ASSAM STATE CHAPTER 1

  GENERAL

  INTRODUCTION :

 

Assam is situated in the north-east corner of India and is aptly described as the land of the "Red River and Blue Hills". The mighty river Brahmaputra dominates the whole of the Assam Valley and the blue hills intersect most part of the state with their evergreen forest and blue haze. This land is the home to a variety of exotic flora and fauna including the famous one horned rhinoceros.

 

Assam is the meeting place of various races and tribes. Long before the coming of the Aryans to India, millennium before Christ, this ancient land of Assam was inhabited by a people whom the scholars call "Austrics" or "Austric -Asiatics" as they migrated from the Austronesian and other islands of the Pacific Ocean to Asiatic mainland. The tribes of the Mongoloid stock probably entered Assam long after the coming of the Austris. It is said that the Tibeto-Burman tribes of the Mongoloid race were followed by the great Bodo tribe. The earliest literature of ancient India, The Mahabharata mentions Assam as the land of Mlechchas and Asuras, that is, a non-Aryan country. In the age of Mahabharata this of the country was called "Pragjyotisa". It was however, known as "Kamrupa" to the "Puranas" and the "Tantras".Ancient pragjyotisa or Kamrupa came into contact with aryan civilization and culture at a very early age as historically this border land had been the most easterly acquisition of the early Aryan invaders. In the later part of the twelfth century A.D.,the Muhammadans embarked on the conquest of the northern India. However,this eastern most land was hardly affected by the Muslim invaders. In the thirteenth century,the Muhmmadans invaded Kamrupa three times but each time they were beaten back by the Ahoms Who entered Assam through the eastern gate across the Patkai range and ruled this state for about six hundred years. The admixture of distinctive and diversified cultures of different races and tribes who settled in this part of the country built the great Assamese race.

 

The beginning of Assamese language is traced to the "Charyapadas" dating back to 10th century. However,independent identity of Assamese language had been noted by Yuan Chang,the Chinese traveler,as early as in 7th century. It was during 13th-14th century that Assamese written literature flourished. In the 16th century,prose literature reached glorious heights. Modern Assamese literature as is prevalent today has its origin in the 19th century.

 

In the 15th century A.D, noted religious reformers, Sri Sankardeva and his close disciple Sri Madhabdeva brought about a renaissance in the field of religion through their preaching and they were the pioneers in the field of socio-Cultural reforms in Assam. They preached Ek Sarana Dharma,which embraced all its devotees irrespective of caste and creed. The Satra system which is the innovation of Sri Sankardeva, has been occupying the position of nerve center in Assamese society. The Bhabana, Ankianat, Bargeet, Ojapali, etc. written by these two religious reformers also contributed immensely to the Assamese literature and culture occupying a distinctive place of pride in India.

 

Assam is land of rich potentialities and is full of mineral resources and other raw materials but these resources and other raw materials have to a great extent remained unexploited. One of the major industries in Assam is that of the ''one bud and two leaves'',viz,tea industry. It is for this reason for Assam is known as ''the land of tea''.Assam contributed more than 33% of the world output of tea. Assam is also rich in oil and coal. Cottage industry is carried in a traditional manner in almost every household. The skill in the at of weaving and spinning is always held to be one of the highest attainments of an Assamese woman.

 

Assam promises a bright future provided proper and due impetus is given in harnessing the rich resources of the State.

 

(i)Origin of the name Assam :

 

Opinions differ as to the origin of the name Assam. Some think it is an anglicized form of the Assamese word Asam meaning 'unequal', 'peerless', a term by which the Ahoms or the Shan invaders were called by the local people. Its several variants such as Asaam, Aasam, Asam and Acam are noticed in Assamese literature. Some are of the opinion that the word is derived from Asama in the sense of ''uneven''as distinguished from Samatata or ''even''. It is certain that the name nowhere occurs prior to the Ahom occupation of the country, and the name was applied to the Ahoms rather than to their country. E.A. Gait,however, opines that the Ahom called themselves Tai,and it is not clear how they came to be known by their present name .It is also suggested that the word Shan, or its variants Syam or Siam are called derived from a common word. The Assamese historical tradition says that the name Assam in the sense of ''unequal''has been applied to the Tai conquerors by the local tribes when the former entered the Brahmaputra valley in the thirteen century. Recent researches conducted by scholars bring to the notice that all the tribes inhabiting the north-western border of Yunnan and northern Myanmar call the Tai people Asam,Lasam,Sam,Sem,Siem,Sen,Sham,etc. It is supposed that such terms were also applied to the Ahoms by the local tribes of eastern Assam who lived in close proximity with those in Myanmar. Mush later,Asam was given a Sanskriti derivation with the meaning ''unequal''or''unrivalled''. Sunity Kumar Chatterjee suggest that Ahom comes from Rhwam, a term by which the Burmese called the Shan or the Tai people. B. K.Kakati thinks that Asam as applied to the Shans is a hybrid formation of Assamese private prefix A with The Tai word cham meaning ''to be defeated'' , and hence Acham means ''undefeated''.

 

(ii) (a) Location:

 

The present Assam State is bounded by latitudes 240 580150 N and longitudes 89o 42o 05o E and 96o 01o '14''E(approx).1 Assam may be divided broadly into two rivers valleys and a reason of hills and plateaus. They are the Brahmaputra valley, wanted by the Brahmaputra throughout its length from Sadiya in the north-east to Dhubri in the west, and by its tributaries on both sides of its banks, the Barak valley,mainly watered by the Barak river and its tributaries,and the hilly tract of Karbi plateau and North Cachar Hills. The Brahmaputra valley again may be divided into three regions ,the Uttarpar or Uttarkula, the Dakhinpar or Dakhinakula and the Majuli and other river rineislands formed by the river Brahmaputra. Incidentally,it may be mentioned here that the length of the Brahmaputra river with in Assam is about 720 kilometres and it is on the average 8 to 10 kilometres wide. Geographically, Assam may conveniently be divided into two parts-the plains and the hills. Currently, for administrative purposes the plain portions of the State are divided into twenty one districts in both the valley and the hill areas into two.

