Slavery in Arunachal Pradesh 8170999006, 9788170999003

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Slavery in Arunachal Pradesh
 8170999006, 9788170999003

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The book, Slavery in Arunachal Pradesh, by Dr. Amrendra Kumar Thakur, makes a radical departure from what exists in the historiography of the tribal societies of India. By analysing the emergence of private property and existence of social stratifi: cation among the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh the author questions the validity of the myths of 'egalitarianism' and 'non-hierarchism' among the tribes. Laying methodological stress on identifying and analysing in a historical perspective as well as in relation to its different socio-cultural, economic and geographical perspectives the book attempts to provide an alternative perspective of study of tribal societies of North-east India, Burma and Tibet. The empirical material which is examined in depth in this book relates to diverse themes : origin of slavery, position of slaves and abolition of slavery. The introduction provides an overview of historiography as well as of the major perspectives of slavery, serfdom, bonded labour, etc. The analysis in the book is illumined by a rare sensitivity to the nature of class formation and class values as well as to the material conditions of society and family. Meticulously researched and lucidly presented the book is significant for the theoretical, methodological and empirical engagements it offers. It should prove to be of interest to students and researchers of the social and economic history of the tribal societies especially of Arunachal Pradesh.

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==THE AUTHO DR. AMRENDRA KUMAR THAKUR ( b. 1962) Lecturer, Deparbnent of History, Tirap Government College, Deomali, Arunachal Pradesh, has been teaching in Government Colleges of Arunachal Pradesh for more than a decade. Formerly, he was associated with College of Commerce, Patna, teaching upto the post-graduate standard. He has contributed more than three dozen papers in regional and national seminars, annual conferences of histori;,ms and journals of repute. He has eight scholarly books to his credit as the author, co-author, chief-editor and member of editorial board. He was the member of the Executive Committee of the Indian History Congress for three years (2000-2002) and The North-East India History Association for two years (2000-2001 ). Presently, he is the President of the Arunachal Pradesh College Teachers' Association.




9~&,-(Ram Sharan Sharma]


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Dr V.C.P. Chaudhary and Dr R.A. Thakur The generous hands behind my benign work who left for heavenly abode before the completion of the same

FOREWORD e present project report is prepared by r Amrendra Kr Thakur with the support of the Indian Council of Social Science Research. Though its thrust area is tribal Arunachal Pradesh the author does not ignores slavery in the world context. He reviews the findings of historians on the nature of slavery in ancient India and also highlights its role in the mode of production. The tribal society is generally considered egalitarian. But tribal Arunachal shows slavery and other forms of servitude. Here slavery appears in the context of colonial polity and economy when the money market makes its impact on the tribal society. The tribal chiefs together with British administrators and, particularly, the tea planters need sufficient labour power to carry on production and administration. The tribal chiefs, who emerged as the owner of the community land, took to raids for procuring labourers for jhum cultivation. On the other hand planters and others took advantage of the miserable condition of the common tribals to purchase them. An animal known as mithuna was also used in purchase transactions. The slaves in Arunachal did not outnumber the free tribemen though their number was not negligible. They were more in the nature of serfs or bonded labourers than permanent hereditary slaves. In lieu of compensation the owners could be persuaded to free their slaves. Because of lack of conditions for rehabilitation the slaves were unwilling to be free. Though British attempts to emancipate slaves began in the early 19th century, it did not make much progress under their rule. In post-independence years the problem was taken up seriously and conditions were created in which the freed slaves could be rehabilitated.

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Dr Amrendra Kumar Thakur has worked hard and consulted almost all available relevant sources to analyse the various forms of servility in the tribal society of Arunachal. The study is a significant contribution to social anthropology and also to the policy formulation to tackle the problems of various types of servitude found in the tribal population of the subcontinent. Dr Thakur deserves congratulations for all that he has presented in this report. RAM SHARAN SHARMA

PREFACE though the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh have attracted large number of scholars, to European eyes tribal people were nothing but queer and exotic. The necessity of colonial administration, nevertheless, made the bureaucrats study the life and culture of people fairly intensively. But because of mental preoccupation with the alien subject population, particularly those under colonial subjugation, by and large, appeared to them only as savage. Lacking the experiences of heterogeneous realities the very approach to the study of alien tribes became an exercise in cultural isolates. After independence, we inherited not only concepts, techniques, theories and methods of study but also topics of study from our colonial rulers, which is adequately reflected in the subsequent studies. The writings were also not devoid of the inadequacies of the ethnographic studies conducted by and large exclusively under the influence of the British tradition. With the growing accessibility to the tribal areas of the interior during the post-independence period the nature of contact with the tribes met with considerable qualitative improvement. The new socio-political climate grew and initiated a revolutionary change in the social science research in India with special reference to the studies of tribes and tribal areas of India. Now a significant trend has been the shift from generalised description of tribes to problem oriented specialised studies. Rather than being portrayed by an outsider as a museum specimen the scholars now are providing an insider's view of reality. Instead of encouraging research on esoteric aspects of tribal life the systematic investigation of relevant elements of their life are on the cards. All these are to provide a true picture of their past

