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Maniram Dewan

Maniram Dewan
Born in 17 April 1806 Maniram Dutta Barua, popularly known as Maniram Dewan was first people to establish tea gardens in Assam. He was an Assamese nobleman in British India. He established tea gardens at Chinamara in Jorhat and at Singlou in Sibsagar district. He played an active role in the freedom movement of Assam.

He was born at a critical period of history perhaps to ameliorate the sufferings of the Assamese in the aftermath of the vacuum created by the terrible devastations of the Moamaria Rebellion and the Burmese invasion. He witnessed the declining Ahom suzerainty and the horrific effects of Moamaria Rebellion, while he subsequently guided the entry of the British into Assam.

Maniram's family had migrated to Assam from Kannauj in the early 16th century. His paternal ancestors held high offices in the Ahom court. The Ahom rule had weakened considerably following the Moamoria rebellion (1769–1806). During the Burmese invasions of Assam (1817-1826), Maniram's family sought asylum in Bengal, which was under the control of the British East India Company. The family returned to Assam under the British protection, during the early days of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). The East India Company defeated the Burmese and gained the control of Assam through the Treaty of Yandabo (1826).

Treaty of Yandabo : During the Burmese invasion of Assam between 1817 and 1826, the Ahom kingdom came under the control of Burmese rulers. At last the East India Company defeated this Burmese and gained the control of this Assam state through the Treaty of Yandabo, the peace treaty that ended the first Anglo-Burmese war.

Maniram started his career by becoming a loyal associate of the British East India company administration under David Scott. This David was the agent of Governor General in North East India. In 1828, the 22-year, Maniram was appointed as the Tehsildar and Sheristadar of Rangpur under Scott's deputy Captain John Bryan Neufville. Later he was made a Prime Minister (Borbhandar) by the titular king, Purandar Singha of Assam. Later, Maniram was made a borbhandar (Prime Minister) by Purandar Singha, the titular ruler of Assam during 1833–1838. He continued to be an associate of Purandar's son Kameswar Singha and grandsom Kandarpeswar Singha. Maniram became a loyal confidante of Purandar Singha, and resigned from the posts of sheristadar and tehsildar, when the king was deposed by the British.

It was Maniram who informed the British about the Assam tea grown by the Singpho people, which was hitherto unknown to the rest of the world. In the early 1820s, he directed the cultivators Robert Bruce and his brother Charles Alexander Bruce to the local Singpho chief Bessa Gam. 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 the year 1839, Maniram was appointed as the Dewan of Assam Tea Company at Nazira with a salary of Rs 200 per month. But in 1840's Maniram quitted the job due to differences of opinion with officers. But he had acquired sufficient tea cultivation expertise. Later Maniram became the first Indian to grow tea commercially in Assam by establishing his own tea gardens at Chenimora in Jorhat and Selung in Sibsagar respectively. He was not only a tea cultivator but also ventured into gold procuring, salt production, iron smelting, manufacturing of goods, boat and brick making, ivory work, ceramic, agricultural products, and many more. From these points itself we can understand that Maniram was very popular among the people of Assam. Maniram wanted to make Assam self-reliant through all kinds of enterprise. Adept in numerous trades himself, chiefs of neighbouring states considered him a demi-God.

By the 1850s, Maniram had become hostile to the British. He had faced numerous administrative obstacles in establishing private tea plantations, due to opposition from the competing European tea planters. In 1851, an officer seized all the facilities provided to him due to a tea garden dispute. Maniram, whose family consisted of 185 people, had to face economic hardship.

When the Indian sepoys started an uprising against the British on 10 May,1857 Maniram saw it as an opportunity to restore the Ahom rule. With help from messengers disguised as fakirs, he sent coded letters to Peali Baruah, who had been acting as the chief advisor of Kandarpeswar in his absence. In these letters, he urged Kandarpeswar Singha to launch a rebellion against the British, with help from the sepoys at Dibrugarh and Golaghat. Kandarpeswar and his loyal men hatched an anti-British plot and gathered arms. The plot was supported by several influential local leaders including Urbidhar Barua, Mayaram Barbora, Chitrasen Barbora, Kamala Charingia Barua, Mahidhar Sarma Muktear, Luki Senchowa Barua, Ugrasen Marangikhowa Gohain, Deoram Dihingia Barua, Dutiram Barua, Bahadur Gaonburha, Sheikh Formud Ali and Madhuram Koch.

The conspirators were joined by the Subedars Sheikh Bhikun and Nur Mahammad, after Kandarpeswar promised to double the salary of the sepoys if they succeeded in defeating the British. On 29 August 1857, the rebels met at Sheikh Bhikun's residence at Nogora. They planned a march to Jorhat, where Kandarpeswar would be installed as the King on the day of the Durga Puja; later Sibsagar and Dibrugarh would be captured. However, the plot was uncovered before it could be executed. Kandarpeswar, Maniram, and other leaders were arrested.

Maniram was arrested in Calcutta, detailed in Alipur for a few weeks, and then brought to Jorhat. His letters to Kandarpeswar had been intercepted by the Special Commissioner Captain Charles Holroyd, who judged the trial. Based on the statement of Haranath Parbatia Baruah, the daroga (inspector) of Sibsagar, Maniram was identified as the kingpin of the plot. He and Peali Barua were publicly hanged on 26 February 1858 at the Jorhat jail at the age of 51. Maniram's death was widely mourned in Assam, and several tea gaden workers struck work to express their support for the rebellion. The executions led to resentment among the public, resulting in an open rebellion which was suppresed forcefully.

Maniram Dewan Trade Centre : The much-needed exposition centre for promotion of trade and industry of Assam and the North-east was formally inaugurated today at Betkuchi by Union Minister of Commerce Kamal Nath on Feb 19,2009. Named after the famous tea entrepreneur and a martyr of Indian freedom struggle Maniram Dewan – is an integrated system of buildings and open spaces stretched over an area of ten acres.

Maniram Dewan Movie : In 1963 movie Maniram Dewan released with history of Maniram Dewan. The famous song "Buku Hum Hum Kare" sang by Late Dr. Bhupen Hazarikia in the film. This movie won President's Silver Award. This movie was directed by Sarbeshwar Chakraborty and Music Director : Dr. Bhupen Hazarika.