 

(b) General boundaries :

 

Assam is situated in the north-eastern part of India. It is bounded by two foreign countries and seven Indian states. To the north of it is Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. To the east there are Arunachal Pradesh ,Nagaland and Manipur. The southern boundary is skirted by Mizoram and Meghalaya and to the west there lie. West Bengal ,Bangladesh and Tripura. While describing about the general boundaries of the present state of Assam it may be stated that it is bounded both by the international and inter-state boundaries. The international boundary of the State lies in three sectors namely (a) Dhubri-Rangpur sector of Indo -Bangla boundary-134 km (b) Karimganj-Cachar-Sylhet sector of Indo-Bangla boundary-229 km and © Indo-Bhuta boundary -269km.Thus ,there are about 532 kilometres of international boundary of Assam.

 

In respect of the inter-state boundary, the state of Assam has its boundary with West Bengal, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura. The length of state-wise boundaries is as follows:2-

 

 

1.Assam-West Bengal boundary 128.0 km - (a)Kokrajhar-Jalpaigur 48.0km

   (b)Dhubri-Cooch-Bihar 80.0km

2.Assam-Meghalaya boundary 723.2km

3.Assam-Nagaland boundary 434.0km

4 Assam-Manipur boundary 132.8 km

5.Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary 704.0 km6. Assam-Mizoram boundary 130.0 km

7. Assam Tripura boundary 23.3 km

 

(c) Area:

 

At the time of 1971 census the total area of Assam including Mizoram and excluding Meghalaya was 99,610 square kilometers. After the creation of Mizoram as a union territory on 21st January, 1972, Assam has lost an area of 21,087 square kilometers and accordingly its present area is only 78,523 square kilometres. 3

 

It may be mentioned here that just before the Census of 1961,the area of Assam according to the surveyor General of India was 84,895 square miles (2.19.878.05 sq.km) including NEFA (present Arunachal Pradesh) and Nagaland. Nagaland with an area of 6366 square miles (16487.94sq.km) was formed into a separate state just before the census of 1961, and NEFA (present Arunachal Pradesh ) which was then a centrally administered unit with an area of 31438square miles (81,424.42sq km)had been excluded from the jurisdiction of the Superintendent of census operations,Assam. Thus,Assam proper as censused by the superintendent of census operations in 1961, consisted of an area of 47091squae miles(1,21,965.69sq.km) according to the surveyor General of India ,and 47.257.2 square miles (1,22,396.15sq.km) according to the director of survey,Assam. Accordingly the censused area of 'Assam proper' in 1961 census consisted of 11 districts namely Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang , Nagaon ,Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Cachar, Garo Hills,United Khasi and Jaintia Hills, United Mikir and North Cachar Hills and Mizo Hills covering an area of 121,965 square kilometers. But after the creation of Meghalaya as a separate state comprising the districts of United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills ,and Mizo Hills as a Union Territory,the Surveyor General of India in 1971 found Assam's area as 78,523 square kilometers.

 

There were at that time (1971) nine districts in Assam excluding Mizoram. But in late 1971 the then Lakhimpur district was divided into two administrative districts of Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh, thus bringing the total number of districts to ten. Subsequently,due to administrative exigencies eight more districts were created by dividing the larger districts between 1980 and 1985,bringing then the total number of districts in the state to eighteen. Subsequently between 1985and 1990,six more new districts were created but one (viz. Pragjyotishpur)was marged with Kamrup with the status of a sub -division. The state,therefore ,has now 23 districts .their areas are as follows:

 

  Districts                     Area (Km2)

1.Dhubri                         2838

 

2.Kokrajhar                    3129

 

3.Bongaigaon                 2150

 

4.Goalpara                     1824

 

5.Barpeta                        3245

 

6.Nalbari                          2257

 

7.Kamrup                         4345

 

8.Darrang                         3481

 

9.Sonitpur                         5324

 

10.Morigaon                     1704

 

11.Nagaon                        3831

 

12.Golaghat                      3502

 

13.Jorhat                           2851

 

14.Sibsagar                       2668

 

15.Lakhimpur                    2277

 

16.Dhemaji                        3237

 

17.Tinsukia                        3790

 

18.Dibrugarh                     3381

 

19.Karbi-Along                10434

 

20.North Cachar Hills        4888

 

21.Cachar                         3786

 

22.Karimganj                    1809

 

23.Hailakandi                    1327

 

 

Total Assam                   78438

 

Source:Director of census operation,Assam.

 

(d) Population:

 

The total population of Assam as per1991 census data is 22,414,322 of whom 11,657,989 are male and 10,756,333 are female. The following table shows the variation in Assam between 1901 and 1991.

. Population of Assam 1901-1991

 

Year       Population        Decade Variation               Percentage Decade Variation

  (1)           (2)                      (3)                                             (4)

 

1901      3,289,680            …..........                                     ….....

1911      3,848,61               +558,937                                  +16.99

1921      4636980               +788363                                   +20.48

1931      5560371               +923391                                   +19.91

1941      6694790               +1134419                                 +20.40

1951       8028856                 +1334066                              +19.93

1961       0837329                 +2808473                              +34.98

1971      14625152                +3787823                              +34.95

1991       22414322               +7789170                               +53.26

Source:director of census operation,Assam.

 

  • As there was no census operation in1981 in Assam,the decade variation data are for the period 1971-91.

