Kokrajhar is one of the twenty-three districts of Assam and can be described as the gateway to the northeastern region of India. Both road and rail touches this district at Srirampur before they go on to other districts in Assam and the other northeast states. The district has a total area of 3,169.22 sq. km. and a total population of 9,30,404 according to the Census-2001.
2) GEOGRAPHY :
Kokrajhar district is located on the north bank of the river Brahmaputra that slices the state of Assam into two, identified as north and south banks. The district lies roughly between 89.46' E to 90.38' E longitudes and 26.19" N to 26.54" N latitudes. The district is bounded on the north by the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, by Dhubri district on the south, Bongaigaon district on the east and the Indian state of West Bengal on the west.
The district can be easily reached as both the mainline road and rail passes through this district. There are beautiful places to visit in the district, especially in the northern side, where the natural scenery is exquisite. There are also numerous natural picnicking spots. It has to be admitted that these places are yet to be developed as tourist spots. But there is a great deal of scope even now for those who are adventurous and willing to witness the glory of nature in all its rugged beauty.
The kingdom of Bhutan is intricately linked with the district of Kokrajhar in many vital aspects of life of the people living both in the Bhutan hills and the plains of Kokrajhar. There is hassle-free movement of the people across the international border for the purpose of business and tours. The Bhutanese town of Gelephu is a nice place to visit from Kokrajhar as it is just across the international boundary. There is a fine road leading from the Shyamthaibari point on the National Highway 31(C) to Gelephu. Further on, inside Bhutanese territory, there is the town of Sarbhang that also can be visited via Gelephu.
The colourful Bodo community comprises the majority in Kokrajhar district. It also has a sizeable Rajbongshi and Santhal population.
Kokrajhar is also the headquarter of the Bodoland Autonomous Council which was created in 1993.
3) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
Kokrajhar was originally a part of undivided Goalpara district. Till 1956, it was merely a small village with a railway station that connected it to the rest of the world. In 1957, when Bimala Prasad Chaliha was the Chief Minister of Assam, a new Civil Sub-division was created after carving out the northern part of Dhubri Sub-division and some parts of Goalpara Sub-division. This new sub-division was called Kokrajhar Sub-division. Goalpara district thus became divided into three sub-divisions. The area covered by the then Kokrajhar Sub-division consisted of five tracts of the Eastern Dooars, viz., Bijni, Sidli, Chirang, Ripu and Guma with a total area of 1569.9 square miles or 4065.88 square kilometres.
On the 1st of July, 1983 the Kokrajhar Sub-division was upgraded into Kokrajhar district with the headquarter at Kokrajhar town. There were four police stations in the new district. They were Bijni, Sidli, Kokrajhar and Gossaigaon. The area of the district extended from the Manas river in the east to the Sonkosh on the west.
In 1989, there was further reorganization of the districts and some new districts were created. Thus, about 40% of the total geographical area of Kokrajhar district was carved out for inclusion in the new district of Bongaigaon. The area delimited from Kokrajhar district to Bongaigaon covers the entire Bijni Revenue Circle along with 347.50 square kilometres of Sidli Circle. Later on 20 villages of Naikgaon G.P. with a total area 40.22 square km under Chapar Revenue Circle of Dhubri district was transferred to Kokrajhar district. The present geographical area of Kokrajhar district is estimated to be 3,169.22 square km.
The district now has two revenue sub-divisions--- Kokrajhar and Gossaigaon Sub-divisions. The river Gongia which is known as Tipkai in the southern part is the natural boundary of two civil sub-divisions. Gossaigaon town is the headquarter of Gossaigaon Sub-division.
4) RECENT POLITICAL HISTORY :
The demand for regional autonomy by the plain tribes of Assam had its impact on the Bodo people living in this district as well. The Plains Tribe Council of Assam (PTCA) was the organization that first spearheaded the movement for a separate state of 'Udayachal' for the plain tribes of Assam living in the northern bank of the Brahmaputra Valley. Later on, the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) came to the fore and started a movement for a separate state of Bodoland. The agitation was vigorous and also violent from 1985 to 1992 till the State Government worked out an accord with the ABSU. The Bodoland Accord was signed on 20-02-93 by which the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) came into being. The present BAC area is spread across seven districts of the state.
5) GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE :
The district is situated in a humid sub-tropical climate that is characteristic of the lower Brahmaputra Valley of Assam. There is high rainfall and humidity. The district also has the largest concentration of forest in the state. The soil in the district is fertile and suitable for paddy cultivation.
The water that flows along natural dongs and canals are the main source of irrigation for the agricultural fields. Rain water flow down from the hill tracts of Bhutan and along the foothills and reserve forests of the district. The Bhutan hills are also the source of a number of rivers that flow through the district and act as tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra that flows from east to west far from the southern boundary of Kokrajhar district. The important rivers of the district that flow from north to south are the Champamati, the Gaurang, the Tipkai and the Sonkosh. There are other rivulets like the Bhur and the colourfully named Laopani. All the rivers and rivulets flowing through the district have their origin in the Bhutan hills.
