Hailakandi

Hailakandi is a town and the district headquarters of Hailakandi district in the Indian state of Assam. The Hailakandi district is one of the three districts of Southern Assam i.e. Barak Valley.

It was constituted as a civil subdivision on 1 June 1869. Subsequently, it was upgraded to district in 1989. It is to be noted that according to some scholars the name “Hailakandi” has been derived from the Sylheti word “Hailakundi”. The later history of Hailakandi is intricately linked to Abdul Matlib Mazumdar (1890–1980), Late Nagendranath Choudhury, Late (Capt.) Manmatha Choudhury, Late (Capt.) Subodh Kumar Dutta & Late Sunil Chakravorty who led the freedom movement in the erstwhile Sub-division. Late Nagendranath Choudhury was a prominent Congress-leader; Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called on him in his house during his visit to Hailakandi in 1939. His brother Late Manmatha Choudhury was a captain in the Azad Hind Fouz formed by Netaji. Abdul Matlib Mazumdar became an MLA in 1946 and also Cabinet Minister of Assam. He was one of the prominent Muslim leaders of eastern India to support Hindu-Muslim unity, opposing the partition of India on communal lines. Mazumdar along with Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (who later became the 5th President of India) became the most prominent Muslim opponents of the demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, especially in the eastern part of the country. Mazumdar took Master of Arts Degree in English literature from Dhaka University in 1921 and B.L. from Calcutta in 1924. He started legal practice at Hailakandi Bar in 1925. He rose to prominence as a lawyer serving the people of Hailakandi. The then government offered him the post of a Magistrate, which he refused. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1925. He founded the Hailakandi Congress Committee in 1937 and became its first President. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Hailakandi in 1939 and 1945 respectively at the invitation of Mazumdar to strengthen the freedom movement as well as the Congress party in southern Assam. It was Netaji who initiated establishment of contact between Moulana Abul Kalam Azad and Matlib Mazumdar for gearing up nationalist Muslims against a growing Muslim League in the region. Mazumdar became the first Chairman of Hailakandi township in 1939 and in 1945 he became the first Indian Chairman of the Hailakandi Local Board, a post always held by the European tea planters.

The Muslim League proved its might in the Muslim-dominated areas of India in 1937 elections. To counter the rising popularity of Muslim League, he successfully organised the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind movement in Assam. Jamiat was an ally of the Congress having a mass following among the nationalist Muslims. In the very crucial 1946 General Elections just on the eve of India’s independence, he wrested the Muslim majority Hailakandi seat from the hold of Muslim League. That victory virtually sealed the hopes and aspirations of the Muslim League to include southern Assam in Pakistan. It may be mentioned here that in that election, the bulk of the Muslim nominees of the Indian National Congress including Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (5th President of India in later years) had lost to their Muslim League rivals miserably.

As of 2001 India census, Hailakandi town had a population of 29,634 and the district had a total population of 5,47,003. Males constitute 51% of the district’s population and females 49%. Hailakandi has an average literacy rate of 78.5%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 82%, and female literacy is 75%. In Hailakandi, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Hailakandi is considered one of the most backward districts in Assam. It is also one of the most corrupt districts in Assam.

In the organized sector, tea is the main industry of the district. It has 17 Tea estates with 55.70 square kilometres under tea plantation employing more than 1,30,642 persons as per 1991 census. Production of tea was 87.62 tonnes. The Hindustan paper mill Panchgram comes to the second place where large number of people get employment opportunities in the district. The predominant income generating activity for the district is the agricultural sector and its allied enterprises.