British Rule in Assam

British Rule in Assam

During the reign of Kamaleswar Singha (1795-1811) and Chandra Kanta Singha (1811-1818), the royal court gradually showed the sign of a polarisation. During the time of Chandrakanta Singha, the court was virtually divided into two blocks. the king and the members of the royal family were on one side, and Purnananda Buragohain, the Prime Minister and his supporters on the other. Being unable to control the activities of Purnananda Buragohain, the royal camp succeded in persuading the Burmese monarch to despatch a force to Assam. In 1817, the Burmese appeared on the scene and installed Raja Chandrakanta to power. But soon Chandrakanta was replaced by Purandar Singha, who was raised to the throne. When this development came to the knowledge of the Burmese king, they despatched Alamingi at the head of another Burmese force, which entered Assam frontier in 1818. With the intervention of the Burmese, Assam was placed under Chandrakanta Singha, a puppet in the Burmese hands. The Burmese began a reign of terror and it was in this context that the British intervened leading (the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo. While the British intervention saved Assam from being converted into a Burmese province, it made Assam a slave under British rule. the Treaty of Yandaboo, signed on 26th January. 1826, proved to be a turning point in the political history of Assam. The king of Ava surrendered his claims over Assam and the 27 neighbouring states of Kachar, Jayantia and Manipur to British government.British Rule in Assam

The East India Company, which took the realm of Assam as a result of the signing of the Yandaboo treaty, issued a proclamation to the effect that at the end of success, Assam would have a Government adopted to all. The purpose of the proclamation was to secure the support of the local people of Assam. Although in the midst of the devastation caused by the Burmese; the local people initially welcomed the entry of the East India Company, the people were soon disillusioned with the British. It is in this context that we saw a series of rebellion till 1857, when the Sepoy Mutiny broke out.

Reference may be made to the rebellion of Prince Gomdhar Konwar under whose leadership the first rebellion against the Company Raj took place in 1828. There was another rebellion, namely the rebellion of Gadadhar, within a year of the rebellion of Gomdhar Konwar. In 1830, there was the rebellion of Piyali Phukan and his associates, leading to the martyrdom of Piyali Phukan. In this context, we may also mention the rebellion of the Khasis (1826), rebellion of the Stngphos (1829), insurrection of the Akas, insurrection of the Nagas (1812), the insurrection of the Garos, that were directed towards removing the East India Company from power.

In 1857, Assam also participated with the rest of the country in what is known as the Sepoy Mutiny. In Assam it was Maniram Dewan, who masterminded the rebellion from distant Calcutta, The associates of Maniram Dewan, like Piyali Barua, Madhu Malik, Bahadur Gaonbura were known foe their conspiracies regarding the participation of the people of Assam in anti-British uprising. When the activities of the rebels came to light, Maniram Dewan and Piyaji Barua were caught, tried and executed, and numerous others were put into prison.

In the aftermath of the rebellion of 1857, there occurred the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown. The British government adopted a revenue policy in order to enhance the rates of revenue so as to repair the damage of financial strain on the Government. It led to a number of popular uprisings against the British government. For example, we may refer to the Patharughatar Dhewa, a rebellion in Rangia, Lachima rising in Jayantia hills, rebellion in Manipur etc. All this developments showed that all were not well in Assam in so far as the British rule was concerned.

After the occupation of Assam by the British in 1826, a long line of frontier of Bhutan touched, for the first time, that of the British territory. In fact, right from the days of Warren Hastings, the GoveNors-General were conscious about the critical role with ‘the Himalayan Kingdom’ the British was to play in establishing contact with the people of Tibet. In 1774, Bhutan was forced to conclude a peace treaty and to pay a tribute of five tangan horses annually to the Company. After the occupation of Assam by the British, the tribute paid by Bhutan gradually fell into arrears, and frequent outrages and “decoities” were committed in the British territory. In 1828, outrages committed by Bhutia officials in-charge of the Buriguma Duar led to the attachment by the Government of the tract, but was restored in 1834 on payment of fines. In 1841, to secure peace in this part of the frontier, a sum of Rs. 10,000/- was paid to the Bhutan government.“ In 1844, the chief of the Koriapar Duar formally renounced his claim to this Duar in return for annual payment of Rs. 5000/.

In 1867-68, the boundary between Bhutan and Koch Bchar was demarcated, but the portion between Assam and Bhutan was left undemareated. In 1870, the dev Raja of Bhutan requested the British that the boundary between Assam and Bhutan should be laid down. The Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, Sir William Grey, directed the Commissioner of Assam to settle the matter. The Commissioner, however, strongly opposed such demarcation stating that in the demarcation drawn in 1866, Dewangiri had clearly been included in the British India and there was no objection from the Bhutan government. This led to a misunderstanding between the two Governments on collection of taxes. Ultimately in September 1972 major J. M. Graham, the then Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, was appointed a Boundary Commissioner, and Dewangiri remained with the British India territories; thus settled the Assam-Bhutan boundary.

The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century witnessed a new awakening due to the interaction of various forces and movements. The popular organisations like the Raij mels, Sarbajanik Sabha, Rayat Sabha and the Assam Association built up a climate of popular movements leading to the emergence of nationalism in the said period. It was recorded that before the establishment of the National Congress, most of the popular organisations in Assam maintained contact w ith other political organisations outside Assam which were posed to take an all-hulia character. In the first sitting of the National Conference held in 1883 before the inception of the Indian National Congress was attended by delegates from Assam,.

Throughout the course of anti-British movements, Assam participated with tremendous involvement of both men and women. Inspired by the dedicated leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the people of Assam participated in the Non-co-operation Movement of 1920-21. The movement was particularly marked by the participation of the students of Assam as well as the tea garden labourers. The students had their own body, Assam Chhalra Sanmilan, through which they used to express their views and assert their influence. It may be noted here that with the progress of the movement, the demand for formation of the Assam Provincial Congress for the Assam Valley was gaining popular support. It led to the formation of the Assam Provincial Congress in 1921.

Even during the Civil Disobedience Movement in Assam in 1930, there was full scale participation of the people of the Province. The Quit India Movement of 1942. also, inspired the people of the Province to make sacrifices for the cause of freedom.

By the time, there was political change in Great Britain and the Labour Party government came to power. In accordance with the declaration of the Labour Party, the process of providing political independence to India was accelerated. It was in this context that Lord Mountbatten was appointed the new Governor-General who was entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the ground lor a smooth transfer of power. Accordingly, in terms of the Mountbatten Plan, India was accorded independence in 1947 and Assam became a Province of Independent India.

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