(iii) History of the State as an administrative unit the changes on its component parts:

 

(a) Annexation:

 

(iii) History of the State as an administrative unit the changes on its component parts:

 

(a) Annexation:

 

Prior to the advent of the British, the Ahoms, a Shan tribe ruled over Assam for six hundred years.''The Ahoms appear to have been a bold race of warriors, who were not afraid to meet the Mughals face to face in battle and they also processed a highly organised system of Government, differing in several important particulars from that which prevailed throughout India''4 However,the successors of Swargadeo Rudra Singha (1696-1714 A.D.),one of the greatest of the Ahom kings, were weak and ease loving who fell prey to religious and sectarian influence ,and the dynasty began to decay. The acquaintance of British with Assam dates back to the year 1792 when captain Thomas Welsh was send with a detachment of sepoys to restore Gourinath Singha who had been dispossessed by the revolt of Krishnanarayan, a Koch prince of Darrang and religious sect called Moamarias in Upper Assam. Captain Welsh restored Gourinath Singha to his former position in 1794. The chief of the Moamarias, or Matak tribe inhabiting the Buri Dihing – Brahmaputra area,however ,maintained his independent political authority under the title of the Bar Senapati down to the type of the British annexation. Soon the Burmese appeared, apparently on invitation of Badan Chandra, but it fact, for the purpose of extending the political influence of the Burmese monarch in the western border. the Burmese came thrice in 1817,1819 and 1821,and the last time they did not go back but fully established themselves. They carried out atrocities of various nature including plundering and raids on those who resisted or refused to submit to them. Many leading people fled to neighbouring Bengal and some took shelter in the hills.

In course of the war between the British and the Burmese during 1824-26, Assam was ruined by depopulation and decay. Assam was occupied by the British and it was retained by them after the Treaty of Yandabo concluded on 24th February,1826.The British continued to administer Assam under provisional

administration. However,in 1828,Lower Assam was placed under direct British administration. In 1833, the upper part of the valley, except the Matak and Sadiya area and the tract occupied by the Singpho, was constituted into a separate principality and placed under Purander Singha, one of the former rulers, on tributary basis with Jorhat as his capital. He was also placed under several limitation which severely affected his power. Due to several lapses including his failure of regular payment of annual tribute, his kingdom was annexed to the British dominion in 1838,and by a proclamation in 1839,it was placed under direct British administration. Purandar Singha was offered a pension Rs.1000/-per month,but he never accepted it nor did he acquiesce in the resumption. Upper Assam was formed into two districts viz., Sibpur or Sibsagar (so called from the time the place was selected as the district headquarters)which included the tract south of the old course of the Brahmaputra, and Lakhimpur, or the part to the north of the same river.

 

By the grant of Diwani by the Mughal Emperor in 1765, Sylhet and Goalpara which were parts of Bengal had come under the jurisdiction of the east India company. After the murder of Kachari Raja Govinda Chandra in 1830, Cachar excluding the North Cachar Hills, had been formally acquired by the British in 1832. It was formed into a separate district with headquarters at Silchar under the commissioner of Assam till 1836 when it was transferred to the Decca Division. Later on,the till portion which was enjoyed by the Tularam Senapati, after his death in 1850 by his sons, was annexed to the British dominion in 1854.The surviving members of Tularam's family received pensions. During the first few years,the Garo Hills were treated as a part of Goalpara. By regulation X of 1822, the Garo Hills along with the thanas of Goalpara, Dhubri and Karaibari were separated from the Bengal district of Rongpur, and formed a special tract called North-East Rongpur. David Scott was appointed as the first civil Commissioner of the new district. In 1826, it was annexed of Assam .In 1867, Goalpara with Eastern Duar and the Garo Hills were transferred to the Koch Behar Commissionership. But one year later while the executive remained with the Koch Behar Commissioner,the judicial administration of Goalpara and Garo Hills was transferred to Assam. Again in 1869, the Garo Hills was formed into a separate district with the headquarters and Tura. This measure helped to bring more Garo villages under British control. In 1874, when Assam was constituted into a chief commissioner's province. Garo Hills district was transferred to Assam.

 

The territories of the Khasis were acquired by the British partly by conquest and partly by treaty. At the beginning of the British occupation of Assam. David Scott entered into negotiations with Tirot Singh, the Syiem of Nong Khlaw, one of the largest Khasi states, for the construction of a road from Rani in Kamrup to the Surma Valley. When the construction work was in progress, the Khasis, apprehending British control over their hills,rose in arms and fell upon the British

party at Nong Khlaw, killing two officers and several others in 1829 . David Scoot narrowly escaped . The movement soon spread to other states in the Khasi Hills . However , vigorous military operations against the rebels led many of them to surrender. Tirot Singh surrendered in 1833 and was kept in the Decca jail where he died in 1834.

 

One after another, the petty Khasi states engaged themselves with the British in treaty relations. They came under general control of British political Agent,but the internal administration, except certain serious offenses,was left to the chiefs. They also acknowledged the right of the paramount power to establish civil and military cantonments in their territories. In 1835, Nong Khlaw was made the headquarters of the British Political Agent.In1854, the Khasi Hills were placed under a Junior Assistant Commissioner. In 1864, the headquarters was shifted to Shillong,which become the capital of Assam in 1871.

 

Ram Singh, Jaintia Raja concluded a treaty of subordinate alliance with the British at Badarpur just at the out break of the Anglo-Burmese war. After the war,its relation with the British deteriorated due to the establishment of an outpost at Chaparmukh within the British district of Nagaon and also capture and immolation of three British subjects at the shrine of Goddess Kali by the Raja Gobha,a dependent of Jaintia. While the British persistence for the surrender of the culprits was in progress, Ram Singh died and was succeeded by Rajendra Singh. Latters evasion to the demand led the British to deprive him of the plains of Jaintia by a proclamation issued in March 1835.This part was annexed to the British district of Sylhet, and Gobha was joined to Nagaon. On Rajendra Singhs refusal to retain in possession the hilly tract which yielded little income,it was also placed under the British administration. The Jaintia Raja retired to Sylhet with a pension. The Jaintias, or the Syntengs revolved in 1860 for the imposition of house tax,but it was suppressed. Two years later in 1862 there was another widespread rebellion due to the imposition of income tax. Thereafter the Jaintia Hills were formed into a sub-division of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills district.

