The Bengalees all over, are very enterprising in every field, for they are the one amongst the oldest people in the world, affluent in arts and culture, trade and commerce, sports and music, education and literature, also in serving a good other cause and sacrifice, whenever the needs arise.
In Shillong, older people still eulogise the names of Dr. G K Das, Surgeon of Welsh Mission (KJP) Hospital Jaiaw, Dr. N K Nath, Medical Specialist, Shillong Civil Hospital, Dr. R L Roy, Chest Specialist and many others who had served in different fields and capacities, particularly in education.
Over and above, the community had produced luminaries like the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the meritorious son of India, who according to an eyewitness account of one Khasi war veteran, Winto Roy Mawlong, that Netaji’s whereabouts was never known, ever after his public address at Kuala Lumpur Padang (ground), during the drizzled evening of August 1945, when he said, “After we achieve freedom from the Britishers, I shall not allow India to be in the hands of the Japanese.” According to Mawlong, the Japanese were then mulling upon an idea of forming the Great Asian Brotherhood of Nations in Asia, to be led by them.
Reversing back to the early years of civilization in this part of the world, during the early 1800 when the Khasis did not then have their own alphabets, a Bengalee Christian Missionary, Khrishna Chandra Pal, who ventured to Khasi Hills from Bengal, not only baptized some Khasi pagans to Christianity, but he also got the Bible translated to Khasi, using Bengali alphabets.
Such old saga only confirms that the Khasis and Bengalees had a long tradition of having closely lived together for generations, much before Bharat was born. It may be another great news to many about another ancient saga, mentioning about a Bengali lady who was an ancestress of a particular Khasi Royal Family in West Khasi Hills. What a collateral connection, if this old profile can be traced out at least for anthropological interest. However, based on the above few historical affinities, the international boundary connectivity between the Khasi Hills and the post independent East Pakistan, dominated by the populous Bengalees, is another reason for the trans-relationship between the Khasis and Bengalees. The erstwhile bisectional bond along the international boundary is still strong today among the people on both sides, sharing inter-dependence on each other, especially on border trade and economy, that no Government for all these years could intervene. Amazingly, but for obvious reasons, security personnel on both sides of the borders maintain special relationships too. Protests and agitations are heard of in places far away from international boundaries, except for some sporadic incidents.
The Ishamati Episode
Part of Bangladesh close to Khasi Jaintia Hills borders has comparatively less stony areas on its soil, the amount Khasi-Jaintia-Garo borders have. All the natural rivers, flowing from the hilly regions, carry boulders, sand and chips to Bangladesh richly welcomed by Bangladeshis. Bangladesh as it is, depends greatly on Meghalaya limestone. This is a major reason about the recent loss of precious life of KSU activist, Lurshai Hynniewta of Sohra (Cherrapunjee) in February 2020, when the hardcore desperados of the other side of the boundary, assisted by their local coterie operating alongside Khasi Hills borders, daringly perpetrated an act against anyone standing on their way, which incident should however, be a reminder to innocent people in the welfare organisations to be always on the alert.
Yet amazingly, the perpetrators and allies of the pre-planned crime themselves, ingeniously dramatized the incident topsy-turvily, the manner habitual criminals behave, by complaining to the Governor against Tom, Dick and Harry with frivolous allegations, which was later found out after enquiry, to be baseless allegations.
Next they calculatively organised public demonstration in the Meghalaya House Calcutta to attract attention, draw public support and sympathy, but only a handful of people, who do not know about the actual story appeared to see and listen to the handful of demonstrators. The Mamata government who is well versed with the facts simply brandished the demonstration.
Now the drama is spreading to Assam and elsewhere.
Kill a Bengalee First?
A perturbed English man once furiously exhorted to kill a Bengalee first and a snake later, if both are found in the same place. Either he had experienced a similar Ichamati-like situation, or even worst, to drive him into such a vociferous call.
Bengalees by nature, are at times over emotional, for a petty reason, they react excessively than the cause, many even commit suicide; whereas a Khasi, for such petty reasons may on the contrary, react lightly or drink to drown his sorrows. For every reaction however, there has to be a considerable restraint always.
This episode reminds me of the previous Governor, Tatagatha Roy, who was casually picked by the center for a small tribal state in the north-east, usually occupied by matured and learned persons and in no time he did prove himself to be a real governor who will be long remembered by the Meghalayans, for urging them to go to North Korea if they do not like to be in India.
My immediate reaction was carried in the dailies and electronic media, when I blew my top, ‘we will, provided he first takes the first step to join the Rohingyas.’
Many do not know, hence they better know more about the eccentricity of previous governor, when in his reaction to the Customary Bill of the Khasi Hills District Council in 2018, which seeks to provide by law, to reckon their title and heritage from a mother, they being a matrilineal community, the said governor objected that this proposed provision goes again the spirit of Article 21 of the Constitution of India which says that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law.”
Is he really not aware that many communities, including himself, reckon title from the father? Does not this practice also violate the above Article 21, since the same analogy is applicable?
It has become obligatory for the normally sane, genuine and learned Bengalees of good will and intentions and others of Meghalaya and other parts of the country to see reason, look into the motives of a few behind such incidents and stand together to desist any attempt by such motivated elements, seeking to mar peace and amity amongst all communities, for strengthening of a lasting and cordial relationship.