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free from any bias and prejudices. These are also to correct the distortions of facts and misrepresentation of reality in the writings of the outsiders. In the beginning, some of my friends were not happy with my pursuit on the subject of slavery in Arunachal Pradesh. It was not at all because of personal or professional rivalry but mainly because of ideological commitment and difference in the approaches to study of the subject. To some of them slavery was a long closed chapter not only in Arunachal Pradesh but also in other parts of India; for others the institution for study should be periodically divided into the ancient, medieval and modern; for yet others the institution of slavery among tribal societies an unheard historical phenomenon in India. To discuss a common problem in such a diversified land without knowing the dialects etc. were the other problematic areas pointed out to me. To me such aspects proved subsidiary, however, they have got fair treatment in my study, opening a wide field of historical research. The study of the institution of slavery in ancient India was undertaken some years ago and seeks to examine the vicissitude through which it passed over a number of centuries. To me the slavery in Arunachal Pradesh was an essential part of a scientific attempt to study the history of Arunachal Pradesh because of its contribution to the material foundation of the society. Not only the institution of slavery in Arunachal Pradesh but a fresh investigation, into the institutions of bondage and unfree labour of the past of the northeast India and the other areas are essential to understand the pre-colonial societies of this region of India. This field of research is not very popular among scholars. Here, I have dealt principally with domestic and agrestic slavery but institution like serfdom and un-free labour have also been analysed. These offer a variety of interesting facts and perplexing problems. The institution of slavery in Arunachal Pradesh received sanctions from tribal eschatology and the British Government as well as Indian Government after independence, while determined to put down inhuman practices, was extremely reluctant to interfere with the social and religious customs of the people and traditional economic


structure. To the best of my knowledge no preconceived notions or time-honoured opinions have been allowed to interfere with the collection or interpretation of facts. With a view to objectivity, prevalent divergent historiographical interpretations have been analysed systematically and the subjects of this book have been treated from a fresh viewpoint I have reached my conclusion on the basis of the information available to me. The work was submitted as a minor project report under the I.C.S.S.R. New Delhi, in 1999. A number of changes have been introduced in the course of its publication into book form. All these are to include the suggestions of the scholars of the field, who were kind enough to advise on the earlier drafts. Owing to the nature of the work the collections from newspapers have been dropped from the preface, and the chapters on the origin and position have been thoroughly revised and enlarged. New materials have also been included in the chapter on the abolition of slavery along with the division of chapter under sub-titles. Hence, significant alteration has been done in the conclusion too. In the report form, the appendix dealing with the League of Nations Draft Slavery Convention, 1926 has only the collections on the North East Frontier Agency, now the slavery and other institutions of serfdom or bondage of the entire North East India have been reproduced. To make the work a comprehensive one, two more tables dealing with the rehabilitation of slaves and other economically backward classes have been included here. Now, the bibliography is more exhaustive and the primary unpublished sources are more specific. It is my sincere duty to express my indebtedness to my colleagues at Bomdila and Deomali, various scholars, other individuals and institutions for the help received at every stage in the preparation of this book. The Indian Council of Social Science Research not only financed my research project but also provided publication grant for the same. I am thankful to the I.C.S.S.R., New Delhi and its North Eastern Regional Centre, Shillong for the financial assistance and allowing the extension of time very liberally. I am also thankful to the Principals of colleges, who generously

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provided me the facilities and encouragements for postdoctoral researches. I submitted the report from the Government College, Bomdila, but could make the copy ready for press only from Tirap Government College, Deomali. Not as the ritual but as a sincere recognition of their help, I once again extend my gratitude to the individuals who helped me in the preparation of this study. The repetitions of names have been avoided here, but their contributions to the cause of researches. on marginals cannot be easily forgotten. However, I extend my sincere thanks to Professor A.C. Sinha, Shillong, Professor S. Dutta, A. Tayeng, Dr B.B. Pandey, Itanagar, Professors Rajeshwar Pd Singh and Vijay Kr Thakur, Patna, Dr P.K. Shukla, T.P. Shrivastava, Sanjeev Ranjan, Bharati Ranjan, and Dhananjaya Kr. Singh, New Delhi for their opinions and comments on the earlier drafts of the book. I am also obliged to Dr B. K. Roy Burman, whose comments on my work, as the I.C.S.S.R. referee, really encouraged me a lot and provided some new dimensions to my researches. Above all these, discussion with Professor Ram Sharan Sharma and some modifications, out of it, in the draft have been quite overwhelming to me. I am grateful to him for allowing me a long discussion, despite being unwell, and introducing the book to the academic and business worlds through the foreword. The responsibility for opinions expressed herein and for any errors that may be found are, however, solely mine. My thanks are also due to the members of the staff of the National Library (Calcutta), National Archives Record Room and Library, I.C.H.R. Library, I.C.S.S.R. Library, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Jawaharlal Nehru University Library (New Delhi), Maulana Azad Library, Libraries of the Department of History and the Academic Staff College, Aligarh Muslim University (Aligarh), Khuda Bakhsa Khan Library (Patna) and the State Archives, Central Library and Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation, Government of Arunachal Pradesh (Itanagar), and the Directorate of Information and Public Relations and Directorate of Labour, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh (Naharlagun) and the libraries of Government College Bomdila, Tirap Government College, Deomali, and of some other Institutions.

Preface/ xiii

It is needless to express my sense of gratitude to members of my family, without their ungrudging and constant encouragement, the work could not have been successfully performed. My parents, daughter Neelakshi, son Chinmaya and wife Preeti followed the course of this work with interest and a growing exasperation. Their support at all times has been critical. The playful activities of Chinmaya and Neelakshi were refreshing to my fatigued mood whi]e preparing the book. I once more extend my gratitude to my friends Shri B.N. Jha, Shri T.P. Shrivastava and Shri Rajesh Kumar and their family members for helping me in various ways at every stage in the monograph. The handling of the matter on computer would not have been done, without genuine concerns and efficiencies of Binod Kr Saha and Pranjal Gogoi at Deomali. Finally, the work could not have come out without active persuasions and timely action by K.M. Mittal. I owe a lot to them. AMRENDRA KUMAR THAKUR

