Before the advent of the British era into the North-East, the Khasi Hills speak of a number of independent Khasi states each under a traditional Chief assisted by an elected Durbar. These Khasi states maintained trade relations with the people in the plains of the then undivided Bengal and those in the Brahmaputra valley.
The British first came into contact with these Khasi states in early 19th century when they sought permission for a direct route linking Bengal with the plain districts of Assam. Through negotiations, offering military assistance to some Khasi States from attacks by neighboring States, the British were permitted to set up headquarters first at Cherrapunji later shifted to the present capital of Shillong to run the administration of the undivided province of Assam and Sylhet (now under Bangladesh). It is interesting to note that except for such areas handed over to the British by the Khasi States to set up their official machinery, the Khasi Hills was neither conquered by nor annexed to the British Empire formally.
With the imminent emergence of Free India, the British regime made an offer to the Khasi States for the status of a British Crown Colony. However, Khasi leaders of the day, spearheaded by Rev. JJM Nochols Roy, deemed the offer unpracticable on grounds that it would be a landlocked colony and achieved in convincing the Khasi States would be given a special protection of their old-age traditions, customs, cultures, usages and practices in order to preserve their ethnic identities. It was on the basis of this assurance that the Khasi Chiefs signed the Instrument of Accession in the year 1948.