Meghalaya History



Meghalaya history illustrates that Meghalaya had an eventful past. The history in Meghalaya deals with the various incidents and illustrations that are witness to the rise of Meghalaya as an autonomous state.

To begin with the history of Meghalaya it can be said that the Meghalaya has been the homeland of a number of tribes, namely the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia. Till the 19th century, each of the three tribes in Meghalaya, viz. Garo, Khasi and Jaintia, had their independent rule in the different territories of Meghalaya. But the arrival of the Britishers in the political scenario of India changed the plight of these tribal communities in India.

In the 19th century, Meghalaya became a counterpart of the British Empire in India. During the British Raj, Meghalaya was annexed under the British Empire. Further in 1935, Meghalaya became a part of Assam: the Britishers incorporated Meghalaya in the territory of Assam. Yet, Meghalaya enjoyed a semi-independent status due to the treaty that was signed between Meghalaya and the British Crown.

Moreover, after the Partition of Bengal in 1905, Meghalaya was made a part of the new province that was culled out of Bengal. In 1905, Meghalaya became a part of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Again, in 1912, when the partition was reversed, Meghalaya was clubbed with Assam as a single territory.

Meghalaya history proves that although Meghalaya had been a part of Assam in 1947; yet it enjoyed an autonomous power within the territory of Assam. In fact, two districts of Assam was also put under the jurisdiction of Meghalaya in 1947.

The modern history at Meghalaya maintains that in 1971, with the Parliament passing the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971 conferred autonomy on Meghalaya. On January 21, 1972, Meghalaya became an autonomous state, housing a Legislative Assembly of its own.

Khasi Kingdom

Originally, the Khasi kingdom consisted of 25 independent Khasi chiefdoms in the mid-sixteenth century. Around 1815, the Khasi states came under British rule. There was very limited cultural relations between the Khasi states prior to British rule. Frequent wars between the states and villages, trading and raiding in the Brahmaputra and Sylhet valleys were the chief characteristics of the Khasi kingdom.

The Khasi kingdom in Meghalaya became an integral part of the British empire in 1765, when the Sylhet markets were considered a part of the economy of British. Around 1790, there were raids in the Khasi regions and finally the British fortified the foothills and stopped trading of the Khasi goods in the markets of Sylhet.

The mutual enmity between the Khasi kingdom at Meghalaya and the British ended when a road was put up in 1837 to connect Kolkata with the Brahmaputra Valley across the state of Nongkhaw. The antagonism officially ended with all the Khasi states and the British signing some treaties in 1862. These treaties allowed the Khasis autonomy and freedom from paying taxes to the British.

The Khasi kingdom of Meghalaya exhibited a great deal of cultural change after Shillong was declared the capital of Assam. These changes include decreasing popularity of traditional culture, increase in wealth, the acceptance of intermarriage and showing progress in education.

An autonomous tribal region was established in 1947, which was answerable to the governor of Assam, who functioned like an agent of Indian president. Nevertheless, the state system of the native Khasis remained undisturbed, that is, the different functionaries of their state system were not altered. Currently, the Khasis form a predominant tribe in Meghalaya, which is their own state.

Garo Kingdom

The Garo Kingdom of Meghalaya originated from Tibet, from where they went to the present Cooch Behar and then to Dhubri. Then they moved on to Jogighopa, present Kamakhya Hills or Ka'magre, along the Brahmaputra valley and finally spread in Goalpara or the Habraghat Pargana. The Garos prospered in the Habraghat Pargana neighborhood. The first Garo kingdom was created here and its first ruling prince was Abrasen. He had his capital and palace at Sambol A'ding, a lonely hill close to the Dakaitdol Village near the Goalpara town.

In the medieval period, the kingdom of the Garos in the hills were at hostility with the Zamindars of the estates, located on the plains near the foot the hills. Some of the important estates are Bijini in the Eastern Duars, Kalimalupara, Karaibari, Habraghat and Mechpara in Rongpur and Sherput and Susang in Mymensing in Bengal. The Garos still belonged to a few small Nokmaships, while the estates were fewer in number and larger in area.

In the later part of the 18th century, the British East India Company started establishing contact with the Garos, after acquiring the Diwani of Bengal from the Mughal emperor. The British won over all the semi-independent estates that bordered the Garo Hills. But the internal administration of the estates was not disturbed. They were given the responsibility of keeping the power of the Garos in check, as in the time of the Mughals. Hence, the enmity between the Garos and the zaminders grew stronger and the British had to finally intervene. Finally, this chaos ended when the Garo Hills were annexed in 1873. Captain The first Deputy Commissioner of Garo Hills district was Williamson. In 1979, it was divided into two districts, that is, West Garo Hills and East Garo Hills.

