Williamson A. Sangma

Williamson Ampang Sangma (18 October 1919 – 25 October 1990), a Garo leader, was the founder Chief Minister of Meghalaya, twenty-first state of India on 21 January 1972. He was also the first ever Governor of Mizoram among the Garos in 1989.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Williamson A. Sangma
2nd Governor of Mizoram
In office
21 July 1989 – 7 February 1990
Chief MinisterLal Thanhawla
Preceded byK. V. Krishna Rao
Succeeded bySwaraj Kaushal
1st Chief Minister of Meghalaya
In office
2 April 1983 – 5 February 1988
GovernorPrakash Mehrotra
Tribeni Sahai Misra
Bhishma Narain Singh
Preceded byB.B. Lyngdoh
Succeeded byP. A. Sangma
In office
7 May 1981 – 24 February 1983
GovernorLallan Prasad Singh
Prakash Mehrotra
Preceded byB.B. Lyngdoh
Succeeded byB.B. Lyngdoh
In office
2 April 1970 – 3 March 1978
GovernorBraj Kumar Nehru
Lallan Prasad Singh
Preceded byOffice Established
Succeeded byDarwin Diengdoh Pugh
Personal details
Born(1919-10-18)18 October 1919
Baghmara, South Garo Hills district
Died25 October 1990(1990-10-25) (aged 71)
Political partyAPHLC, INC

Captain Williamson A. Sangma was a statesman, tribal leader, and a pioneer in leading the struggle for the creation of Meghalaya state, the homeland of three ancient hill communities -- Garos, Jaintias, and Khasis - The Khasis and the Jaintas are believed to be the remnants of the first Mongolian migration into India, while the Garos migrated from originally inhabited province Torus, Tibet.[1][2][6][8]


Capt. W.A. Sangma was born in Baghmara, South Garo Hills district. He always represented Baghmara assembly constituency, even after merging his political outfit in Congress(I) party.[3][4][6]

He, Salseng C. Marak and Mukul Sangma are the only Meghalaya Chief Minister's to complete full term of five years in office. A biography of Capt. Williamson A. Sangma was written by Mihir N. Sangma.[9][10][11]

Hill state movementEdit

With prior military service, he entered political field in 1952, and subsequently was elected as the Chief executive member of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council(GHADC). On 16 June 1954, the members of the executive committees of the Autonomous District Council of the Garo Hills(GHADC), the Khasi(Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council), Jaintia Hills(Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council), the Lushai Hills(Mizo Hills), and the North Cachar Hills District Council held a meeting at Shillong, and pleaded for the establishment of a separate Hill state on the ground that there was no adequate safeguard for the preservation of the identity of the hill people in Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India. The meeting demanded for the constitution of a separate state for all the hill areas of Assam, called "Eastern Hill State." Accordingly, they, including W.A. Sangma as a Chief sent a set of suggestions for amendment of the Sixth Schedule to the Members of Indian parliament.[citation needed]

Though Wilson Reade, chairman of the Khasi National Durba, was the first one to demand a separate hill state, it was W.A. Sangma who accelerated the movement successfully. He led the sustained struggle by the Garos, Jaintas, and the Khasis, for the hill state from the 1950s. He being the first Chief executive member of Garo Hills Autonomous District Council(GHADC), called a conference of the people of the autonomous hill districts of then-Assam at Tura on 6–8 October 1954, to consider the demand of a hill state. An appeal was sent to the leaders of all the tribal organisations and parties of the autonomous districts to sign the memorandum. Under his leadership, the conference passed the resolution to submit a memorandum to the States Reorganisation Commission(SRC) for the formation of a separate "Eastern Hills State." The memorandum emphasising the following points was submitted to SRC:

  1. The people of the hills and the plains differed from each other.
  2. The attempt of the Assamese people to impose their language and culture on the hill tribes.
  3. The Assamese dominance in the legislature and the services, and
  4. The autonomy granted under the Sixth Schedule was not adequate.