 

The annexation of Naga Hills into the British territory was gradual and it took may years to consolidate the British rule over these hills. The first direct contact with the Angami Nagas dates back to 1832 when capt. Jenkins and capt. Pemberton passed through their country on a survey. The Angamis carried on frequent raids on North Cachar. The British conducted several expedition against them between 1835 and 1851. Lord Dalhousie's policy on non-interference did not work, and Angami raids continued. In order to control the Angami raids more effectively,the North Cachar sub-division was created. Still troubles continued,and at last it was decided to reduce the Angamis, the north Cachar sub-division was abolished and the Naga Hills District was created with its headquarters at Samagutting in the Angami country. In 1875,the areas of the Lotha Nagas were

annexed, and a British officer was posted at Wokha. In 1878,the headquarters of the Naga Hills district was shifted to Kohima, and in 1881it was finally decided to permanently occupy the hills,and the district boundary was notified in July, 1882.

Soon after the Yandabo treaty, the British made an agreement in 1826with the Bar Senapati of the Mataks, allowing him to have control over his subjects on certain conditions .On the death of Bar Senapati in 1839, the British sought to impose new terms on the new chief Maju Gohain. But on this failure to accept the terms and conditions of the British, Captain Hemilton Vetch, the British representative assumed direct management of the entire Matak country. The British finding the Khamtis in possession of Sadiya and its surrounding country, made an agreement with the Khamti chief recognizing him on certain conditions. In 1839,the Khamtis rose in revolt killing a number of officers and Sepoys including Adam White,the Political Agent of Upper Assam. In 1842,both these tracts were added to the Lakhimpur district with its headquarters at Dibrugarh. The routes or passes through which the hill tribes had their access to the plains of Assam were generally known as Duars. These are placed under officials called Duarias appointed by the Ahom kings. For the use of these, the tribes had to pay annually certain articles in fixed quantity. These duars were integral parts of Assam and were held in subjection by the Ahom kings. But during the declining stages of the Ahom rule,the duars on the Bhutan border were occupied the Bhutias on payment of tribute in kind to the Ahom king. Among these included gold-dust,ponies,musk,cow-tails,swords,blankets and some amount in cash. With the taking over of the Ahom territories by the British,the question of administration of the duars also came in. There appeared misunderstanding among the Bhutias as to the payment of tribute to the British. The annexation of two duars viz.,Kuriapara and Charduar was promoted by the necessity of maintaining peace in the border areas of British Darrang. Further,plunder and kidnapping of plainsmen by the Bhutias continued which ultimately compelled the British to annex the duars,

 

Thus in course of three decades, i.e.,from 1824 to 1854,the different parts of Brahmaputra and Surma valleys were annexed to the British dominions.

The Mizo district earlier known as the Lushai Hills was annexed after several expeditions to British dominion in 1891. The North Lushai Hills was placed under the administrative control of Government of Assam,while the South Lushai Hills was under the Government of Bengal. The Chin-Lushai Conference, 1898, amalgamated the North and South Lushai Hills as one district and placed under the charge of one Superintendent under the administrative control of the Chief Commissioner of Assam. There was no change in the territory of the province upto 1905.

In 1930, one more area known as the Lakher land in the extreme south

of the Lushai Hills was added to the already administered district. Under the provisions of the Government of India act,1935, Lushai Hills district was, however, declared to be excluded from the operations of the provincial legislature.

 

(b) Administrative Reorganisation by the British:

 

After annexation and consolidation of the British rule in Assam a number of changes were affected in the administrative sphere like the formation of districts and sub-divisions in the province. In 1834,the British portion of the Brahmaputra valley was divided into four districts, viz.,Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang (including Biswanath) and Nagaon. After the annexation of popular Singha's dominion of Upper Assam in 1839, it was constituted into two districts, e.g., Sibsagar and Lakhimpur. At that time Guwahati continued to be the headquarters of the district of Kamrupas well as of the Commissioner of Assam. Goalpara, including the Garo Hills but excluding the Eastern Duars was originally administered from Rangpur and naturally formed part of the province of Bengal. With the enactment of regulation X of 1822, it was cut off from Rangpur and formed into a separate district with headquarters at Goalpara .Goalpara came under the ordinary jurisdiction of Commissioner of Assam since the tract was taken from the Burmese in 1826.

 

On the formation of Bengal Commissionership of Cooch Behar, the Eastern Duars was included into this Commissionership in 1867 . In 1869 , the Garo Hills was constituted into a separate district.

 

In 1874, the districts of the Brahmaputra Valley and adjacent hills together with Cachar and Sylhet were constituted into a separate Province of Assam under a Chief Commissioner. In carrying out the administration of the vast territory under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal immense difficulties were experienced. To ease the difficulties of administration, in 1903, it was decided to add to the small province of Assam the eastern portion of its unwieldy neighbour and to consolidate these territories under a Lieutenant-Governor. In October 1905, Assam was amalgamated with the districts of Dacca, Chitagong, Rajshahi Commissionership of Bengal with the exclusion of Darjeeling district and in addition of Malda to from a new province,known as province of Eastern Bengal and Assam with an area of 106,540 sq. mile (275,937.6sq.km) and a population of 31 million .This change was ,however, of very short duration. The Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam was again broken up on 1st April , 1912 when the Eastern Bengal districts were united with the Bengal Commissionership of Burdwan to from the Presidency of Bengal under a Governor-in -council. Bihar, Chota Nagpur and Orissa were formed into a separate province,while the old province of Assam was reconstituted under a Chief Commissioner .The revival of Chief Commissionership came into existence on 1st April,1912.This arrangement continued till 1921,when Assam was declared a Governor's province.

The census report, 1921 records that on the break up of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1912, Assam reverted to its former status of a Chief Commissionership,

but on January 3rd-1921 it was constituted a Governor's province,with an Executive Council and Ministers, the latter being responsible to legislative council with an elected majority.

