The East India Company took over the British rule on the pretext of trading from England to India. The shot fired by Mangal Pandey to Lieutenant Henry Baugh, was the first bullet of the Sepoy Mutiny, 1857. Mangal Pandey was a Chipahi of the 34th Bengal Infantry of the Bengal Army.
Mangal Pandey was hanged by the East India Company Administration on April 6, 1857, at Barrackpore in Calcutta. He was hanged without any trial for that crime. Mangal Pandey became the first person to be inscribed as the first martyr in India’s Independence Struggle.
Even before that, in 1828, Gomdhar Konwar of Assam started a protest. Gomdhar Konwar renamed himself as Gomdhar Singha and started the protest against East India Company. In 1826, India was annexed by the British through the Yandaboo Treaty.
Sensing trouble, East India Company captured Gomdhar Singha. After serving 14 years’ imprisonment, he was then transferred to Rangpur of undivided Bengal.
Shortly afterward, Piyoli Phukan was executed on September 24, 1830, by the British. Piyoli was the son of infamous Badan Borphukan. Piyoli Phukan was charged for setting fire to the Company’s ammunition depot and was hanged. Apart from Piyoli, Dulia Baruah was also sentenced to death by hanging.
This is confirmed by the facts recorded in Assam History. It is enough to prove that Gomdhar Konwar can be considered as the first soldier of the Indian Independence Movement. Moreover, Piyoli Phukan and Dulia Baruah can be considered as the prominent martyrs of the Independence Movement.
On February 26, 1857, Maniram Dewan was hanged by East India Company. Maniram Dewan was charged with conspiracy against the British rule. Bahadur Gaonburah, an accomplice of Maniram Dewan was sent to Andaman Cellular Jail. Earlier, Andaman Jail was known as Kala Pani Cellular Jail.
During the period of 1857 to 1860, along-with Bahadur Gaonburah, Dutiram Barua, Seikh Formud Ali, and Madhu Mallik of Assam were also imprisoned in Kala Pani Jail. All of them were forced to stay in the closed cells of Kala Pani for rebelling against the British.
Apart from the above-mentioned freedom fighters, Benoy Laskar and Gopen Roy were also imprisoned in the Andamans. They spent their years in captivity in closed cells from 1932 to 1938.
Most people in Assam do not know the names of the Freedom Fighters of Assam who spent their lives in the Kala Pani prison. Later, Kushal Konwar, Kanaklata Baruah, Tilak Deka, Bhogeswari Phukanani, and many other freedom fighters were martyred.
It’s a pity that India’s first freedom fighter Gomdhar Singha, prominent Assamese martyrs of Indian Independence Movement Piyoli Phukan and Dulia Baruah were never recognized at the National level. Moreover, Assam martyrs Jiuram Dulia and Maniram Dewan never got recognition at the National level.
This negligence might be due to the lack of political prudence in Assam or for any other causes.
About the Author:
Shri. Kamal Kataki is currently working as a Professor in the Civil Department of Assam Engineering Institute, Chandmari. He is also a distinguished musician and used to travel with Sudhakantha, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. He also co-authored the book, Bhupendra: Bard of the Brahmaputra.