The Barak Valley (Sylheti pronunciation: [bɔɽax]) is located in the southern region of the Indian state of Assam. The main city of the valley is Silchar. The region is named after the Barak river. The Barak valley consists of three administrative districts of Assam - namely Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi.
After the fall of the Kamarupa kingdom in the 12th century the region became a part of the Tripura Kingdom. In 1562 the Koch general Chilarai annexed the Cachar region to the Koch kingdom which came to be administered from Khaspur (or Kochpur) by his half-brother Kamalnarayan. After the death of the ruler Nara Narayan, the region became independent and was ruled by the descendants of Kamalnarayan, and they were known as the Dehans (after Dewan) In the 17th-century, the last Koch ruler's daughter married the king of the Kachari kingdom, and the rule of Khaspur passed into the hands of the Kachari rulers, who eventually moved their capital from Maibang to Khaspur. The Kachari kings came under increasing Sankritisation and they encouraged increased migration from Bengal, such as Sylhet and Tripura as priests, cultivators, and ministers at in the Kachari court. Eventually the Dimasa kings Raja Krishna Chandra and Raja Govinda Chandra converted to Hinduism 1790 with Bengali Brahmins performing the Hiranyagarbha ceremony.
The Kachari kingdom was annexed to British-India in 1832. The headquarters of the district was Silchar. The British Companies established a very large number of Tea Gardens (total 157) in the area and Silchar emerged as a very important center in this part of the country. During the British colonial period, the Bengalis from neighbouring Bengal and the Tea Tribes from present day Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal migrated to the region.
In 1947, when a plebiscite was held in Sylhet with majority voting for incorporation with Pakistan. The Sylhet district was divided into two; the easternmost subdivision of Sylhet which is known as Karimganj remained with India whereas the rest joined East Bengal. Geographically the region is surrounded by hills from all three sides except its western plain boundary with Bangladesh. Nihar Ranjan Roy, author of Bangalir Itihash, claims that "South Assam / Northeastern Bengal or Barak Valley is the extension of the Greater Surma/Meghna Valley of Bengal in every aspect from culture to geography".
Assam's Surma Valley (now partly in Bangladesh) had Muslim-majority population. On the eve of partition, hectic activities intensified by the Muslim League as well Congress with the former having an edge. A referendum had been proposed for Sylhet District. Abdul Matlib Mazumdar along with Basanta Kumar Das (then Home Minister of Assam) travelled throughout the valley organising the Congress and addressing meetings educating the masses about the outcome of partition on the basis of religion. On 20 February 1947 Moulvi Mazumdar inaugurated a convention – Assam Nationalist Muslim's Convention at Silchar. Thereafter another big meeting was held at Silchar on 8 June 1947. Both the meetings, which were attended by a large section of Muslims paid dividend. He was also among the few who were instrumental in retaining the Barak Valley region of Assam, especially Karimganj with India. Mazumdar was the leader of the delegation that pleaded before the Radcliffe Commission that ensured that a part of Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) remains with India despite being Muslim-majority (present Karimganj district).
As per (2011) language census report, Bengali is the official as well as the most spoken language of the region with approximately 2,930,378 native speakers. Sylheti, is spoken by a large population of Barak Valley.
Hindi, Manipuri, Bishnupriya and Dimasa are the next most widely spoken languages with 362,459, 126,498, 50,019 and 21,747 native speakers, respectively. Tripuri, Odia, Nepali and Marwari are also spoken by a considerable minority, while 2.43% of the total population speaks other tribal languages.
According to census 2011, the major languages of Cachar district are Bengali, Hindi, Manipuri, Bhojpuri, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Dimasa, Khasi, Hmar and Odia in descending order of population. In the Hailakandi district, the major languages are Bengali, Hindi, Tripuri language, Manipuri and Bhojpuri. In the Karimganj district, the major languages are Bengali and Hindi.[a]
|Hindus ( )||1,812,141|
|Muslims ( )||1,744,958|
|Christians ( )||58,105|
Hinduism, by a sliver, is the slight majority religion in the Barak Valley. The religious composition of the valley population is as follows: Hindus 50%, Muslims 48.1%, Christians 1.6%, and others 0.3%. Hindus are the majority in Cachar district (59.83%) with having (86.31%) Hindu in the district headquarter ; Silchar (which is also the main city of the valley). While Muslims are the majority in Hailakandi district (60.31%) and Karimganj district (56.36%), but Hailakandi town have (67.26%) Hindu majority, Karimganj town have also a Hindu Majority of (86.57%) as of 2011 census.
