Twenty-five years before the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, more than a hundred peasants fell to the bullets of the British on January 28, 1894, in Patharughat, a small village in Assam’s Darrang district.
- After the British annexation of Assam in 1826, surveys of the vast lands of the state began.
- On the basis of such surveys, the British began to impose land taxes, much to the resentment of the farmers.
- In 1893, the British government decided to increase agricultural land tax reportedly by 70- 80 per cent.
- Up until then the peasants would pay taxes in kind or provide service in lieu of cash.
- Across Assam, peasants began protesting the move by organising Raij Mels, or peaceful peoples’ conventions.
The day of the massacre:
- The unarmed peasants were protesting against the increase in land revenue levied by the colonial administration when the military opened fire.
- Despite these gatherings being democratic, the British perceived them as “breeding grounds for sedition”.
- On January 28, 1894, when the British officers were refusing to listen to the farmers’ grievances, things heated up.
- There was a lathi charge, followed by an open firing which killed many of the peasants present.
- 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.
Why was the incident significant?
- The incident was one of the most tragic and inspiring episodes in the saga of the Indian freedom movement.
- However, it rarely features in the mainstream historical discourse of the freedom struggle.
For the larger Assamese community, Patharughat comes second only to the Battle of Saraighat, when the Ahoms defeated the Mughals in 1671.