indian Parliament on December 24, 1969, to form an autonomous state – Meghalaya – inside the state of Assam, consisting of the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills district and the Garo Hills district as outlined in the Sixth Schedule.
The anti-autonomous state faction broke away from the APHLC, led by W.A. Sangma, and created the Hill State Peoples Democratic Party, or HSPDP. To counteract HSPDP’s growing dominance in certain areas, the APHLC petitioned PM on September 3, 1970, to proclaim Meghalaya a full-fledged state. The government notified the Lok Sabha on November 10, 1970, that it has decided to accept the Meghalaya claim for statehood in principle. Finally, Meghalaya became a full-fledged state on January 21, 1972.
Regional parties won a majority of seats in the Meghalaya legislative assembly elections held in March 1972, shortly after the new state was founded, while the Congress won nine seats out of a total of 60 seats in the parliament. With a majority, APHLC’s W.A. Sangma was sworn in as the party’s first Chief Minister. However, after the APHLC’s Mendipather conference in 1976, a group of the APHLC led by W.A. Sangma united with the Congress due to defections and coalition politics. The Congress gained a strong foothold in the new state of Meghalaya, notably in the Garo Hills and East Khasi Hills, as a result of this new merger.
With the establishment of Meghalaya as a state, the Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo Hills were eventually united under the leadership of Williamson Sangma. He was one of the most prominent figures in the hill statehood movement, and he was always looking for a better deal for the Garos, who were economically disadvantaged compared to their Khasi-Jainta counterparts.
However, in the 31st year of his death, we pay our heartfelt respect to the veteran politician who worked tirelessly to achieve Meghalaya sovereignty. His dedication and sacrifice will be recognized and cherished for the rest of the period.
Taking to Twitter Present Chief Minister of the state Conrad K Sangma wrote, “Captain Williamson A Sangma, Meghalaya’s founding Chief Minister and the pioneer who led the Hill State Movement, died 31 years ago today. We recognize his immeasurable contributions to our state and its citizens.”