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Those who do not know history should not say certain things: Himanta Biswa Sarma after Kapil Sibal claimed that Assam was part of Myanmar

Myanmar had invaded Assam several times from 1817 to 1826, and during the Anglo-Burma war of 1824 to 1826, Burmese army had occupied Assam for few months, before handing it over to British India under the Treaty of Yandaboo, but Assam was not originally part of Myanmar as claimed by Kapil SIbal

Senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal has sparked a controversy by claiming that Assam was originally part of Myanmar. He made the comment yesterday, 7th September, in Supreme Court while opposing petitions challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act. A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides a different cut-off date for immigrants to be considered illegal immigrants. As per this, all foreigners who entered Assam on or before 25th March 1971 will be granted Indian citizenship, against the cut-off date of 19th July 1949 for the rest of the country.

While arguing against the petitions, Kapil Sibal said that history of Assam is complicated as it was part of Myanmar which was later handed over to the British. Sibal also claimed that migration to Assam can’t be mapped, as ‘no migration can ever be mapped’.

He said, “If you look at the history of Assam, it is impossible to figure out who came when. Assam originally was a part of Myanmar, and it was way back in 1824 after the British conquered a part of it. A treaty was entered into and that is how Assam was handed over to the British.

Kapil Sibal added, “you can now imagine the amount of movement of people that took place in the context of the then British empire. And if you jump to 1905, you will have partition of Bengal, under which East Bengal and Assam became one and Bengali language was being taught in schools where there was large scale opposition. The interaction and absorption of Bengali population in Assam has a historical context.”

However, while it is true that the British had clubbed Assam with East Bengal after dividing Bengal, which was revoked later, Assam was never a part of Myanmar ‘originally’, as Kapil Sibal submitted in the Supreme Court. Myanmar occupied Assam for a brief period of time, before handing over the territory to British India in 1826.

Burmese army had invaded the Ahom kingdom in Assam several times between 1817 and 1826, and at that time Assam was not under British India at that time. During the last part in that period, the Burmese army occupied Assam for a few months. However, as the Burmese Army reached the India’s borders, the British government decided to prevent escalation of any danger to the empire.

This led to the first Anglo-Burmese war from March 1824 to February 1826, which the British won. Signing of the Treaty of Yandabo marked the end of the war, under which Myanmar ceded control of Assam and Manipur to British government, along with Rakhine (Arakan), and the Taninthayi regions. This is how Assam and Manipur became part of British India.

Myanmar controlled Assam and Manipur during the war, during a very volatile situation, a period marked horrific atrocities by Burmese army on civilians. But this does not mean that Assam was ‘originally a part of Myanmar’. Assam, previously known as Pragjyotishpur and Kamrup, is being ruled by local rulers for thousands of years, and the state, along neighbouring states, are part of the greater Indian culture from pre-historic times.

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma slammed Kapil Sibal for the comments, saying that if he does not know Buranji (history), he should not talk about it.

When asked about the comment, the CM said, ‘Those who do not have any knowledge of history should not speak some things. Assam was never a part of Myanmar, during Ahom regime people of Myanmar had a clash with Assam, and Assam was occupied by Myanmar for around one to one and a half month. I have not seen data showing that Assam was part of Myanmar at any time’.

Assam minister Pijush Hazarika said that Kapil Sibal has been poorly briefed, responding to the comments made in the Supreme Court. He said that Sibal presented a “left liberal view that tends to alienate North East by conjuring such theories.”

“At no point of Assam’s history, we were part of Myanmar. From times of Mahabharat & before, we have firmly been an integral part of Bharatvarsh,” Hazarika said.

This was not the only controversial statement the former Congress leader made in the court. He also said during his submission that people have fundamental right to move to one country to another. None other than the Chief Justice of India countered him saying that it is not correct, and there is no such fundamental right.

CJI D Y Chandrachud said that there is right to move within the country, not across countries. The CJI also reminded him that this right is not available to non-Indians.

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