Social Scientist. v 4, no. 38 (Sept 1975) p. 21.


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M KAR

Assam s Language Question in Retrospect

ASSAM'S CONTACTS with Bengal date back to ancient times. The Ahom Kings encouraged people to settle here as artisans, weavers, clerks, scholars and divines. Inflows of people from Bengal continued in driplets over a span of nearly five centuries of attempted Muslim conquest. They settled mostly in the Brahmaputra Valley. Gachar was a Bengali-speaking area long before the decline of the Ahom power. Major portions ofCachar and Sylhet and Goalpara, also Bengali-speaking, came under the provincial administration of Assam in 1874.

Following the treaty ofYandabow, 1826, the East India Company at first tried to establish its hegemony in Assam through a puppet king, That experiment failed and then the Company annexed the territory and placed it under the Bengal administration. The establishment of the Company's authority, consequent necessity of manning the different government departments and the reconstitution of Assam bringing in large Bengali-speaking areas, may be said to have marked the beginning of the language problem. It was then a problem of finding educated persons for an administrative machinery to facilitate expansion of the empire. A comparative study of the extent of education in Bengal and Assam is not warranted here but admittedly a number of Bengalees already conversant in the art of government came to the province on various assignments to



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