Arrival of Lord Amherst

Lord Amherst served as Governor-General of India between 1823 and 1828. He had served as British commander in America from 1758 to 1763. He went as envoy to China in 1816. By this time, the Maratha war had concluded and India was generally peaceful. He faced the foes which were beyond the sea. In 1824, there was Conflict between British India and Burma called the First Anglo Burmese War. Other event of note during his tenure was Barrackpore mutiny.

First Anglo Burmese War 1824-26

Burma was a big independent country on Eastern sides of British India. The Burmese rulers had an expansionist policy and tried to annex Siam in 1765-69. Siam approached China for support and due to that Burmese rulers were unable to expand that side. So, they focussed on western side. At that time, the Eastern boundaries of Bengal was Arakan. The Burmese forces entered Arakan and captured areas around modern Manipur in 1813 and Assam in 1817-19. The British tried to avoid clash and sent some peaceful proposals but when nothing fruitful achieved, Lord Amherst declared a war on Burma. Burma was attacked from land as well as sea. The war prolonged but resulted in decisive victory of British. In 1826, the war ended with Treaty of Yandaboo. As per this treaty:

  • Assam, Manipur, Arakan, Taninthai were ceded to British.
  • The Burmese had to cease interference in Chachar Kingdom and Jaintia Hills.
  • Burmese agreed to pay an indemnity of One million Pounds sterling to British.
  • Burmese agreed to allow diplomatic representatives from British.
  • Burmese also agreed to sign a commercial treaty in due course of time.

With the above treaty, Assam was annexed to British territories. Later Cachar Kingdom was annexed in 1832 and in 1833 Upper Assam came under British Protection. By 1838-39, whole of today’s Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram was annexed by the British. The immediate impact on British annexation of Assam was that its Tea manufacturing flourished.

Barrackpore mutiny of 1824

The Barrackpore mutiny of 1824 was also due to interference of Indian social taboos by British. Some of the battalions of native infantries of Bengal Army were ordered to March to Chittagong and to board ships to reach Rangoon during first Anglo-Burmese war. However, travelling by sea was a social taboo for Hindus, who called it Kaala Pani. Further, they had not bullocks even to carry their belongings to Chittagong. The complaints of Indian sepoys were not paid attention. Due to this, the soldiers forbade to go on March unless their pay is increased and provided means to carry their luggage.

The British refused to concede to these demands in Barrakpore cantonment and sepoys revolted. Under their leader Binda, they drove away the British officers. The British tried to calm the Sepoys to surrender on condition that their reasonable demands would be considered later. However, when they rejected, the British troops launched a full scale assault on Indian Sepoys and killed around 200 Indian Sepoys. The leader Binda was captured and executed and his body was hung on a Peepal tree.  This sent a terrorizing message to Indian troops to not to rebel against their British masters.

Binda was a hero but now not many people know about his martyrdom. There is a temple in Barrackpur on that site, where his body was hung, known as Binda Baba Temple. The deity of this temple is Lord Hanuman.

Succession of Lord Amherst

Lord Amherst departed from India in 1828 and his place was taken by acting Governor General William Butterworth Bayley for some time in 1828. He was succeeded by Lord William Bentinck whose term was from 1828 to 1835.