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homas Stearns Eliot speaks of ‘Contrived corridors and cunning passages of history’. So, there is nothing unusual if socio-cultural boundary of a region does not conform to the political identity imposed on it at a given point of time through a trick of history. Three southern Assam districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, commonly known at present as the Barak Valley, is a pointer to this fact. Also, the region differs in all respect from other units of Northeast India.

Geographically, linguistically, culturally and socially, the Barak Valley is an extension of the eastern Bengal. In 1874, when Assam was organised as a province by the British, two Bengali speaking districts of Sylhet and Cachar was carved out of the Bengal Presidency and incorporated in Assam to meet the revenue deficit of the newly formed province. The twin districts were then placed under a Commissionership and came to be known as Surma Valley division. In 1947, the major part of the Sylhet district was transferred to erstwhile East Pakistan. The remaining part of the Surma Valley division is now known as the Barak Valley which has since been organised into three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi within the state of Assam. But, for all practical purpose, ‘the Surma Barak Valley (i.e. the pre-independence districts of Sylhet and Cachar) forms a single cultural unit since time immemorial’. This is how Dr. Sujit Choudhury, an eminent social scientist and activist from Barak Valley introduces the dichotomy between political boundary of present day and socio cultural legacy of the past. All kind of activities, from creative to historiography thus earns the status of activism in the context of above. While the forces in the power apparatus of the state of Assam till date seek to undermine and distort the linguistic character of Barak Valley, people in general and the activists in academics and performing art in particular, endeavour to uphold the cultural uniqueness of the land. Though Assamese-speaking people in Barak Valley form a microscopic section of the population and again the major section of them are basically temporary residents on postings in government jobs, the website of Government of Assam declares Assamese as the major language of Barak Valley despite Bengali being the official language of these districts.

A study of history of Barak Valley, both of ancient and modern times, thus acquires importance in the light of the never ending saga of linguistic aggression.

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