GUESS after whom was Lesligunj named? Mathew Leslie,an employee of the British Government,going by what two Britons claim.
Emma Mapp and her uncle Mark Davis,the maternal great grandson of Mathew Leslie,who worked as Collector of Ramgarh (now district in Jharkhand) during 1787-95,recently came from London to Hazaribagh. They claim to be in possession of records gathered from the East India Company library in Oxford about Leslie in whose name Lesligunj block in Palamau district came to be known.
Both Emma and Mark are here to locate Leslies grave and his offsprings. In this noble venture they are being helped out by Hazaribagh-based historian Bulu Imam. Until now,they have met mediapersons and Deputy Commissioner Vinay Choubey. We have assured them of all help in their mission, says Choubey.
Official records available with The Indian Express reveal that during 1787-94 when Leslie was Collector of Ramgargh (now district in Jharkhand),the British Government had not completely established its rule as the revenue from land and transport was still collected by zamindars. After the British Government notified the law calling upon its administration to levy tax in this part of the British India,the zamindars became resentful.
In June 1789,he (Leslie) represented that the collection of tax by the government officials would stir up the opposition of the people of the district,and in a letter written a few months later reported that the tax on the sale of goods and one on passing through,called nikhausi,be struck off as a hardship to traders, states the gazetteer,quoting a letter signed by Leslie.
Although it is not clear what policy the British Government followed in the matter,Leslie became a hero among the local community. As a result,a place,now in Palamau district,was named as Lesligunj by the zamindars after Leslie was transferred elsewhere by the British Government.
Out of sheer recognition of his friendly move,the people made him immortal by naming the place (block) after him, claims Imam.
According to the records that Emma and Mark are carrying,Leslie,the son of Oxford-based Charles Leslie,MD,was promoted by the British Government as senior judge,Varanasi. Although the date of his demise is not known,he had died while travelling between Patna and Banaras. While it is not clear who his wife was,Leslie had gifted a house in Patna and Rs 20,000 to three women: Jehrum Khannam,Hira Devi and Jaiban each. His son,Robert Mathew,and two daughters,Sharlotte and Sarra,were baptised at the Kolkata church in 1782,1789 and 1790 respectively.
To trace Leslies descendants,Emma and Mark are planning to visit Bihar shortly. They are expected to go to Bankipore in Patna to find out if Leslies grave was there.
They say their quest has just begun. We would be glad the day we see any one of our blood relatives, giggles Emma. One day we will stumble upon his grave and descendants.
We will keep going and locate them one day, says Mark.