CONTENTS Foreword Prefact; List of Tables and Appendices Abbreviations

1. Introduction A. Slavery and Similar Practices B. Analysis of Sources

vii IX

xvii xix

1 1 10

2. Origin of Slavery


3. Position of Slaves


4. Abolition of Slavery


5. Conclusion


Appendices Tables Bibliography Index

183 235 243 257

LIST OF TABLES AND APPENDICES Tables A. Number of Slaves Released from 1950 to 1953 B. Emancipation of Slaves and Compensation Paid up to 1969-70 C. Settlement of Sulungs/Puroiks from 1978 to 1982

D. Settlement of Sulungs/Puroiks from 1983-84 to 1988-89

E. Survey Report on Bonded Labour of East In his Assistants to forward to him an expression of the views entertained by them regardfug the gradual mitigation of slavery and bondage in the province of Assam. Here the mention of the views of Capt. White seems important because of its merit and influence over the proposed measures. In answer to this request Captain White, Political Agent at Bishnath advised that the permanent system of slavery should be commuted into a mitigated form of bondage for seven years, and that the purchase of slavery for life should be made illegal. This recommendation differed in one respect considerably from the proposals made by the same gentleman in a letter of August 1830. In 1830, he suggested that the

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children of slaves might be declared free from the day of their birth.43 But on considering the matter over again in the year 1835, it appeared to him that this suggestion would be inexpedient, as there would be no provision for their maintenance. Therefore, in order to avoid this danger, which would naturally follow their emancipation, he now proposed that the birth of such children should be registered, and that after they had reached the age of maturity, they should be declared free after making a due compensation in money to the proprietors for the loss of their services.44 In 1835 Capt. White observed much to the same effect that since the labourers could not be procured at the principal stations in Assam, the mitigated state of bondage was bound to prevail, whether it was prohibited by law or not. There was no change of improving the anomalous state of affairs, unless and until ·the population increased, if some other extraordinary stimulus was given to increase the productive

labour of the country. Slavery in Assam was not like slavery in Bengal or Hindustan; for in those parts it was possible to abolish a system of slavery or mitigated bondage altogether, because the slave-owners could out of the due compensation go to an open market and get, in exchange, out of the redemption money, an equivalent in labour. But in Assam, where productive labour was not easily procurable, it would be greatly detrimental to the interests of higher classes, and would be attended by ruinous consequences. 45 Therefore, an i.mmediate abolition of the system of slavery and bondage, prevailing in Assam, was apt to fail from its inadaptability to the wants of the community and the shock it would give to established habit and usage. The points highlighted and reported by White clearly demonstrate the complications in the abolition of slavery; the interests of various classes of people involved in it. It is also apparent from the various reports of the assistance of F. Jenkins that they were unanimous in their goal of gradual abolition of slavery and other forms of bondage. However, they did not agree over the means to achieve the same goal. Jenkins after mature consideration drew up the following rules with a view to the future lt?gal enforcement in the Province of Assam, 46 which was never fully and honestly executed. Not

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only the proposed rules by Jenkins but also the terms of the agreement between the British and Singpho Chiefs of 1836 indicate measures in favour of abolition of slavery and emancipation of slaves. The agreement mentions, "We agree to release and to cause to be released all Assamese Captives detained by us or our dependents, such of them as chose to remain in our village being at liberty to do so" .47 Contrary evidences to the measures of the abolition of slavery in Arunachal Pradesh are also available to us, which present a true picture of the problem at every stage. On 30th June 1836, Major A. White, Political Agent in Upper Assam had consented to restore a fugitive female slave to a Khamptee Chief, Towa Gohain, who had applied to him for her recovery. Accordingly he was called upon by the Government of India to explain his reasons for having acted so in the matter. In a letter dated 27th August, 1836, to W.H. Macnagthen Esq., Major A. White explained in his defence that ten years prior to passing of this order, Messrs D. Scott and Colonel Richards had issued a proclamation notifying that the right of the Assamese to a property in their slaves would be respected, that it was the practice of the Courts, both in Lower and Upper Assam to restore fugitive slaves to their owners, and that his order was based upon this precedent. Major A. White also defended his action on the basis of the different relations of the British with the Khampti Chief and Poorander Singh.48 Consequently on 12 September, 1836 the Governor General of India in Council informed the Political Agent that " .... it is the wish... that all functionaries should consider it as a general rule to refrain from any summary interference for compelling the return to a state of slavery individuals who may have effected their escape from it. Every individual must be presented to be in a state of freedom until the contrary is proved."49 Meanwhile, the old Sadiakhowa Gohain died in 1835, and was succeeded by his son. At this time, there was a fresh influx of the Khamptis from across the border. The British authorities permitted them to enter in pursuance of a deliberate policy of setting warlike tribes along the border, so that they might stand against the Burmese. The Khamptis were, however, allowed to retain their privileges, such as

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exemption from taxes, and management of their internal affairs under their own chiefs, as earlier conceded to them. But these concessions, from the Khampti viewpoint, were largely taken away by the forfeiture of their right to rule over the area. They also resented the humiliation of their ruler, the Sadiyakhowa Gohain. The release of their slaves by the British roused more bitterness. They saw in all these measures a design to impose tax on them and to lower their status to the level of their subjects.50 As the internal arrangement, the Khamptis were left as ~fore under their own chiefs. The Assamese, who formed two - third of their population of this region and had been reduced to a state of slavery by the Khamptis, were declared free. And for revenue and judicial purposes they were placed under the direct control of a British officer. The Assamese were taxed at the rate of Re. 1/- per head in lieu of their personal services. The Court of Directors remarked that the local officials in assessing the Khamptis should have proceeded with more caution and consideration approved of the measure. 51 These innovations produced a marked change in the attitude of the.Khampti Chiefs, Khawa Gohain, Taoa Gohain, Runu Gohain and Captain Gohain who could not tolerate the loss of the Assamese slaves, their only source of wealth. Apprehension of further taxation began to show signs of growing disaffection towards the Paramount Power which was particularly manifested on the occasion of the latter's conflict with the Daffa Gaum when these disgruntled Khampti Chiefs prevented him from coming to terms with the British Government.52 At this stage it is important to mention lacunae in the historiography of slavery abolition in Arunachal Pradesh. 53 M.L. Bose has altogether neglected the question of slavery in the British- Khampti relations. And more problematic in this regard is the formulations of R.M. Lahiri. He writ~s, "The British seemed to step in as saviours rather than as conquerors . ... Assam was a liability rather than an asset. The Singpho territory had been overrun and pacified no doubt, but an influential number of the Singpho chiefs were still evading the protecting hands of the British Government. The Singphos were a predatory horde. They had a positive hatred for any

