Maniram Dewan – An Indian freedom fighter from Assam

An Assamese nobleman and a freedom fighter of India, Maniram Dewan was the first Tea planter of Assam, who established the tea gardens at Chinamara in Jorhat and at Singlou in Sibsagar district. Born into a family tracing its lineage to the early 16th century, when it had migrated from Kanauj to Assam whose ancestors had held high offices in the courts of Ahom Kingdom, on 17th April, 1806, Maniram Dutta Baruah, popularly known as Maniram Dewan was undeniably the greatest Assamese. Maniram himself became a confidante and counsellor of Purundar, the titular Ahom king elevated to the throne in 1833, and his son Kameswar Singha and grandson Kandarpeswar Singha. Despite being Kayasthas, his family had assumed the status of nobility under the Ahoms, which not only enhanced Maniram's influence on the court and the subjects, but also instilled in him a fierce sense of independence and patriotism, as also an aristocratic pride that would break rather than bend.

Maniram Dewan – An Indian freedom fighter from Assam
A steadfast supporter of the British East India Company in the early years, Maniram Dewan was hanged by the British for conniving against them during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. During his young age, he became a trustworthy associate of the East India Company during the tenure of David Scott, the Agent of the Governor General in North East India and at the age of 22, he was appointed as a tehsildar and a sheristadar of Rangpur under Scott's deputy Captain John Bryan Neufville. It was he who informed the British about the tea grown by the Singpho people of Assam, which was up till then mysterious to the rest of the world. In the early 1820s, the cultivators Robert Bruce and his brother Charles Alexander Bruce were introduced to the local Singpho chief Bessa Gam and Charles Bruce collected the tea plants from the Singphos and took them to the Company administration. However, Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, the superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden declared that these samples were not same species as the tea plants of China.

In 1833, after its monopoly on the Chinese tea trade ended, the East India Company decided to establish major tea plantations in India. Lord William Bentinck established the Tea Committee on 1 February 1834 towards achieving this goal. In 1839, Maniram became the Dewan of the Assam Tea Company at Nazira, drawing a salary of 200 rupees per month. In mid-1840s, he quit his job due to differences of opinion with the company officers. By this time, Maniram had acquired tea cultivation expertise. He established his own tea garden at Chenimora in Jorhat, thus becoming the first Indian to grow tea commercially in Assam. Jorhat later became home to the tea research laboratory Tocklai Experimental Station. He established another plantation at Selung in Sibsagar. He became the first Indian to grow tea commercially in Assam. He later set up another plantation at Sibsagar.Maniram Dewan also ventured into smelting, gold procuring, salt production, handloom, boat making, coal supplying, brick making and elephant trade.

Dewan was one of the greatest freedom fighters of Assam and was interested in establishing private
Maniram Dewan – An Indian freedom fighter from Assam
tea plantations in Assam. Due to opposition faced from the British in establishing private tea plantations he became hostile to the British. All the facilities provided to him were seized by the British owing to the dispute and he became antagonist to the British Government by revolting and opposing to their policies. Therefore he wanted the restoration of Ahom rule in Assam. When the Indian sepoys started an uprising against the British he could see an opportunity to restore the Ahom rule and he together with other activists like Piyali Baruah plotted a conspiracy against the British. Unfortunately, their conspiracy came into the light and he along with other leaders was arrested.

Maniram Dewan was found guilty of being the mastermind behind the conspiracy and after his arrest he was tried and was identified as the kingpin of the plot. On February 26, 1858 He along with Piyali Baruah was publically hanged at Jorhat jail. His death was widely mourned in Assam and resulted in an open uprising which was covered up vehemently.


1 comment:

  1. The record of history says that Maniram Dewan was not only a pioneer in Tea-plantation in Assam but also a unique statesman of Assam who thought first how to save Assam from Burmese onslaught with the help of British and later how to bring back the rule Ahom dynasty. With the uprising of Sepoy Revolt in Northern India, he contemplated the revolt against the British to get rid of British Rule in Eastern India, who was hanged in 26 February, 1858 in Jorhat by the British. He was not honored as a befitting personality in India nor in Assam. He might not be a highly qualified person but he was an inborn statesman, like Rabingra Nath Takhur, a noble laureate, but academically a school degree holder, or many others with inborn quality such as Dr Bhupan Hazarika in the singing and composing of song, or Tea-boy PM of India Narendra Modi in administration without much degree.

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