The soil throughout the district is composed of sand and clay in varying proportion ranging from pure sand in the riverbed to soft clay in different parts. The rocks found in the district are all sedimentary. In the southernmost part of district there are two small hills that are composed of metamorphic rocks. These two hills are called the Dholmara N.C. Hills and Nadanggiri Hills.
6) FOREST :
Forest is one of the most prominent features of Kokrajhar district. The present estimated area under reserved forests is roughly 1,719 sq. km. that include parts of Aie Valley Forest Division of Bongaigaon district and Guma Range of Dhubri Forest Division. The two forest divisions that fall completely under Kokrajhar district are Haltugaon and Kachugaon. Though records show that about 55% of the total geographical area of the district is under reserved forest, the actual position has dwindled to some extent due to relentless felling of trees by unscrupulous elements and encroachment of reserved forest. But the Forest Department with the active help of the District Administration is trying its best to protect the forests of the district.
There are three other overlapping forest divisions in the district for specific purposes, viz., Social Forestry Division, Working Plan Division and Wildlife Division. A portion of the Chakrasila Widlife Sanctuary also falls in Kokrajhar district. This sanctuary is dedicated to one of the rarest primates, the golden langur, which is now endemic to Kokrajhar.
It is worth noting that this specie was declared extinct in the early fifties before Mr. E.P. Gee, a naturalist spotted it in1953 in Jam Dooar of Raimona Forest
7) GOLDEN LANGUR :
Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) was first sighted in Kokrajhar district in the year 1953 near Jam Duar of Raimona Forest Range ( Ripu Reserve Forest) by Mr. E.P. Gee, a naturalist. The word 'langur' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'langulin' meaning long tail.
The natural habitat of the Golden langur is between the river Sankosh and Manas along the marginal part of the foothills of eastern Himalayas. The extended habitat of this animal is the Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary near Kokrajhar.
The Golden langur is now endemic to the above habitat and is a critically endangered species. It is also included in the Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
8) PLACES OF INTEREST :
Onthai Gwlao: Located in Chandrapara near the bank of river Gwrang.
Mahamaya temple: Located on the border between Kokrajhar and Dhubri.
Thandwi Bineswar Brahma Memorial Park: Located in Bhatermary on the bank of River Gwrang.
Daimalu Park: Located in Kharigaon.
9) THE PEOPLE :
The Bodos (pronounced BO-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the North-East of India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. Bodos belong to a larger ethnic group called the Bodo-Kachari. The Bodos are recognized as a plains tribe in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Udalguri and Kokrajhar are considered the center of the Bodo area.
10) BODO RELIGION :
In the past, Bodos worshipped their forefathers. In recent years, Bodos practice Bathouism, Hinduism.
Bathouism is a form worshipping forefathers called Obonglaoree. The siju plant (belonging to the Euphorbia genus), is taken as the symbol of Bathou and worshiped.
In the Bodo Language Ba means five and thou means deep. Five is a significant number in the Bathou religion.
A clean surface near home or courtyard could be an ideal for worship. Usually, one pair of Betelnut called 'goi' and betel leaf called 'pathwi' could be used as offering. On some occasion, worship offering could include rice, milk, and sugar. For the Kherai Puja, the most important festival of the Bodos, the altar is placed in the rice field. Other important festivals of the Bodos include Hapsa Hatarnai, Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai, Bwisagu and Domashi
11) THE BODOS NOW :
The Bodos led a gory struggle in the name of self-determination in late 80's under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is now regarded as the father of the Bodos (Bodo-Fa). After a decade long agitation, the Bodos have been granted the Bodoland Territorial Council(BTC), an autonomous administrative body that will have within its jurisdiction the present district of Kokrajhar and adjoining areas. The movement for autonomy was headed by the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), an outfit believed to have undertaken many extremist activities in bodo dominated areas. The BSF, Boro Security Force, an underground organisation of the bodos, now known as NDFB, National Democratic Front of bodoland, is still involved in insurgency. Following the establishment of the BTC, the BLT have come overground.
During the early 1990's, the Bodos insurgency had a significant impact on forests and wildlife populations in the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The poaching of rhinos and swamp deer, in particular, severely diminished the stocks of these endangered species, to the point where they are said to locally extinct. The damage caused by the insurgency is the main reason why the wildlife sanctuary has been on the World Heritage Council Danger List since 1992 .
In 2006 Assam Assembly elections, the former Bodo Liberation Tigers(BLT) members under Hagrama Mohilary formed an alliance with the Indian National Congress and came to power in Dispur. Educational and job opportunities remain the biggest problem for Bodos.