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Plan Balkan in North Eastern India


Sajal Nag

ON THE EDGE OF EMPIRE: FOUR BRITISH PLANS FOR NORTH EAST INDIA 1941-1947
Edited by David Reid Syiemlieh
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2014, pp.xiv 215, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 9 September 2014

India at Independence had experienced one Partition which divided its territory, people, assets, property, polity, economy, society, kinsmen, relations, emotions and everything associated with a country. One wonders, if one partition could devastate a country so much, what would have happened if there had been more than one partition. Yet exactly such multiple partitions were a real possibility if the British had had the time to actualize their plans. Plan Balkan was not a figment of imagination and it was under operation at the fag end of the British rule in India. Historians have unearthed it and written about it. North East India might have been a marginal part of the British Empire, but Plan Balkan had not excluded this region either. In fact there were completely different plans to partition areas of the North East from the rest of Independent India and create one or multiple separate areas out of them either as sovereign entities or retain them as British colonies. This was not well known until recently. The book under review presents a few of those actual plans in their original textual form enriched by an editorial introduction.   The British came into contact with North East India with the acquisition of the Diwani of Bengal by the East India Company in 1765. However, the first areas to experience colonial annexation were only in 1822 when the foothills adjoining the Bengal districts of Mymensing and Goalpara where the Garo tribe lived, were attached to the empire. The British entered into the heart of the region as rescuers of the people from the invasion of the Burmese in 1824 but stayed on in the region after the Treaty of Yandabo with the Burmese in 1826. Soon began an annexation spree by which one tribe after another was conquered and their habitat attached to their British Indian empire.   Although on the eve of their withdrawal from India the British appeared to be extremely concerned about the safety and sustenance of these tribes, they did not show any compassion in massacring these tribes to annex their territory at least at this point in time. By the close of the nineteenth century the annexation of the entire North East to their British Indian Empire was complete and even though the region was considered ‘not a land of milk and honey’, the British ruled it as ruthlessly as any other area and did not show any sign of ...


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