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Prison Labour in Colonial India: A Case Study of Assam


This paper examines the attitude of the British government towards the prisoners of Assam. Moreover, it investigates the policies adopted by the government about prison labour.

Prisons in Colonial India were known as the ‘house of industries’ rather than the house of rehabilitation and the disciplinary system that existed inside the prison walls emphasised more on attaining profit by instrumenting various types of punitive labour and rigorous methods of punishment. Throughout the Colonial period, the rules for prison administration was shaped and reshaped according to the needs of the colonial state and prisoners were squeezed in the name of discipline through prison labour. In India, the idea of reformation was boastfully propagated but never fully implemented inside the prisons. Prison and prison labour in colonial India has been discussed over a period of time in various academic platforms; however, no such discussions were made on the context of prisons of Assam. Therefore, through this study, an attempt has been made to offer an overview of the recommendations of the Prison Reform Committees and its implementation about prison labour and manufactures.


Prison, Punitive Labour, Reformation, Punishment, Rehabilitation


Author Biography

Dr. Barnali Sarma

Associate Professor, Department of History, Gauhati University


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