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A Cheerless Change: Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars Wangyal, Sonam B. 2006-12

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 A Cheerless Change: Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
Dr. Sonam B. Wangyal*
FoUowing the Anglo-Bhutan war of 1864-65, the Duars,1
eighteen in number, seven along the Assam and eleven along
the Bengal frontiers, were annexed by the British. The British
accounts are replete with justifications that led to the war
and the eventual appropriation of these tracts. Whether the
charges will stand up to any impartial scrutiny, an interesting
topic in itself, is another point and this essay will only barely
scratch that surface. WhUe ignoring the legal or political
correctness of the war and subsequent annexation of the
Dooars, this commentary wiU steal a glance on the moral
correctness of the British intervention. The actual hub of the
study will muse upon the consequences faced by the natives
of these frontiers, more specificaUy the tribal people of the
Western (or Bengal) Dooars.
Considering the accounts of the time, almost entirely written
by British authors, and taking Sir Ashley Eden's2 estimation
as a classic example of the general mood of the British, in his
Dr. Sonam B. Wangyal is an Indian doctor running a clinic in
Jaigaon, a border town abutting Phuentsholing. He was a columnist
for Himal, The Himalayan Magazine (Kathmandu) and The
Statesman, NB Plus (Siliguri & Calcutta). He currently runs a weekly
column in a Sikkim daily, Now and a Kalimpong fortnightly
Himalayan Times.
1 In Sanskrit duar means door or entrance and so in our case it
would translate as passes or gateways leading to Bhutan. (Also spelt
as dooars and dwars.)
2 Ashley Eden led a Mission to Bhutan in the cold season of 1863.
Eden had entered Bhutan to notify the rulers with the existing
situation along the border and to impress upon the latter the
necessity of stopping of all raids and outrages which, the British
officials claimed were inspired, instigated or conducted by Bhutan
officials.
40
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
expressively cultivated but uniformly hardnosed narrative,
the Bhutanese appear to be "treacherous robbers", "a cruel
and treacherous race" and "absolutely without shame" who
distinguished "themselves by treachery, fraud, and murder"