 

The area administered by the Chief Commissioner of Assam covered a surveyed area of 61471 square miles(159209.88sq.km)which was 5228square miles(13695.92 sq km)in excess of that reported in 1901. In the census report on Assam,1911, it is recorded that the increase was entirely due to the correction of error in the area of Manipur state. In British territory, new surveys shows an increase of only 56 square miles(145.04sq.km). Besides, there was the unsurveyed country of the Eastern Angamis and Semas which was added to the Naga Hills in 1901.

 

The province is usually divided into three divisions, i.e.,the Brahmaputra Valley, the Surma(Barak)Valley and the Hills. The Brahmaputra Valley and Surma Valley are separated from each other by the Assam range which projects westward from the Hills on the Eastern border. The Valley of the Brahmaputra on the north is an alluvial plain about 730 km. In length and 80 km. in average breadth. Out of the two districts of the Surma Valley (including Sylhet in the per-partition period) Cachar formed the Eastern Angel and contained one sub-division in the hills while Sylhet was wide and flat.

 

During the period between 1911-21, two frontier tracts, viz, Sadiya and Balipara were separated from the Assam Valley Division. These two tracts were constituted in 1912 and 1914 from parts of the Lakhimpur and Darrang districts and for administration purposes they were put in charge of Political Officers directly under the local Government.

 

Again during the period between 1921-31,some 900 square miles (2304sqare kilometer)of sparsely populated and previously unadministered country on the borders of Naga Hills, the Lushai Hills and Sadiya frontier Tract were incorporated within the province of Assam. For the first time for Census operation in 1931, the Khasi states had been shown separately from the British portion of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills district. During this decade, two noteworthy changes, namely, the transfer of the Digar Mouza from the Naga Hills to the North Cachar sub-division and some Abor villages from Lakhimpur to Sadiya frontier were effected.

 

The following statement shows the area and population of Assam (division wise) as recorded in the census report of 1911.The area and population of Manipur State as per census of 1921 and 1931 are also shown separately in the table

 

 

Name of State /division       Area in sq.mile   Area in sq km.     Population

            Assam                                61,471                159,209,879          7,059,857

     Brahmaputra Valley                  24,598                 63,708.82              3,108,669

 Surma Valley(including Sylhet)     7,247                  18,769.73              2,942,839

              Hills                                  9,626                   24,931.34             1,008,350

 

1921 Census

 

Name of State /division     Area in sq.mile      Area in sq km.      Population

             Assam                       61,471                   159,209.879          7,990,248

     Surma Valley Division          25,317                     65,571,029            357,198

     Assam Valley Division         26,797                     69,404.23            3,991,682

           Frontier Tracts               911                         261.589                394,016

            Manipur State              8456                       21901.04               394,016

 

1931 Census

 

             Assam                      67,334                     174,395.06          9,247,857

Surma Valley & Hills Division

including Khasi states             27,870                       72,183.30           3,888,047

Assam Valley Division             27,084                       70,147.56           4,855,711

Frontier Tracts                         3,760                         9,738.4               58,493

Manipur State                        8,620                           22,325.8             445,606

 

At the time of 1961 Census, Assam covered an area of 85,012 square miles (220,181 sq.km) .It may, however, be mentioned here that after Independence radical changes took place in Assam in respect of its area and population. In July 1947,on the strength of 'Referendum' the overwhelmingly Muslim majority district of Sylhet with an area of 5,478 square miles (14,188.02sq.km) and a population of 3116,602 went to Pakistan.

The Sylhet Referendum was followed by the Radeliffe Award according to which the district of Sylhet went to East Pakistan with the exception of the three thanas of Badarpur (47 square miles or 121.73 sq. km.), Ratabari (240square miles or 717.43 sq.km.) and a portion of the Karimganj thana (145 square miles or375.55 sq.km).Thus, after the Partition in 1947, a total area of 709 square miles (1,836.31 sq. km) and a population of 291,320 persons of the Sylhet District of Surma Valley were retained in Assam and joined with the old district of Cachar forming a new sub -division, vis ., Karimganj. Consequently,the old province of Assam lost almost the whole district of Sylhet, where out of total 5,478 square miles (14,188.02sq.km.) an area involving 4,769 square miles (12,351.71 sq.km.) went in favour of Pakistan.

 

he unification of the country at the initiative of late Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had also its repercussion in Assam .As per negotiations with Patel . The petty States in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills numbering twenty five and covering an area of 3,788square miles (9811 sq. km.) with a population of 213,586 according to 1941 Census were merged with the district of Khasi and Jaintia Hills at the inauguration of the Republic of India on 26thJanuary, 1950, forming the new enlarged administrative district of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills . The area of Assam in 1941 was 67,359 sq.miles (1,74,459.81 sq. km) against 85,012 square miles (220,181 sq. km) as determined by the Surveyor-General of India in 1951.

 

The 1941 figure, however, includes the area of entire Sylhet, 5,478 square miles (14,188 sq, km.) as well as Manipur, 8,620 sq. miles (22,325.8 sq. km).As the 1951 figure excludes Manipur and includes, as shown above, only 709 square miles (1836,31 sq. km.) of the old district of Sylhet, the comparable figure for Assam for 1941 should have been 53,970 square miles (1,39,782.3 sq. km) only. This disparity in the area figure between 1941 and 1951 census by the huge margin of 31,042 square miles (80,398.77 sq. km) is due to the fact that the 1951 figure showed the total area of the State both for the regularly censused and non-censused part, while the 1941 figure applies only to the censused portions and omits the unlicensed area of the State. The other fact is that in the tow frontier tracts, namely the Sadiya Frontier and the Balipara Frontier,the areas locally determined had been adopted in the 1941 census. But the Survey of India's figures relate to the entire area of the tracts and not to the administered and censused areas alone. As such,there was enormous difference between the actual mapped area and the administered area. The census of 1941 covered only 3,880square miles(10049.2 sq. km)of these two tracts. It appears that the said census ignored a major portion of these two tracts (28,180 square miles or 72,986.2sq.km)which was not regularly censused in that year.

