Lachit Barphukan lit the flame of patriotism across the Northeast - Hindustan Times
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Lachit Barphukan lit the flame of patriotism across the Northeast

Nov 28, 2022 06:25 PM IST

With Lachit at 400, we must pledge to remember this great hero who led from the front to keep a sacred land safe and free. In Barphukan, India must discover the spirit to serve the motherland till one’s last breath

Mahabir Lachit Barphukan, one of Bharat’s most valiant sons who fought against the Mughals at the peak of their powers, is revered as one of the greatest military generals that Assam has produced. An Assamese icon, this inspirational leader carried the hopes of a community on his broad shoulders. Victorious warrior, outstanding military strategist, shrewd diplomat and beloved leader, Barphukan thwarted the Mughals in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671. Using sheer willpower, he forged such a nationalist alliance that the Mughals never dared to set foot in Assam and the Northeast again.

The Battle of Saraighat was a watershed moment in the history of Assam and the Northeast. It was also one of the greatest naval battles the world had witnessed. It is unfortunate that for 70 years after Independence, Barphukan was neglected in the national consciousness (WIKI COMMONS)
The Battle of Saraighat was a watershed moment in the history of Assam and the Northeast. It was also one of the greatest naval battles the world had witnessed. It is unfortunate that for 70 years after Independence, Barphukan was neglected in the national consciousness (WIKI COMMONS)

Born to Momai Tamuli Barbaruah, a renowned administrator and commander of the Ahom Swargadeo (King) on November 24, 1622, Barphukan was well-versed in Statecraft, warcraft and the scriptures. He rose in the court of the Swargadeo. In 1662, Mir Jumla, then governor of Bengal, invaded Assam, captured Guwahati and put it under a fauzadar. Determined to take back Guwahati, then a frontier city, Swargadeo Chakradhwaj Singha assembled a large army. The task of leading this army was given to Lachit Barphakun, who was made the commander and sent to Guwahati, a moment that would change the destiny of Assam and the Northeast forever.

By 1667, the Ahoms had successfully retaken Guwahati and established their old boundary with the invaders. Hearing of this defeat, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent Raja Ram Singh of Amber, as punishment for his father helping Chhatrapati Shivaji escape, to attack Assam. An army of nearly 100,000 soldiers with 40 war boats manned by the Europeans reached the outskirts of Guwahati in 1669. What followed in the next two years are unforgettable chapters in India’s history. The numerically superior Mughals killed more than 10,000 Assamese soldiers at Alaboi near Guwahati, a setback that infused Barphukan with renewed determination to oust them. The Assamese army changed tactics. Displaying clever diplomacy and brilliant military skill, Barphukan drew the Mughals into a naval fight on the Brahmaputra, a fight that proved decisive for the Assamese. The famous Battle of Saraighat in 1671 was the pinnacle of this strategy. Barphukan directed operations on the river from his sickbed, motivating his troops, which routed the Mughals.

The Battle of Saraighat was a watershed moment in the history of Assam and the Northeast. It was also one of the greatest naval battles the world had witnessed. It is unfortunate that for 70 years after Independence, Barphukan was neglected in the national consciousness. The resurrection of his glory took place in 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office. I am proud that we are celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of this great hero now. It is a reflection of the change in perceptions in New India, in which those who sacrificed for the nation are being given due recognition.

We must go back in history to see how Lachit lit the flame of nationalism, energising the dispirited soldiers with his actions and presenting before us a saga that should inspire everyone. His famous words, “My uncle is not greater than my country”, which led to him beheading a person found slacking in the construction of fortifications in Guwahati was one of the earliest examples of the philosophy of “nation first, family last”, a mantra that is also the guiding principle for all of us in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

As we enter India’s Amrit Kaal, the story of Barphukan is also one of aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) in military prowess. He brought warring chieftains of various kingdoms together to become one Assamese army. His war strategy and water vessels were developed indigenously. This is also a message to the present generation, that with firm determination and appropriate utilisation of skill, even the seemingly impossible can be made possible. Barphukan stood tall amidst the military generals of his time, building the foundation for nationalism brick by brick. With Lachit at 400, we must pledge to remember this great hero who led from the front to keep a sacred land safe and free. In Barphukan, India must discover the spirit to serve the motherland till one’s last breath.

Sarbananda Sonowal is minister for ports, shipping and inland waterways The views expressed are personal

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