Former princely States of Assam and Zamindaris

Former princely States of Assam and Zamindaris

The region that came to be known as undivided Goalpara district came under British rule after the transfer of the Deewani from the Mughal Emperor on August 12, 1765. Due to tribal influences on the region the police thanas of Dhubri, Nageswari, Goalpara and Karaibari were placed under a special administrative unit called “North-Eastern Parts of Rangpur” (Rangpur is in present-day Bangladesh) in January 1822. The First Anglo-Burmese War commenced in 1824, and by March 28 the British had occupied Guwahati, when the Raja of Darrang (a tributary of the Ahom kingdom) and some petty chieftains submitted themselves to the British, who made rudimentary administrative arrangements by October 1824. The Burmese occupiers retreated from the Ahom capital of Rangpur in January 1825 and the nearly the whole of Brahmaputra Valley fell into British hands. In the war against the Burmese the Ahoms did not help the British. In 1828, the Kachari kingdom was annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse after the king Govinda Chandra was killed. In 1832, the Khasi king surrendered and the British increased their influence over the Jaintia ruler. In 1833, upper Assam became a British protectorate under the erstwhile ruler of the Ahom kingdom, Purandhar Singha, but in 1838 the region was formally annexed into the British empire. With the annexation of the Maran/Matak territory in the east in 1839, the annexation of Assam was complete.

Assam was included as a part of the Bengal Presidency. The annexation of upper Assam is attributed to the successful manufacture of tea in 1837, and the beginning of the Assam Company in 1839. Under the Wasteland Rules of 1838, it became nearly impossible for natives to start plantations.[citation needed] After the liberalization of the rules in 1854, there was a land rush. The Chinese staff that was imported earlier for the cultivation of tea left Assam in 1843, when tea plantations came to be tended by local labour solely, mainly by those belonging to the Bodo-Kachari ethnic groups. From 1859 central Indian labour was imported for the tea plantations. This labour, based on an unbreakable contract, led to a virtual slavery of this labour group. The conditions in which they were transported to Assam were so horrific that about 10% never survived the journey. The colonial government already had monopoly over the opium trade.

In 1874, the Assam region was separated from the Bengal Presidency, Sylhet was added to it and its status was upgraded to a Chief Commissioner’s Province, also known as the ‘North-East Frontier’ non-regulation province. The capital was at Shillong. Assamese, which had been replaced by Bengali as the official language in 1837, was reinstated alongside Bengali. The new Commissionership included the four districts of Assam proper Nagaon, Darrang, Sibsagar and Lakhimpur), The Lalung (Tiwa) Hills, Khasi-Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills, Naga Hills, Goalpara, (Kamrup and Sylhet-Cachar of Bengal comprising about 54,100 sq miles. The people of Sylhet, Goalpara, Kamrup and the Hills protested the inclusion in Assam.

In 1889, oil was discovered at Digboi giving rise to an oil industry. In this period Nagaon witnessed starvation deaths, and there was a decrease in the indigenous population, which was more than adequately compensated by the immigrant labor. Colonialism was well entrenched, and the tea, oil and coal-mining industries were putting increasing pressure on the agricultural sector which was lagging behind.

The peasants, burdened under the opium monopoly and the usury by money lenders, rose again in revolt. Numerous raiz mels decided against paying the taxes. The protests culminated in a bayonet charge against the protesters at Patharughat in 1894. At least 15 were left dead and in the violent repression that followed villagers were tortured and their properties were destroyed or looted. In 1903, Assam Association was formed with Manik Chandra Baruah as the first secretary.

Bengal was partitioned and East Bengal was added to the Chief Commissioner’s Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The new region, now ruled by a Lt. Governor, had its capital at Dhaka. This province had a 15-member legislative council in which Assam had two seats. The members for these seats were recommended by rotating groups of public bodies.

The Partition of Bengal was strongly protested in Bengal, and the people of Assam were not happy either. Opposition to partition was co-ordinated by Indian National Congress, whose President was then Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton who had been Chief Commissioner of Assam until he retired in 1902. The partition was finally annulled by an imperial decree in 1911, announced by the King-Emperor at the Delhi Durbar. The Swadeshi movement (1905-1908) from this period, went largely unfelt in Assam, though it stirred some, most notably Ambikagiri Raychoudhury.

The administrative unit was reverted to a Chief Commissioner’s Province (Assam plus Sylhet), with a Legislative Council added and Assam Province was created. The Council had 25 members, of which the Chief Commissioner and 13 nominated members[clarification needed] formed the bulk. The other 12 members were elected by local public bodies like municipalities, local boards, landholders, tea planters and Muslims.

Under the Government of India Act 1935, the Council was expanded into an Assembly of 108 members, with even more powers. The period saw the sudden rise of Gopinath Bordoloi and Muhammed Saadulah and their tussle for power and influence.

zamindari in Assam province

Permanently settled estates were created during the time of Lord Cornwallis in and around 1793 in Bengal, Bihar and Odissa (Orissa). Subsequently, the system was exteded to Tamilnadu, Benaras districts of UP and middle part of Koch Kingdom (part of present Goalpara District), whole sylhet districts (part of present Karimganj District). The holders of the Permanently settled Estates were Proprietors nad were known as Zamindars and the Land Tenure System is otherwise known as Zamindari system. The Land Revenue (Kushiyara) System prevalent in the surama and Barak Valley was somewhat different from that was in practice in Brahmaputra Valley. The permanently settled estate in the then Sylhet were classified under the following names (a) Permanently settled Waste Land Grants, (b) Dassana, (c) Illam Daimi, (d) Halabadi etc. In case of large estates, the owners were known as Zamindar or Talukdar and those whom the lands were sublet were known as Patni. Large temporary settled estates were Illam which could be sublet to actual cultivators or middle man. In case such middle man was known as Mirasdar. The temporary settled estates of Sylhet proper were known locally under the following names (a) Illam, (b) Nankar Patwarigeeri etc.. The revenue survey in Sylhet was carried out in 1860-66. It was called “Thakbast” Survey in the sense that “thak” or demarcation marks of the estates were under taken. Illam Settlement Rules, 1876 were under taken for Resettlement and Reassessment of revenue.


APSC Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for APSC Prelims and APSC Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by APSC Notes are as follows:- For any doubt, Just leave us a Chat or Fill us a querry