As we have already discussed briefly in the History of Land Right in Assam, there are, broadly 3 categories of land rights in Assam as was envisioned in the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886, but the British administration did not completely do away with the system of land rights existing in the Medieval Kingdom.
The British, in order to appease the local chiefs, and lords as well gain the maximum amount of revenue and control of resources, made separate arrangements with a lot of smaller kingdoms or areas under the Ahom kingdom.
The shrewd measure led to their massive control over the resources in Assam and strengthened their grip on the Ahom kingdom.
Therefore, the lands rights in Assam could be separated into the following categories, in light of the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 as well as the pre-existing rights of the citizens/subjects under the Ahom Kingdom.
Section 3(f) of the Regulation provides that- a Proprietor is the owner of any estate permanently settled or entered on the Deputy Commissioner’s register of the revenue-free estate.
Proprietors can be classified into the following:-
1. Proprietors of Revenue free lands:
The proprietors of revenue-free lands can be further sub-divided into four categories:
(a) Debottar lands:
This category of land was those which were granted or gifted by the King (Ahom) to the religious idols and their construction as such. These lands were absolutely revenue-free.
(b) Paikan lands:
This category of land was granted by the king to the Paiks for rendering service to the king or his officers for one year. These lands were also revenue-free and could only be used instead of service to the king.
(c) Baksa lands:
Baksa land was the land gifted by the Kachari kings to the priests. These lands were also revenue-free.
(d) Special cultivation of Tea:
The British Governor also provided certain lands for the cultivation of tea, especially to the cultivators.
2. Proprietors of permanently settled lands:
Permanently settled estates or lands mean any estate in the districts of Cachar and Goalpara is included in the Decennial settlement of the lower settlements of the Bengal Province; or permanently settled land/estate at any subsequent date under any law for the time being in force.
Rights over land: The state is the owner of all the lands within the territory of Assam. There are certain private rights over land in Assam. These private rights are recognized even by the state.
Right of Proprietors: The Proprietors of Revenue free lands are found to enjoy the highest rights over land in Assam. This is because they are not required to pay any revenue to the Government. They also enjoy Transferable, Permanent, and Inheritable Rights over land in Assam.
The Proprietors of Permanently Settled Estates or land are found to enjoy maximum rights, after the proprietors of revenue-free land. This is because they are required to pay a major amount of revenue to the Government. These Proprietors of Permanently settled estates also enjoy Transferable, Permanent, and Inheritable rights over land in Assam.
Section 7 of the Regulation deals with the right of proprietors and provides that such proprietors will enjoy the same rights as they did at the commencement of the legislation i.e. 1886.
Sections 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(b) of the Regulation define a landholder. Basically, a landholder is a person, who has entered into an agreement with the Government to take land on lease for a term of not less than 10 years.
Conditions for enjoying rights of a Landholder:
Section 9 of the Regulation provides that a landholder shall have a permanent, heritable, and transferable right of use and occupancy in his land.
(a) The payment of all revenues, taxes, cesses, and rates from time to time, legally assessed or imposed in respect of the land;
(b) The reservation in favour of the government of all the quarries and all mines, minerals and mineral oils, and all buried treasure, with full liberty to search for and work the same, paying to the landholder only compensation for the surface damage as estimated by the Deputy Commissioner.
(c) The special conditions of any engagement into which the landholder may have entered into with the government.
C. SETTLEMENT HOLDER:
The term "Settlement Holder" is defined under Section 3(h) of the Regulation. A settlement holder is a person who has entered into an agreement to take land on lease for less than 10 years. A settlement holder enjoys minimum rights over land.
The settlement holder shall have no permanent rights over such land. The settlement holder’s right of transfer and that of inheritance will be restricted and limited.
Section 11 of the Regulation provides that a settlement holder shall have no rights in the land held by him, beyond those which are clearly expressed in his settlement lease.
SPECIAL REVENUE PAYING ESTATES OR LAND:
The lands in Assam can be divided into the following categories, based on payment of revenue:-
(a) Lakhiraj lands
(b) Khiraj lands
(c) Special Revenue paying estate or land
(a) Lakhiraj lands:
These lands were basically revenue-free, a status quo that was granted by the Medieval Ahom Kingdom for perpetuity. Such as Debottar, Dharmottar, Paikans, Brahmottar lands or any other special grants given by the Ahom King for a particular purpose or to a particular person.
(b) Khiraj lands:
These lands are full-revenue paying lands. (e.g. land for rice cultivation) The lands given to Paiks or Raiyats came under this category, as they either had to render service or pay revenue for cultivation on land.
(c) Special Revenue Paying Estate or Land:
The Special revenue paying estates or lands are those different from the other 2 categories and, are further divided into the following categories-
(i) Nisf-Khiraj Lands:
The Dharmottar & Brahmottar lands continue to pay the revenue of 8 annas
per Pura per year. This is because Captain Bogle never completed the final inquiry and submitted the report to General Jenkins.
Since 8 annas per Pura per year, was only half of the actual revenue of 16 annas per Pura per year, these lands came to be known as NISF-KHIRAJ Lands. The Nisf-Khiraj lands were also known as Half-Revenue Paying Estates.
There were two large holdings of land in the kamrup district. The owners of such large holdings were called Chamuadars. Their only privilege was that they could pay the revenue on their land directly to the Government instead of the Mazumdars/Mauzadars.
The large holding of lands found in and near Nagaon was called ‘khats’ and the owner of such lands was called khatdars. The only privilege enjoyed by the khatdars was that they were required to pay the revenue only for the cultivable lands. Also paid directly to the government.
(iv) 6-pie Lakhiraj lands:
The ‘Daflas’ used to forcefully extract 6-pie per Bigha from the Gosains of Darrang district. The Gosains made a formal protest with the British when the British took over, Daflas were provided pension from the government and the Gosains started directly paying the government.
(v) Ten-Twenties of Sibsagar:
There was a section of rich people residing in the Sibsagar district and their wealth was owed to slavery. However, Slavery was abolished by the British, and hence, the section became gradually poor.
So, the British Government reduced half the revenue assessed where the revenue exceeded Rs. 20 where the assessment exceeded Rs.10 but did not exceed Rs. 20, half the excess over Rs.10 was remitted.
(vi) Mirasdars of Cachar:
There were large holdings of land in the Cachar and Karimganj districts. The owners of these large holding of lands were called Mirasdars. They had permanent, transferable, and heritable rights over land.
They were the owners as well as the cultivators of the land (uncultivable land and wasteland). Revenue was paid in kind and labour and some through other means to the Raja.
(vii) Owners of Acknowledged Estates or Land:
The Northern portion of old Goalpara consisted of 5 Duars (Eastern Duars) – Bijni, Sidli, Ripu, Guma, and Chirang. The Duars – Ripu, Guma & Chirang were the absolute property of the government(British administration).
The revenue system was somewhat in force in the temporarily settled areas. Bijni and Sidli duars had separate settlements. The holders of Acknowledged Estates were called Proprietors.
(viii) Special Cultivation of Tea:
The British Government provided certain lands to the cultivators for the special cultivation of tea, as a large quantity of the same was exported to the United Kingdom and other parts of the World.
Thus, we see that the Ahom Kingdom also provided a myriad of rights to the people of Assam even before the advent of the British. The British administration, however, has strictly defined and documented these rights and modified them.
This was obviously later followed by monetisation under the British administration. There were, besides the major categories of rights, some special land rights were also maintained by them for several purposes, monetary and otherwise.