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159th death anniversary of Swahid Piyali Baruah today
DEBASHISH BEZBARUAH

 
 GUWAHATI, Feb 25 - The patriotism and heroic deeds of Swahid Piyali Baruah and the supreme sacrifice he made while trying to reinstate Ahom rule by overthrowing the British will be recalled at a solemn function to be held tomorrow at Choladhora, Jorhat, under the aegis of the Piyali Baruah Smriti Rakhya Samiti on the occasion of the 159th anniversary of his hanging.

In the memorial meet to be held at the Choladhora Sarbajanin Samannay Kshetra, eminent speakers will seek to enlighten the audience about Piyali Baruah’s contributions and emphasise the need to keep his memory alive by helping the new generation imbibe his positive attributes and selfless patriotic zeal.

Observance of his death anniversary assumes significance in the light of the fact that historians have generally been oblivious of Piyali Baruah’s heroic role and contributions during the 1857 revolt against the British in Assam. The historic space that he deserved was quite intriguingly denied to him as historians seemed to have been rather bewitched by the larger than life personality of Piyali’s mentor – Maniram Dewan.

It is pertinent to recall that Dewan, a powerful and influential nobleman who had earlier been close to the British, fell out with them when they tried to stall his attempts to take up tea cultivation. He later wrote to the Calcutta based authorities twice to hand over ruling power back to the deserving Ahom royal heir. When his demands were rubbished, Dewan made a secret plan to uproot the British from Jorhat, the last capital of the Ahom kingdom and instigated a handful of patriots to implement his plans.

While Dewan was all throughout busy in Calcutta mobilising anti-British elements, his most trusted ally Piyali Baruah was meticulously executing his plans in and around Jorhat. Through fiery speeches, he managed to win the support of Indian sepoys based at Nogora in Golaghat and also mobilised patriotic Muslim brethren to together carry out a surprise assault on the authorities.

Unfortunately, the plans somehow got leaked and in the crackdown that followed the plotters were caught and punished. Maniram, the main conspirator, was arrested in Calcutta while Piyali Baruah, the chief executioner, was arrested in Jorhat along with other patriots. After a sham trial, Maniram and Piyali were hanged together in Jorhat on February 26, 1858.

Piyali’s heroism, however, gradually slipped into the backyard of public amnesia as historical accounts crystallized to produce a picture that is, in reality, not quite correct. The similarities in the names of Piyoli Phukan and Piyali Baruah also created a persistent confusion, although their hangings were separated by 28 years.

During the 1990s, the previous Smriti Rakhya Samiti had tried its best to revive the memory of Piyali Baruah. Following in its footsteps, the revived Samiti has also been undertaking a slew of activities in this direction since last year. Reliable sources say key persons at the government level have promised all help to the new committee in its noble mission.

Tomorrow’s function is scheduled to commence at 5 pm.

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