and were "an idle race, indifferent to everything except
fighting and kUUng one another, in which they seem to take
real pleasure". For a Bhutanese "crime" was "the only claim to
distinction and honour"3 and their nation "had no ruling
class, no Uterature, no national pride in the past or
aspirations for the future" and that there were "no reUable
history, and very Uttle tradition."4 Eden's unUmited scorn of
Bhutan is difficult to absorb even if one is charitably blessed
with a soft and spongy mindset. Of the revenue system he
concluded, "Strictly speaking there is no system. The only
limit on the Revenue demand is the natural Umit of the power
of the official to extort more."5 Commenting on the Judiciary
he scoffs that, "the Bootanese have no laws, either written or
of usage" and where religion was concerned he berates that
the Bhutanese only "nominally profess the Buddhist
reUgion...their reUgious exercises are merely confined to the
propitiation of evil spirits and genu, and the mechanical
recitals of a few sacred sentences."6
Of course, Eden had a heavy axe to grind having been a
victim to an incensed Bhutanese displeasure for
transgressing their frontier, traveUng into Bhutan with a huge
entourage which even included armed soldiers, and having
the   temerity   to   enter   the   capital   uninvited7   and   even
3 Eden, Ashley: Report on the State of Bootan, and the Progress ofthe
Mission of 1863-64, in a combined volume titled Political Mssion to
Bootan (Henceforth PMTB), Majusri Publishing House, New Delhi,
1972 (1865), pp.15, 57, 87, 115, 130, 123,
4 Ibid., p. 105.
5 Ibid., p. 118.
6 Ibid., pp.118 & 124.
7 Aris, Michael: The Raven Crown, p.60. Aris writes: "Despite a great
number of warnings from Bhutan that the mission would not be
welcome,  Eden and his escort forced their way to Punakha with
41
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
demanding that the Bhutanese sign a treaty of non-
Bhutanese making. Bhutan was to become Eden's whipping
boy and so it is easy to understand his ire and frustration
even against his own government when it handed over the
ownership of the disputed Falakata and Jalpaish tracts to
Bhutan. Eden vented: "I am afraid that on this occasion the
friendship of the Bhootanese was purchased at the expense of
the Bykantpore Zemindar8, and that the unfortunate
BengaUee Ryots9 Uving these Mehals, who were thus
practicaUy handed over as serfs to the barbarous rulers of the
hiU tract to the North..."10 In another instance Eden goes to
the extent of transforming the natives into traitors with the
claim that when he entered Bhutan's DaUmkote Dooar11 the
people there "were vehement in their abuse of their own
Government, and loud in their praise of our administration in
Darjeeling: their only wish seemed to be that they should
come under our rule."12 On meeting with some Meches of the
Dooars he informs us that, "They were kept constantly
employed in carrying up rice to the Fort, and received no sort
of remuneration for their services. They are absolutely
nothing more than slaves to the Bootanese, and their only
hope appeared to be that we might be goaded by the
misconduct of their rulers to annex their viUages to British
territory."13
In very much the same vein, Captain R.B. Pemberton, who
had gone on a Mission to Bhutan in 1838, refers to a certain
Major Lloyd, working in the Bhutan frontier, having received
a petition to the British government "from the Katmas14 of the
many obstacles and delays along the way."
8 Landlord.
9 Cultivators.
10 Ibid., p.4.
11 Kalimpong.
12 Ibid., p.57.
13 Eden, p.61.
14 An inferior official in the Duars appointed by Bhutan. He could be
either a Bhutanese or an Indian, the latter generally.
42
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
Dooars entreating to be taken under its protection, and
representing their situation as most deplorable."15 Pemberton
himself alleged that, "It is against the inhabitants of the
Dooars that the rapacity of the Booteah16 Zinkaff17 is
principally exercised; ...The arrival of a party of Zinkaffs in
the Dooars, on any pretence, is a calamity against which their
oppressed inhabitants earnestly pray..."18
Within four years of Pemberton's adverse reporting on
Bhutan, Dr. Archibald Campbell19 was deputed to enquire
into the frontier disputes in the Western Duars and he found
that:
... in the majority of cases the Bhutanese were not the main
offenders. In 1842 he and the magistrate in Rangpur decided
that although the Bhutanese Durga Deva was a major cause
of trouble the Baikenthar Zemindar's son on the Indian side
was as much to blame. They also considered that the
Bhutanese were not hostile to the British government, only to
the British subjects who invaded their land.20
Nevertheless, the powers at Fort WUUam failed to cast even
the sUghtest bit of scepticism regarding the veracity of
Pemberton's comments, which paved the way for the British
to comfortably deem Eden's Bhutan-loathing as an exercise in
objective reporting. The East India Company eventually went
on to molest Bhutan basicaUy on Eden's inferences and
assumptions whUe outbursts like the ones quoted above
instead of raising severe suspicions ended up as being a case
of a White Man's word against the alleged misdemeanor of the
15 Pemberton, Capt. R. Boileau: Report on Bootan, PMTB, (First Ed.
Bengal Military Orphan Press, Calcutta, 1839), p. 183.
16 Read 'Bhutanese'.
17 Low ranked Bhutanese Official superior to the Katmas.
18 Ibid., Section III, Sub-Section I, p.205.
19 He   was   the   first   Superintendent   (1840-1862)   of  the   newly
acquired Darjeeling tract.
20 Collister,  Peter:  Bhutan and the British,  Serindia Publications,
London, 1987, p.77.
43
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
'treacherous' Orientals. Conditioned by years of
misunderstanding the Bhutanese perspective and problems21,
and fueUed by negative reporting by frontier officials, Britain
invaded Bhutan and appropriated, forever, the eighteen
Duars. Eden went on to become the Governor of Bengal, was
knighted, and honoured for posterity with Asia's first and one
of the largest maternity hospitals22 being named after him. He
had obtained, almost on a platter, the eighteen Dooars23,
which, in a short time, would become revenue-spinning tea
plantations.
