Patharughat uprising in Assam: All you need to know about the farmers' revolt against British rule

Nearly 140 unarmed peasants were killed by the British on 28 January, 1894 in Assam for protesting against the high taxation in land revenue levied by the colonial administration, when the military opened fire. Today a 'martyr's column' stands where the incident had taken place — Patharughat, a small village in Darrang district.

What led to the peasant's revolt in Patharughat?

The British began to impose land taxes after the annexation of Assam in 1826. They decided to increase agricultural land tax reportedly by 70-80 percent in 1893.

Indian Express quoted Kamalakanta Deka, a professor of Assamese at Patharughat Higher Secondary School as saying, "Up until then the peasants would pay taxes in kind or provide a service in lieu of cash. Across Assam, peasants began protesting the move by organising Raij Mels, or peaceful peoples' conventions."

But the British perceived these gatherings as breeding grounds for sedition. The situation started worsening when the officers refused to listen to the farmers' grievances.

"There was a lathi charge, followed by an open firing which killed many of the peasants present," said Deka.

Guwahati-based author Arup Kumar Dutta, who has written a book — Pothorughat — on the incident, said: "official records, as mentioned in the Darrang District Gazette, 1905, edited by BC Allen, placed the casualties in the Patharughat incident as 15 killed and 37 wounded."

However, unofficial sources claim it was a much higher number. Dutta writes: "Doli Purana, ostensibly written by an eyewitness named Narottam Koch, has the line Sat kuri raij mori thakil dar chelai pori which translates to imply that 140 were killed."

Significance of incident:

For the larger Assamese community, Patharughat comes second only to the Battle of Saraighat, when the Ahoms defeated the Mughals in 1671. "It is extremely inspirational for the Assamese community, like a national awakening," Deka said.

While many often refer to the episode as as the "Patharughat Ron" or the "Battle of Patharughat", Dutta said it was a "misnomer".

"It was a peaceful protest and a precursor to the Civil Disobedience movement, which was later propagated by Mahatma Gandhi," he said.

What about the site today?

Former governor SK Sinha had unveiled a martyrs column at the site on 28 January, 2001.

Every year on 28 January, the government and local people pay tribute to the martyrs of the incident (Krishak Swahid Diwas) in an official function. The Indian Army pays its respects in military style the next day.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated an Integrated Training and Skill Development Centre for the farmers near the site.



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