JORHAT, Jan 23 - Some local businessmen here have joined hands, under the banner of Assam Chamber of Commerce (Jorhat district branch), to pay tribute and recollect the sacrifices of a martyr of Assam in the country�s first struggle of Independence in 1857 against the British rule � Maniram Dewan, the first Indian commercial tea planter.
The businessmen, in an initiative under the ACA (Jorhat branch) banner, have restored the tomb of Dewan at a small graveyard dating back to the British era located among the lush green tea bushes of the Cinnamara Tea Estate on the outskirts here.
The tomb was in a dilapidated state. It is among the tombs of British tea planters and officers with most names now not visible on the tombstones due to lack of proper upkeep and conservation.
According to historical records, Dewan, born in 1806, had played a leading role in Assam politics during early British rule, initially helping the Raj to establish peace with various tribes and chieftains after two Burmese invasions. He was an aide to the last Ahom king, Purandhar Singha, who appointed him Borbhandar Borua (head of royal treasury) after being restored as a tributary king in 1833 by the Raj.
Dewan, whose real name was Maniram Dutta, had set up the Cinnamara tea garden in 1845 after resigning from his post of Dewan (chief executive) with the British-instituted Assam Company, the first tea firm opened by an Assamese planter.
He was arrested in Calcutta when he went there to hand the British a memorandum from the Ahom king, Purandhar Singha. He was 51 when he was hanged in public, along with his aide Piyali Baruah, on February 26, 1858 on the banks of Tocklai stream here.
ACA (Jorhat branch) president Bijit Dutta told The Assam Tribune that recently after he and his friends (All ACA members) came to know about Dewan�s tomb lying in a ramshackle state, they visited the graveyard.
Dutta said they inquired from the garden authorities about the tomb in the left side corner of the graveyard, and were confirmed by the officials that the tomb was of Dewan as per the account of earlier garden officials and workers.
�After discussing the matter with my friends, we decided to carry out restoration work of the tomb of the martyr who should also be remembered for his pioneering entrepreneurial skills,� Dutta said. He said restoration work of the tomb was undertaken a fortnight back after seeking permission from garden authorities and is nearing completion.
Stating that the rebuilding the tomb with tiles and inserting tombstone was a tribute to Dewan, PK Saikia, an ACA member, said the 19th century figure is an inspiration to present-day entrepreneurs and patriots.
ACA secretary Kajal Sarmah, who along with his fellow ACA members SK Haque and Sapan Pal, were supervising the finishing touches today, said on January 26 a brief function will be organised at the garden premises to mark the restoration of the tomb.
Cinnamara is owned by debt-ridden Assam Tea Corporation Limited and a major part of shooting of the famous national award winning Assamese movie Chameli Memsaab was done in this garden.
In 2014, the North Eastern Small Scale Industries Association had instituted an award � Maniram Dewan Udyog Ratna � in the name of Dewan. The award is given annually to an entrepreneur who excels in his ventures and inspires others. NESSIA is traders� body dealing with small-scale units in the North-east, which was established in 1993 with its headquarters in Jorhat.
In 2010, the Maniram Dewan Memorial Trust, having Aroon Chandra Barooah, Maniram�s great-grandson as its working president, had approached both Dispur and New Delhi to honour Dewan with the title of �Father of Assam Tea�.