Digging for the future reveals remains from the past

A memorial located close to the site.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A project expected to change the future of farmers in Assam’s Darrang district had to be suspended after excavators dug up the locals’ emotional link with the past — a mass grave of 140 peasants killed in a farmers’ revolt 123 years ago.

The uprising was triggered by a British government decision in 1893 to increase agricultural tax by 70-80%. At least 140 peasants died in police firing after the protests turned violent in Darrang district’s Patharughat, about 60 km northeast of Guwahati, on January 28, 1894.

“We noticed the spot believed to be the mass grave when we went there on Monday for the annual function to commemorate the uprising at the memorial for the martyrs — the grave area and the memorial are about 30 metres apart. The place was cordoned off and construction activities stopped,” the district’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Pankaj Chakraborty told The Hindu on Thursday.

The site had been dug up for a farmers’ training institute promised by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal during the Krishak Swahid Divas (annual farmer martyrs’ day) in 2017.

A sum of ₹7 crore was released some time ago for the Assam Public Works Department to start work on the institute.

“There is no monumental evidence of the spot having been the mass grave of the martyrs of the 1894 revolution. But people believe so, and we have decided to honour their sentiments,” Mr. Chakraborty said. He added that a coordination committee comprising administrative officials and members of local organisations would be formed soon to decide how to go about the project.

“A positive outcome of the inadvertent incident is that there is attention on the mass grave area that was in a state of neglect. We hope some kind of memorial or marker is established there for the sake of history,” local activist Bhargab Kumar Das said.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 9:14:41 PM |

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