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at the present day it is the most sparsely populated portion of the
Province. The third portion of the District, called Sadiya, had also
been allowed to continue under a native governor, who was in this case
a Khamti chief. In 1835, it was found necessary to place the admini-
stration under the control of the military officer who had from the first
been stationed at Sadiya town. Four years later, the Khamtis swept
down from the hills, destroyed the town, and cut to pieces the detach-
ment of Sepoys, together with Major White, the commandant and
Political Agent. Since 1839, when the entire District was resumed by
the British, such inroads have been successfully checked. The hill
tribes are learning the advantages of peaceful intercourse ; agriculture
is extending on the plains, and the introduction of the tea plant has
opened a new era of prosperity.

Population. — Two early estimates of the population of the regularly
settled part of the District are in existence, which give elaborate details,
and are said to have been arrived at after actual counting. The


enumeration in 1847-48 showed a total of 81,917 persons, who had
increased by 1852-53 to 85,296. The regular Census of 1871-72
returned the population of the settled and revenue-paying tract at
121,267; while that of 1 88 1 showed that the population had risen to
1 79,893,' being considerably more than double the population of 1848,
and 48-34 per cent, increase on that of 1872. In 1881, however,
the entire District was censused ; and a considerable portion of the
increase is explained by the fact that in 1881 some 4000 Khamtis
and Singphos, who live on the extreme border, were enumerated for the
first time, as well as a large number of Ahams and other settlers in the
jungle. The results of the Census of 188 1 may be briefly summarized
as follows -.—Area of regularly settled District, 3723 square miles, with
1 100 villages, and 29,255 occupied houses. Total population, 179.893,
namely, males 96,335, and females 83,558; proportion of males, 53-6
per cent. Average density of population, 48*32 persons per square
mile; villages per square mile, '29; houses, 7-87 per square mile;
inmates per house, 6*5. Classified according to age, the Census
Report returned the population as follows :— Under 15 years of age,
males 38,370, and females 34,090; total children, 72,460, or 40-2
per cent, of the population: 15 years of age and upwards, males
57,965, and females 49,468; total adults, 107,433, or 59*8 per cent.
In religion, the population consists of— Hindus, 152,190, or 84-5 per
cent.; Muhammadans, 5824; Buddhists, 4657; Christians, 837;
Jains, 3 ; and hill tribes still professing aboriginal religions, 16,382.

As might be anticipated from the history and geographical position
of Lakhimpur, the proportion of Hindus proper, and especially of
high-caste Hindus, is lower than in any other District of Assam. The
Brahmans number 1363, the Rajputs 1791, the Kayasths 2070, and the
Agarwalas, the trading castes from the north-west, 396. By far the
most numerous caste is the Kalita (7742), the former priests of the
aboriginal kings of Assam ; they have now taken to agriculture, and
rank as pure Siidras. Other Hindu castes, based upon race rather
than religion, are returned at 52,395.

The tribes ranked in the Census Report as semi-Hinduized aborigines
constitute more than half the total population. The most numerous
tribe is the Aham, the former rulers of the country, who still number
51,588, or almost the same number as the Hindus proper. Next come
the kindred Chutias (16,708) ; the Doms, a tribe of peculiar exclusiveness
in Assam (11,765); and the Kochs (459 8 )-

The pure aborigines consist of three classes — representative com-
munities of the neighbouring hill tribes ; immigrants of old standing,
such as the Cacharis ; and labourers on the tea plantations recently
imported from the western Districts of Bengal and from Behar. The
neighbouring hill tribes may again be sub-divided into two broadly


distinguished races — (1) those of Shan descent, who have forced their
way across the hills from the south, represented by the Khamtfs and
Singphos, who are Buddhists ; (2) a group of Indo-Chinese origin,
comprising the Mishmis, Abars, Miris, Daphlas, and Akas, who occupy
the slopes and spurs of the Himalayas along the north of the District.
The great bulk of these tribes live in mountain fastnesses, far beyond
the British frontier ; but all of them have sent out little colonies, who
settle down peaceably on the borders of the plains, and learn the arts
of agriculture and commerce. The aboriginal tribes in Lakhimpur,
Hindus and non-Hindus, are represented as follows : — Abars, 821 ;
Ahams, 51,588; Chutias, 16,708; Daphlas, 210; Cacharis, 18,699;
Khamtis, 2883; Kochs, 4598; Lalungs, 730; Manipuris, 99; Mataks,
220; Mikirs, 2752; Mishmis, 681; Miris, 11,687; Nagas, 230;
Nepalis, 879; Rabhas, 390; Santals, 1035; and Singphos, 1774. It
is reported that large numbers of the hill tribes are annually converted
from their indigenous forms of demon-worship to Hinduism.

