The lost homeland

31 years ago, a medical student from the State’s Brahmaputra Valley met a
police officer at Silchar,  the administrative
headquarters of undivided Cachar District. The police officer,  also hailing from the Brahmaputra Valley and a
former student leader, ignited the zeal 
in  the medical student  to search out 
the descendants of those people who had either fled their homes in
Brahmaputra Valley  to Barak Valley  in 
the  face of  the Burmese 
invasion about two centuries back, or, landed in Barak Valley much earlier
as the soldiers of the Koch Army, led by the 
renowned military general Chilarai, 
also known as Sangram Singha.

police officer told the medical student that he knew a historian who would be
of immense help in finding out these dispersed Assamese people.

What moved the medical student and galvanized him to engage in this mission was a December 26, 1944,  letter from Bishwa Singha Rajbongshi  (a descendant of one of Chilarai’s soldiers, who had settled in the Udarband area of Barak Valley) to Kashikanta Devasarma,  the then Sylhet-Cahar District Member of Asam Sahitya Sabha. The police officer published this historical letter in the Assamese literary quarterly Bokar Padum that he was single-handedly publishing from Silchar.

On his return to Guwahati,  this student of the Gauhati Medical College (now a surgeon of repute) Satyakam Phukan, met historian late Dr. Bijoy Bhusan Hazarika, following the advice of Purna Baruah, the police officer (since retired). Late Bijoy Bhusan Hazarika was officiating as the editor of The District Gazetteer  then. And an amazing chapter of Assam history  started unfolding.

Hazarika, also a former Director of the State’s Directorate of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, had thorough knowledge on the subject. He was, in fact, a member of the Maan-Bhaganiya (people dispersed by Burmese invasions) segment of the Assamese-speaking people of Barak Valley and Sylhet. He hailed from Tarapur village near the then Silchar town.

narrated to Dr. Phukan – with historical evidence, how the Assamese people had
to flee their native places in the early 19th century, in the face of the
barbarism perpetrated by the marauding Singpho (Kachin) troops of the invading
Burmese Army. Some of the Assamese people were taken captive by the raiding
Singpho troops in a savage, barbaric manner. Holes were punched in their palms so
that each of them could be tied together with cane and led to Burma in hordes like
captured animals. This tie later earned notoriety as the Maan Bandha (Burmese
Tie). Some such captives died miserably while being herded out to the land of
their captors. Hazarika had long completed his research on the political
condition of medieval Assam for his Ph.D. 
life in Assam during the 19th century
He was 
the  lone historian  from Assam 
to  research on  the Burmese 
invasions and their 
socio-political  and  economic impact on Assam.

the meantime, Dr. Phukan came to know that during the British rule, an Assamese
adventurer-cum-businessman Purna Kanta Burhagohain had stayed for nine years in
Burma and interacted with a number of people of Assam origin there. He has even
left a vivid account of those he met there. His account was published in 1993
as a book Paatkaair Sipaare Na Basar (Nine years on the other side of the Patkai).

Hazarika also apprised Dr. Phukan about the information available in the
writings of Assamese scholars like late Ananda Chandra Agarwala. Agarwala’s work
was published during the British rule. The rest of the information on this subject
is mostly derived from the British records and writings.  Information on one group of these people is also
found in the writings of a Kachin historian, Kawlu Ma Nawng, belonging to the
Gauri tribe of the Kachins.

the mid-1980s, Dr. Phukan started working on the subject with the support and encouragement
from Dr. Hazarika. And  in  the course of his venture to find out the
descendants of  those  estranged 
compatriots, he  frequently visited  the Khasi-Jayantia Hills  in Meghalaya, the Lanka and Kaki areas of the
State’s Nagaon District and also  the
Barak Valley.

writer accompanied him to Lanka once in such an expedition in 1997. The same
year, this writer also went to Barak Valley in search of the descendants of
such uprooted people.

the meantime, Dr. Phukan undertook serious research on  the origin of Assamese  language, 
the evolution of  the
Assamese  script, archaeological heritage
of Assam and through his contacts among the Chakmas – S.P. Talukdar, Pradhir
Talukdar, Abhay Chakma – and an Assamese gentleman Dipak Chakraborty, Dr.
Phukan came to know about  the existence
of  the 
settlements of  the estranged
Assamese people  in  the Chittagong Hill Tract  (CHT) of Bangladesh. These people are the progenies
of the Assam Rifles jawans who went to suppress the Kuki Raids in the CHT in
1860 AD.

These inspired Dr. Phukan to start working on a documentary on the historically dispersed Assamese people and for that purpose, he visited Meghalaya, Barak Valley and Lanka several times in 2010 and started filming with the help of Raphael Warjri, Nilotpal Dutta Baruah and a Tibetan lady, Yangchen Dolkar in 2010. In 2011, city-based businessman Binoy Sarma joined the team.

2013, North Guwahati College teacher Tapan Kumar Sarma joined Dr. Phukan when
the trips to Bangladesh and Myanmar were planned by the surgeon.

trio visited Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2013 and both Binoy Sarma and Tapan
Sarma came up with interesting tales on their trips to Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Binoy Sarma wrote a book – Herowa
Asamiyaar Aat Bisaari
, while Tapan Sarma penned two books – Manar Deshat and Karnaphulir Paarat – based
on these trips.

thus, the link was re-established. After centuries, the descendants of the
uprooted Assamese people are now able to visit Assam in search of their roots.

The lost homeland The lost homeland Reviewed by feedvalley on April 02, 2019 Rating: 5


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