Mitra, Raja Digambar

Mitra, Raja Digambar (1817-1879) businessman, politician, social worker and writer, the first Bengali sheriff of Calcutta (1874), was born in the village of Konnagar in Hughli in 1817.

Digambar started his education at Hare School in Kolkata in 1827. In 1830 he went to hindu college where he came in contact with the young bengal group, and got exposed to western concepts. His professional career started as a teacher at the Nizamat School in Murshidabad. In 1837 he became estate manager of Raja Krishnanath of Qasim Bazar. Impressed by his efficiency, the raja honoured him with a grant of one lakh rupees. Making grant as the initial capital, he started business in silk and indigo. He set up some small-scake industries.

While working with Union Bank, he came to know dwarkanath tagore, who inspired him to take to politics. To alleviate the miseries of the peasantry and the poor, he formed an organisation called the British Indian Association on 31 October 1851 and became its assistant secretary. He was elected vice-president of the association in 1869 and president in 1873. The association soon became a platform to generate public opinion against oppressive measures of government.

In 1857, Digambar Mitra became vocal against some black laws and the undue privileges of the British. Although he was a zamindar himself, he was vocal about the problems of the peasantry. He worked as an assistant secretary and president of the Bharat Sabha. He opposed the Wood plan which was drawn on tightening the government control over the people. He delivered a lecture at the Town Hall on 6 April 1857 on the laws relating to the trial of Englishmen by Indian judges. He found no reason for making discrimination of jurisdiction on racial grounds.

Mitra represented Bharat Sabha at the Income Tax Conference in 1862 and was made an honorary justice of peace. In 1864, he was the only Indian representative on the Epidemic Fever Commission and was made a non-official member of the bengal legislative assembly. He was made a member of the Legislative Council three times.

The government honoured Digambar Mitra with the title of 'raja' in 1877 for his philanthropic activities. Digambar Mitra died on 20 April 1879. [Md Masud Parvez]