The issue of separate state had become an election issue in 1957 general elections in Assam. The EITU, United Mizo Freedom Organization(UMFO), the Mizo Union, and the Garo National Union captured majority of seats giving the impetus and popular mandate for the Hills movement, while the Congress lost—all five seats in the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills, three seats in Garo Hills, and one seat in Mikir Hills and North Cachar Hills. Bimala Prasad Chaliha with confidence from hills people, became the Chief Minister of Assam. In 1957, Sangma was elected to Assam Legislative Assembly. In the following year, he joined the cabinet of Assam to look after the departments of tribal regions, information, publicity, and transport. After the Indian independence, when the Nagas declared war against India, the tribes inhabiting the Khasi-Jhantia-Garo Hills extended co-operation to Government of Assam; as a result, Williamson Sangma was taken in the cabinet of Chaliha, Chief Minister of Assam, as a Cabinet minister in charge of the "Tribal Areas Department." When the Assamese language bill was passed in spite of opposition from tribal people later, he resigned from the cabinet to fight for the cause of separate statehood.[2][12]

Imposition of Assamese state language impactEdit

In 1960, the Assam Provincial Congress Committee(APCC) met on 22 April 1960, and directed the Chief Minister Chaliha to declare the Assamese as the State language. This further infuriated the tribal people, but accelerated the movement for Hills state, and subsequently in a "All Assam Hills leaders conference" held at Tura, Garo Hills, on 28 April 1960, they vehemently opposed the imposition of Assamese language and demanded the immediate amendment of the Sixth Schedule. With outbreak of violence between the Assamese speaking and Bengali speaking communities in the Assam plains, it further united the Hill parties and Hill state movement gained its momentum once again. In June 1960, W.A. Sangma called for a conference of all leaders of all the political parties in the hill areas. The conference unanimously resolved to oppose the "Official Language Bill". It also resolved to form the "All Party Hill Leaders Conference"(APHLC), with W.A. Sangma as its first chairman. In September 1960, the APHLC's Council of Action issued an ultimatum to the Assam CM; consequently, W.A. Sangma resigned his cabinet post from the government in protest against the official Assamese language policy adopted by the Assam government.[2]

Assam assembly adopted the Assamese as State language on the night of 24 October 1960. Following which, the third APHLC met at Haflong in North Cachar and demanded for the immediate creation of a separate Hill state.

    New government proposals

Under the leadership of Sangma, APHLC met Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India(PM), in November 1960, and raised the apprehensions of Assamese language on Tribals. Nehru, however, opposed the proposal for a separate state. When the delegation met Nehru again in December 1960, Nehru offered a Scottish plan—full authority for tribals in internal matters and complete control over expenditures and freedom in regard to the language - it also has a constitution of the committee in the Legislative Assembly of Assam comprising all the MLA's from the hills to examine the legislative proposals for the hill areas. The APHLC in its fourth session at Shillong in April 1961, rejected the proposal, and resolved to boycott the 1962 general elections. While APHLC rejected the Scottish plan, District Congress Committee accepted it and decided to contest the elections in 1961. APHLC's Council of Action, with an intention to prevent a split, decided to contest the elections, and consequently APHLC won 11 out of 15 seats contested.[citation needed]

In 1963, the Mizo Union revolted its stand against APHLC as they felt their individuality would be lost by joining the Khasis and the Garos. When Sangma and it's APHLC delegation met Nehru on 10 June 1963, a new plan was proposed with name Nehru plan—that contemplated that the hill areas of Assam must remain within the state of Assam, enjoying the ninety percent autonomy of a state - there should be a Cabinet minister as in-charge of administration of the hill areas - Hill minister would have to act according to the norms of Cabinet government. Nehru plan, however, was opposed by Government of Assam, Chief Minister of Assam, and the Congress party itself in Assam.[citation needed]

After the death of Nehru, Indira Gandhi had chaired as Prime Minister of India in 1966. APHLC, having decided to boycott 1967 general elections. submitted another memorandum to Indira Gandhi demanding a separate Hill state when she visited Shillong in December 1966. Indira instead, proposed for Reorganization plan, with an official statement from Government of India on 13 January 1967 to reorganise the state of Assam on the basis of a Federal structure conferring upon the hill areas equal status with the rest of the state of Assam. Communist Party of India, stepped-in differing from APHLC and Congress on Federal structure in name of reorganisation and called for a National integration of tribal people with mainstream of Indian life, rather than merely looking from the development angle of tribal people with the statement:

The alien Imperialist rulers of the country pursued a policy of keeping the tribal people of the Hills of Assam economically, socially, culturally and politically dwarfed deliberately retarding the normal process of developments of these people. This was quite in keeping with the Imperialist plan of perpertuating their exploitation and domination of our country.[citation needed]

... the best interest of both the Hills and the Plains will be served by an integrated Assam. But we do not subscribe to the views of those who would try to achieve that integration even by applying force on the Hills. Such a policy of forced integration may sound heroic. But this is not only undemocratic, but is also damaging to the interest of the country as a whole.[citation needed]