However, Eden was not a soUtary figure in this act of
negatively characterizing Bhutan. Captain Pemberton (1838)
who was hospitably received by the Bhutanese officials, but
failed to obtain the desired treaty from them, was to write, in
respect to the Bhutanese and the Dooars, "...almost every
article of consumption is drawn from them under the name of
tribute, the amount of which is entirely dependent on the
generosity of the several Soubahs24, who regard the people of
the plains with the same sort of feeling which the taskmasters of Egypt entertained for their enslaved Hebrews."
Kishen Kant Bose, a BengaU, was also dispatched to Bhutan
(1815) to settle some frontier dispute and though his
accounts, translated by a British officer, generally reported on
the route, geography, reUgion, government and economy, his
detached objectivity is blotched by one paragraph where he
asserted, "Whenever any Ryot, or landholder, or servant, has
21 Mehra, G.N: Bhutan - The Land of the Peaceful Dragon, Vikas
Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, 1974, p.92.
22 Eden Hospital (Bengal Medical College, Calcutta)
23 The Eighteen Dooars: In Assam: 1. Booree-Goomah, 2. Kalling, 3.
Ghurkolla, 4. Banska, 5. Chappakhamar, 6. Chappaguri and 7.
Bijnee. In Bengal: 1. Dalimkote, 2. Dalimkote, 3. Zumerkote
(Mainaguri), 4. Lukhiduar, 5. Buxaduar (Pasakha), 6. Bhulkha,
7.Bara, 8. Goomar, 9. Reepu, 10. Chirang and 11. Bagh or Bijnee.
24 A Bhutanese frontier official. The local administration of the
Duars was left to various officials called Soubah, Lashkar , Wazir or
the Gup.cf. Bikrama Jit Hasrat, pp.90 & 96.
44
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
coUected Uttle money, the Officer of the Government under
whose authority they happen to be placed finds some plea or
other for taking the whole. On this account the Ryots are
afraid to put on good clothes, or to eat and drink according to
their incUnation, lest they should excite the avarice of their
rulers." Dr. WUUam Griffiths who accompanied Captain
Pemberton observed that the Bhutanese committed "black
treachery"25 upon the plainsmen and were in "utter want of
faith, honesty and consideration" while their "...trickery,
intrigue, and falsehood could only be equaUed by the
supreme ignorance, presumption, and foUy exhibited upon
every occasion."26
The reports mentioned above are substantially serious and
severe indictments and they paint Bhutan in a very
reprehensible and repugnant canvas. They obviously raise
more questions than can be answered. Could all of what had
been written be absolutely true? Could not Eden's vitrioUc
vocabulary be an aftermath of the drubbing he received at the
hands of the Bhutanese? Was Pemberton trying to whitewash
his failure by colouring the Bhutanese in the darkest dyes? In
an entirely academic and favourable report, why did Bose
insert one stray paragraph that besmirched the Bhutanese
character? Was he, a native servant, simply trying to appease
his European masters? Was Major Lloyd itching for a fight, a
profession he was trained and paid for, and so in a circuitous
manner was suggesting an invasion? And could Griffiths
possibly be trying to buttress what his leader of the failed
Mission had stated. The answer probably lies with the fact
that Pemberton, Ashley Eden and Kishenkant Bose were on
specific Missions to Bhutan and they failed to achieve the
desired results.
In contrast, consider the mission of Bogle. His charge was
basically   targeted   at   achieving   political   and   commercial
25 Griffiths, William: Journal ofthe Mission to Bootan in 1837-38,
Parti, PMBT, p.310.
26 Ibid., p.309.
45
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Uaison with Tibet and had no political representation in
Bhutan save for requesting minor trade concessions.27
Consequently, he was able to interact happily with the
Bhutanese and effect a successful mission. Because he had
not come with any sense of superiority and because he had
no brief to dictate terms the Bhutanese returned the affabUity
with utmost courtesy and Bogle in turn obliged with
comments Uke,
The simplicity of their manners, their slight intercourse with
strangers, and a strong sense of religion, preserve the
Bhutanese from many vices to which more polished nations
are addicted. They are strangers to falsehood and ingratitude.
