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Kapil Sibal faces backlash for 'Assam was originally part of Myanmar' remark in Supreme Court (WATCH)

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma criticized Kapil Sibal's comments, stating that if he lacks knowledge of Buranji (history), he should refrain from commenting on it.

Kapil Sibal faces backlash for 'Assam was originally part of Myanmar' remark in Supreme Court (WATCH) snt
First Published Dec 8, 2023, 7:08 PM IST

Controversy ensued when Senior Supreme Court advocate Kapil Sibal, during arguments against petitions challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act on Thursday (December 7), asserted that Assam was originally part of Myanmar. The statement, made before a five-judge constitution bench hearing challenges to the constitutional validity of Section 6A, has sparked a debate. This section provides a distinct cut-off date for immigrants in Assam, allowing those who entered on or before March 25, 1971, to be granted Indian citizenship, in contrast to the national cut-off date of July 19, 1949.

Sibal argued that Assam's history is intricate, having been part of Myanmar before being handed over to the British. He emphasized the complexity of mapping migration to Assam, contending that "no migration can ever be mapped." The ongoing legal proceedings delve into the intricacies of historical claims, sparking discussions about the region's past and the implications for immigration policies.

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He said, "If you look at the history of Assam, it is impossible to figure out who came when. Assam originally was a part of Myanmar, and it was way back in 1824 after the British conquered a part of it. A treaty was entered into and that is how Assam was handed over to the British."

Kapil Sibal added, "You can now imagine the amount of movement of people that took place in the context of the then British empire. And if you jump to 1905, you will have partition of Bengal, under which East Bengal and Assam became one and Bengali language was being taught in schools where there was large scale opposition. The interaction and absorption of Bengali population in Assam has a historical context.”

While it is accurate that the British temporarily included Assam with East Bengal after the partition of Bengal, a decision later rescinded, it is incorrect to assert, as Kapil Sibal did in the Supreme Court, that Assam was originally part of Myanmar. Myanmar occupied Assam for a brief period before transferring the territory to British India in 1826.

The Ahom kingdom in Assam experienced multiple invasions by the Burmese army between 1817 and 1826, during a period when Assam was not under British India's control. In the latter part of this timeframe, the Burmese army briefly occupied Assam. However, as the Burmese Army approached India's borders, the British government intervened to avert potential dangers to the empire.

This intervention led to the first Anglo-Burmese war, which took place from March 1824 to February 1826 and resulted in a victory for the British. The signing of the Treaty of Yandabo concluded the war, with Myanmar ceding control of Assam and Manipur, along with Rakhine (Arakan) and the Taninthayi regions, to the British government. This marked the incorporation of Assam and Manipur into British India.

While Myanmar temporarily controlled Assam and Manipur during the war, characterized by volatile circumstances and horrific atrocities against civilians by the Burmese army, it is crucial to note that this does not imply Assam was 'originally a part of Myanmar.' Assam, historically known as Pragjyotishpur and Kamrup, has been governed by local rulers for thousands of years. The state, along with its neighboring regions, has been an integral part of the greater Indian culture since prehistoric times.

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Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma criticized Kapil Sibal's comments, stating that if he lacks knowledge of Buranji (history), he should refrain from commenting on it.

"Those who do not have any knowledge of history should not speak some things. Assam was never a part of Myanmar, during Ahom regime people of Myanmar had a clash with Assam, and Assam was occupied by Myanmar for around one to one and a half month. I have not seen data showing that Assam was part of Myanmar at any time," Assam CM said on Friday.

Assam Minister Pijush Hazarika remarked that Kapil Sibal has received inadequate briefing, in response to the statements made in the Supreme Court. Hazarika noted that Sibal presented a "left liberal view that tends to alienate the North East by conjuring such theories."

“At no point of Assam’s history, we were part of Myanmar. From times of Mahabharat & before, we have firmly been an integral part of Bharatvarsh,” Hazarika said.

This wasn't the sole controversial statement from the former Congress leader in court. During his submission, he asserted that people have a fundamental right to move from one country to another. Chief Justice of India, D Y Chandrachud, countered him, stating that it is incorrect, and no such fundamental right exists. CJI Chandrachud clarified that the right is to move within the country, not across countries, and emphasized that this right is not applicable to non-Indians.

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