Sangma and APHLC delegation, having welcomed the Federal structure proposal decided to participate in a committee composed of representatives from APHLC, Government of India, and the Government of Assam to work out the details of the proposed Federal scheme, subject to the conditions that in the Federal structure, the hill state unit should have equal voice and status with the units comprising the remaining state of Assam. With bitter opposition from APCC faction opposed to Chief Minister Chaliha, the committee was not constituted to work out the details of the Federal scheme. Instead, a joint discussion in Delhi on 7 July 1967, with representatives from various political parties of the Plains and the APHLC was called, to make an effort to reach an agreed solution for the reorganisation of Assam. APHLC boycotted the commission as it not only opposed the Federal idea, but also resigned all the seats it held in Khasi, and the Garo hills on 25 May 1968. APHLC started a non-violent Satyagraha on 10 September 1968 for the statehood.[citation needed]

Autonomous stateEdit

With Satyagraha protest, Government of India precipitated and consequently on 11 September 1968, produced the Autonomous State Plan for the Garo Hills and the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills districts. The Mikir and the North Cachar Hills districts were given the option to join the Autonomous state—they decided to stay within the Assam state. On 24 December 1969, Parliament of India passed the "Assam Reorganization(Meghalaya) Bill", to create an Autonomous state—to be known as Meghalaya, within the state of Assam comprising the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills district and the Garo hills district as defined in the Sixth Schedule.[citation needed]

Meghalaya stateEdit

The faction that opposed Autonomous state left the APHLC led by W.A. Sangma and formed a separate party with name Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP). To counter the influence gained by HSPDP in certain areas, APHLC requested PM on 3 September 1970, to declare Meghalaya as a full-fledged state. On 10 November 1970, the Government informed the Lok Sabha that the government had decided to accept in principle the Meghalaya demand for statehood. Finally, on 21 January 1972, Meghalaya state has become a full-fledged state.[citation needed]

The peace in then autonomous districts of Assam was disturbed when the state administration decided to impose Assamese language as the state language using The Official Languages Bill on 18 October 1960 threatening the tribes, who were apprehensive of losing their culture and identity; consequently, he feared that the Assam government's linguistic policy would militate against the ethnic identity of the hill people and hence, he led the agitations that resulted them an autonomous status under the "Assam reorganisation(Meghalaya) Act 1969," until it became a full-fledged state on 21 January 1972. Prior to becoming full-fledged Meghalaya state of the Indian Union, the present areas of Meghalaya enjoyed internal autonomy under the provisions of Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India—it also had District Councils in the Garo Hills and the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills Districts.[2][12]

According to B.B. Lyngdoh, former Chief Minister of Meghalaya, who shared the Chief Minister's office with Capt.Williamson Sangma, is said to have told that the imposition of Assamese language in 1960 was the sole reason for the fight of separate statehood, for Garo, Jhantia, and Khasis areas to be carved out as Meghalaya state:[2][14]

If in 1960 Assamese were not made the state language we could have stayed as inhabitant of the same state like brothers.[2]


Post-Meghalaya state formationEdit

In Meghalaya legislative assembly elections held in March 1972, after the new state was established, regional parties secured majority, while Congress secured nine seats out of total 60 seats in assembly. W.A. Sangma of APHLC sworn in as its first Chief Minister with majority. However, with politics of defections and coalitions later, a faction of the APHLC led by W.A. Sangma merged with the Congress after the APHLC's Mendipather conference in 1976. This new merger provided the Congress strong footing in the new state, Meghalaya, particularly in the Garo Hills and east Khasi Hills.[15]

With realisation of Meghalaya as a state, it ultimately united the areas of the Khasi, Jainta, and the Garo Hills under the leadership of Williamson Sangma. He being one of the major leaders of the hill statehood movement, he always craved for a better deal for the Garos, who were economically worse off than their Khasi-Jainta brethren. He also made sure the Meghalaya Board of School Education (MBOSE), which he considered to be of prime importance, was in Garo Hills.[1][2][6][16]

In his honourEdit

After his death in 1999, succeeding Government of Meghalaya honoured him by naming several of public properties, including educational institutes on his name.

