THE VALIANT MARTYRS OF LATU REBELLION OF 1857 IN ASSAM…
THEIR CONTIBUTION REMAINS NEGLECTED
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
The word ‘war of 1857’ in India dubbed as Sepoy Mutiny in English records is glorified by Indians as the Ist war of independence. Immediately memories flash past about the valiant heroes of the war such as Rani Laxmi bai, Tantya Tope, Nana Saheb, Veer Kunwar singh, Rani of Tulsipur state, Rani Avanti bai of Ramgarh, Begum of Awadh and Bahadur shah Zafar II ( Mughal emperor). History books speak about them and the their battles are recorded too. Annual memorial functions are held to remember the martyrs and at many places their statues have been erected as a token of gratitude by the nation. Major battles took place in the areas of such as Jhansi, Gwalior, Meerut, Kanpur, Faizabad, Lucknow, Arra, Delhi and these areas are limited to Uttra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. However the revolts took place in a smaller scale at other places in the country including Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Punjab, Orissa and Assam. Valor of the rebels was no way lesser in these areas than their brethren in major areas. However Indian history has failed to record their achievements leave apart glorifying them. The contributions in the Assam sector have been completely neglected by the historians and the site at which the struggle took place remains neglected. On independence day the martyrs are remembered and the nation salutes them while the graves of such martyrs remain utterly neglected and scattered in the wild in Assam nea Assam – Bangldesh boder. A burial ground with tombs of at least 26 Indian native soldiers and six colonial forces’ personnel of East India company including their commandant, at Latu in Malegarh in Karimganj district of Assam remains unrecognised and unheeded even after the state government had initiated steps to develop it as a tourist spot.
As the nation salutes it martyrs on Independence Day, a group of brave-hearts from the Sepoy Mutiny are lying unsung and uncelebrated at a burial ground, tugged between India and Bangladesh on southern Assam border. A burial ground with tombs of at least 26 Indian native soldiers and six colonial forces’ personnel, including their commandant, at Latu in Malegarh located on the bank of Longai in Karimganj district of Assam remains unrecognized and unheeded even after the state government had initiated steps to develop it as a tourist spot. But for the timely intervention of some patriots, the site would have gone away to Bangladesh.
Government’s apathy, coupled with indifference from other organisations and historians, had almost led to Malegarh being fenced out of India; though timely intervention and awareness campaigns by few conscious citizens ensured that India retained the historic site but only to let in leave it to wilderness. The Malegarh burial site has the bodies of 26 soldiers of third and fourth companies of 34 Native Infantry of Chittagong, who were among 300-odd native soldiers who had revolted on 18 December 1857 against the British in present Bangladesh, fought Sylhet light infantry looted arms and ammunition, cash and elephants from Chittagong on November 18, 1857, and left for Manipur, via Tripura, that very night. The rebel soldiers were led by Ayodhya Prasad Singh, Rizbul Khan, Sher Khan and Samser Khan and that most were from Orrisa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of northern India.
Five soldiers of the Sylhet Light Infantry were killed, along with 26 natives, in the battle on December 18, 1857, and though the body count was higher for the natives, they were successful in pushing behind the British and marching forward. However, the troupe of the native soldiers and their families could not survive the arduous trek, constantly being hunted by the British with 185 soldiers being killed in battles and hunger, fatigue and diseases also claiming its share of prey. The accounts of the revolt were recorded by Robert Stuart the Superintendant. A few relics, including a pistol, a sword, one shoe and some ammunition, have also been found at the site, though the government is yet to take these into its possession. site and construct a war memorial there.
Patkai Trekkers convenor MK Gogoi said, “Though the incident has remained unheard of among the people residing beyond the Barak Valley, it is mentioned in various significant books”.
“In Edward Gates’ A History of Assam, a complete paragraph is dedicated to the event, in R Stewarts Mutiny Periods of Cachar, which was compiled from letters, the entire incident is elaborately described,” he added. ‘The state government had taken up some conservation work in 2006-07, but the work remained mostly unfinished and the burial ground remains deserted and abandoned,’ Mriganka Gogoi said However, Ajit Kumar Duttas ‘The Great Indian Tea planter Maniram Dewan, which is known to be the most descriptive history of the sepoy mutiny movement of the State, has no mention of this heropic incident,” he added.
The locals are taking very keen interest in the sacrifice of the martyrs and the site have paid glowing respects to them on the 18 Dec. The sacrifice of the martyrs is also being introduced into School text books for IX grade. The government has to develop the site as the tourist place and build a memorial to fallen heroes without delay.
1. Latu martyrs may not remain unsung. http://sevensisterspost.com/latu-martyrs-may-no-longer-remain-unsung/