The faith of Islam now makes no progress. The comparatively
large number of Musalmans in this remote corner, into which the
Mughal armies never penetrated, is attributed partly to the fact that
the Aham kings used to import Muhammadan artificers for their public
works, and partly to a later immigration of shopkeepers from Dacca.
The Faraizi or reforming spirit is said to have made some progress
among them. Of the 837 Christians, 227 are Europeans or Eurasians,
and 610 natives. The majority of the native Christians consist of tea
labourers imported from Chutia Nagpur. The Matak tribe represents
the Moamarias or Marans, who inhabit the south-eastern portion of
the District. They became converts to the Vishnuite form of Hinduism
at an early period ; and their persecution by the Durga-worshipping
kings of Assam led to many outbreaks, and ultimately to the assertion
of their independence.

Towns and Villages. — The most populous place in Lakhimpur
District, and the only place with a population exceeding 5000, is the
civil station of Dibrugarh, situated on the Dibru river, a few miles
above its junction with the Brahmaputra. It contains (1881) 1660
houses and 7153 inhabitants, including 1736 in the cantonments.
Other places of some importance as centres of river traffic are —
Lakhimpur, the head-quarters of the Sub-division of the same name ;
and Sadiya, which is occupied as a frontier station by a detachment of
Native infantry. An annual fair is held at Sadiya in the month of
February, on which occasion Government presents are distributed
among the frontier tribes. No tendency is perceptible on the part of
the population to gather into towns or centres of commerce or industry,
except at the head-quarters town of Dibrugarh, where the population
has considerably increased of late years. Of the 11 00 villages returned


by the Census, no less than 941 had less than two hundred inhabitants ;
152 from two to five hundred ; 5 from five hundred to a thousand ; and
2 upwards of a thousand inhabitants.

Material Condition of the People. — The peasantry, as a rule, are well
off. Their wants are, comparatively speaking, few, and easily supplied
by their own industry. With the exception of such articles as salt or
opium, all their actual necessaries are supplied from their own
agricultural produce. Money is very little used by the Assamese
peasant, and only passes through his hands in small quantities for the
purchase of a little salt, betel-nut, and opium ; with now and then a
cooking utensil, a cotton cloth for a garment, or an ornament for his
wife. He has, further, to pay his rent in money. He cultivates his
land himself, with the assistance of his family, for the purpose of
producing the different articles of food required, and subsists almost
entirely upon the products of his own little plot. His meal of rice
is supplemented by some herbs gathered in the fields and ponds, or
else raised in his own garden ; and also by very small fishes caught
in the small streams, marshes, ponds, and even in the ditches. Many
varieties of edible roots, vegetables, and fruits grow wild, and only
require to be looked for. To clothe himself and his family he rears
silkworms ; either the erid worm, which feeds on the leaves of the
castor-oil plant growing in his little patch of garden land, and which is
reared in the house ; or the mugd worm, which feeds on the leaves of
the sum tree, and is partially reared out of doors. His wife weaves the
cloth and makes it up. Even oil need not be bought, as he can grow
mustard seed in his own garden, and extract the oil by means of a rude
press. To pay the rent of his land, he sells a small portion of his rice
and silk. The rate of the land-tax is very light, being less than the
value of two hundredweights of uncleaned rice per acre, or from 3s. to
3s. 9& per acre, according to the locality and the description of the

Under such circumstances it would naturally be supposed that the
Assamese peasant was prosperous. But, unfortunately, owing to his
inveterate indolence and addiction to the use of opium, his condition
is not so good as it is sometimes supposed to be, and he is very often
in arrears with his rent, even when he has means to pay.

