Many people know about Lachit Barphukan – the Ahom general – who led the Ahom army against the invading Mughals forces and defeated them in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671.
But very few know about Ismail Siddique, popularly known as Bagh Hazarika, who fought alongside Lachit Barphukan in the famous Battle of Saraighat.
Ismail Siddique, popularly known as Bagh Hazarika, a 17th century Ahom army warrior, is believed to be instrumental in turning the tide in favour of the Ahoms in the Battle of Saraighat.
The Battle of Saraighat was a naval battle fought in 1671 between the Mughal Empire (led by Ram Singh I) and the Ahom Kingdom (led by Lachit Borphukan) on the Brahmaputra River at Saraighat, now in Guwahati, Assam.
Although weaker, the Ahom Army defeated the Mughal Army by massive army, clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare, military intelligence and by exploiting the sole weakness of the Mughal forces—its navy.
The Battle of Saraighat was the last battle in the last major attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.
Ismail Siddique, popularly known as Bagh Hazarika, was a 17th-century warrior who fought against the Mughals for the Ahom kingdom.
He was born in an Assamese Muslim family at Dhekerigaon village near Garhgaon in Assam.
Also read: Assam | Assamese Muslim scholars slam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma for tagging Bagh Hazarika as ‘fictional character’
The legend around his origins states that there was once a tiger that had entered his village and Ismail Siddique, who was unarmed, killed the tiger barehanded.
The news of this valour reached then King of the Ahom kingdom – Chakradhwaj Singha – who then called young Ismail Siddique to his court to display his strength.
The Ahom King was impressed by the show of strength and appointed Ismail as a Hazarika, an Ahom office in charge of 1000 paiks.
This event marked the beginning of the legend of the brave Bagh (Tiger in Assamese language) Hazarika that culminated in his acts of bravery during Battle of Saraighat.
BAGH HAZARIKA’S ROLE IN BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT
In this first conflict, the Mughal forces were well entrenched on the hills of the north bank of the Brahmaputra river with a chain of huge cannons.
Bagh Hazarika suggested a plan on how to disable the Mughal guns to Ahom General Lachit Barphukan, royal minister Atan Burhagohain and other generals.
Impressed by the plan, they entrusted Bagh Hazarika with command to lead the operation.
That night an advance party led by Bagh Hazarika along with a few soldiers crossed the Brahmaputra by boat and landed on the northern bank of the river and laid in wait for the right moment.
While the Mughal soldiers were busy saying their Fajr or dawn prayers, Bagh Hazarika and his soldiers climbed the high embankments and poured water into the Mughal cannons, rendering them useless.
Also read: Assam: Tai Ahom body warns CM Himanta Biswa Sarma against distortion of Ahom history
Later, the Ahom army announced their advance by blowing the trumpets. In response, the Mughal soldiers rushed to their posts and tried to fire the cannons at the advancing Ahom forces.
But, the wet cannons would not work. The Ahom forces used their cannons to the full strength and the Ahom army landed safely on the north bank and attacked ferociously as the Mughal soldiers retreated helplessly.
This victory proved the courage and valour of Bagh Hazarika beyond any doubt and he was felicitated by the Ahom King.
Bagh Hazarika thus went down in the annals of Assam history as a highly skilled front ranking military officer.
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RECENT CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING BAGH HAZARIKA
A controversy erupted recently in Assam surrounding legendary Ahom warrior Bagh Hazarika.
A major controversy erupted in Assam following tagging of Ismail Siddique, popularly known as Bagh Hazarika, as a “fictional character” by chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Ismail Siddique, popularly known as Bagh Hazarika, was a 17th century Ahom army warrior, who fought the Mughals alongside Lachit Barphukan in the famous Battle of Saraighat.
Ismail Siddique alias Bagh Hazarika is believed to be was the second in command to Ahom general Lachit Barphukan in the Battle of Saraighat.
Recently, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while addressing a state convention of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Guwahati, said that Bagh Hazarika was a “fictional character”.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had claimed that there was no authentic information about Bagh Hazarika in the history books.
“Our history teachers have never questioned this narrative,” Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said while saying that a narrative had been created about him (Bagh Hazarika).
Slamming the Assam chief minister over his statement on Bagh Hazarika, several Assam Muslim intellectuals and scholars rejected the CM’s “interpretation of history”.
“We reject the chief minister’s interpretation of history about one of Assam’s illustrious sons with a communal overtone,” a statement issued by 10 Assamese Muslim intellectuals and scholars said.
“If there is any confusion about Bagh Hazarika, the government should constitute a committee of historians under a university in Assam to find out whether he existed or not,” the statement said.
The 10 include professors Abu Nasser Syed Ahmed and Poynuruddin Ahmed, former Minister Samsul Huda, political activist Mehdi Alam Bora, and Kazi Nekib Ahmed and Mushtaq Golam Osmani of the Bagh Hazarika Research Forum.
Recently, the Tai Ahom Yuva Parishad (TAYP) had warned Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma against distortion of Ahom history.
In a statement, TAYP president Vijay Rajkonwar urged the Assam chief minister to refrain from distorting the history of Ahoms.
“Avoid the thought of distorting the history of the Ahoms. This history is thousands of years old and written history. Mahavir Lachit Borphukan cannot be made a Hindu hero even if you try a thousand times,” the TAYP president said.
“Lachit Borphukan is an Ahom and Assamese hero, he is not a religious warrior. We don’t even allow it to happen,” Rajkonwar added.
In his address at the ABVP conference, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that the name of Ahom King Chakradhar Singh carries the identity of Hindus.
Reacting to the Assam chief minister’s comments that there is no authentic information in history about the presence of Bagh Hazarika, Rajkonwar said whether he was a part of the battle of Saraighat or not, Tai script will tell.
“The chief minister or anyone else cannot keep saying it,” he added.
Referring to Chief Minister’s comments about Lachit Borphukan going to Kamakhya temple to offer prayers, the TAYP president said, “Ahoms are allowed to go anywhere. They eat all types of food. There is no restriction in Ahom tradition and beliefs. The Ahoms worship nature and their ancestors.”