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sort of manual labour." The Order of 1836 was not even in the nature of a local legal enactment. The Governor General of India in Council was satisfied with informing the authorities in Assam about "his wish" not to help in the restoration of run-away slaves. Hence, this order may not be included in the list of successful anti-slavery measures. In most cases, every new enactment was decided upon because the previous enactment had proved useless. It may be confidently affirmed that the other local enactments afforded little more than a temporary relief. Hence, just as SI Geo III, C 23 failed to effect any general improvement in the condition of the slaves in the whole of the British territories in India, so the local enactments did not bring about a permanent amelioration in the limited areas for which they were meant. The claims and measures of the Government in favour of abolition of slavery is further exposed by the mention of the following letter of 21st July 1836 from Jenkins to W.H. Macnaghten Esq., Secretary to Government of India in the Political Department, Fort William. "In my letter to you of the 1st June (No. 35) forwarding copies of letter from Major A. White of the 24th May with its enclosures I omitted to request the attention of Government to that part of the last paragraph of Major White's letter - recommending the release of 5 Singpho Prisoners of whom Captain Hannay was solicited to intercede. "His clan is directly on the frontier between our territory and it seems desirable to conciliate him or his people with a view to facilitate arrangements for opening the road to Ava. His mother also is a Chinese and his wife is a Singpho residing within the Chinese territory to whom he informed me he was about to make a visit in return from this journey - so that his influence may be highly serviceable to us in extending our connexions on this interesting frontier. He mentioned for instance that he can assist us in bringing up any number of Chinese settlers we may require for the tea plantations and expressed his willingness to come up at any time" .54 And more curious is the reply in favour of the recommendations made by Jenkins. "In reply ... I am directed to acquaint you

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that the Right Honourable the Governor General of India in Council has been pleased under the circumstances stated to authorize the release of the five Singpho Prisoners for whom Capt. Hannay was solicited to intercede.'-s5 The above discussed evidences make obvious that the abolition of slavery in Arunachal Pradesh was not the prime motive of the British but the peace and stability as well as free labour from any source for tea gardens in Assam. The report of the resident in the Court of Ava is also very important pointer towards the process of abolition of slavery and its impact. As reported "with respect to the many natives of Assam detained as captives. I had ascertained that the great majority of them are in the hands, not of the Burmese but of the Singphos and other wild tribes .... who employ these unfortunate captives as domestic and agricultural slaves. The only way of gradually liberating them is... to open a more regular and frequent intercourse between Assam and the

Burmese dominions and thus facilitate the escape of these persons we must expect great opposition on the part of the Singphos Chiefs, of whose wealth these Assamese captives have always formed the principal part... One Singpho Chief when deprived by use of his slaves was reduced to the necessity of guiding the plough with his own hands." 56 Again in the communication with the Resident of Ava the measures towards abolition of slavery were discussed. It suggests, "with regards to the Assamese captives it appears evident that their liberation must be effected by slow and gradual means and that the most likely of attaining that object would be by opening a more regular and frequent intercourse between Assam and Burmese dominions." 57 In a letter from the Magistrate of Durrung, dated 29th April 1837 we find the mention of another "rule of the late commissioner which required a limit (of time) to be specified in the bond (for service) to make it legal and he gives the following specimen of a bond put in, to show how far it is attempted to carry the system of .bonding without infringing the rule. A, B, C, and D, who are relatives, are indebted to E 19 RD. Therefore A, at the request of B, C, and D, borrows that sum from F, and in lieu of repayment becomes his

Abolition of Slavery 7129

bondsmen for 41 years, on the conditions, that F shall feed and clothe A, and A, according to custom, shall promptly obey all F' s orders; that on the expiration of the above period A shall be entitled to his release, the money lent being considered as liquidated by his services but if A dies before the expiration of the period, either B, C or D who may survive him shall become F's bondsman, and workout the unexpired portion of the term. In the event of issue by A and of F' s female slaves A may disclaim all rights to them, and they shall be F's property.58 Besides, dealing clearly with the policy towards "the district of Suddya and the wild tribesmen the further extremity of Assam" tlte despatch from the Court of Directors to the Governor General of India in Council, also hints on the policy to be pursued towards the abolition of slavery and after. It suggests "an additional purpose for which it is important that you should acquire influence over the minds of the Singphos Chiefs, is that you may be enabled to effect the liberation of the Assamese captives, and other slaves in their possession. But as these appear to be their only source of support, they cannot be deprived of them without some consideration: and with regards to those within our own boundary, or who may hereafter migrate either, the service of Government and specially the military service should be the means of livelihood most congenial to their habits." 59 The half-hearted effort towards the abolition of slavery and the suffering of slaves is also clear from the proceeding in connection with the slaughter and detention of the fugitive Assamese captives by the Singpho Chiefs. 60 The whole matter was brushed aside on the grounds that (i) the Singpho attacked them on the Burmese side of the boundary, (ii) the control exercised by the Burmese Government over the Singpho Chief was of an irregular character and (iii) the slaves were located at Aoloof village on the Booree Dihing river and as a general rule they were allowed to proceed to their birth place in Upper and Lower Assam or to settle where ever they liked. It is not that the establishment of British rule in Assam and the efforts towards abolition of slavery were able to fully stop the occasional aggression of people of Arunachal Pradesh

