In Part II of this 3-part series, we look at how the Gorkha ex-service menwere encouraged to settle in places of their postings by providing them land and jobs
By K. K.Muktan
After retirement the British Government encouraged the Gorkha ex-service men to settle down in places of their postings by providing them land, jobs and other economic opportunities. They were employed in the government Civil Departments as peons and chowkidars. Their sincerity and loyalty earned them opportunities in private companies, tea gardens, coal mines and many other institutions as well.
The Assam Rifles rehabilitated its Gorkha ex-service men in at least 40 headquarters, including Sadiya, Guwahati and Nowgong in Assam, Shillong in Khasi Hills, Mantripokhari in Manipur, Aizawl in Mizoram and Mokokchung in Nagaland, Tura in Garo Hills etc. All these places became the nucleus for growth of the Gorkha community.
Along with the paramilitary forces the government maintained a large number of regular Gorkha regiments with their headquarters in different places of the North East such as Shillong, Guwahati, Tura, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Kohima, Aizwal, Agartala etc. The British Government looked after the well-being of the family members of the Indian Army, as it believed that it would indirectly account for their efficiency.
In 1864, the government introduced regimental homes to accommodate families of the Gorkha soldiers in all the important headquarters of Gorkha regiments. All types of basic amenities like schools, hospitals, clubs and markets were made available to them around these regimental homes. These centers popularly came to be known as Gorkha villages.
In Shillong for example, the Gorkha Regimental Home was established in 1891 at Jhalupara in order to provide accommodation to the families of Gorkha soldiers. That is why Jhalupara and Mawprem are Gorkha concentration centers in Shillong till date.
The government encouraged the Gorkha soldiers to bring their families from Nepal by giving them travel expenses so that their offspring would meet the requirement of future recruits, and the government would not have to depend on Nepal for supply of Gorkha recruits. This was because the British need for Gorkha recruits was great while their supply was meagre.
Therefore, in order to attract Gorkhas to settle down in Assam, lands were freely given to Gorkha ex-service men in the vicinity of the regimental homes. Captain Francis Jenkins in his report of 1832 recommended that instead of pensions the ex-service men of the local Corps should be given grant of land[i].
The Gorkhas who retired from service and wanted to settle down in Assam gladly accepted this offer of Captain Jenkins. Apart from the coming of Gorkha recruits a large number of civilian Nepalese found their ways into Assam in successive waves in search of greener pastures.
They were more than happy to settle down in the Brahmaputra Valley and in the hill districts of the North East and eke out their living by doing cultivation, dairy farming, working as peons and chowkidars and doing many other odd jobs.
After assumption of governance of Assam, the next imperative before the British was to rejuvenate the devastated economy of Assam through development of agriculture. David Scott, Agent to the Governor General and Commissioner of Revenue in Assam had been instrumental in building up the structure of revenue administration in Assam since 1824 when the British first occupied this part of the Northeastern Frontiers.
[i] . Monirul Hussain, Assam Movement, 1993, Nanak Publications, New Delhi
To be continued
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Mr. K. K. Muktan is a retired Meghalaya Civil Service (MCS) -turned-author. Mr. Muktan is deeply interested in the dynamics of Indian culture, especially of the Gorkha community in India. Mr. Muktan has authored a number of books such as –The Legendary Gorkhas, The Gorkhas in the Freedom Struggle of India, and The Comprehensive History of the Nepalis in Northeast India(in three volumes) to name a few.