Theft and every other species of dishonesty to which the lust
of money gives birth are little known.28
Elsewhere Bogle reiterates,
The more I see of the Bhutanese, the more I am pleased with
them. The common people are good-humoured, downright,
and, I think, thoroughly trusty. The statesmen have some of
the art which belongs to their profession.29
Bogle's visit was considered a success30 in that he was able to
penetrate Tibet through Bhutan and establish cordial
relationship with both the countries. Despite the
achievement, it is teUing that Bogle's comments had to wait
almost a century to come to print, whUe most of the journals
adverse to Bhutan were published within a decade of their
writing. Bogle's visit was foUowed by another mission led by
Captain   Samuel   Turner   (1873).   Regarding   the   creditable
27 White, John Claude: Sikkim and Bhutan - Twnety-one Years on the
North-East Frontier, 1887-1908, Vivek Publishing House, Delhi, 1971
(1909), p.238. Here White writes, "Bogle's appointment letter is dated
May 13, 1774, and in that letter no specific Mission is mentioned."
28 Markham, Clements R: Narratives of Mission of George Bogle to
Tibet and of the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, Cosmo
Publication, New Delhi, 1989 (1876), p.37.
29 Ibid., p.51
30 White, John Claude: p.241.
46
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
character of the Bhutanese, "Turner came to much the same
conclusion as Bogle"31 The only thing that did not agree with
him was the natives' poor personal hygiene, which he
observed "that my new friends were far from having any nice
notions of cleanliness. The ablution, I have just noticed, is a
practice connected with their reUgion, and not repeated more
frequently that it enjoins."32 Though Turner did not achieve
anything new the Mission was also considered successful for
it consoUdated what Bogle had achieved.
It might be appropriate to note that Turner, Uke Bogle, had no
poUtical brief to dictate or negotiate with Bhutan and
consequently was received cordiaUy. It appears that those
who entered Bhutan with political or territorial motives not
really advantageous to her were received with indifference and
even hostility and that in turn churned repulsive reporting
against the highlanders. Somewhere down the line, the
search for the truth went astray, adverse reports were given
undue credit, war was invoked and the Dooars were annexed
and a happy Agent to the Governor-General, on the North
East Frontier, Mr. P. Jenkins, proclaimed, "The Bengal Duars
between Manas and the Tista wore a wretched look. The
people Uving there welcomed British rule."33
It is difficult to accept that the simple highlanders of the
Himalayas could possibly be so treacherous and inhuman as
was projected by Eden and his ilk. Even if we accede that
some parts of their reports could possibly be true it becomes
necessary to examine how much better off the natives were
after the civiUzed and more 'humane' British government
addressed the issues after they gained possession of the
Dooars.
31 Ronaldshay, Lord: Lands ofthe Thunderbolt, Sikkim, Chumbi and
Bhutan, Akay Book Corporation, Delhi 1986 (1923), p.213
32 Markham, Clements, R: p.85.
33 Majumdar, A.B: Britain and the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan,
Bharati Bhawan, Patna, 1984, p. 113.
47
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Documents and research papers on the tribal people
inhabiting the Bengal Dooars, immediately before, during and
after the Anglo-Bhutan War, are scanty and when available
they do not deal in any way with the difficulties faced by the
natives in those turbulent years. However, relatively recent
research has come out with more detailed studies and they
throw a completely different light on what transpired.
