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Meghalaya - History

Meghalaya was once ruled by the ancient tribes known as the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. Each had its own kingdom. In the 19th century, these kingdoms came under the administration of the British Raj; Meghalaya was annexed under the British Empire. The hill state of Meghalaya came into being on 21st January 1972, carved out of the then composite state of Assam. It encompasses three distinct autonomous areas known as the Garo Hills, the Khasi Hills and the Jaintia Hills, each predominantly inhabited by the three ethnic major tribes, viz., the Garo Tribes, the Khasi Tribes and the Jaintia Tribes respectively. Today, the Garo Hills have been subdivided into three districts, the Khasi Hills into another three and the Jaintia Hills remains a single unit. State of Meghalaya is the only State in the North East, the entire area of which is governed by the Provisions of Sixth Schedule (except Cantonment and Municipality of Shillong).

Iscot Marbaniang in his book-‘Assam in a Nutshell’ writes – “As far as could be inferred the Austric or Austro- Asiatic race were the first to come to Assam through the passes on the Burman boundary. These did not stay in Assam but marched eastward, leaving only a small remnant of the race who are now represented only by the Khasis who speak the Monkhmer group of languages”.

Dr. S.H.M Rizvi and Dr. Shibani Roy of Delhi University in their book – ‘Khasi Tribe of Meghalaya’ mentioned about the existence of Stri-rajya (kingdom of women) as early as the 8th century AD which Dr. Hamlet Bareh pointed out as the Jaintia Kingdom. Dr. Hamlet Bareh in his book- ‘The History and Culture of the Khasi people’ writes – “Among foreign evidence, The Assam Buranjis throw important glimpses on historical contacts of the Khasis with foreigners since 1500 AD Koch-Jaintia and Koch-Khyrim contacts have been preserved in Koch accounts as well as in the Darrang Raj Bansabali. The Buranjis which throw light on Khasi relations with the Ahom rulers are the Jayantia and Tungkhungkia Buranjis and a series of Assamese historical letters”.

Dr. Hamlet Bareh further writes – ‘It is worth mentioning that the importance of these Buranjis lies not only in their political aspect bet also in the fact that they give us clue to the understanding of cultural problem, diplomacy, the Khasi matrilineal laws of importance and giving us an idea of the resource and position of prominent entities. As early as the middle of the 8th Century AD, reference is found to a Kingdom of Stri-Rajya, literally Kingdom of Women which successfully resisted the Kashmirian invasion into Assam. The information is very important from the standpoint of matrilineal law, the Kingdom is identified with the Jaintia Kingdom.

By way of identification and the evaluation of other sources, both Indian and Foreign, some other results may be obtained in respect of historical reconstruction. In exchange of letters with the Ahom Court, the rulers of Sutnga Syiemship (Jaintia Kingdom) used an old form Assamese as the medium. Local Bengali Manuscripts in Jaintiapur have preserved other important incidents in the country’s history. But many of them have not been deciphered properly as they are antiquated”. Dr. Hamlet Bareh also referred to the Sylhet District Gazetteers and the documents of the Board of Revenue which give account of the invasion of Jaintiapur by the East India Company’s troops under captain Helliker in 1774. Apparently, the Jaintia Kingdom was ruled by the Syiems from the beginning of the 16th century but their rule ended in the year 1835 AD.

Iscot Marbaniang further writes – “Ram Singh was recognised as the Raja of Jaintia both hills and plains. Ram Singh died in 1830 and was succeeded by his nephew Rajendra Singh. There was then a serious misunderstanding in that the Raja killed some Raja in 1835 AD which the Raja surrendered to the British and retired to Sylhet on a pension of Rs. 500/- a month”. When the British annexed the Jaintia parganas in the plain, the then Syiem of Jaintiapur Rajendra Singh handed over the hills areas also to them and as such, from the year 1835 the whole Jaintia Kingdom came under the British rule till India achieved independence on the 15th August 1947. During the British rule, the Jaintia Hills formed part of the Khasi Jaintia Hills District in the status of a Civil Sub-Division known as Jowai Civil Sub-Division.

Consequent on the independence of India from the British rule, the Syiems of 25 Khasi States signed the Instrument of Accession and these States came under the administration of the District which renamed as United Khasi & Jaintia Hills District. The Constitution of India which was proclaimed in the year 1950 has under Article 244(2) a provision for administration of tribal areas in the then State of Assam as per Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. The United Khasi & Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council was then created in the year 1951 under the Sixth Schedule with headquarters at Shillong and a Branch Office at Jowai.



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