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Lachit Borphukan : The undefeated warrior in Battle of Saraighat who resisted Mughal conquest of Northeast India

Not many of us know about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan, the military commander of Ahom Kingdom who resisted Mughal conquest in Northeast India

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Battle of Saraighat
Lachit Borphukan statue (SM)
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  • When Mughal empire was brutally expanding under Aurangzeb, then the commander of Ahom dynasty, Lachit Borphukan made them taste their worst defeat in historic Battle of Saraighat

With mighty army of Mughals Aurangzeb was eyeing at Northeast India. But he was not aware of what fate his army will meet when they clash with Ahom dynasty of Assam under commandership of Lachit Borphukan, the man who shattered dreams of Mughal empire to conquest Northeast India. We are quite familiar with the valour of Maharana Pratap and Shivaji but somehow we were not told much about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan. Battle of Saraighat would always be remembered for the victory of a much smaller Ahom army over the mighty Mughal Army, through a combination of tactical brilliance, guerrilla warfare and intelligence gathering. It was the last attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.

The valiant Ahoms had successfully repulsed frequent attacks on their motherland since the time of Muhammad Ghori for around seventeen invasions.

Battle of Saraighat
Lachit Borphukan, commander of Ahom dynasty (Wikimedia)

The Mughals, were comparatively very well equipped, but failed to make any advances towards the Ahom army in the first phase of the war. So they offered Lachit Borphukan a bribe of one lakh rupees to abandon Guwahati but Lachit Borphukan refused to surrender.

From the capital city of Guwahti to the depths of the forests the Ahom warriors fought and held back the tide of invasion. The proud warriors of Central Asia, Mughals and Pathans alike were retreated  by the valiant resistance of the Ahoms.

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An incident in the history of Ahom resistance radiates the spirit which animated their fight for freedom, when Lachit Borphukan, the Army General of Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha had beheaded his maternal uncle for dereliction of duty while preparing to face the Mughals. His execution of his own uncle for not showing sufficient dedication to the war effort was not just an act of impulse but a reminder to his soldiers that in the service of one’s Dharma, it is not possible to adopt double standards of judgement. This act of selflessness and dedication further motivated the troops, who were charged with full energy and enthusiasm to the battle field. Such examples are not very uncommon in Indian history where Dharma is upheld.

Battle of Saraighat
Lachit borphukan, might warrior of Ahom kingdom (zeenews)

The reason why small Ahom army under Lachit Borphukan defeated mighty army of Mughals lies in the elaborate defense organized by him along the Brahamputra river which denied the use of the waterway to a large army of Aurangzeb comprising 1800 Turkish cavalry, 30,000 infantry and 500 cannons manned by the Portuguese. In the final stages of the battle, despite being seriously ill, he rallied his soldiers and personally led an assault forcing them to retreat. It is recorded that he said:“When my countrymen are suffering from invasion, and when my army is fighting and sacrificing its life, how can I think about resting my body due to a mere illness? How can I think about going home to my wife and children when my entire country is in trouble?”

The Mughal Commander-in-Chief, acknowledging his defeat by the Ahom soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief Lachit Barphukan, wrote, “Glory to the king! Glory to the counselors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I, Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!”

Lachit died soon after his victory at The Battle of Saraighat due to illness. It is sad that Lachit Borphukan is an unsung hero, let us give him the recognition he deserves, we must tell his tale of valour to coming generations and derive inspiration, he is an example that no matter how strong opponents and barbaric forces were, someone, somewhere resisted and fought against them for protection of motherland.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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  • Partha Saikia