  • The State Museum of Meghalaya, founded in 1975, was named Williamson Sangma Museum.
  • the headquarters complex of the East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, was christened after him as Williamnagar.
  • Baljek airport in West Garo Hills is named after him.
  • Captain Williamson Sangma Technical University in Tura, Meghalaya.
  • Capt Williamson Memorial College, at Baghmara, in 1994.
  • An award on his name Capt. Williamson Sangma Award.[citation needed][4][6][17][18][19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Prakash, Col Ved (2007). Encyclopaedia of North-East India, Volume 4. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 1738. ISBN 9788126907069.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dhar, Pannalal (1998). Ethnic Unrest in India and Her Neighbours. Deep and Deep Publications. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9788171008186.
  3. ^ a b "Meghalaya's first CM remembered". assamtribune.com. 26 October 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2012. Meghalaya's first Chief Minister late Captain Williamson A Sangma was fondly remembered on his 19th death anniversary on Sunday with a special memorial service at Tura and his home town of Siju in South Garo Hills.
  4. ^ a b c "Congrats Meghalaya". meghalayatimes.info. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012. The first Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Capt Williamson A Sangma, is no longer known, people barely remember him. His birth place South Garo Hills is very backward in every aspect.
  5. ^ "MEGHALAYA GOVERNOR INAUGURATED YEARLONG CELEBRATION". megipr.nic.in. 14 December 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2012. Mr. Jacob also recalled the first Chief Minister of the State and the first ever Governor of a State among the Garos, Capt. Williamson A Sangma - the Capt. Williamson Sangma Award was conferred to Mr. Justin Mc. Carty R. Marak
  6. ^ a b c d e f "North-East India - Captain Williamson A. Sangma". facebook.com. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2012. Captain Williamson A. Sangma - was the first Chief Minister Meghalaya. He was a true statesman and pioneer in the struggle for the people of the hills and a leader of the Congress. He was born in Baghmara, which is the only town in South Garo Hills District. Williamnagar, the headquarters complex of the East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, was christened after Captain Williamson A. Sangma. Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel said in a staement recently that a proposal had been moved to name The Baljek airport in West Garo Hills after Captain Sangma.
  7. ^ a b "Lest we forget - Challenges for Meghalaya". meghalayatimes.info. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2012. The demand for a separate hill state emanated for the first time from Wilson Reade, chairman of the Khasi National Durbar. Reade was the most non-controversial figure in the Khasi-Jaintia politics. But it was Capt Williamson Amphlang Sangma who speeded the movement. Sangma was a moderate by temperament, training and conviction. Being cool and thoughtful, ever aware of the consequences, he was always calculative.
  8. ^ Chopra, Joginder Kumar (1989). Politics of Election Reforms in India. Mittal Publications. pp. 103–105. ISBN 9788187498087.
  9. ^ Daniel, S.C. (2000). Philosophy of History: Some Reflections on North-east India. Daya Books. p. 70. ISBN 9788187498087.
  10. ^ "Party confident of 2013 poll victory NCP unveils first list of candidates". telegraphindia.com. 18 March 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012. Except for (late) Capt. Williamson A. Sangma and Salseng C. Marak, no other chief minister has been able to complete a full term of five years in office.
  11. ^ "Politics as farce in Meghalaya". The Hindu. hindu.com. 17 June 2006. Retrieved 4 May 2012. In Meghalaya's case, since its formation in 1972, only two Chief Ministers – Captain Williamson A. Sangma and S.C. Marak – have done five-year terms.
  12. ^ a b c Kumāra, Braja Bihārī (1998). Small States Syndrome in India. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 9788170226918.
  13. ^ Prasad (2008). Environment, Development and Society in Contemporary India:An Introduction. Macmillan. p. 122. ISBN 9780230635302.
  14. ^ "Meghalaya's Political Mantra: Too Many 'CMs' To Keep Rebels at Bay". sinlung.wordpress.com. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2012. When in the late 1970s Capt Williamson Sangma and B B Lyngdoh entered into a "gentleman's agreement" to share the CM's post for two-and-a-half years each, there were doubts within Meghalaya and outside if these arrangement would work.
  15. ^ Roy, Ramashray; Paul Wallace (2007). India's 2004 Elections: Grass-Roots and National Perspectives. SAGE. p. 251. ISBN 9780761935162.
  16. ^ "History of Meghalaya Board of School Education-MBOSE". mbose.in. Retrieved 4 May 2012. The Board was inaugurated by the Honourable Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Late Captain W. A. Sangma on 19th October, 1973 in the State Central Library Auditorium, Shillong.
  17. ^ "The State Museum of Meghalaya". mapsofindia.com. Retrieved 2 May 2012. The State Museum of Meghalaya was founded in the year 1975 - The present name of The State Museum at Meghalaya is Williamson Sangma Museum.
  18. ^ "Set up Captain Williamson Sangma Technical University". inspiringbeans.com. Retrieved 4 May 2012. the first State-sponsored university in the name of the first Chief Minister of the State as a 'historic occasion',
  19. ^ "Capt Williamson Memorial College, Baghmara, Meghalaya". punjabcolleges.com. Retrieved 4 May 2012. Capt Williamson Memorial College, Baghmara is an Affiliated College. - Capt Williamson Memorial College, Baghmara was established on / in 1994.

External linksEdit