Dr. Bimalandu Majumdar in his dissertation exposes that the
inhabitants were no better off and the British were as bad as
or even worse than what they claimed the Bhutanese to be. In
a stinging comment he wrote, "Prior to Independence34 the
total vUlages of this part of Bengal were badly neglected. The
administration used to maintain relation with them only to
realise the annual revenue without implementing any
development programmes or providing amenities to them."35
Majumdar claims that there were several Toto villages during
the time of the attachment of the Bengal Dooars: Totpara in
the Falakata area, Tatpara under Alipur PoUce Station,
Totapara under Madarihat Police Station, and Totgaon under
Mai Bazaar Police Station. Totpara was leased to Sarugaon
Tea Company in 1901,36 thus diving out the native
inhabitants. Where Tatpara was concerned, even as far back
as 1895, D.H.E. Sunder's report37 lets it be known that the
Totos had left the place during the Anglo-Bhutan War and, of
aU the places, they had gone to Bhutan. A large tract of
Totopara was converted into Totopara Tea Estate (1892) and
once again some of the displaced Totos migrated to "the hiUs
and settled in Dianapuri in Bhutan."38 In the fourth viUage,
34 This refers to the British period i.e., prior to 1947.
35 Majumdar, Bimalendu: The Totos, Academic Enterprise, Calcutta,
1998, p.27 -28
36 Ibid., p.29
37 Sunder, D.H.E: Survey and Settlement of Western Duars in the
District of Jalpaiguri, 1889-95, Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta,
1895.
38 Dinapuri is marked as Dinagaon in the Survey of India map of
48
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
Totgaon, Majumdar found no Totos at all, three-fourths of the
viUage having been washed away by the river. Records of
rescue, relocation and rehabUitation are conspicuously
absent. Today Totopara is the only Toto viUage in existence.
Majumdar enumerates eight reasons for the disappearance of
the Totos from their villages and they are worth reflecting
upon: (1) destabUization of the geo-political environment, (2)
transfer of power from Bhutan to the British, (3) expansion of
tea plantations in places populated by the Totos, (4) the
abolition of the Capitation Tax (Dao-khazna) and imposition of
land tax etc. in terms of cash, (5) banning of exploitation of
forest resources through Indian Forest Preservation Act of
1886, (6) conversion of the Toto community lands to jote
lands on the basis of individual ownership, (7) migration into
secluded places with a view to retain their separate identity
and (8) unusual and unequal competition with the newly
settled communities.39 These reasons hardly expound British
goodwiU, and neither do they suUy the Bhutanese character,
but they certainly make the British estimation of Bhutan a
case of the pot caning the kettle black.
Immediately after the annexation ofthe Dooars, in 1866, T.H.
O'Donnel was engaged to demarcate the boundary between
Bhutan and British India and having done so he at once
imposed a fixed tax for the viUage areas with Totopara's share
coming to Rupees Sixty.40 In 1889-94 the first regular Survey
and Settlement Operation was conducted by D.H.E. Sunder
and he almost doubled the tax by imposing a levy of Rs. 105/=
for the Totopara orange groves. The second Survey was
conducted in 1906-16 by the District Settlement Officer, J.
MUUgan, and this resulted in a Capitation Tax of Rs.2/= per
adult head in 1911.41 Historical records show that orange was
Bhutan.
39 Majumdar: pp.26-27.
40 Ibid., p.31.
41 Sanyal, CC: The Meches and the Totos, Two Sub-Himalayan Tribes
of North Bengal, Part II, The TOTOS, a Sub-Himalayan Tribe, The
49
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
an important cash crop for the Totos but by 1830 aU the
orange trees had died42 and despite being liberated from the
'ruthlessness' of the Bhutanese, the Totos had no recourse
but to go back to the old masters as haulers of oranges from
Bhutan. One would have looked with some sympathy over the
detriment faced by the loss of the groves but immediately a
year later, with the completion of the third Survey of the
district, the Totos received another big jolt when the
Capitation Tax was raised by a quarter rupees.43 One is
tempted to conclude this was done to offset the loss from the
orange taxes but of greater significance is that every time a
survey was conducted the taxes invariably increased. In the
Western Duars the East India Company's only real concern
was enlarging tax revenue: a deed fiercely criticized when the
Bhutanese did the same despite the Bhutanese taxes being of
lesser value.