    THE FIRST EVER MUSLIM INVASION OF WESTERN ASSAM(THE NAME ASSAM DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME AND WAS KNOWN AS KAMRUPA OR KAMATAPUR) WAS IN THE YEAR 1206 BY THE DESTROYER OF NALANDA AND VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY,THE GREAT TURKIC GENERAL AND RULER OF BENGAL BAKHTIAR KHILJI( FROM THE KHIJI TRIBE OF AFGHANISTAN).HE ATTACKED KAMARUPA WITH THE INTENSION OF CAPTURING TIBET.IN KAMRUPA HE HAD TO FACE GREAT RESISTANCE FROM THE KOCH KING PRITHU AND RETURN BACK EMPTYHANDED AFTER A CRUSHING DEFEAT.THE SECOND ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1227 AGAIN DURING PRITHU’S RULE BY BENGAL RULER GHIYASUDDIN IWAJ.THE THIRD ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1228 BY BENGAL GOVERNOR NASIRUDDIN AND THIS TIME PRITHU WAS KILLED.AFTER THAT SEVEN MORE ATTACKS FOLLOWED ON KAMARUPA OR KAMATAPUR.THE FIRST MUSLIM INVASION OF EASTERN ASSAM( ASOM OR AHOM) WAS ONLY IN 1516 OR 1527 BY THE GREAT WAZIRS DURING REIGN OF AHOM KING SUHUNGMUNG .THE AHOMS CAME TO UPPER ASSAM(INHABITED AND RULED BY GROUPS OF KACHARI PEOPLE NAMELY THE MORANS ,BORAHIS AND THE GREAT CHUTIAS) FROM THE BORDER REGIONS OF MYANMAR AND CHINA ONLY DURING THIRTEENTH CENTURY. AT THAT ASSAM WAS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS – CHUTIA KINGDOM(UPPER ASSAM).KACHARI KINGDOM(CENTRAL ASSAM) AND KAMATAPUR RULED BY THE KOCHES(WESTERN ASSAM).THE WORD ASOM OR AHOM EXISTED ONLY FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AFTER THE AHOMS SUBJUGATED THE CHUTIAS AND THE KACHARIS AND BROUGHT THE WHOLE OF UPPER AND CENTRAL ASSAM UNDER THEIR CONTROL.PEOPLE OF KAMATAPUR OR WESTERN ASSAM THEN CALLED THE EASTERN REGION AS THE ASOM OR AHOM KINGDOM.THE BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT WAS THE 17TH AND FINAL ATTACK BY MUSLIMS.IT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1671.IT WOULD BE VERY WRONG TO SAY THAT ONLY THE AHOMS DEFEATED MUGHALS ALONE AS THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS OF KOCH HAJO.THERE WERE ALSO DAFLA SOLDIERS FROM ARUNACHAL,GARO SOLDIERS FROM MEGHALAYA,MUSLIM SOLDIERS WHO WERE PRISONERS OF WAR . IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SAY THAT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE MUGHALS WAS WON WITH THE UNIFIED SOLDIERS OF VARIOUS TRIBES UNDER GENERAL LACHIT BORPHUKAN.SIMILARLY THE MUGHAL ARMY ALSO CONSISTED OF THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS FROM KOCH BEHAR AND RAJPUT SOLDIERS.

