A view of Piyali Baruah's death anniversary in Jorhat.
A view of Piyali Baruah's death anniversary in Jorhat.

Considered Assam’s first martyrs, they were both hanged on February 26 in 1858. Captain Charles Holroyd had judged the case in which both Maniram Dewan and Piyali Baruah were declared as traitors and sentenced to be hanged for allegedly conspiring to rebel against the British and crown Kandarpeswar Singha as the next Ahom king in Assam.

While Dewan has been extolled as Assam’s first tea entrepreneur, a trade centre named after him, his supposed burial site in the Cinnamara Tea Estate having got a makeover, a cycle rally held on Sunday in his honour by Dikh, a social cultural group along with Pedal street and meetings were held on Monday in a few places here to commemorate his 160th death anniversary, Piyali Baruah’s martyrdom and his role in the conspiracy has allegedly been ignored. In Assam, the history they find a small mention while in Indian history they are nowhere.

The Piyali Baruah Smriti Rakshya Samiti supported by the residents of Choladhora, the place where Piyali had resided, on Monday vowed to rectify this omission.

In a meeting held at the Choladhora Sarbajanin Puja Mandir, resource person Saumitra Pujari said that Piyali Baruah should be given equal space as Dewan as his life was sacrificed for the greater interest of the people.

“Piyali’s father Rameswar Baruah, who had been mistakenly referred to as Ram Sharma, the father of Piyali Baruah on the assumption that all Brahmins wrote the surname Sharma, was a fast friend of Maniram. Piyali was so attracted by Maniram’s personality that he soon became his trusted lieutenant and jumped in the fray at the behest of the latter. Maniram, who was initially a trusted officer of the British East India Company, later rebelled when the tea estates he had set up came into conflict with British interests and all his facilities were withdrawn,” Pujari narrated.

Pujari, a history professor at Jorhat College (Amalgamated)  further stated that it was Piyali who liaisoned with the garrisons stationed at Dibrugarh and Golaghat, and with the smaller communities in order to gather arms and mobilize an uprising against the British who were economically draining the State.

This could not bear fruition as a letter written by Dewan to Piyali Baruah which was intercepted by the Sivasagar Daroga in 1857, who immediately swung into action by arresting all the conspirators including the proposed Ahom king Kandarpeswar Singha and others.

A view of Piyali Baruah’s death anniversary in Jorhat.
A view of Piyali Baruah’s death anniversary in Jorhat.

Pujari said that like Bahadur Shah, Nana Saheb, Laxmibai, the Rani of Jhansi and others, the Indian history has totally ignored these two, who are also a part of the pan India revolt of 1857.

In Assam history, where both of them are mentioned, the people by and large do not know, who is Piyali, many confuse him with Piyoli Phukan, who was hanged by the British in Sivasagar or Piyali Bar Phukan, an Ahom official. Few know that he was a very good singer and that his grandfather, was Jurai Gabhoru Melai Baruah, an official in the court of Ahom King Kamaleswar Singha, that he hailed from the illustrious Bezbaruah family to which Lakshminath Bezbaroa had belonged and his forefathers had practised Ayurveda and that he had lived in a huge plot in Choladhora known as the Bezbaruah Tol.

“His soul is crying for justice and we have to give him this,” he said.

The President of the Smriti Rakshya Samiti, Basanta Goswami said that Piyali is like Urmila, Lakshman’s wife that no one bothered about when she was left behind by her husband for 14 years.

Rubul Srutikar, Secretary of the Samiti said that a plot had been demarcated at the western side of Jorhat for installing a statue of Piyali which would be completed, once it was known on which side the four-lane highway would be laid.

The Pragati Mahila Samaj, the Choladhora Durga Puja organizing committee were the other organizations in Choladhora which joined hands to observe the day.

The second edition of Ananya Choladhora, was released on the occasion.

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