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over Assam. The proceeding of 1839 informs an aggression by the Khamptis and Mishmis attended with loss of three lives and the carrying away of eight persons into slavery.61 The outrage was committed without any sufficient effort being made to repel the assailants and almost witnessed by the guards at Chaukham. The correspondences of 1840 add some significant aspects to the abolition of slavery in Arunachal mentions, "It is this cause the abolition of slavery of irritation that frequently renders the Singphos on our frontier discontented and rebellious" on the one hand and "I solicit the favour of your early reply, as there are a large numbers of such deserters, with their women and children, claimed by the Singpho chiefs, and who must either have a location assigned them, or be restored to the Singphos from whom they have deserted, to save them from starvation" 62 (emphasis added) on the other. The correspondence is also important because it clearly mentions the conditions for the restorations of slaves. It mentions "All these (slaves) are either the captives formerly taken away from Assam by the Singphos •.. or their descendants ... and they were claimed by the chiefs, as either obtained by purchase or descent; but there are cases where the persons claimed as slaves are so by or after capture, by intercepting the runaways in attempting to get back to Assam, on the Burmah frontier; the claim to these I consider totally inadmissible. There a.-e others who, after affecting their escape, took up their abode at the first Singphos village that could feed and protect them on the side of the frontier, and become the servants of those who had received and sheltered them; the claim to the restoration of these should also, I think be rejected. Those again who have made no attempt to regain their freedom since the occupation of Assam and those whose cases I could solicit notice, and I should not think of recommending the restoration of any individual, until this case had undergone a separate investigation." 63 The Singphos became discontented and rebellidus against the British rule mainly because of the prevailing socioeconomic and political condition of the area. They however, were unable to be controlled and their frequent revolts continued to trouble the British administrators in this area.

Abolition of Slavery I 131

Consequently, to get a permanent solution of the problem the government initiated the matter at administrative level. To have the Singpho affairs thoroughly probed, the government appointed Col. Lloyd and Stainforth for the same. 64 As they were unable to do the job due to delicate health, Capt. Jenkins was appointed to do it. 65 He reported that the cause of the rebellion were three, viz., (1) encroachment on the lands and privileges of the Singphos; (2) the seizure and punishment by local officers of some members of their tribes; (3) the orders of the Tippum Raja who was tl1e Chief of the Hookoom province of Burma. The Governor - General in Council, while reviewing the report, set aside the last two causes and accepted the first cause as valid. 66 In the final report, it was held that the main reason behind the Singpho rebellion was the loss of their Assamese slaves; the loss of land had nothing to do with it as no land had ever been granted to the Singphos or was claimed by the Singphos as theirs. It was concluded that after the loss of their slaves, they would be compelled to take to agriculture, and they might be left alone for the time being. The government accepted this report. 67 In case of the Singphos it is clearly mentioned, "The Singphos are in a great measure dependent on them (slaves) for labour, and in some villages they much out number their masters." 68 Since there was no alternative source of labour in Arunachal Pradesh, the masters especially Chiefs were not ready to reconcile the damage to their socio-economic and political power. It was the starvation in Assam that compelled the 31 of the runaway slaves to return voluntarily to their old masters. 69 Hence, making the process of abolition more and more problematic. The process is further complicated because of the restoration of the runaways. Unlike the Singphos and the Khamptis, the slavery abolition in the Nocte area was more of a peaceful way. In 1841-42, Captain Brodie, the Principal Assistant to the Governor General's Agent, visited the Nocte area to ensure security of the frontier between the Dikhu and tluri-Dihing. He met the Nocte groups of Namsangias, Bordurias and Panidurias. He persuaded them to refrain from committing outrages in the plains, and urged them to surrender offenders and discontinuance of inter-tribal clashes. He also exhorted

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them to refer to the government cases of assault on them from outside, and give up the practice of sending child-slaves to the British territories. Export of slaves by the Nocte chiefs to Assam and trading in Assamese and Naga slaves to Myanmar by some other Noctes were a continuing pre-colonial practice. And it was estimated that there was a hundred thousand Assamese and Manipuries; still in slavery among people in Burma. Describing the mental outlook of the slaves, Robinson states, "these poor creatures feel that they are the property of their masters, who have the power to do, as they like with them and it is their duty to submit to all. It is also their impression that any appeal to a public authority will not redeem them from thralldom, while on the contrary this only will bring upon them the displeasure of their masters and their connections. Despite, Brodie' s efforts slavery and slave trade continued in this area. 70 Hence up to this stage, we see that neither local regulations nor enactments nor centralized legislations were able to effect any general improvement in the conditions of slaves in India. No judicious step was taken for permanent abolition of slavery even in a limited area like Arunachal Pradesh. In most cases, every new enactment was decided upon because the previous enactments had proved useless. 71 And the local enactments were not more than a temporary relief because being fragile in nature. Thereupon the measure towards abolition of slavery was finally passed into law as Act V of 1843 after a long drawn debate. 72 On April 7, 1843 the following Act was passed by the Hon'ble President of the Council of India in Council with the assent of the Right Hon'ble the Governor General of India. The Act V of 1843 and After The Act V of 1843 for declaring and amending the law regarding the condition of slavery within the territories of the East India Company: First: "It is hereby enacted and declart?d that no public officer in execution of any decree or order of Court or for the enforcement of any demand of rent or revenue sell or cause to be sold any person on the ground that such person is in a state of slavery.