The people are extremely averse to working for daily wages, as they
affirm that by so doing they compromise their respectability. The
indigenous population furnishes very few permanent labourers to the
tea-gardens. These consist principally of Santals from Chutia Nagpur,
low castes from the upper Districts of Bengal and from the North-
western Provinces, together with some local labourers from Lower
Assam. The trading community consists chiefly of Marwaris from the
Rajputana States ; the shopkeepers are mostly Musalmans from Dacca


and Sylhet. With regard to occupation, the Census of 1SS1 divided
the male population into the following six classes: — (i) Professional
classes, including all civil and military officials and the learned pro-
fessions, 1621 ; (2) domestic class, 1072; (3) commercial class,
including merchants, traders, carriers, etc., 1162; (4) agricultural and
pastoral class, including gardeners, 58,396 ; (5) manufacturing and
industrial class, 1617 ; (6) indefinite and non-productive class (comprising
246 general labourers and 32,311 male children and unspecified),

Agriculture. — As throughout the rest of Assam, rice forms the one
staple crop, the only other cereal cultivated being Indian corn in small
quantities. Rice is sub-divided into two usual crops — the sd/i,
sown in low lands about July, transplanted in the following month,
and reaped in December ; the dhu or dus, sown in high lands about
March, not generally transplanted, and reaped in October. The green
crops grown in the District consist of many varieties of pulses, and
mustard grown as an oil-seed. The miscellaneous crops comprise
several sorts of fibres and of sugar-cane, mulberry, long pepper, potatoes,
and pumpkins. Among fruit-trees, are the orange, lime, lemon, citron,
and plantain.

In 187 1 it was estimated that 61,490 acres were actually under culti-
vation in Lakhimpur District, or only one hundred and fiftieth part of the
total area. The several crops were thus apportioned : — Rice, 39,460
acres; tea, 15,000; pulses, 2130; vegetable and potatoes, 1000 each ;
cotton, 850; oil-seeds, 750; sugar-cane, 300; other crops, 1000 acres.
About 2300 acres bore a second crop of vegetables, oil-seeds, or pulses.
By 1883-84 the cultivated area had increased to 126,021 acres, or,
deducting 1460 acres cropped more than once, to 124,561 acres. The
area under the different crops was returned as follows : — Rice, 70,928
acres; other food-grains, 8101 acres; oil-seeds, 1384 acres; sugar-cane,
884 acres; cotton, 1050 acres; jute, 200 acres; tea, 36,873 acres;
miscellaneous crops, 6601 acres. Manure is not generally used, except
for sugar-cane, and then in the form of the sweepings of cattle-sheds.
It is stated, however, that the dead fish left on the lowlands after the
subsidence of the annual inundations, serve as a natural fertilizer.
Irrigation from neighbouring tanks or pools is sometimes resorted to in
the case of the rice crop.

The entire soil is the property of Government. Leases are granted
to the individual cultivators at the following rates, which are common
to all Assam : — For basti or homestead lands, 6s. an acre ; for rupit
or low-lying lands, on which rice is grown, 3s. 9d. an acre ; for
faringhdti or dry lands, suited for vegetables, etc., 3s. an acre. In
early times the revenue used to be collected by means of a poll-tax,
varying in amount from is. to 2s. a head ; an assessment on the land



was first introduced in 1841. Certain classes, such as the Mi'ris
occupying the sub-hill tracts, and the Mataks, still pay a poll-tax, the
rate being 6s. a head. The average out-turn from an acre of rupit
land is estimated at about 26 cvvts. of unhusked rice of the sail crop;
from an acre of faringhdti land, about 12 cwts. of dus unhusked rice.
From both lands a second crop is sometimes raised, which may amount
to 13 cwts. of either pulses or fibres, or half that weight of cotton.

A farm of about ten acres in extent is considered a large holding for
a peasant ; one of five acres as a comfortable medium-sized one ; while
one of two acres is reckoned as very small, and as a rule is only held by
a man who has some auxiliary means of subsistence. A cultivator with
a five-acre holding is considered to be as well off as a respectable retail
shopkeeper, and in better circumstances than a man earning 16s. a
month in money wages. The peasantry, on the whole, are free from

Within the past twenty years, since tea cultivation has been conducted
on an extensive scale, rates of wages have more than doubled ; ordinary
labour, in fact, is almost unobtainable. The construction of the Assam
railway to Makum has temporarily had the effect of enhancing the
rates still further. Day-labourers now receive from 6d. to is. a day;
bricklayers, from is. to is. 6d. ; and smiths and carpenters, from 2s. to
4s. The price of food-grains has risen in an equal proportion. Best
rice now sells at about 14s. per cwt. ; common rice, at about 7s. 6d. ;
and common unhusked rice, at 5s. Prices were not affected by the
famine of 1866.