 

The 1941 census totally ignored the census operation in the Naga Tribal areas whereas 1951 census covered an area of 3086.4 square miles (5403.77sq.km)in the said region.

 

R.B. Vaghaiwalla, Superintendent of Census Operations,opines that these two factors as mentioned above, are alone responsible for a difference of 30,283 square miles (78432.7 sq.km) between the 1941 and 1951 area figures against the total difference of 31,036 square miles (80,383,23 sq.km).The remaining difference of 753 square miles (1950.27 sq.km)is mainly due to the more exact determination by the Survey of India of the area figures for all the districts of Assam in general and for the hill tracts of the North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh) in particular.5

During the decade of 1941-51, there was also a lot of changes in the areas of individual districts and such changes have been discussed in detail in the concerning districts of the State.

 

(c)Constitution and reconstitution of the individual districts during the decades of 1941-1961 are as follows :

 

Cachar :After partition of Sylhet in 1947, only 709 square miles (1,836.31sq.km) remained with Assam and it was formed into a new sub-division of Karimganj with headquarters at Karimganj and for administrative purpose the same was tagged with Cachar. While tracing the modern history of Cachar it may be mentioned here that Cachar along with Sylhet district was tagged to the newly annexed Assam in 1874 by the British. Likewise on the formation of the new district of United Mikir and North Cachar during the decade, Cachar lost its old sub-division of North Cachar Hills when an area of 1,896.8 sq.miles (4,912 sq.km)and a population of 37,361 as per 1941 census.

Darrang: On 1st March 1951,the plains portion of the Balipara Frontier Tract has been added to the district of Darrang(undived).The whole area of the Balipara Frontier Tract was not covered by census and only 531.2 square miles (1375.8 sq.km)were covered in the said census operation.

Nagaon:During the period 1941-51,a part of the Mikir Hills Excluded Area previously tagged with a Nagaon district (undivided)had been separated to form the new district of United Mikir and N.C.Hills. As a result Nagaon had lost an area of 1,715.9 square miles (4,444.7 sq.km).

Sibsagar:Before the formation of the United Mikir and the N.C. Hills district in 1951, an area known as the Mikir Hills Excluded Area was tagged with Golaghat sub-division of Sibsagar district (undivided) since separated constituted 1,676.3 square miles (4341.61 sq.km).

Lakhimpur :During the decade of 1941-51 a new tract as known as the Tirap Frontier tract was constituted by excluding 10.3 square miles (26.68 kms) from the undivided Lakhimpur district and joining them with a portion of the old Sadiya Frontier Tract and a portion of the Naga Tribal Area. In 1951,the plains portion of the Mishmi Hills (391.7 square miles or 1014.5 sq.km), the Abor Hills (273.9 sq.miles or 709.4 sq.km) and the Tirap Frontier tract were transferred to the Lakhimpur district. As a consequence ,Lakhimpur District (undivided)got a total 790.4 square miles (2,047.136 sq.km)in 1951.

United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District (now under Meghalaya):After the incorporation of an area of 3,788 square miles (9,810.92 sq.km) of former Khasi state on 26th January 1950,with the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District,the total area of the district increased to 5,533 square miles (14,330.47 sq.km). On the contrary, the district lost an area of 603.2 square miles (1,562.29 sq.km),i.e., Block1 and Block 11 of Jowai sub-division with a population of 22,554 which had been transferred to the newly created United Mikir and N.C.Hills

District the period between 1951 to 1961.

 

United Mikir and North Cachar Hills : A new district known as the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills was formed between 1951 and 1961 by transferring the whole of the North Cachar Hills sub division from Cachar and by carving out the Mikir Hills Excluded Area of Nagaon district,the Mikir Hills Excluded Area of Sibsagar district (Golaghat sub-division)and Block 1 and 11 of Jowai sub-division. Till November,1957,the areas mentioned above remained under the jurisdiction of the Deputy Commissioners of the parent districts. The said new administrative came into existence with effect from 7th November ,1951.The total area of the district constituted was 5,892.2 square miles (15,260.798 sq.km). After the formation of the said district,the area of Sibsagar , Nagaon. United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Cachar District were reduced.

 

In the next decade of 1961-1971,the district has been bifurcated again and formed into two separate districts. Viz., Mikir Hills (now Karbi Along)and north Cachar Hills district.

Mishmi Hills: Mishmi Hills originally constituted the Sadiya sub-division of the old Sadiya Frontier tract of 1941 census. In July 1948,it was made an independent district in charge of Political Officer. After 1st March 1951 an area of 391.7 sq .miles (1014.5 sq.km) of the plains portion of the tract had been joined with Lakhimpur district.

Abor Hills: Like the Mushmi Hills, the Abor Hills too originally formed a part of the old Sadiya Frontier Tract of 1941 census. In July, 1948, the plains portion of the Abor Hills measuring an area of 273.9 sq.miles (709.3 sq.km) was made an independent district In charge of a Political Officer .After 1st March,1951,the said area had been joined with Lakhimpur district.

Tirap Frontier Tract:During period of 1941-1951,a new tract known as the Tirap Frontier Tract was constituted by excluding 103 square miles (266.769sq.km) from Lakhimpur district and joining them with a portion of a Naga Tribal Area.

Balipara Frontier Tract :The plains portion of the old Balipara Frontier tract measuring an area of 531.2 square miles (1,375.808 sq.km) had been transferred to the Darrang district after 1st March ,1951.

Naga Tribal Area :This new political area did not feature at all in the 1941 census. Covering an area of 2,086.4 square miles (5,403.77 sq.km),at the time of 1951 census it was one of the parts B Tribal Areas of Assam included in paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Kamrup : In case of the undivided district of Kamrup, there was practically no change in its area and boundary from 1901 to 1941.But in 1951 by an enactment in the Parliament known as the Assam (Allocation of boundaries)Act,1951,a strip of territory measuring 32.8 square miles (85.952 sq.km)of Kamrup district was ceded to the Government of Bhutan on 1st September,1951.