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Second: And it is hereby declared and enacted that no rights arising out of any alleged property in the person and services of another as a slave shall be enforced by any Civil or Criminal Court or Magistrate within the territories of the East India Company. Third: And it is hereby declared and enacted that any person, who may have acquired property by his own industry, or by the exercise of any art calling or profession or by inheritance assignment gift or request shall be dispossessed of such property or prevented from taking possession there of on the ground that such person or that the person from whom the property may have been derived was a slave. Fourth: "And it is hereby enacted that any act which would be a penal offence if done to a free man shall be equally an offence if done to any free person on the pretext of his being in a condition of slavery." 73 Thus, slavery was supposed to be put to an end by the Act V of 1843. While concluding the Act V of 1843 an authority of slave histories, D. R. Banaji becomes poetic to suggest that "Thus was the curtain finally rung down on the last scene of the tragedy of slavery, which was staged in British India from 1772 to 1843.... Well may we thank God that the denouement put an end to what had been for centuries a curse upon the land and a disgrace to humanity" but recent researches are suggestive of evidences contrary to it.74 The Act V of 1843 was also a partially successful step towards the abolition of slavery in India. It did not declare the sale or ownership of a slave a penal offence. It merely laid down that a master had no more power of coercion over a slave than over a free labourer. There was nothing in this Act to prevent possession or traffic in child slaves. Further, the reform in this direction for completion was in the Penal Code of 1860, which made the possession of slaves (including children) and traffic in them penal offence. Even the reformation of 1860 was unable to effect complete and permanent abolition of slavery in India. The institution survived, even after, because of the customary obligations behind it, and the rights derived from it could be enforced with the aid of customary sanctions without, in any way, 11



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violating the penal laws. 75 The archival evidences and field studies also confirm the continuance of slavery as a social institution. The laws against slavery have been there, yet their violations were strong and incessant, implementation feeble and to some extent occasional. "And this persisting inconsistency between fictitious legality and its implementational timidity could make the unclassified classoppression a painful reality." 76 Their miseries were partly the product of the principles of the feudal and colonial economy. The colonial rulers, European planters and the tribal chiefs had built up a mighty joint front for the preservation of their vested privileges and property. In fact the practice of sociocultural and economic multi-dimensional suppressions and exploitations created a typical social species extinct legally but extant actually. Slavery Abolition Due to Colonial Needs Even after passing of the Act V of 1843, the ruling class and its clique made conscious efforts to keep the toiling mass under the conditions of servitude to boost up production and to strengthen the material foundations of the feudal, colonial and capitalist societies. It maintained its hold on the cheapest and dependent man power, by means of fair or foul. Such unreasonable social structure had invariably received the official patronage. The following observations would expose the nefarious designs of the ruling class in the post-mutiny period:77 "In our country, the first labour legislation was enacted by the British in 1859 ... only within two years, when they had drowned in blood the first India war of Independence of 1857. This Act provided for giving penal punishment to the workers who ran away from work by breaching the contact with the employers. This Act was enacted at the instance of the British plantation owners who used to trap the poor people from the rural areas through their paid agents to work in the plantation. Once the workers entered the plantation estates, they were made to give their thumb-impressions on blank sheets of papers. Now they were bonded labourers who were treated as inferior evtn to the dogs and horses of their masters. Young women of the workers families were treated as

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prostitutes by the plantation owners and their officers and agents .... But even this Act (1859) proved ineffective in face of the workers' outburst against starvation, wages and slavery. This forced the British to pass another law in 1865. Under the said Act, in plantation industry the monthly wages of male, female and child labour were fixed at the rate of Rs. 5, Rs. 4 and Rs. 3 respectively .... " In addition to the nexus of the colonial, capitalist and feudal forces, here, it is important to mention the approach of the British Officers towards the people of Arunachal Pradesh. In the opinion of Neufville, the relation with the tribes of this frontier with British Government " ... must be guided by the fundamental principle - that of guaranteeing the chief their time honoured rights and privileges without relieving them, at the same time, of the homage and subservience to the Paramount Power". 78 Though this universal execution of this policy is absent in case of Arunachal Pradesh, the silence over the abolition of slavery in the treaties with some important tribal chiefs by the British are significant to judge the intentions of the latter even after passing the Act V of 1843.79 The following descriptions will certainly ~nrich the formulation. The abolition of slavery was regarded as a practical measure to weaken the economy of slave-masters and win the hearts of newly freed slaves on the one hand and to provide more productive labour force for every growing interests of the Capital in Tea-plantation and other colonial ventures, on the other. The immense expansion of the teaindustry in Assam in the latter part of the nineteenth century necessitated the increase in the labour force for the same. The plantation area in 1881 had been extended to more than 2,00,000 acres, whereas in 1850 it did not reach more than about 1,000 acres. During the period referred to above the outturn of tea had increased from 2,50,000 pounds to the impressive figure of 40 million pounds. The capital invested amounted to fifteen million and an annual expenditure of two million pounds was being made for the maintenance of the plantation. 80 Amlendu Guha also adds to this aspect. He writes, "The Assam Company, in its early years, paid its imported Chinese

