Colonial police stations of Assam, India - restored recently!!

Heritage and monument  lovers  are  quite happy that three colonial police  stations associated with freedom struggle were restored back to original look more than  a century after they were built.

Chatia police

Do colonial police stations exist in the NE state of Assam today? Yes, they do exist there and till recent past they were in a dilapidated state. The heritage lovers were quite angry and they wanted the Indian government to preserve the  surviving police stations and other structures  established by the British in the state closer to the border of Myanmar. Demanding preservation of  surviving colonial structures is no way linked to the colonial hangover. Nor does it mean not to  recollect  the oppressive colonial past and forget about the atrocities of past rulers of India who looted  the country and the people  till they  left the shores in August 1947. At preset estimate, some Indian historians quote, the total value of the colonial loot is roughly $7 trillion - indeed a whooping sum.

 Gohpur police station. Kanaklata martyrdom site,Assam

Historical Gohpur police station, Assam,

I. for one, feel that such heritage sites, structures or monuments, etc.,  need to be protected and preserved as vestiges of past era from which the posterity can  come to understand  the pitfalls and the bright spots of the past  history. According to the Directorate of Archaeology of Assam, three police stations Chatia, Gohpur  (both in Biswanath district) and Dhekiajuli (Sonitpur district) were  taken up for restoration.  Among them, Gohpur Police Station built in 1901  is one of the oldest police stations. Both Chatia police station  and Dhekiajuli police station  came up  in 1913. These stations, once the dreaded sites in the northeastern part  of India,  still carry the dark side of the colonial past.  

A band of dedicated  freedom fighters sacrificed their lives by trying to hoist the Tricolour in three police stations in the state, now  well-known colonial heritage structures in Assam.

Quit India movement, August 09, 1942

India was in the grip of Quit India protest across the country and  in the wake of the  failure of the Cripps Mission to secure Indian support for the British war effort in WWII, Gandhi made a  clarion call to ''Do or Die'' in his ''Quit India'' speech delivered in Bombay on 8 August 1942 at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. India had nothing to do with the world war II and the British was particular about India's support in the European war theater. The British were  quite adamant and  refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war had ended. This resulted in sporadic violence across India, including Assam and till 1945, the British had a grip on the people and the freedom protests. 

restored colonial police stations, Assam,

Above images: Before and after restoration: The Chatia police station was one of the three to be chosen as a heritage site (along with Gohpur and Dhekiajuli) for restoration by the Assam government. (Photo Courtesy: Directorate of Archaeology, Assam)......................................

location of colonial police stations in Assam,India.

It was on September 20, 1942  the freedom fighters of Assam vented their anger and frustrations under the British that led to  the death of eight persons including  three women in police firing at Dhekiajuli Police Station; one being a brave  teenage girl  who led  a procession to a police station undeterred by the hail of bullets fired at her. She died on the spot. Even today  the legacy of Kanaklata Barua, the 17-year-old martyr of Assam’s Gohpur, has lived on - ever to inspire women in that part of the state. Along with her,   freedom fighter Mukunda Kakoty became a victim of police firing. On the same day, a sad event took place, a freedom fighter carrying the flag - ‘Mrityu Bahini’  was shot dead along with  another one at Gohpur Police Station. In the midst of hell broken out loose on this day, unmindful of the consequences, patriots hoisted the National Flag at  all the three police stations – Chatia, Gohpur and Dhekiaju. The people in the other parts of India were  quite furious about indiscriminate killing of  young girls in Assam on one hand and on the other, they were happy the National Flag had been hoisted on the police stations, in spite of the odds. 

Restored window,  Chatia police station, Assam

Above image: A window pane during restoration at the Chatia police station. (Photo Courtesy: Directorate of Archaelogy, Assam).................................

During India' freedom struggle, this NE Indian state, far removed from the main center of activities in central and western India  became a hub of freedom struggle.  No doubt, oldest polices stations are in Naharkatia and Dibrugarh, established in the 1850s - during the East India Company's rule. The government's choice of restoration of  old police stations  was in favor of three in Gohpur, Chatia and Dhekhiajuli because of  their jurisdictions that had a close link with an important event in Indian history - Quit India Movement.  Many Indian leaders in Assam held secret meetings underground to get the struggle going. During this tumultuous period, India's greatest freedom fighter Subbash Chandra Bose was in exile. The British purposely framed false cases on him and declared him a sort of anti-national. Very little is known that it was in this station - in Dhekiajuli  a 12 year old girl Tileshwari Barua, was martyred on the same day as Kanaklata Barua. Till date, the Dhekiajuli town in Sonitput District observes September 20 as Martyrs’ Day. 

The good news is recently, the conservation team led by officer ''Kangkon Jyoti Saikia completed the assigned work successfully. The team  with meticulous stuck to the original layouts and never compromised on the erosion of heritage value of these sites. As the project is a special one,  the restoration work was  overseen by the district administration. According to the Archaeology department: “This is the first time we have undertaken such a massive colonial-era restoration project.''