Lakhimpur District is not specially liable to the calamities of flood
or drought. The harvest is not known to have failed generally within
the memory of the present generation. In the event of a deficient
rainfall, the augmented produce of the low-lying lands and the marshes
would probably compensate for the failure of the crops on the higher
levels. A few embankments are in existence as a protection against
excessive inundations, but they have been suffered to fall into a bad
state of repair. If the price of common unhusked rice were to rise
to 5s. 5d. per cwt. in the rural markets in the month of January, that
should be regarded as a sign of approaching failure of the local harvest,
but not of distress, as wages are very high and the country is easy of
access for supplies from without.

Manufactures^ etc. — Local manufactures consist chiefly of mats,
basket-work, and silk cloth, which are made up by the people them-
selves, each family providing for its own wants. There are a few
potters and braziers ; but the pottery manufactured is of the poorest
description, and the importation of cheap brass utensils from Bengal
has destroyed the native manufacture, which was of well amalgamated
metal and of a handsome shape. The silk cloth, known as mnga y is


made from the cocoons of the mugd worm (Saturnia assamungis), which
feeds on the leaves of the sum tree. This moth is found wild in the
jungle; but domesticated worms imported from Nowgong or Kamnip
are alone used for silk. While feeding on the sum trees, constant care
has to be taken to protect the worms from their enemies of the bird
and insect world. A thousand cocoons will produce from 6 to 8 ounces
of silk thread, which is worth from ios. to us. per pound. A silk
waist-cloth (dhuti), 18 feet long by 3 feet wide, sells for from £1, 4 s.
to £2, according to quality. Very little silk is exported, and the
manufacture has greatly fallen off since the prosperous days of the
Aham kings. Singphos, Khamtfs, and other hill tribes wear tartans of
various kinds, both in silk and cotton. Some of their dyes are indigen-
ous, but they now largely employ thread coloured with aniline dyes,
which they procure from Marwari merchants.

Tea. — The cultivation and manufacture of tea is conducted by
European capital and under European supervision. Lakhimpur District
was the scene of the first attempts at tea cultivation by the Government
about the year 1835, and the Assam Company commenced operations
here in 1840. After having passed through periods of depression,
arising from reckless speculation and want of experience, the industry
has now reached a stable position, and has made great strides in recent
years. In 1874 there were 112 gardens under plant, covering an area
of 89,370 acres, of which 11,680 acres were actually in bearing. The
total out-turn was 1,811,920 lbs., showing an increase of 320,725
lbs. on the previous year. The number of European superintendents
employed was 42, with 176 native assistants; the total number of
labourers was 10,612, of whom 7936 had been imported under contract
from Bengal. At the end of 1881, 202 gardens were in existence,
with a total area of 92,982 acres of land taken up for tea, of which
18,876 acres were under mature, and 6386 acres under immature plant.
The total out-turn of tea was 5,735>955 lbs. The Census Report
returned the population on the tea-gardens at 37,295, of whom 8961
were natives of Assam, 28,463 were natives from other Indian Provinces,
and 141 natives of countries outside India, presumably Europeans.

Hopes have been entertained that the mineral wealth of Lakhimpur
would also attract European capital. In 1866, operations were com-
menced in the coal-field near Jaipur, where the coal is of excellent
quality, and can be quarried without mining. About 6700 tons in all
were raised ; but it was found that the mineral could not be brought to
market at a sufficiently low rate to enable it to compete with imports
from Bengal. At the same time, a scheme for working the petroleum
wells in the neighbourhood of the coal-field was taken up with much
energy, but it was unfortunately broken off, owing to the death of its
promoter. In 1882, however, the Assam Railway and Trading Com-


pany, having obtained concessions from Government, commenced
laying a line of railway on the metre gauge from Dibrugarh to Sadiya,
with a branch line to Makiim, of which 70 miles were opened up to the
end of March 1884. Two coal mines in the Makiim field have been
opened ; and it is hoped that these mines, which appear exceed-
ingly rich, will in time supply not only all Assam, but even Calcutta
with coal and coke of excellent quality. It is also proposed to reopen
the petroleum springs near Makiim, the concession of working which
has been granted to the Assam Railway and Trading Company for a
term of years.

The rivers constitute the principal means of communication in
Lakhimpur. In addition, there were, in 1882, 332 miles of District
roads, maintained at a cost of ^1600, besides 93 miles of Imperial roads.
As above stated, the Assam Railway had 70 miles open for traffic up to
March 1884.

