RAHA, Oct 17 - The local people of Phulaguri on Friday will pay homage to the peasants who died in firing by the British military 157 years ago. The revolt, known as �Phulaguri Dhewa�, in which a British official was killed and several police officers injured, was triggered by a ban imposed on opium cultivation and a proposed taxation on betel leaf and nut.
It may be mentioned that in 1861, a total ban was imposed on the cultivation of poppy. This prohibition led to a riot at Phulaguri in Nagaon. The local farmers who were dependent on this cultivation for their livelihood, were severly affected. The British Government then imposed tax on betel nuts and leaves. The local people were unable to bear the burden of such a strict tax regime. This led to a revolt against the British Government by the peasants of Raha, Barapujia, Saragaon and Katahguri.
Later, public meetings were held to criticise the taxation policy of the British Government. The district authorities of Nowgong then sent Lieutenant Singer to find out the root cause of the trouble and to suppress the revolt with a firm hand. Lt Singer�s rude behaviour and ill management made the people more hostile. Many rioters were killed, and some were sentenced to death. Lt Singer was brutally killed and his body was thrown in the Kolong river by some peasants.
The incident triggered a brutal retaliation by the British and 141 persons were arrested as per government estimate and tried at Nagaon and even at Calcutta with many of them awarded death sentence and life imprisonment.
Whatever might have been its original objective, the uprising became a symbol of challenge to the mighty British power in the Assam province and projected the anti-colonial character of the Assamese people, Hara Das , a local peasant said. He further said that though the British crushed the rebellion, but the incident shook the foundation of the British rule in the region all the same.
But today neither the State Government nor any social organisations has come forward to commemorate the heroism of the common people and the heritage of Phulaguri that will complete 158 years on Friday. The local people�s aspiration to get national recognition to this event in the country�s freedom struggle like the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919, is yet to get recognition. �In fact, the Phulaguri massacre occurred long before the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and the people of Phulaguri want the martyrs of October 18, 1861 killings to get national recognition in the annals of India�s freedom struggle, lamented Baneswar Saikia, a retired teacher and a resident of Phulaguri.