The Assam government is digitising its archival treasure dating back to the 18{+t}{+h}Centuryfor better access to researchers

When Chief Archivist of Assam State Archives Tarun Deka and his colleagues were rummaging around the stacks of files and documents in the Archives, some of which date back to 1774, a slice of history of one of India’s great peasants’ uprisings against the British rule came alive.

The Archives’ team found a small handwritten poster put up by Assamese peasants of Patharughat, a village in Darrang district, way back in January 1894 appealing the residents of the village to assemble for a Raijor Mel (People’s Convention) to oppose hike in land revenue imposed by the British government.

This historic uprising of Assamese peasants later came to be known as Patharughator Rann . Researchers and local residents of Patharughat claim that 140 Assamese peasants were massacred by the British rulers to crush the uprising. The poster was found by the then Deputy Commissioner of Darrang District J.D. Anderson on his way to Patharughat on January 27, 1894. The Archive team also found the original handwritten reports of the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police of Darrang on the uprising, which the Archive team believes, will throw more light on this historic uprising.

A repository of more than three lakh official files, about one lakh reports and historical documents and about 40,000 books, including some rare books like Military report on the Brahmaputra river system published in 1914, besides some rare photographs, the Assam State Archives has in its custody a single page decree issued by Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of Bengal, on abolition of slavery in Assam as the oldest document dating back to 1774, says Mr. Deka.

Researchers looking for facts relating to raising of the first battalion of the Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force of India, will have to visit the Assam State Archives as it has in its collection the relevant original official files to authenticate the information. The Archives’ collection also includes a report on 1897’s great earthquake in Assam, documents and reports throwing light on the colonial period.

An introduction of the Assam State Archives says, “Assam first became a British protectorate at the close of the First Burmese war in 1826. In 1832, Cachar was annexed, Jaintia Hills were included in the East India Company’s dominion in 1835 and in 1938, Upper Assam was annexed to it. Thus gradually the whole of Assam came under British rule.”

Very soon researchers in any corner of the world will be able to access the catalogue of the rich repository of the Assam State Archives at the click of a mouse, thanks to the State government’s move to make the Archives a World Class Archives by equipping it with latest technology.

“The Assam Electronics Development Corporations Limited (AMTRON) has already started setting up a data centre along with a server in the Archives building. The AMTRON is also working on a website of the Assam State Archives. We will upload our catalogue of files, documents and books on the website so that researchers and interested persons across the globe can easily find out huge official file, document, report or a rare book, available in the Archives collection. Eventually the Assam State Archives will be a favoured destination for historians and researchers across the world,” says Director of the Assam State Archives, D. Sonowal. The AMTRON will also be bar-coding the books in the Archives collection.

And towards that direction the Archives team has been making all efforts for since February to update the Archives catalogue as fast as they can. However, it is not an easy task, as they have to take extra care that not a single leaf of any file, report or book, some of which are brittle, is damaged or lost.

The Assam Government initiated the move to equip the Assam State Archives with latest technology after a group of historians urged Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in December 2012 on the need to modernise the Archives and make its repository easily accessible for historians, researchers, administrators and other interested people.

Jishnu Barua, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Border Areas Department, a historian by himself and a regular user of Archives’ materials, is leading the Archives’ team in updating the catalogue.