Thursday, May 30, 2024

Maniram Dewan: The Valiant Revolutionary of Assam’s Freedom Struggle

Ankita Naskar

“Though a lone candle may flicker out, its flame will ignite a thousand more wicks.”

The selfless sacrifices of numerous brave souls adorn the inspiring story of India’s independence struggle. One such indomitable spirit who laid down his life for the cause of Indian freedom was Maniram Dewan. Known as the first martyr from Assam, he ignited the revolutionary spirit against British rule in the North-East. Let us reflect on his legendary struggle and supreme sacrifice for the motherland.

Early Life And Background

Maniram Dutta Barua, known as Maniram Dewan, was born in 1806 to Anandram Dewan and Kameswari Devi in Bahadurpur, Assam. Dewan started his career by working for the British East India Company. At 22, he was appointed Tehsildar and Sheristadar of Rangpur. Later, Purandar Singha made him Borbhandar. He informed the British about tea grown in Assam, which was unknown, and also highlighted Assam’s potential for tea. The British decided to establish tea plantations in Assam in 1833.

In 1839, he was appointed Dewan of the Assam Tea Company in Nazira, where he learned about tea. After some time, he moved on to establish his own tea garden in Jorhat, becoming the first Indian to make a living off of tea in Assam. Later, he established a new plantation in Sibsagar.

Maniram also ventured into many other businesses, including salt production, gold, iron smelting, goods manufacturing, boat and brick making, ceramics, ivory work, agricultural products, and many more. However, in 1851, when he witnessed the oppression of colonial rule firsthand, his conscience was stirred. The British seized all the facilities provided to him earlier, which made him hostile towards them.

Journey Into Revolution

By the 1850s, revolutionary fervour had gripped India’s intelligentsia. Against this backdrop, Dewan established close links with radical nationalists in Bengal. When the Sepoy Mutiny broke out on May 10, 1857, against British rule, Maniram saw it as an opportune moment to restore Ahom rule in Assam. In 1858, he founded the ‘Swadesh Mitrani Jati’ in Tezpur, Assam’s first nationalist group. He conspired with Kandarpeswar Singha, the titular Ahom ruler, and others to revolt against the British with the help of sepoys stationed at Dibrugarh and Golaghat. The organisation hatched a plot to overthrow colonial rule along the lines of the Sepoy Mutiny.

Martyrdom And Sacrifice

However, the British uncovered the plan before it could be executed and arrested Dewan. After a brief trial, he was sentenced to death. On February 26, 1858, Assam’s first martyr, Maniram Dewan, was publicly hanged in Jorhat jail. Though short-lived, his rebellion marked the beginning of Assam’s freedom movement.

Legacy And Impact

Maniram Dewan’s supreme sacrifice inspired generations of revolutionaries. He heralded a new nationalist spirit in Assam with his pioneering role. Dewan is revered in Assam as the torchbearer of the independence struggle in the North-East. From folk songs to memorials, he continues to be commemorated as a visionary martyr. His indomitable courage ignited the spirit of resistance that paved the way for India’s eventual freedom.

Parting Words

Maniram Dewan’s inspiring life is an ode to the selfless devotion that brought us freedom. His pioneering role and martyrdom will forever remain etched in Assam’s history. As we celebrate our hard-won independence, we must honour the sacrifices of valiant souls like him.

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