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staff - some 70 workers at one stage- four to five times the wage rate paid to the corresponding categories of Assamese labour. After the services of the Chinese workers were dispensed with ir, 1834, the local people remained practically the sole source of labour for the industry till, 1859. The total labour force on Assam plantations in that years hardly exceeded 10,000, although the requirement for the province was put by the knowledgeable planters at 16,000 to 20,000 hands for current cultivation alone .... Conditions soon changed after indentured labour began to appear on the scene, and prices of wage-goods went on increasing. The labour policy of the planters and their Government was not to encourage a free labour market by offering competitive wages. Unlike the public works department and railways, the planters made the worst use of semi-feudal methods of reducing the free labourers to a kind of serfdom." 81 Though we seriously contest the Marx's analysis of various aspects of Indian social formations, here the analysis of colonial exploitation of Indians seems true. To quote, "The English East India Company, as is well known, obtained, besides the political rule in India, the exclusive monopoly of tea - trade .... The monopolies of salt, opium, betel and other commodities, were inexhaustible mines of wealth. The employees themselves fixed the price and plundered at will. ... The treatment of the aborigines was naturally, most frightful in plantation - colonies destined for export trade only, such as the West Indies, and in rich and well - populated countries, such as Mexico and India that were given to plunder." 82 The discovery of tea, its profitability and potentiality had awakened growing interest of the British capitalists in the cultivation of this plant in Assam from fifties of the last century. Acreage under tea and production started growing rapidly from that time. But because of the scarcity of the local labourers, the planters had to face serious difficulties in expanding the cultivation of tea. C.A. Bruce, Supdt. Of Tea Culture in Assam voiced in experimental days, that the want of population and labourers and tea maker is acute. They will have to be imported and settled on the soil. The Royal Commission on Labour in India also spoke on the same line, "From the point of view of the employer, the outstanding

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problem during the whole history of tea planting in Assam has been the scarcity of labour." The Assam Labour Enquiry Committee in 1906 calculated that the Assam valley labour force was short by about 50,000 and that the annual intake was about 3000 less than what was required, both calculations being made on the assumption that one and a half tea labourers per acre were required for every garden. The planters complained before His Excellency Lord Curzon, Viceroy and Governor General of India, of labour scarcity. "Scarcity of labour is one of the most serious and real difficulties with which we have to contend. The indigenous population has been wholly insufficient to develop the province. " 83 It has rightly been put forth, highlighting the factors for the lack of indigenous population in Assam, "Firstly, about half of Assam valley's population was lost during the civil wars in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the Burmese incursions in the first quarter of the 19th century. So when the British occupied Assam in 1826, innumerable deserted villages were seen in the upper part of the Brahamaputra Valley, where tea gardens flourished later on. The indigenous labour was insufficient to meet even the local requirements for agriculture.84 Since land and capital were available in abundance and the sole impediment to the uninterrupted development of tea gardens was in adequate supply of labour. The quantum of labour required as well as increase in number is evident from the fact that the total number of labours in tea-gardens was 44,549 in 1877 against 42,698 such labourers in the preceding year,85 i.e. an increase of 1851. A phenomenal increase in the labour requirement in five years is a revelation. In 1882, total number of labourers in tea gardens was 2,05,108 and the number went up to 2,37,404 only by next year, i.e. an increase of 32,296.86 And to meet the same not only the slavery of Arunachal Pradesh but various other forms of bondage and serfdom (Khel, Lallup, Paik, Bawiman and Chawman etc) of other parts of North-East India were also attacked severely.87 Guha explains this too. He writes, "One of the few good things that the Raj did, and was appreciated both by the

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planters and the people, was the abolition of slavery in 1843. As an institution, slavery was not of mere marginal importance to the labour-short economy of the Brahmaputra Valley. An estimatt!d five to nine percent of its population appears to have been slaves and bondsmen, a considerable number of whom worked on agricultural fanns." 88 The problem of labour shortage and the factors for the same in Assam are also reflected in the report by George A. Grierson. It mentions89 " ...considering the great demand for labour in Assam and the small supply .. .It is well known to the labouring classes that the terms offered by employers in the colonies are far better than those given in Assam, and that the climate is more pleasant and healthy." Hence the immigration of inland labour from other parts of India to Assam was not so easy. Hence the British followed the policy of providing shelter to the runaway slaves from the control of the masters of Arunachal Pradesh in the name of the emancipation of slaves after 1843, which remained a point of controversy between the British, and the masters. In spite of these they kept strict vigil over their garden labours to avoid their escape, and in the event of escape they were very much determined to get them back. Measures Against Masters Since the British provided shelter to the run away slaves and other servile community of the Adis, it remained a point of controversy and conflict between the natives and the British in the area. A brief description of the British - Adi relation and some other related accounts of late 19th and early 20th centuries are significant in this context. The condition of the neighbouring tribes was not much different. Till the middle of the nineteenth century, the Adis claimed and received levies from the gold - washers and fishermen on the Dihing and Dibang rivers and the islands of the Brahmputra and also from the Mishings who has settled within the Lakhimpur district of the Brahmputra valley. But in the later half of the nineteenth century the gold - washers, the fishermen and the Mishings, encouraged by the attitude of the new authorities, the British, and feeling a sense of security and protection, began to defy the Adis, some even moved down to remote places beyond the easy access of the Adis. 90 This led to a

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change of attitude on the part of the Adis; rather, the Adis had to coerce the refractory subjects whom they regarded as their hereditary slaves, and, thus, violated the law of the British, which they did not know and considered unnecessary to observe. Thus, began the strife between the Adis and the British. The relationship between the Adis and the British remained strained subsequently too. Jack Francis Needham of the Bengal Police was appointed Political Officer in 1882 and posted at Sadiya. When Needham visited Adi villages, in 1884, they complained of the paucity of the posa and British authorities giving shelter to their run-away slaves. They also pointed out that the government had been favouring the Mishings and had built a Namghar for them. However, there was none for the Adis. Moreover, there was no rest house for the Adis at Sadiya.91 The Adis complained "We begged to return our slaves, as they cost us a lot of money and we cannot do without them; but he (Needham) refused to do so, and lately he has insulted us by offering us about one-fourth of what they actually cost us as ransom money." 92 The problem continued even after the limited complaint and it created bitterness between the British and the Adis. On 18th November 1893, they told Needham at Bomjur (while on visit of the area) that they had no wish .to be friendly with the Maharani any longer. They categorically stated "Our runaway slaves are detained, and we are insulted by being offered half what they cost us." Finally they declared, "All right! Now we shall see who kills whom." 93 The Adis were the first to strike. On 27th November they cut up three military sepoys near a patrol party killing one and wounding two on duty. 94 This hostility resulted in the expedition of 1893-94 of the Adi area by the British. The hostility continued which led to the murder of Noel Williamson, the Assistant Political Officer, Sadiya and his party at Komsing above Pasighat on 31st March 1911?5 Consequently a full scale war was declared against the Adis and that resulted in the occupation of some parts of the Adi area by the British in 1912.96 However, even after the victory in the war it was felt that

