(GIST OF YOJANA) North Eastern India: A Historical Explanation [APRIL-2018]

(GIST OF YOJANA) North Eastern India: A Historical Explanation


North Eastern India: A Historical Explanation

India’s Northeastern region is historically identified with three names Pragiyotishpura, Assam and Kamrupa. Other than oral history, the earliest mention of Assam can be found in KalikaPuran. Vishnu Puran and Jogini Tantra. Puranas and Tantra describes Assam as Kamrupa while the province is known as Pragiyotishpura in Mahabharata‘. Recorded history about Assam starts with the decoding of Nidhanpur Copper Plates Grant and the Doobi Plates. The Nidhanpur Copper Plates Grant takes the history of Assam from Puranic script to recorded history. The Nidhanpur Copper Plate Grant, consisting of seven copper plates with a seal, was discovered by a peasant in 1912 in the village of Nidhanpur of Pancakhanda Pargana of Sylhet now in Bangladesh. The peasant sold the plates to different persons but fortunately Padmanath Bhattacharya recovered the first, second, third, sixth, seventh and one more which may be either the fourth or the fifth and discussed in various journals. Finally, he edited the inscription in the Kamarupasasanavali. Starting from Fourth Century AD, Nidhanpur Copper Plates Grant describes the genealogy of the Varman dynasty that continued until Seventh century AD. Bana Bhatta’s ‘Harsha Charita’ and Hiuen Tsang's Si-Yu-Ki narrates the history of Assam until Seventh Century.
Copper Plate inscriptions of Ratna Pal and Dharam Pal along with the Koch Bansabali filled the historical gap about rulers until 13th century. In 1228 AD, when Ahom kings took over the territory from Koch kings, they started calling the region as Assam. The Ahoms were one of the most history conscious dynasties endowed with a high degree of historical faculty. Ahom priests and leading families possessed Buranjis, or genealogies, which were periodically brought up to date. They were written on oblong strips of bark and were very carefully preserved and handed down from father to son.

Muslims who accompanied Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji during his infamous invasion of Assam in 1205 faced hostile opposition from the local tribes that forced Khilji’s army of followers to retreat rather soon without leaving a footprint. As explained above, Khilji’s failed expedition followed by a series of unsuccessful invasion by other Muslim invaders including Mir Jumla, the fierce general of Aurangzeb, who all tasted failure in Assam. However, by this time few Muslim soldiers preferred to settle in Assam instead of going back with their defeated leaders. These people married local Assamese girls some of whose relatives also Converted into Islam.

Assam, during the Mughal-British t era, divided into three regions-Sylhet, Manipur and Assam. The three regions interacted separately with various foreign regimes namely the Mughal, Burmese and British. Sylhet passed into the hands of the British in 1765, together with the rest of Bengal. It was during the Mughal rule, precisely during early 17005, the region first interacted with the Muhammadans. Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl clarified that Sylhet was an independent region. In Aurangzeb’s reign (1648-1707), it is said that Raja Gobind of Sylhet was summoned to Delhi and there he became a Muhammadan. Since the conversion of Raja Gobind, some Muslims settled in Sylhet and that was the beginning of Islamic presence in Assam and adjacent regions.
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when the East India Company established its administration in Bengal and when Assam came under the company’s protection after the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, Muslims from the two provinces interacted frequently with each other. A number of Muslims from Bengal migrated to Assam and settled in the province. The new settlers encouraged their fellow religionists from Bengal to come to Assam and settle there to augment their economic prosperity.

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Manipur and Assam were constantly threatened by the Burmese invasion starting from 1755 until 1826. In 1824, Purandar Singh of Ahom dynasty faced the invasion of the Burmese army. The Ahom king started negotiations with the British Political Officer David Scott to save Assam from the Burmese invasion. However, he was reluctant to compromise his independence. It was not possible for Assam to avoid British influence and with the aid of the East India Company, the First Anglo-Burmese War concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo on 24 February 1826. As per the treaty, Burmese agreed not to interfere in the affairs of Assam and recognized the Raja of Manipur Gambhir Singh.

By 1838, the entire region including Upper Assam, Khasi Hills. Jaintia Kingdom, Cachar, Garo Hills and Khamtis were annexed. The province was made part of Bengal Presidency in 1838. By the year 1874, Assam was separated from Bengal and formed ‘North-East Frontier non-regulation province’ or Assam Chief-Commissionership. The British Raj began with the idea of the Presidencies as the centers of government. Until 1834, when a General Legislative Council was formed, each Presidency under its Governor and Council was empowered to enact a code of so-called ‘Regulations’ for its government. Therefore, any territory or province that was added by conquest or treaty to a presidency came under the existing regulations of the corresponding presidency. However, in the case of provinces that were acquired but were not annexed to any of the three Presidencies, their official staff could be provided as the Governor-General pleased and was not governed by the existing regulations of the Bengal, Madras, or Bombay Presidencies. Such provinces became known as ‘Non-Regulation Provinces’ and up to 1833 no provision for a legislative power existed in such places. During the partition of Bengal in 1905-1911, Assam was placed under the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. In 1912, after the end of Bengal’s partition, Assam became a separate province. The vast virgin valley and hills of Assam attracted and absorbed muslim peasants and settlers which contributed to the growth of Islam in the province. So much was the growth of number of Muslims in Assam in the subsequent time that the elections to the Legislative Assembly of 1937 produced a coalition government led by Muhammad Saadullah, the Muslim League leader. Muhammad Sadullah became the chief minister from 1 April 1937 to 10 September 1938; from 17 November 1939 to 25 December 1941 and from 24 August 1942 to 11 February 1946. Sadullah was. a member of the Executive Committee of the All India Muslim League when the league met at its annual gathering at Lahore on 23 March 1940 and passed the ‘Pakistan Resolution”.

At the time of Independence ‘Northeast’ basically meant Assam and the princely states of Manipur and Tripura. With the advent of independence, the 25 Khasi states had formed themselves into a federation of Khasis in 1946. There was no talk of alienation or distinctiveness during the independence of India and subsequent merger of Northeastern princely states with India. Being one of the flamboyant areas of India, the ‘North eastern States’ signed the instrument of accession with India without the slightest trouble or second thought. There was no sense of separatist wave nor any inclination to remain independent. Tripura signed the Instrument of Accession on 13 August 1947 and three days later Governor General Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession on 16 August 1947. On 21 September 1949, Maharaja Budhachandra signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India.

The Federation of Khasi States Signed an agreement on 8 August 1947 to accede into the Indian Union on the three terms of defence/ communication and foreign policy. Twenty of the twenty-five states signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of India on 15 December 1947, Nobosophoh signed on 11 January 1948, Mawlong on 10 March 1948, Rambrai on 17 March 1948, and Nongstoin on 19 March I948. On 21 September 1949, Maharaja Budhachandra signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India. The Instrument of Accession of the Khasi Hills States was accepted by the Governor General on 17 August 1948.

Politics, colonial consideration, vested interests and historical apathy manufactured the isolation debate. The fallacy of separation of Northeast India is more of a motivated political-intellectual subject than a theory based on sound empirical argument.

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Courtesy: Yojana