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  • Partha Saikia

    THE FIRST EVER MUSLIM INVASION OF WESTERN ASSAM(THE NAME ASSAM DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME AND WAS KNOWN AS KAMRUPA OR KAMATAPUR) WAS IN THE YEAR 1206 BY THE DESTROYER OF NALANDA AND VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY,THE GREAT TURKIC GENERAL AND RULER OF BENGAL BAKHTIAR KHILJI( FROM THE KHIJI TRIBE OF AFGHANISTAN).HE ATTACKED KAMARUPA WITH THE INTENSION OF CAPTURING TIBET.IN KAMRUPA HE HAD TO FACE GREAT RESISTANCE FROM THE KOCH KING PRITHU AND RETURN BACK EMPTYHANDED AFTER A CRUSHING DEFEAT.THE SECOND ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1227 AGAIN DURING PRITHU’S RULE BY BENGAL RULER GHIYASUDDIN IWAJ.THE THIRD ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1228 BY BENGAL GOVERNOR NASIRUDDIN AND THIS TIME PRITHU WAS KILLED.AFTER THAT SEVEN MORE ATTACKS FOLLOWED ON KAMARUPA OR KAMATAPUR.THE FIRST MUSLIM INVASION OF EASTERN ASSAM( ASOM OR AHOM) WAS ONLY IN 1516 OR 1527 BY THE GREAT WAZIRS DURING REIGN OF AHOM KING SUHUNGMUNG .THE AHOMS CAME TO UPPER ASSAM(INHABITED AND RULED BY GROUPS OF KACHARI PEOPLE NAMELY THE MORANS ,BORAHIS AND THE GREAT CHUTIAS) FROM THE BORDER REGIONS OF MYANMAR AND CHINA ONLY DURING THIRTEENTH CENTURY. AT THAT ASSAM WAS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS – CHUTIA KINGDOM(UPPER ASSAM).KACHARI KINGDOM(CENTRAL ASSAM) AND KAMATAPUR RULED BY THE KOCHES(WESTERN ASSAM).THE WORD ASOM OR AHOM EXISTED ONLY FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AFTER THE AHOMS SUBJUGATED THE CHUTIAS AND THE KACHARIS AND BROUGHT THE WHOLE OF UPPER AND CENTRAL ASSAM UNDER THEIR CONTROL.PEOPLE OF KAMATAPUR OR WESTERN ASSAM THEN CALLED THE EASTERN REGION AS THE ASOM OR AHOM KINGDOM.THE BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT WAS THE 17TH AND FINAL ATTACK BY MUSLIMS.IT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1671.IT WOULD BE VERY WRONG TO SAY THAT ONLY THE AHOMS DEFEATED MUGHALS ALONE AS THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS OF KOCH HAJO.THERE WERE ALSO DAFLA SOLDIERS FROM ARUNACHAL,GARO SOLDIERS FROM MEGHALAYA,MUSLIM SOLDIERS WHO WERE PRISONERS OF WAR . IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SAY THAT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE MUGHALS WAS WON WITH THE UNIFIED SOLDIERS OF VARIOUS TRIBES UNDER GENERAL LACHIT BORPHUKAN.SIMILARLY THE MUGHAL ARMY ALSO CONSISTED OF THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS FROM KOCH BEHAR AND RAJPUT SOLDIERS.

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Here’s How Strict India’s Citizenship Test Can Really Be

To be recognized as Indian citizens, all residents of Assam have had to produce documents proving that they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971.

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Indian Citizenship
In India's Citizenship Test, a Spelling Error Can Ruin a Family. VOA

Riyazul Islam says he had to produce family documents going back to 1951 to prove he was of India and not an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. But a draft list of citizens released in July excluded him and his mother, among a total of about 4 million people left off.

A wiry 33-year-old living in the northeastern state of Assam, Islam says he and his mother have no further documents left to prove they are Indians, although his father and many others in his family have been included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“If my father is an Indian citizen how come I am not?” said Islam in an interview in the small Assam town of Dhubri, close to the border with Muslim-majority Bangladesh. “What more proof do they need?”

Anguish like this is now commonplace in Assam, where the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi accelerated work on the citizen’s list after coming to power in the state two years ago, promising to act against immigrants accused of stealing jobs and resources from locals.

The government has not given details of the four million excluded from the list. But most are believed to be minority Bengali-speaking Muslims living in the state, which has a total population of 33 million, mostly Assamese-speaking Hindus.

Many of those excluded are illiterate and poor, and some are victims of a spelling error in their names or a mistake in their age in documents offered for proof of citizenship, according to a review of their documents by Reuters.

Opposition parties say Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is denying citizenship to Muslims through the Assam list, and demonstrating its Hindu nationalist credentials with an eye on a general election due by May.

The BJP’s Assam spokesman, Bijan Mahajan said there was no religion-based motive behind the citizenship drive.

“(This is) being opposed for political mileage whereas at ground zero there is absolutely no tension,” he said.

However, Arun Jaitley, one of Modi’s senior-most cabinet colleagues, said in a Facebook post this month that the NRC was necessary because the growth in the Hindu population of Assam had been overtaken by that of Muslims.

