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Dkhar or Utkhar is a term used by the Khasis to refer to non-tribal outsiders in Meghalaya[1][2] and Assam.[3] 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.[4] The term is a Khasi word which means a foreigner.[5] 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.[6] In 1979-80, Khasi mobs attacked the Bengali speaking people in Meghalaya resulting in an ethnic cleansing.[7]


The 'Khasi-English Dictionary' published in 1906, lists Dkhar meaning non-Khasi.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] However, in gradual usage the term came to represent non-Khasi people from the plains area surrounding the Khasi territory.[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[10]

Beh Dkhar[edit]

Bengali Hindu women and children in a refugee camp in Shillong in 1979

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[14] raised the slogan of Beh Dkhar, literally meaning 'chase the Dkhars away'.[15] 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."[4]

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.[16] 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.[17][18] This resulted in an exodus of 20,000 Bengali Hindus from Meghalaya to Assam and West Bengal.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mazumder, Jaideep (1 October 2007). "The Hills Are Alive". Outlook. Outlook Publishing. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  2. ^ Dutta, Amrita (3 November 2013). "The Year We Left Home". The Indian Express. Express Group. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  3. ^ Rakshit, Rajibaksha (5 June 2018). "'ডখার' খেদানোর আন্দোলনই পঙ্গু করে ফেলল শিলংকে". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Kolkata: ABP Group. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b Mitra, Sumit (15 December 1979). "Unwanted millions". India Today. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  5. ^ Roy, Nilanjana (23 September 2002). "Outsider Perils". Outlook. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  6. ^ Choudhury, Samrat (April 2011). "Behind The Scenes". Motherland Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  7. ^ Choudhury, Samrat (5 April 2006). "Not that foreign an issue". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  8. ^ Singh, U Nissor (1906). "Dkhar". In Gurdon, P.R.T.; Ropmay, U Dohori; Singh, U Hajom Kissor. Khasi-English Dictionary. Shillong: Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam. p. 65. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  9. ^ Singh, U Nissor (1906). "'khar". In Gurdon, P.R.T.; Ropmay, U Dohori; Singh, U Hajom Kissor. Khasi-English Dictionary. Shillong: Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam. p. 27. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Matta, Mara (2015). "The Khasi New Wave: Addressing Indigenous Issues from a Literary and Cinematic Perspective". Anglistica AION. Napoli: Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. 19 (1): 51–67. doi:10.19231/angl-aion.201515. ISSN 2035-8504.
  11. ^ Wahlang, R (12 September 2013). "Sorry Plight Of The Oldest Town In Shillong". The Shillong Times. Shillong. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  12. ^ Hujon, Janet Moore (18 October 2017). "To Laban With Love". The Shillong Times. Shillong. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  13. ^ Singh, U Nissor (1906). "Dkhar". In Gurdon, P.R.T.; Ropmay, U Dohori; Singh, U Hajom Kissor. Khasi-English Dictionary. Shillong: Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam. p. 162. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  14. ^ Pariat, Janice (8 November 2013). "Inside/Outsiders". Motherland. New Delhi: Wieden+Kennedy. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  15. ^ Lyngdoh, Margaret (28 March 2016). "Transformation, Tradition, and Lived Realities: Vernacular Belief Worlds of the Khasis of Northeastern India". Tartu: University of Tartu. ISSN 1406-7366. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  16. ^ Apurba, Apurba K. (2004). "Ethnic Conflicts and Traditional Self-governing Institutions: A Study of Laitumkhrah Dorbar" (PDF). Crisis States Programme, Working Papers Series 1. London: Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science. ISSN 1740-5807. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  17. ^ Rammohan, E (2006). "Chapter 17: Indian Politics and the Scales of Justice". In Sen, Shankar. Reflections and Reminiscences of Police Officers. New Delhi: Concept. pp. 173–78. ISBN 8180692361. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Report of the Fact Finding Committee appointed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Assam Unrest" (PDF). Philosophy and Social Action. Dehradun. 6 (1): 22. 1980. ISSN 0377-2772. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Conflict country". Times of India. Bennett Coleman & Co. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2018.