Loyalist to Activist: Story of Maniram Dewan

Maniram Dewan was an Assamese nobleman and a freedom fighter in British India. He was one of the first people to establish tea gardens in Assam. He was a statesman of the Sepoy revolution of 1857. He is considered one of the most outstanding personalities of the 19th century in Assam.

Maniram Dutta Baruah
Maniram Dutta Baruah

The original name of Maniram Dewan was Maniram Dutta Baruah. He was born on April 17, 1806. His family had migrated from Kanuaj to Assam in the early 16th century. In the earlier part of his life Maniram Dewan became a loyal to the British East India Company. At the age of 22 he was appointed a Tehsildar and a Sheristadar of Rangpur under David Scott’s Deputy Captain John Bryan Neufville. He was later made the Borbhandar by Purandar Singha.Maniram Dewan informed the British about tea grown in Assam by the Singpho people. During this time this aspect was unknown to the rest of the worlds. One Charles Bruce of the British east India Company collected the plant sample and took them to the company. In 1833 the British East India Company decided to establish major tea plantation in India. The British representative came to Assam and met Maniram Dewan who highlighted the region’s prospects of tea cultivation.In 1839 he became the Dewan of the Assam Tea company at Nazira. He gathered knowledge regarding tea by this time. He quit the job and established his own tea garden at Jorhat. 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 Voice Against British

Dewan was one of the greatest freedom fighters of Assam. Dewan was interested in establishing private tea plantations in Assam. Due to opposition faced from the British in establishing private tea plantations he became hostile to the British. He was seized of all the facilities by the British due to the tea garden dispute. He went antagonist to the British Empire when he revolted and opposed to certain policies of the Empire. Therefore he wanted the restoration of Ahom rule in Assam. When the Indian sepoys started an uprising against the British he saw it an opportunity to restore Ahom rule in Assam. He along with other activists like Peali Baruah hatched an anti-British plot. Their plot was uncovered and he along with other leaders was arrested.

Maniram Dutta Baruah
Maniram Dutta Baruah

Maniram Dewan was found guilty of mastering an anti-British plot. After his arrest he was tried and was was identified as the kingpin of the plot .He along with Peoli Baruah were publically hanged on February 26, 1858 at Jorhat jail. His death was widely mourned in Assam. The tea garden workers struck work to support his cause.

Several folk songs called “Maniram Dewanar Geet” have been composed in the memory of the great son of Assam. The Maniram Dewan Trade Centre has been set up at Guwahati for promotion of trade activities. The Maniram Dewan Boy’s hostel of the Dibrugarh University has been named after him.

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