Ethnic Assamese have been agitating against outsiders in the state for decades. In 1983, about 2,000 people were chased down and killed by machete-armed mobs intent on hounding out Muslim immigrants. It has not been clearly established which group was behind the carnage.

India n Passport
The government has not given details of the four million excluded from the list. Flickr

The Assam NRC draft has excluded many Hindus too, but last weekend BJP chief Amit Shah assured citizenship to all non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by framing a new law.

It is not clear what will happen to those excluded from the final list of citizens, due to be published by the end of the year. But lawyers say they may end up in detention camps, or at the very least be denied citizenship rights and government subsidies.

They could also be struck off voter rolls, which will be an important factor in at least half a dozen Assam constituencies in a general election.

Spelling Errors

In Dhubri, a farming town on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra River upstream from the Bangladesh border, those who did not make it to the list were fearful of discussing it in public.

But inside their homes, several of those excluded showed a Reuters reporter tattered pieces of paper, including birth, school and marriage certificates dating back years and preserved carefully in plastic envelopes.

Such government-issued documents in the countryside often contain spelling or numerical errors, as the illiterate depend on others to write down details. Getting birth certificates made was also not common until recent years in many parts of the country.

Such mistakes can lead to loss of citizenship, said Aman Wadud, a lawyer who has handled dozens of cases of illegal immigration at Assam’s foreigner tribunals.

“With Muslims, there is a problem of title (surnames),” said Wadud. “Because most of the accused are illiterate they don’t use a constant title. Ali, Ahmed, Hussain are used interchangeably.”

He showed Reuters a tribunal judgment on a resident named Tajab Ali, who submitted a series of voters lists as proof of his citizenship going back to 1966. He said his name had been wrongly recorded as Tajap Ali instead of Tajab Ali in the 1985 voters list, and his father’s name wrongly recorded as Surman Ali Munshi instead of Surman Ali. There were also discrepancies in his age.

The tribunal said Ali submitted an affidavit “declaring various names of himself, his projected father, and mother. But an affidavit being only a self-declaration, it has no evidentiary value.”

Sajida Bibi, Islam’s mother, also fell victim to a wrongly entered name.

One of the documents she submitted to prove citizenship and shown to Reuters by the family, was an affidavit saying her name had been wrongly recorded as “Sabahan Bibi” in the 1951 citizenship registry, the first one drawn up in the state after India’s independence in 1947. The affidavit also said she was named as “Sahajadi Begum” in her school certificate, and that she changed her name to “Sajida Bibi” from “Sajida Begum” after her marriage.

She swore in the affidavit that all three were the same person here. The tribunal did not accept the affidavit.

Reuters reviewed copies of at least two other recent tribunal judgements in which people had been declared foreigners because of name and age-related errors and in which affidavits were not accepted.

“Not Against Muslims”

Much of the over 2,500-mile-long border between India and Bangladesh is porous, through which hundreds of thousands of people fled from Bangladesh during its India-backed war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

India Citizenship
A man, whose name is left off of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, stands in a line to collect forms to file appeals at an NRC Sewa Kendra (NSK) in Guwahati. VOA

To be recognized as Indian citizens, all residents of Assam have had to produce documents proving that they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971.

New Delhi said in 2016 that around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants were living in India. Activists who filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2009 to expel such immigrants alleged over 4 million of them had been included in Assam’s 2006 voter list.

Also Read: High Cholesterol Level Increased Risk of Death, Even In Healthy People

“For 38 years, we’ve been fighting to protect the language, culture and identity of our indigenous people in our own motherland,” said Samujjal Bhattacharya, an adviser to the All Assam Students Union (AASU), an organization that has spearheaded the campaign against illegal immigrants.

But Bhattacharya said the NRC was not biased against any community.

“It’s not against Muslims, it is not against Hindus, it is not against Bengalis,” Bhattacharya said. “It’s against illegal Bangladeshis. It is a question of citizens and non-citizens.” (VOA)