Goalpara:No change area and boundary of the undivided district took place during the post-independence period.

 

Formation of Nagaland :The Naga Hills district and the former Tuensang division of the North East Frontier Agency were constituted into a separate state known as Nagaland in 1960. The new state was inaugurated on December, 1963, by the then president of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

The NEFA (present Arunachal) though from the point of geography and the Constitution of India was a part of Assam,was treated as a separate area for the purpose of the 1961 census. Accordingly the area of Assam for the 1961 census was 47,091 square miles (1,21,965.65 sq.km) excluding NEFA and Nagaland. Under section 7 of the North Eastern Area (Re-organisation) Act, 1971, the entire area of Arunachal was constituted as a Union Territory and named Arunachal Pradesh which came into existence on 21st January,1972.

 

Formation of Meghalaya: The formation of Meghalaya as a separate state is an important change in respect of the area and boundary of Assam,Meghalaya as a separate state with the Union of India has been created by transferring two hill districts,viz., Khasi and Jaintia Hills. According to 1961 census, the area covered by these two districts were 5,546 sq. miles (14,364.14sq.km) and 3,152 square miles (8,163.68 sq.km) respectively. Thus,on the formation of Meghalaya as a separate state Assam lost an area of 8,698 square miles (22,527.82 sq.km), and the new state came into being with effect from 1st April,1970.

 

Mizo Hills (Mizoram):The formation of Mizo Hills as a centrally administered territory is yet another notable landslide in respect of the area of Assam. Under section 8 of the North Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act,1971, the territories of Mizoram were constituted a Union Territory under the name Mizoram which came into existence on 1st January.1972. Mr. E.H. Pakyntein, Superintendent of Census Operations, Assam, recorded the position and area in the ''District Census Hand Book, Mizo Hills'',1961 as follows ''The Mizo District previously known as the Lushai Hills,is situated at the southernmost corner of Assam,lying between 21o50o'and 24o30' North and 92o 20' and 93o 20'East. The Tropic of Cancer runs through the district. It covers an area of 8,134 square miles (21,069 sq.km)and is the largest district of Assam. It is bounded on the North by Cachar district and Manipur state , on the East and the South by Chin Hills and the West by Chittagong Hills tract of East Pakistan and the Tripura State''

 

The erosion (separation) of the areas of modern Assam came along with the independence of the country. There was also practically no change in boundaries in areas of Assam from 1901 to 1941.Thus, partition of Sylhet in 1947, and subsequently separation of Naga Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills, and the Mizo Hills reduced the area of Assam to a great extent and in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991 census,the area of Assam was found to be reduced to 78,523 square kilometers with twenty three districts.

 

(iv) Divisions, Districts and Sub-divisions:

From the point of view of administration, Assam is divided into tow general divisions (both Brahmaputra Barak valleys) covers 63,301 square kilometres and the Hills Division comprise 15,222 square kilometres. Again, the Brahmaputra valley covers the major portion of the plains (area: 56,339 square kilometres ) in the whole state of Assam. The Barak valley representing three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi covers only 6,962 square kilometres . Recently, the plain Division has been bifurcated into tow Divisions, viz., Lower Assam and Upper Assam.

It has been noted in the census report Assam,1971 that there was no change in the boundaries of areas of the districts of Assam during the decade 1961-1971 except in the case of the old United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district which was bifurcated and formed into two separate district known as the Mikir Hills (Karbi Along) and North Cachar Hills district was formed with effect from 2nd February, 1970 (Govt. of Assam notification No.AAP.134/68/19dated 30th January1970) comprising the whole of North Cachar Hills subdivision of the old United Mikir and N.C.Hills district. The remaining portion of the district,namely,Mikir Hills sub-division,was renamed as Mikir Hills district (Govt. of Assam notification No. AAP.134/68/22 dated 11th February,1970). After six years of the formation of the Mikir Hills district it was renamed as Karbi Along as mentioned above (Govt of Assam notification No. AAD/R/115/74/47 dated 14th October 1976).

Besides,the new administrative districts of Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh were constituted on 2nd October,1971 (Govt of Assam notification No. AAP.110/70/165 dated 22nd September,1971) by bifurcating the old Lakhimpur district.

 

At the beginning of the nineteen eighties there were in Assam only eight plain districts and to hill districts .The district were (1) Lakhimpur, H.Q. Lakhimpur, (2) Dibrugarh.H.Q. Dibrugarh,(3) Sibsagar, H.Q.Jorhat, (4) Nagaon, H.Q.Nagaon, (5) Darrang, H.Q.Tezpur, (6) Kamrup, H.Q.Guwahati,(7) Goalpra, H.Q.Dhubri, (8) Cachar H.Q.Silchar, (9)Karbi Along, H.Q.Diphu and (10) North Cachar Hills,H.Q. Haflong (the last two are hills districts).For administrative conveniences these ten districts were divided into twenty district were divided into 26 sub-divisions.