Jaintia Kingdom

The district of Jaintia Hills is an integral part of the Jaintia kingdom, which is otherwise called Sutnga Kingdom. In the society of Jaintia kingdom in Meghalaya, the villages that were located in a particular region formed a single political unit. The villages of this political unit were termed 'elakas'. The chief of each elaka was termed Doloi. He was elected from the senior population and could be expelled for his inefficiency or immorality.

A collection of many elakas consituted a Jaintia Syiemship or a kingship. The chief of the kingdom of Jaintias was the Raja. The Dolois represented their respective people in the Raja's Durbar. This old governmental setup excepting the Raja still exists. The respective durbars checked the power of the Doloi and the Raja. The Durbar, in turn, checked the government power. Initially, Jaintia Hills was called 'Ka Ri Khadar Doloi' or ' the land of the twelve tribal chiefs'. Initially, in Jaintia Hills there were twelve Dolois, who ruled twelve separate elakas.

The British abolished the Syiem office in the Jaintia kingdom of Meghalaya though they kept the concepts of Doloi and village headman or Waheh Chnong unchanged. The British brought the entire Jaintia Hills and a few other Khasi Hills villages under one administrative system. These regions were directly ruled by the British.

In 1972, after Meghalaya was declared a separate state, the Jaintia Hills and the Khasi Hills were put under the same administrative unit. In 1952, the concept of district council was introduced in these hilly regions. Consequently, both Jaintia Hills and Khasi were given separate district councils, though they remained parts of the same state.


British Rule

The current state of Meghalaya primarily consisted of the Khasi kingdom, the Garo Kingdom and the Jaintia kingdom before the advent of the British East India Company. The nature of Meghalaya British rule in each of these crucial parts of Meghalaya is described below.

The British rule in Meghalaya made the Khasi kingdom an integral part of their empire in 1765 by considering the Sylhet markets as an integral part of the Company's economy. The raids in the Khasi localities around 1790 finally led the British to fortify the foothills and did not allow further trading of Khasi goods at the Sylhet markets.

The antagonism between the Khasis and the British came to an end with the construction of a road in 1837 in Nongkhaw. The hostility finally ended when the Khasi states and the British signed a few treaties in 1862. These treaties made the Khasis autonomous and free from paying taxes to the Company.

The British rule of Meghalaya won over all the semi-independent estates bordering the Garo Hills. But the British did not alter the internal administration of the estates. The zaminders were supposed to check the power of the Garos, as during the rule of the Mughals. Hence, the hostility between the Garos and the zaminders became even stronger. Finally, the British annexed the Garo Hills in the year 1873. The first Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner was Williamson. In the year 1979, Garo Hills was divided into the districts of West Garo Hills and East Garo Hills.

The British rule at Meghalaya abolished the Syiem office in the Jaintia kingdom but they did not modify or eradicate the posts of Doloi and village headman or Waheh Chnong. They put the whole Jaintia Hills and a few other Khasi Hills villages under the same administrative system. The British directly governed these regions.

Post Independence

On 2nd April 1970, Meghalaya became an autonomous state and on 21st January 1972, it was declared a full-fledged state. Meghalaya post independence has its capital at Shillong. It stands at a height of 1496 meters above sea level. It remained the capital of Assam from 1874 to 1972. Shillong owes its name from its creator named Shyllong. The Jaintias, the Khasis and the Garos form the majority of the population of Meghalaya.

All the actions of the state government follow the laws formed by the parliament after independence in Meghalaya. The Union has the right to give directions to the state government as and when necessary. The basic structure of post -independent Meghalaya is given below:

In Post independent Meghalaya, the council of ministers execute the functions of the state government. The chief minister is the head of the council. The governor appoints the chief minister and the rest of the ministers. The council of ministers is answerable to the state legislative assembly.

It is made up of ministers, comprising of the cabinet members and the state ministers. The cabinet ministers finalize the government policies. When required, the rest of the ministers have to attend cabinet meetings.

The governor carries out all the executive functions. He is the constitutional head of the state government. All the actions of the governor are based on the decision of the ministers. In case of a few exceptions, he can exercise his authority.

Advocate General is the topmost state government legal adviser. His advise is often taken in case of interpretation of laws, other rules and the constitution. He is present in the supreme court in case of important cases as a representative of the government. He can actively participate in the Legislative Assembly proceedings in Meghalaya after independence.

Last Updated on: 13/05/2013

     


     

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