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anti-slavery provisions (legislative) were not practicable for the area, which was not fully under the British control. The policy of persuasion was realised as the possible way to achieve the aim. The formation of 'control area' in 1938 to the north of Pasighat and its further extension in 1941 to the lower parts of the Minyong-Padam area enabled the British government to work effectively towards the abolition of slavery. However, giving shelter to the runaway slaves combined with occasional payment of compensation, remained the permanent British policy towards the same. It is seen throughout the Ahom reign that the Bihia Sonwal Kacharis remained loyal to the Adis. But soon after entire Assam was taken over by the British imperialist, these Kacharis, encouraged by the attitude of the new government became their own masters, and many of them moved down the valley to avoid the subjection of the Adis. The few, who remained, began to repudiate the claims of the Adis. This vicissitude led to a changed attitude on the part of the Adis. They now had to coerce the refractory Bihia-Sonwals whom they regarded as their hereditary subjects. The Gallongs were the first to strike in 1848 followed by the Padams in Dibang Valley (Bomjir-Dambuk) next year. More serious was the raid of the Kebang Minyongs over a Bihia village Sengajan, only six miles from Dibrugarh wherein twenty-one persons were killed and six wounded. These punitive Adi raids upon the Bihias caused great concern to the British authorities at Dibrugarh. The British government now had to deal with the Adis to secure protection of the British subjects and planters in Upper Assam. This brought into a series of arm actions between the Adis and British. The Adis were finally compelled to submit themselves to the British authorities in 1912 and with this fall of the Adis the Bihias and Sonwals were freed from the yoke of the Adis for the centuries to come.97 British also provided to the runaway slaves of other tribes. All their slaves having decamped their masters took refuge in the plains, about the Bramakund, where the British rule protected them. This, more than anything ruined the Brama clan, and the chief families became very poor. They blame the British for their misfortune?8 The Tour Dairy of the Assistant Political Officer, Mr Mainprice clearly mentions, in

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case of another tribe, "So with fresh recruitment to their ranks virtually stopped under Govt. pressure - nowadays those who cannot pay fines often go to live in the administered villages round Denning where they are outside the effective influence of tribal decisions - the number of 'slaves' ( Miju 'magra', Digarus 'pa') is rapidly dwindling. It is in many ways a beneficial system, and nothing should be done to interfere with it." 99 Giving shelter to runaway coolies had been a point of controversy also between the Nishis and British. In August 1896, some garden labourers ('coolies') of Dikrai Tea Estate of the Bishnath Tea Company ran away. Some Daflas captured them. Only a woman among the captured coolies, named Parona succeeded in going back to Dikrai. 100 According to her account the total numbers of captured coolies were thirteen six men, four women and three children.101 The Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, M.A. Gray finally sent a Dafla gam, Kandura who had been long settled in the plains near the Dikrai Tea Estate with a formal sealed parwana, three Kotokis (emissaries) and two other Assamese to carry their effects went into the Dafla Hills. As a result of the peace talks the Nishis were ready to release the coolies in exchange of two slaves of Hukai Garn named Kacho and a woman named Eafi ran away Phaguna (Feb-March) 1897 to settle in British territory at Gomiri. 102 The Deputy Commissioner of Darrang referred the cases to Cotton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam for final decision. Therefore, the Commissioner of the Assam Valley District, P. Maxwell disfavoured the exchange with the Nishis. According to the British laws the slaves of Nishis of Arunachal Pradesh became free as soon as they entered British territory. 103 The Deputy Commissioner of Darrang, under the instruction of Cotton, established a blockade of the Nishi areas and the payment of Posa was stopped to the Nishi chiefs until the captives were freed. Therefore, the coolies were finally made free through peaceful negotiation in February 1900104 and the payment of Posa was restored. The crux of the problem lies in the refusal of exchange, which gives an insight into the considerations of the local British economy in the interest of the colonial economy and to legitimise and disguise the refusal

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through constitutional safeguard. The paradox of the situation may be judged from the fact that on the one hand they declared that the run away slaves of the Nishis became a free citizen as soon as they entered the British territory and desired to settle there, but on the other hand the coolies voluntarily fled to the Nishi area to escape worse treabnent even .than that of blacks in the American plantation and not willing to be restored to their earlier status were being pressed hard for return. The emancipation of slaves has also been used as the tool of punishment of the Arunachalese. As reported in 18%, a party of hillmen stayed in the house of Padu Miri, at the night killed the host and his son, and left with four other captives. It was found that the Apa Tanis perpetrated the act. An expedition was sanctioned and sent to rescue the captives and punish the guilty persons under Capt. G.R. Row with 300 men of Lakhimpur Military Police Battalion. The captives were rescued and releasing six of their slaves punished the guilty. The punishment was light but considered enough in view of the fact that Padu Miri had enmity with the tribe and the tribes' men had acted in the customary tribal way to avenge their wrong. 105 Even for Assam, it is clearly mentioned, "The abolition of slavery almost crippled the old Ahom _ aristocracy. The Brahmin and Mahanta landowners who had long depended on their slaves and bondsmen for the cultivation of their devotter, braltmottor and dharmottor lands were also severely affected." 106 In one case of raid into the British territory, the object of masters was to recover an