 

New Districts and Sub-divisions :

 

In order to bring the administration nearer to the people, most of the districts of the British period were bifurcated and as a result of this administrative reorganisation, the number of districts and sub-divisions in the State as in August, 1985 came to be 18 and 35 respectively. Administrative exigencies, however, necessitated the creation of some more districts and six new districts were further created between 1985 and 1991, while one, created earlier (Pragjyotishpur) was converted into a sub-division and merged

with Kamrup district .Thus, at present (1992) there are 23 districts and 48 sub-divisions in Assam. An analysis of the bifurcation / creation of new districts reveals that from the old (A) Kamrup district alone four districts were created , three in 1983 and one in 1985.They are (1)Kamrup, headquarters at Guwahati, (2)Barpeta , headquarters at Barpeta and (3)Nalbari, headquarters at Nalbari. The fourth district, Pragjyotishpur, created for the purpose of locating the then purposed state capital,with headquarters at Chandrapur, was subsequently converted into a sub-division of Kamrup district as stared earlier. Similarly,the following old district were reconstituted into a number of new district as shown:(B)Goalpara district into four: (1)Goalpara, headquarters at Goalpara, (2)Dhubri headquarters at Dhubri, (3)Kokrajhar, headquarters at Kokrajhar and (4)Bongaigaon, headquarters at Bongaigaon, (C)Cachar district into three : (1)Cachar, headquarters at Silchar, (2)Karimganj, headquarters at Karimganj and (3)Hailakandi, headquarters at Hailakandi. (D)Darrang district into two :-(1)Sonitpur , headquarters at Tezpur and (2)Darrang, headquarters at Mangaldoi.(E)Sibsagar district into three :(1)Sibsagar headquarters at Sibsagar,(2) Jorhat, headquarters at Jorhat,and(3)Golaghat, headquarters at Golaghat.(F)Dibrugarh district into two:(1)Dibrugarh, headquarters at Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, headquarters at Tinsukia.(G)Lakhimpur district into two :(1)Lakhimpur, headquarters at North Lakhimpur and (2)Dhemaji headquarters at Dhemaji,and (H)Nowgong district into two :(1)Nagaon , headquarters at Nagaon and (2)Morigaon, headquarters at Morigaon .It was only Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills district that were left untouched.

The following table shows name,area,population and sub-divisions of the reconstituted districts of the state as in 1991.

 

District            Area (sq.km)                Population                 Sub-division

   (1)                      (2)                              (3)                                  (4)

 

1.Dhubri                2838                      13,32,475                       1.Dhubri

                                                                                                    2.Bilasipara

                                                                                                   3.South Salmara

                                                                                                  - Mankachar

 

2.Kokrajhar            3129                       8,00,659                         1.Kokrajhar

                                                                                                     2.Gossaigaon

 

3.Bongaigaon         2510                       8,07,523                         1.Bongaigaon

                                                                                                      2.Bijni

                                                                                                       3.Abhayapuri

 

4. Goalpara            1824                       6,68,138                          1. Goalpara

 

5.Barpeta               3245                       13,85,659                         1. Barpeta

                                                                                                       2. Bajali

 

6.Nalbari                 2257                      10,16,390                          1. Nalbari

 

7.Kamrup                4345                       20,00,071                         1. Guwahati

 

                                                                                                       2. Rangia

                                                                                             

                                                                                                      3. Pragjyotishpur

 

8.Darrang                3481                        12,98,860                       1. Mangaldoi

   

                                                                                                       2. Udalguri

 

 

9.Sonitpur               5324                         14,24,287                      1. Tezpur

 

                                                                                                       2. Biswanath

 

10.Lakhimpur          2277                          7,51,517                       1. Lakhimpur

 

                                                                                                       2. Dhakuakhana

 

11.Dhemaji              3237                          4,78,830                       1. Dhemaji

 

                                                                                                         2. Jonai

 

12.Marigaon             1704                          6,39,682                    1. Mariagaon

 

13.Nagaon                3831                          18,93,171                  1. Nagaon

 

                                                                                                      2. Kaliabar

 

                                                                                                      3. Hojai

 

14.Golaghat              3502                           8,28,096                 1. Golaghat

 

                                                                                                     2. Bokakhat

   

                                                                                                      3. Dhansiri

 

15.Jorhat                  2851                             8,71,206                    1. Jorhat

 

                                                                                                         2. Majuli

 

16.Sibsagar             2668                              9,07,983                      1.Sibsagar

 

                                                                                                           2.Charaideo

 

                                                                                                            3.Nazira

 

17.Dibrugarh              3381                           10,42,457                1.Dibrugarh

 

18.Tinsukia               3790                             9,62,298                  1.Tinsukia

      

                                                                                                       2.Sadiya

 

                                                                                                        3.Margherita

 

19Karbi Anglong       10434                             6,62,723              1.Diphu

 

                                                                                                      2.Bokajan

                                                                                                  

                                                                                                      3.Hamren

 

20.N.C.Hills              4888                               1,50.801                 1.Haflong

 

                                                                                                       2.Maibong

 

21.Karimganj           1809                                 8,27,063                1.Karimganj

 

22.Hailakndi             1327                                4,49,048                1.Hailakandi

 

23.Cachar                 3786                               12,15,385                1.Silchar

 

                                                                                                         2.Lakhimpur

 

                               78438                                22,414,322              48 Sub-divisions

 

Source : Direct of census Operations,Assam.

 

 

The table above shows that from the view point of area, Karbi Anglong is the largest district with an area of 10434 km. The district is covered mostly by plateaus and hills. The largest plains district is Sonitpur with an area of 5324km. Hailakandi is the smallest district in Assam having an area of 1327km. From the view point of population as per 1991 census Kamrup is the most populous district (2,000,071) followed closely by Nagaon (1,893,171).Other populous districts are Sonitpur (1,424.287), Barpeta (1,385.659), Dhubri (1,332,475), Darang (1,298,860), Dibrugarh (1,042,457) and Nalbari (1,016,390). Each of the remaining district has a population of less than a million. North Cachar Hills district is the least populous one with 150,801 souls as per census of 1991.

 

 

1. Source : Survey of India.
2. Source : Assam Survey and (b)Political Department,Civil Secretariat,Dispur,Assam.
3.Census India,1971,Assam,Series 3, Part II-A,General Population Tables,p-12.
4. W.W. Hunter; The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 1, Second Edition.p.343.
5. Census of India,1951,Volume XII,Assam, Manipur and Tripura,Part I A Report,p-3
6.6. Tather M.: Physiographic Frame of N.E. India,'Geography of Ne India,NEn.Geography,
Vol.  18,Nos 1&2,1986,G.U.