The commerce of the District is entirely conducted by river; and is
mainly in the hands of Marwaris from the north-west, and Musalmans
from Dacca. The chief centres of trade are Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur
town, Jaipur, and Sadiya. The exports consist of tea, mugd silk thread,
india-rubber, beeswax, ivory, and mustard seed ; in return for which
the following articles are imported — rice, opium, tobacco, salt, oil, iron,
and cotton cloth. It is thought that the value of the exports, including
tea, largely exceeds the value of the imports ; but no trustworthy
statistics are available. An annual fair has for some years been estab-
lished by Government at the frontier station of Sadiya, but the import-
ance of this gathering is rather political than commercial.

Administration. — In 1870-71, the net revenue of Lakhimpur District
amounted to ^48,430, towards which the land - tax contributed
^14,300, or 30 per cent. : the net expenditure was ,£24,856, or about
half the revenue. In 1881-82, the District revenue had increased to
^80,329, of which ^"24.463 was derived from the land. The total
District expenditure was ^26, 463, or nearly one-third of the revenue.
The land revenue has increased from ^3578 in 1850, to ^15,646 in
1875, an d ^24,463 in 1881-82. In 1880-81 there were 3 covenanted
officials stationed in the District, and 9 magisterial, 3 civil, and 6 revenue
courts open. For police purposes, Lakhimpur is divided into 6 police
circles, with 9 outpost stations. In 1881-82, the civil and frontier
police consisted of a force of 344 officers and men. These figures show
1 policeman to every 9*6 square miles or to every 526 of the population,
and an average cost of £2, 8s. per square mile, or iod. per head
of population. There is no municipal police in Lakhimpur, and the
chankiddrs or village watch of Bengal are not found anywhere in Assam
proper. In 1881-82, the total number of persons in Lakhimpur
District convicted of any offence, great or small, was 974, being 1


person in every 184 of the population. By far the greater proportion
of the convictions were for petty offences. The District contains 1 jail
and 1 sub-divisional lock-up. In 1881, the average daily number of
prisoners was 51, of whom 3 were females; the labouring convicts
averaged 50. These figures show 1 prisoner in jail to every 3863 of
the population. The total cost amounted to ^714, or ^14 per
prisoner; the jail manufactures yielded a net profit of ^257.

Education had not made much progress in Lakhimpur till Sir G.
Campbell's reforms, by which the benefit of the grant-in-aid rules was
extended to the pdthsdlds or village schools. In 1856 there were only
7 inspected schools in the whole District, attended by 286 pupils. By
1870, apparently owing to some change in system, these numbers had
fallen to 3 schools and 216 pupils; but in 1873, after the above-men-
tioned reforms had come into operation, the schools increased to 24, and
the pupils to 699. In 1881-82, the number of schools had further
risen to 67, with an attendance of 2314 pupils; or 1 school to every
55 square miles, and 12 pupils to every thousand of the population.
The chief institution is the Government Higher School at Dibrugarh,
which had an average attendance of 220 pupils in 1882.

The District is divided into 2 administrative Sub-divisions, and into
6 t/idnds or police circles. The Sub-division of North Lakhimpur,
which covers the whole tract north of the Brahmaputra, and contained
in 1881, 53,750 inhabitants, scattered over an estimated area of between
7500 and 8000 square miles, is considered for certain purposes to form
an independent District by itself. The entire District is divided into
63 mauzds (circles of villages for land revenue purposes), and 82 pdik
mahals (poll-tax paying circles). Dibrugarh town is the only muni-
cipality in the District. Municipal income (1883-84), ^366, or is. 4^d.
per head of municipal population.

Medical Aspects. — The climate of Lakhimpur is of an exceptional
character. There are only two clearly defined seasons in the year ; the
hot and rainy season, which lasts for four months, from the middle of
June to the middle of October ; and the cold and dry season, which
occupies the remainder of the twelve months. The months of April and
May are described as particularly cool and pleasant. The mean annual
temperature is about 65 R, and the average rainfall is about 115 inches
in the year. In 1883, the rainfall at Dibrugarh was 104*26 inches.

The endemic diseases are malarious fevers and their sequelae, various
kinds of cutaneous disorders, rheumatic affections, bronchocele, and
suppurative inflammation of the lymphatic glands. It has been observed
that phthisis, which is prevalent among some of the hill tribes on the
north of the Brahmaputra, attacks Hindustani settlers, but spares the
native Hindus and Europeans. Cholera, also, which has repeatedly

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 8) → online text (page 51 of 64)