That the earnestness and sincerity to help the people of the
newly acquired frontiers were either nonexistent or that they
had been thrown to the winds is evident from the
unprejudiced account of W.W.W. Hunter who, observing that
nothing had been done even after half a decade of the
annexation, wrote, "In the Western Duars, hardly any of the
cultivators have acquired occupancy rights" on the flimsy
statute that "up to 1870 very few of them had held their land
for the prescribed period of twelve years."44
A lot has been written about how poorly the Meches and
Totos were treated by the Bhutanese and as an aide memoire
it would be appropriate to quote Sir Ashley Eden again. The
Meches he claimed "complained bitterly of the oppression of
University of North Bengal, Darjeeling, 1973, p. 14.
42 Sunder's statement in the Survey and Settlement was. "There are
no orange trees at Totapara."
43 Sanyal: p. 14.
44 Hunter, W.W.W: A Statistical Account of Bengal, Vol. X, Districts of
Darjiling, Jalpaiguri & Huch Behar, Concept Publishing Co., New
Delhi, 1984 (1876), p.276-177.
50
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
the Booteahs, for whom they evidently entertained feeUngs of
deep hatred. ...They were kept constantly employed in
carrying up rice to the Fort, and received no sort of
remuneration for their services."45 The comment was basically
directed to the Meches but the undertone is a general one
implying similar conditions elsewhere also.
This study wiU deal with what the Meches thought of the
British a little later on, but in the meanwhile, we wm
concentrate on the Toto tribe that once worked under the
Bhutanese. Besides Eden, several British commentaries
assert that the Bhutanese forced the frontier natives to work
without wages but when the aUegation is put through the
scanner the truth emerges differently. In the Toto language,
the labour provided to the Bhutanese was called hui-hwa and
though this has been conveniently rendered to mean 'free-
labour' or 'forced labour',46 its accurate translation is
'porterage service in Ueu of remuneration in cash or kind'.47
Even the British Survey Officer Sunder is on record that:
The Bhuteas have a village at Doyapara in Bhutan, where
they grow oranges. The Totos bring oranges from there into
British territory. In lieu of payment in money for carrying the
oranges from Doyapara to Totopara they get one third of the
oranges as hire.48
By any standard this was generous compensation.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that slavery was practiced
in Bhutan, the Bhutanese freely admit to it, but to take a
blanket approach on the issue and term aU acts of labour as
being extracted gratis or amounting to slavery is, to say the
least, unkind and unjustified. It is rather interesting to note
that the British themselves resorted to 'free labour' with the
45 Eden: p.61.
46 Majumdar, Bimalendu: p. 159
47 Majumdar: p.53
48 For more details on agriculture, taxes, population etc. see D.H.E.
Sunder's Survey and Settlement ofthe Western Duars in the District of
Jalpaiguri, Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta, 1985.
51
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
Totos who were, without wages, "obUged to provide to the
Forest Department for five to six days annually for clearing
the jungles along the international boundary line."49
If the Totos' lot was dismal, what befeU the Meches was no
better. But before we venture into their (mis)fortune under
the British it is essential that we refer to the causes that led
to the war. In the memorandum of 7th May 1864, sent to
Ashley Eden, two major objectives were highUghted: (a)
procuring satisfaction of the repeated insults and threats
from the Bhutanese, and (b) "also in duty to its subjects
resident on the frontier."50 [Emphasis added.] This 'duty' was
to redress what Ashley Eden had charged in his report that
the Meches
...complained bitterly of the oppressions of the Booteahs, for
whom they evidently entertained feelings of deep hatred.
.. .They do not cultivate more than is necessary to supply their
own wants and to enable them to comply with the demands of
their rulers, for any surplus which they produced would
merely form an additional temptation to plunder on the part of
the Booteah taskmasters. They know they can never be rich
nor ever improve their position, and they do not therefore
attempt it.51
Historical evidence shows that instead of upUfting the frontier
tribes, they were pushed deeper into poverty and eventually
suffered a fate worse what they had under their old masters.
It is a sad reflection that the people who were supposed to be
Uberated from the 'oppresive' rule of the Bhutanese were
eventuaUy enslaved by poverty and an acute lack of any
human benevolence.