|Year (census)||Hindu population (%)||Muslim population (%)|
|1951||676,660 (60.63%)||429,496 (38.48%)|
|1961||821,600 (59.60%)||539,457 (39.13%)|
|1971||1,005,995 (58.71%)||683,387 (39.88%)|
|1991||1,381,803 (55.46%)||1,071,872 (43.02%)|
|2001||1,580,660 (52.76%)||1,362,114 (45.46%)|
|2011||1,812,141 (50.00%)||1,744,958 (48.1%)|
|District Cachar/Tehsils||Hindu population (%)||Muslim population (%)|
|Sonai circle||133,507 (41.17%)||184,588 (56.92%)|
|Katigora circle||131,352 (45.0%)||156,290 (53.55%)|
|Udharbond circle||87,423 (70.45%)||32,320 (26.05%)|
|Lakhipur circle||178,163 (61.04%)||95,476 (32.71%)|
|Silchar circle||508,540 (72.19%)||186,142 (26.42%)|
Hindus are majority in three tehsils of Cachar district namely Silchar, Lakhipur and Udharbond, while Muslims are majority in Katigora and Sonai circle according to 2011 census.
|District Hailakandi/Tehsils||Hindu population (%)||Muslim population (%)|
|Algapur circle||38,501 (31.72%)||82,126 (67.66%)|
|Hailakandi circle||47,198 (28.28%)||118,626 (71.08%)|
|Katlichara circle||79,019 (47.01%)||84,044 (50%)|
|Lala circle||86,476 (42.61%)||112,857 (55.61%)|
Hindus are significant in two tehsils of Hailakandi namely Katlichara and Lala, while Muslims are majority in all the three tehsils, but in Katlichara muslims form a plurality according to 2011 census.
|District Karimganj/Tehsils||Hindu population (%)||Muslim population (%)|
|Badarpur circle||56,800 (34.49%)||106,909 (64.91%)|
|Karimganj circle||117,877 (42.36%)||159,068 (57.16%)|
|Nilambazar circle||58,767 (24.24%)||182,567 (75.3%)|
|Patharkandi circle||129,502 (49.55%)||124,768 (47.74%)|
|Ramkrishna Nagar circle||159,016 (56.42%)||119,177 (42.28%)|
Hindus are majority in two tehsils of Karimganj namely Patharkandi and Ramkrishna Nagar, while Muslims are majority in Nilambazar, Badarpur and Karimganj circle according to 2011 census.
|District/(Headquarters)||Total population||Hindu population (%)||Muslim population (%)||Others|
|Cachar district/(Silchar)||172,830||154,381 (86.31%)||21,759 (12.17%)||3,310|
|Hailakandi district/(Hailakandi)||33,637||22,624 (67.26%)||10,686 (31.77%)||327|
|Karimganj district/(Karimganj)||56,854||49,218 (86.57%)||6,856 (12.06%)||780|
The native Bengali people of Barak Region demanded a separate state for themselves within the Bengali majority areas of Assam, particularly Bengali majority Barak valley, comprising the three districts Cachar, Hailakandi, Karimganj, to meet the criteria for creating a separate state for themselves by carving out from Assam's Assamese majority Brahmaputra valley post NRC. Silchar is the proposed capital of Barak state. Barak valley is the most neglected part of Assam in terms of its infrastructure development, tourism sector, educational institutions, hospitals, IT industries, G.D.P, H.D.I etc. which is still lagging behind in comparison to the Assam's mainland Brahmaputra valley which have access to all of those facilities mentioned above. In fact, the Southern most region of Assam that is Barak Valley have a overwhelming Bengali majority population of about (80.8%) as per 2011 census report.
In 1947 during Partition of Bengal period, it has been found that from 15 August 1947 to April 1950, the Bengali Hindu refugees population in Cachar increased to 200,000 and but after Liaquat–Nehru Pact it came down to 93,177 in 1951. According to 1961 census, the number of East Bengali refugees living in Cachar alone is found to be 156,307 which is way higher than the previous census. No new Hindu immigration happened in the post 1971 period in Barak valley. Bengali Hindus who landed up in Barak valley from Bangladesh in the post 1971 census have moved out of the region before the 1991 census. The number of Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh in Barak Valley has varied estimates. According to the Assam government, 1.3–1.5 lakh such people residing in the Barak Valley are eligible for citizenship if the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 becomes a law.
