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Dkhar or Utkhar is a term used by the Khasis to refer to non-tribal outsiders in Meghalaya and Assam. In real terms, the words mean the affluent, educated settler from West Bengal or the Hindu, Bengali-speaking "East Bengal" man who made Assam or Meghalaya his home 50 years or even 100 years ago. The term is a Khasi word which means a foreigner. It is sometimes abbreviated to Khar.
The resentment against the non-tribal outsiders were mostly against the Bengalis and the Nepalis who constituted bulk of the non-tribal population of the state. In 1979-80, Khasi mobs attacked the Bengali speaking people in Meghalaya resulting in an ethnic cleansing.
The 'Khasi-English Dictionary' published in 1906, lists Dkhar meaning non-Khasi. The entry for its abbreviation 'khar, elaborates the non-Khasi aspect. Dkhar or 'khar could either refer to an inhabitant of the plains or a person from the Khasi clan having the same name. Dkhar was originally meant to designate a clan among the Khasis to assimilate people of having partial Khasi ancestry, but differentiated from the indigenous Khasi clans. However, in gradual usage the term came to represent non-Khasi people from the plains area surrounding the Khasi territory. During the British period, Bengali Hindus from Kolkata, Dhaka and Sylhet settled in Shillong by acquiring government jobs and engaged in other white collar professions. They initially settled in Laban, then a small farming village and from then Laban became synonymous with dkhar. The Bengali Hindu settlers were perceived as outsiders, foreigners to the Khasi Hills and were negatively referred to as Dkhars. The Bengali Hindu festival of Durga Puja is called Pomblang-u-dkhar in the Khasi language, literally meaning the festival of the Dkhars. After the Partition, many Bengali Hindus from East Bengal and Sylhet District, which was awarded to Pakistan, moved to Shillong. The Assam government settled the Bengali Hindu refugees in Umpling and other neighbourhoods of Shillong. During this period Nepalis, Biharis, Marwaris and Punjabis from various parts of Nepal and India settled in the present day territory of Meghalaya. The tribal Khasis began to consider the Dkhars responsible for their unemployment, poverty and the loss of 'tribal lands'. The growing resentment was usually directed on the Bengalis.
In 1979, as the anti-foreigner movement gained momentum in Assam, the ethnocentric Khasi organizations like the Khasi Students Union and the Hyñniewtrep National Liberation Council raised the slogan of Beh Dkhar, literally meaning 'chase the Dkhars away'. Martin Narayan Majaw, the mercurial leader of another ethnocentric Khasi group called Demands Implementation Committee stated clearly, "We don't like outsiders to stay here. We tell them, come here, appreciate the blue sky and the green hills, and then go away."
The Beh Dkhar movement led to a communal violence against the Bengali Hindus in October, 1979 following the desecration of a Kali image by two Khasi boys in Laitumkhrah, Shillong. Following an order from the Laitumkhrah Dorbar, a traditional Khasi institution, the Bengali Hindu businesses were forcefully shut down, their religious rights were curtailed, residences were attacked and destroyed and tenants were issued quit notices by the Khasi owners. In the violence several Bengali Hindus were killed in Shillong and elsewhere. In Laitlyngkot, eight Bengali Hindus were brutally beaten and stoned to death after being dragged down from a Shillong-bound bus coming from Dawki. This resulted in an exodus of 20,000 Bengali Hindus from Meghalaya to Assam and West Bengal.
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