Workers, Peasant and Tribal Movements in Assam

Workers, Peasant and Tribal Movements in Assam


The Assam-Bengal Railway Workers’ Strike (1921)

Perhaps the first sympathetic strike in our country of a tremendous magnitude took place in 1921 when the workers of Assam Bengal railway resorted to an indefinite strike. The strike is very important from the historical point of view not only because it showed strong working class solidarity but also due to the fact that it attracted national attention and involved national political leaders. The strikers were clearly inspired by Non-Cooperation Movement that swept the country at that time. Unlike other labour movements of the period when the workers resorted to strike just to protect their own interest like demanding wage increase or reduced working hours etc., the workers of Assam-Bengal Railway resorted to strike just to express their sympathies towards the oppressed plantation workers at Chandpur in Assam. Although it was an organized movement but ultimately the struggle failed. However, its importance cannot be ignored in the trajectory of Organized Labour Movement in Assam.

Dibru-Sadiya Railways Workers Strike, 1928

A seventeen-day strike was occurred again in the Dibru-Sadiya railways workers in 1928. In this strike 430 working people involved and ended in a wage increase for them. Earlier in 1920, the workers of DibruSadiya railways went on strike and they achieved their ends. The main demand of the second strike was to revision of the wages of workers and introduction of a pay scale. About four hundred and thirty workers had been involved in the strike and the company had to concede to the workers‟ demands. The management declared a fifteen to twenty five per cent increase in the wages on different categories of labour. After the declaration of management, the strike called off. The second strike of the workers of Dibru-Sadiya also got its achievement.

Dhubri Match Factory Workers’ Strike, 1935-36

The workers of Dhubri Match Factory again went on strike. In 1935-36, all the workers of the factory were again on a 57- day strike, in protest against retrenchment. It was inspired by Labour Party of Bengal. Therefore, it was a unionized movement and led by Bipin Chandra Chakroborty, a veteran trade unionist from Bengal. The strike was a successful one because the workers won almost all their demands. After this strike, resolutions passed at the Dhubri Labourers‟ Conference under the guidance of Bipin Chandra Chakraborty clearly reflected the influence of the new communist ideology. On 14 December 1936, the workers again went on strike. Unlike the earlier strikes, when the company conceded the most of the demands of the workers, this time the management was very much adamant. The strike was continued till the April, 1937. The strike of 1936 had a great significance in the trade union history of Assam. It got mass support from the people of Assam. The critical state of affairs was debated in the Assam Legislative Assembly also and for the first time the trade union movement of Assam got political significance.

Phulguri Uprising

The Phulguri Uprising which is also known as ‘Phulguri Dhawa’ in Assamese was the first agrarian revolt in Assam after 1857. Phulguri is a place in present Nagaon district. Most of the people of this area belong to Lalung and Kachari tribes. As the people of Phulguri were mostly opium-eaters, the consumption of opium was higher there compared to other places. High price of opium fixed by the British government caused much resentment among the people of Phulguri. The ban imposed by the British government on private cultivation of opium also caused much dissatisfaction among the people of Phulguri. Besides, a rumour spread that the British government would soon impose duties on all their sources of income such as cultivation of betel leaf (pan) and cultivation of fruits in the garden.

Due to the above mentioned causes an uprising broke out which initially took the form of protest through Raij Mels. One day on 17 October, 1861 when people from district villages assembled in a mel the British police forcibly tried to disperse the villagemen. The incident enraged the native people so much that they jumped upon the police party who tried to disperse them. In this encounter many policemen were injured and Mr. Singer, the Assistant Commissioner of police of Nagaon district was beaten to death. However, an additional police force captured the rebels and their leaders were severally punished either with the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Though the Phulguri uprising was a failure its significance cannot be underrated. It was the first popular rebellion of the peasantry of Assam against the British colonial rule. For the first time the middle class intelligentsia came out in support of the Phulguri rebels. Not only that, it also served an inspiration to other villagemen and tribals. This is evident from the fact that within the next few years the peasants of the districts of Darrang and Kamrup broke out in rebellion against the exploitation of the British.

Rangia and Lachima Revolt  

The people of Rangia, in the district of Kamrup following the foot steps of the Phulguri peasants very soon lodged their protests, organizing Raij Mels. The cause of their protest was a hundred percent increase in the land revenue. The Rangia revolt began on 24th December 1893 when the people of Rangia ransacked the Rangia market. Moreover, people staged a demonstration on 10th January, 1894 in which they raised the slogan of not paying the increased revenue. On the same day McCabe, the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup, imposed a ban on holding any Mel All the important leaders of the revolt were soon arrested by the police and the revolt lost its edge.

The Lachima Revolt was also held due to the same reasons as that of Rangia. The only difference was that the rebels of Lachima took recourse to violence. They assaulted the revenue collectors who were the agents of the British government. The incident took place in Kalpa, near Lachima, in the district of Kamrup on 21st January 1894. The revenue collectors were so severely beaten by the villagers that one of them died. The infuriated British police immediately arrested as many as seventy- five villagers. But the agitated villagers soon freed the arrested persons from the custody of the police. This led to a major police crackdown on the village. Unable to sustain the torture the rebels ultimately had to give in and the revolt came to an end.



Patharughat Uprising  

Like Phulguri Dhawa the rebellion of Patharughat is also commonly known among Assamese as Patharughatar Ran i.e. the battle of Patharughat. Patharughat is a place in the Darrang district where a revolt broke out in 1894. Here also the grievances of the people were against the enhancement of the rates of revenue. Raij-Mels were held in which not only a protest was lodged against the increased in the rates of land-revenue but a warning was also issued to the villagers to the effect that no one should pay the increased revenue to the government. On 28th January, 1894 when a police party went to the village to attach the property of a peasant cultivator, who was a defaulter, they were surrounded by a mob. Soon after the incident the rebels of Patharughat marched towards the police camp leading the police to open fire.Many of the villagers died and were injured. It led to the complete suppression of the rebels of Patharughat by the British.


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