THE KHAMTIS AND THEIR KINSMEN
THE KHAMTIS AND THEIR KINSMEN
(Physical and Political Geography of the Province of
Assam, 1896, P.220)
The Khamtis settled about Sadiya have already been mentioned in paragraph 75 of this report. They are immigrants from a Shan State beyond the Patkoi range, formerly tributary to Burma, and known to the Assamese as Bor Khamti. They are of the same race as the Ahoms, but differ from the latter in being Buddhists. They are a literary and cultivated people, and much more civilized then any of their neighbours, not excluding the Assamese. They first settled in Sadiya during the latter part of the eighteenth century. When the Burmese were expelled from Assam, the Khamti Gohain, or chief of Sadiya, executed an agreement of allegiance to the British Government, and Sadiya was selected as the residence of the Political Agent in Upper Assam. In 1839, after the death of the Khamti chief, with whom we made the agreement, the Khamtis of Sadiya suddenly rose, and massacred the Political Agent, Colonel White, and many of his guards and attendants. A war followed, ending in the transportation of the Khamti chief’s son and his followers to a distant part of British territory. In 1843 some chiefs of this race were again allowed to settle about Sadiya; and in 1850 a new immigration from Bor Khamti took place. The Khamtis living about Sadiya and Saikwa are British ryots, and pay revenue. Those living on the Tengapani beyond the Inner Line acknowledge allegiance to the British Government, but pay no revenue. A small force of 24 men, known as the Khamti Volunteers, are employed for the protection of the villages about Sadiya. They receive a trifling yearly pay from Government, and have been supplied with muskets and ammunition. They patrol the paths to the north and east of Sadiya by which the Mishmis come down to that place. This force is gradually being abolished, and no new appointments are being made to replace losses by death, &c. The last census showed 3,049 Khamtis to be resident in Assam.
The Phakials, or Phake, are said to have left Mogaung for Assam about 1760 A.D., immediately after the subjugation of that province by Alomphra. Colonel Hennay tells us that, prior to their immigration into this province, they were resident on the banks of the Turungpani, and were thus apparently near neighbours of the Turungs. On reaching Assam, they at first settled on the banks of the Buri Dihing, whence they were brought by the Ahoms, and settled near Jorhat. When the Burmese invaded Assam, they and other Shan tribes were ordered by the Burmese authorities to return to Mogaung, and they had got as far as their old settlement on the Buri Dihing when the province was taken by the British.
Their language closely resembles that of the other northern Shans. Like the Khamtis and Turungs, they are Buddhists. They seldom marry outside their own community; and, as this is very small, their physique is said to be deteriorating. They are adepts in the art of dyeing. The total strength of the Phakials is only 565; all of whom are found in the Sadr subdivision of the Lakhimpur district.
The Turungs immigrated into the province less than seventy years ago. Their own tradition is that they originally came from Mungmang Khaosang on the north-east of Upper Burma, and settled on the Turungpani, whence they name by which they are now know. While there, they received an invitation from the Noras, who had preceded them and settled near Jorhat, and in consequence they started across the Patkoi en route for the Brahmaputra Valley. They were, however, taken prisoners by the Singphos and made to work as salves, in which condition they remained for five years. They were released by Captain Neufville, along with nearly 6,000 Assamese salves, in 1825, and continued their journey to Jorhat subdivision, where they are still settled.