ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

A Colonial Clutter: The Radcliffe Line and the Khasi-Jaintia Community of Meghalaya


Laloo Sashi Teibor - North-Eastern Hill University, History, Shillong, India


16 – Re-orienting Borderlands:Beyond spatial fixations in South Asia


 The Khasi-Jaintia community residing in Southern Meghalaya had established brisk socio-economic relations with Sylhet (Bangladesh) for centuries. The Khasi States and the Jaintia Kingdom also extended their influence into Northern Sylhet, which functioned as important economic centres. As the East India Company attained the Diwani Rights, the late 18th and 19th centuries witnessed a fierce contest amongst the Chiefs and the British over these mercantile geographies, resulting in territorial demarcations/alterations (based on a hill-plain dichotomy) as the latter began their indirect but firm influence over the region. The main discussion will highlight the crystallization of demarcations in the 20th century and the evolution of the Indo-Bangladesh border. From the Archives, the reports of the Boundary Commission in 1947 reflected the centuries of colonial interests in the region. Therefore, in focusing on the neglected Partition and its repercussions on the Khasi-Jaintia region, the paper will attempt to highlight the social history from the lens of colonial demarcations. The paper will also throw light on the regional politics from the 1940s, the Partition experiences, the shaping of Meghalaya’s political events in 1972 most importantly, the ripple effects being felt up to the present day. Keeping in mind that the North-East region suffered immensely at the stroke of the Radcliffe line, the Khasi-Jaintia as well as the other indigenous voices needs to be heard.