The testimonial of a Meche, Jnan Mandal, 80 years, extracted
49 Ibid., p.55.
50 Rennie Dr. David Field: Bhotan and the Story ofthe Dooar War,
Manjusri Publishing House, 1970 (1866), p.358.
51 Eden, Ashley: pp.61 & 62.
52
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
by Cham Chandra Sanyal in the late 1960s52 states that,
...at the time of Bhutan Government the Meches were not
tortured unlike others. They were in good terms with the
Bhutanese Government. Harnath53 was made a
Mandal54...Bhutan Government took rupees seven per family
per year and allowed to cultivate as much as the family could
do so.55
Another Meche, Phade Saiba, more than eighty years old,
Uving in Mechua-Dhura-Balabathan village commented, "We
used to eat rice, vegetables, fish or meat three times a day.
But now we can hardly afford two rice meals a day."56
Raising Saiba, a sixty year old Meche's testimony is equally
anguished: "My father had vast plot(s) of land and was well-
to-do. Now I have no land. I work as a share cropper or sometimes as an agricultural labourer on cash wage of rupees one
a day and three meals."57
The fate of Gashat Machari, 98 years, is no better. He rues,
"At that time the land was plenty and men were few, so we
had much land to grow crop. ...Now I have only five acres of
land under cultivation."58
Dhansing Meche, a centenarian, living in Sisu-Jhorma59 was
bitter about the British administration:
52 This would mean that Mandal was born around 1880s and that
would have made it possible to hear first hand accounts from his
father, grandfather and their contemporaries about the state of
affairs during the early British years of British rule.
53 Grandfather of Jnan Mandal
54 Village headman.
55 Sanyal, C. C: Part I, p.85.
56 Ibid., p.79.
57 Ibid., p.87.
58 Ibid., p.86.
59 Dalgram Sarugan during the Bhutanese period.
53
 Journal of Bhutan Studies
My father's name is Late Khayer Singh. My father was in
Bhutan holding a large plot of agricultural land. The whole of
the Duars was under Bhutan Government. My father was at
Chamurchi near the present Reabari Tea Estate (in the
Duars). My father had a large plot of land more than one
hundred acres where the present Ambari Tea Estate is
situated.60 Then we shifted to the present site of Bandhapani
Tea Estate, then we came to Maraghat and from there to this
place. ...we were cultivators. We grew plenty of rice and we ate
rice and vegetables three times a day... As far as I can
remember and so far I heard from my father that the
Bhotias61 were good. The collectors came once a year,
collected rupees eight per family and left us to enjoy as much
land as we could cultivate. The British came. They spoke
sweet words. They gave us protection no doubt but they
increased the rents, introduced many laws and we gradually
lost our lands and we shifted to this place. Now I have only
four acres of land that can hardly maintain my family.62
There is no necessity to elaborate on these testimonials for
they are clear in their condemnation, and unambiguous in
contradicting the claims made by people like Sir Ashley Eden.
I would Uke to wrap up with the comment made by Dr. David
Field Rennie a man who was actively involved in the Ango-
Bhutan war and was a witness to all that had happened.
Immediately after the war, he interviewed a frontier
gentleman of good standing and wrote the following:
After all that has been officially written on the subject of
Bhotan and the oppressive character of its rule in the Dooars,
I was hardly prepared to hear from a resident of Julpigorie,
peculiarly well placed for obtaining reliable information, that
the inhabitants of the Dooars, bordering on our frontier, state
that they have no complaints to make of the Bhotanese, and
that they have suffered much more from aggression from
within our frontier (including that of Cooch Behar) than from
60 Another case of a native losing land to Tea Plantations as in the
case of the Totos.
61 Read 'Bhutanese'.
62 Sanyal, CC: Part I, p.76.
54
 Bhutan Dooars to British Dooars
oppression exercised over them on the part of Bhotan; raiding
within the Dooars by natives living under British protection,
having apparently been as common as it has been within our
own frontier by the Bhotanese.63
63 Ibid., pp.357-358.
55

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