Lists of riots involving Communalism in Barak valley region:
Karimganj 1968 riot
In the 1968 Karimganj riots, a cow belonging to a Muslim wandered into a Hindu house. When a Hindu boy tried to chase the cow, a few Muslims beat him up. Soon after that clashes erupted between the two communities. The ensuing riot claimed 82 lives.
Hailakandi 1990 riot
In October 1990, a wounded cow was found near a common land, which led to clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Police records reveal that the Hindus of Hailakandi had demanded that parcel of land to construct a Kali temple. In fact, Sangh Parivar had earlier organised pujas to ritually purify bricks for shilayas at Ayodhya on the common land. The appearance of an injured cow hurt their sentiments and led to a riot resulting in many casualties.
Silchar 2013 riot
In 2013, rumours of beef being found in a temple in Silchar sparked hindu muslim clashes in which at least 30 people were injured.
Silchar 2015 riot
In 2015, there was tension yet again when the head of a slaughtered cow was found in a temple in Silchar. On the same year, allegations of "love jihad" – a term used by Hindutva groups to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to marry women from other religions solely to convert them to Islam – sparked violent clashes in the city area.
Silchar 2017 riot
On 7 June 2017, Clashes broke out between two communities in the Silchar city of Assam's Cachar district on Tuesday evening. The incident took place in the Janigunj area of Silchar. According to police 11 civilians and eight police officials were injured in large scale stone pelting. However, there were no casualties in the incident.
Hailakandi 2019 riot
Local reports said that the tension started when motorbikes owned by muslim devotees were vandalised while they were praying inside a mosque. The motorbike owners lodged a first information report and demanded that the police take action against the accused and said that they will offer prayers on the road if action was not taken. Mohneesh Mishra, Hailakandi's police chief, told Scroll.in that the clashes began when a group of Muslim men assembled on a public road in the town and said they will offer prayers on the street. "The Hindu community tried to stop them and that led to an argument and soon after that it turned into riot," said Mishra, while adding that heavy security had been deployed in the area. At least 14 people were injured out of which 3 were police Constables and also 1 was killed in a communal clash in Hailakandi district in Assam which have occurred in 10 July 2019.
Hailakandi 2021 riot
Tension began at Hailakandi’s Serispore Tea Garden area after an e-rickshaw driver who happened to be a Muslim and his passengers (who were all hindus) entered into an argument. After this confrontation, people from two separate groups gathered at the site and started attacking each other. Soon after that, a curfew was imposed. As per as A.H Laskar a police of Hailakandi police station, both parties were throwing stones at each other.
Tea is the important economic activity and Barak Valley have also its proportional share of tea garden in comparison to Brahmaputra valley to sustains its economy from time to time. There are plenty of oil and natural gas under the surface of Barak valley as well to run the economy as a separate state. Various oil refineries are also set up in various locations of Barak valley to meet the required economic demand.
There are around 104 forest Villages in Barak Valley. Among the three districts in Barak Valley, Cachar have an area of 3,786 sq km², out of which 2,222.34 sq km² area is covered with forest, Hailakandi district have a total area of 1,327 sq km², out of which 774.34 sq km² is covered with forest, Karimganj district have a total area of 1,809 sq km², out of which 851.43 sq km² area is covered with forest.
There are three districts in the Barak Valley.
The Asian elephant has already vanished from most of the valley. Barail is the only wildlife sanctuary of the Barak valley region. It was initiated by noted naturalist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, who originally hailed from this region in the early 1980s. This sanctuary was ultimately notified in 2004. There are thirteen reserve forests in the valley comprising six in Karimganj, five in Cachar, and two are in Hailakandi. The Patharia hills reserve forest of Karimganj is the habitat of many mammals and was recommended to upgrade as 'Patharia hills wildlife sanctuary'. The southern part was also recommended as 'Dhaleswari' wildlife sanctuary.
Barak Valley has two Lok Sabha seats.
Barak Valley has fifteen Assam Legislative Assembly seats.