• The book, First War of Indian Independence by V.D. Savarkar.

Comments about the Revolt of 1857:

“a war of fanatic religionists against Christians”
L.E.R. Rees

“a war of races”

“a conflict between civilization and barbarism”
T.R. Holmes

“a mohammedian conspiracy making capital of Hindu greviences”
Outram and Taylor

“a planned war of national independence”
V.D. Savarkar

“what began as a fight for religion ended as a war of independence”
Dr. S.N. Sen his book Eighteen Fifty Seven

“ the so called first national war of independence of 1857 is neither first, nor national, nor War of Independence”
Dr. R.C. Majumdar

“the struggle of the soldier – peasant democratic combine against foreign as well as feudal bondage” Marxist historians

• The indiscriminate application of the “Doctrine of Lapse” by Lord Dalhousie is the political cause for the revolt of 1857.

• ‘Absentee soverignityship’ of the British rule in India was an equally important political factor.

• Racial discrimination is also one of the causes for 1857 revolt.

• The missionaries were given ample (sufficient) facilities for the propagation of Christianity. The Religious Disabilities Act of 1857 modified Hindu customs.

• The Indian soldiers resented their low pay and poor prospects of promotion.

• Indian soldiers serving overseas were either not given overseas allowances (bhatta) at all or paid much lower than the European soldiers serving in the British army.

• General Service Enlistment Act, which made it compulsory for all recruits to cross the seas whenever ordered to do so.

• Triggering factor is Royal Enfield bombs issue which has to be pluck with teeth before use.

Beginning and spread of the revolt

• The Revolt was sparked off on March 29th, 1857 when a section of Indian soldiers of 19th and 34th Native Infantry posted at Barrackpur near Calcutta mutinied and a Brahmin soldier, Mangal Pandey killed two British army officers.

• The mutiny was suppressed, Mangal Pandey tried and executed and the 19th and 34th Native Infantry disbanded.

• On May 10th, 1857 the soldiers of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Meerut refused to touch the greased cartridges and broke out in open rebellion.

• On May 11th, 1857, the rebellious soldiers of Meerut marched to Delhi and proclaimed the old Mughal emperor Bahadur shah II as the King Emperor of Hindustan.

• Rebellions broke out in Awadh, Ruhelkhand, West Bihar and many other towns and cities of the North–Western Provinces.

• On June 4th, 1857, the soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry and 1st Native Infantry mutinied at Kanpur and killed several British men, women and children.

• The leader of the revolt at Kanpur was Dhondu Pant or Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II, who was living in exile at Bithur near Kanpur.

• Nana saheb, assisted by his devoted follower Tantia Tope, assumed the role of a conquering hero and was proclaimed the Peshwa.

• At Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai, the widowed queen of Raja Gangadhar Rao, the last Maratha ruler of Jhansi, led the rebellion.

• At Luknow, Begam Hazrat Mahal, the queen of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh declared her 11 year old son Birjis Qadar as Nawab, and the whole of Awadh rallied round her authority.

• In Bihar a local Rajput Zamindar Kunwar Singh, an old man of 80, who held extensive estates in Arrah, raised the banner of rebellion.

• Several towns Aligarh, Etawah, Farrukhabad, Bareilly, Banda, Hamirpur, etc. also rose in rebellion and independent governments were set up there under the former local chiefs.

Supression of the Revolt

• During the revolt of 1857 the Governor General was Lord Canning.

• On July 16th, 1857, Bithur and Kanpur were captured from Nana Saheb, escaped to Nepal.

• Nana Saheb’s Prime Minister Tantia Tope with his soldiers then joined Rani Lakshmibai at Jhansi.

• On September 20th, 1857, the British troops captured Delhi.

• Bahadur Shah II surrendered to the English on the sole condition that his life should be spared.

• There upon Bahadur Shah II along with his favorite Queen, Begum Zinnat Mahal and her son, were made captives in the place of the fort.

• On September 2nd, three young sons of Bahadur Shah II shot dead publicly.

• Emperor Bahadur Shah II was tried by a court martial, found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life. He was exiled to Rangoon with his Queen Zinnat Mahal, and died after 4 years, on November 7th, 1862.

• In Awadh, Begam Hazrat Mahal and Maulvi Ahmadullah gave stiff resistance to the British.

• After the fall of Lucknow in March 1857, Begam Hazrat Mahal escaped to Nepal and Maulvi Ahmadullah was killed in an encounter (June 1857).

• On May 30th, 1858, Rani lakshmibai of Jhansi assisted by Tantia Tope and attacked Gwalior.

• Rani Lakshmibai’s objective in capturing Gwalior was to cut off the direct communication of the British in North India with Bombay.

• The British prepared a comprehensive plan to retake Gwalior with Sir Hugh Rose, commander of the British army himself taking the command of the British troops at Gwalior.

• Rani of Jhansi fell on the battlefield on June 17th, 1857.

• Tantia Tope escaped into the jungles of central India where he carried on a bitter guerrilla war fare until April 1859, when he was betrayed by a zamindar friend and captured while asleep.

• Tantia Tope was tried and sentenced to death on April 15th, 1859

Leaders of the revolt:

Emperor Bahadur Shah II

• He was the last Mughal emperor.

• He was a poet of considerable merit in both Hindi and Urdu.

• He wrote under the pen-name ‘Zafar’.

• His greatest remorse before death was:
“How unfortunate is Zafar that he could not secure even two yards of land for his burial in his motherland”.

Nana Saheb

• Actual name – Dhondu Pant.

• He was the adopted son of the last Peshwa Baji Rao II.

• He was the leader of the revolt in Kanpur and was actively supported by Tantia Tope.

• He escaped to Nepal.

“There will be war between me and you as long as I have life, whether I be killed or imprisoned or hanged. And whatever I do will be with the sword only”.

Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi

• She was the widow of Raja Ganghadhar Rao, the last Maratha king of Jhansi.

• When he died without heir, Dalhousie, in contravention of the treaty of 1817, annexed the principality of Jhansi.

• Sir Hugh Rose, who led the British forces against her, described her as “the best and bravest military leader of the rebels”.

Begam Hazrat Mahal

• The wife of Nawab Wazid Ali Shah of Awadh.

• She ruled on behalf of her 11-year-old son Birjis Qadar.

• She refused to accept the pension offered to her by the British and choose to die unmourned in Nepal.

Kunwar Singh

• A leading Rajput zamindar of Arrah district in Bihar, with his home at village Jagdishpur, he was 80 years old when he raised the banner of revolt against the British.

• He regarded as the ‘Lion of Bihar’ during the revolt.

• He died on April 26, 1858.

• After his death, his brother Amar Singh continued the fight against the English till December 1859.

Maulvi Ahmadullah

• A native of Arcot (Tamilnadu), he had settled downland at Fyzabad.

• After the fall of Lucknow, he escaped to Ruhelkhand.

• The Governor General offered a reward of Rs.50,000 to anyone who could captured him.

• On June 5, 1858, he was shot dead at Powain, on the Awadh-Ruhelkhand border.

Prince Firoz Shah

• He belonged to the Mughal royal family.

• He raised the banner of revolt at Mandasor (M.P)

• He escaped into the jungles of Sironj.

Khan Bhadhur Khan

• He was the grandson of the Ruhela leader Hafiz Rahamat Khan.

• He raised the banner of rebellion with epicenter at Bareilly (U.P).

• He was 70 years old at that time.

Tantia Tope

• Actual name: Ramchandra Panduranga.

• He was well-versed in the original Maratha guerrilla tactics.

• He put the noose (hanging rope) round his neck with his own hands and with unfaltering steps ascended the gallows (a wooden frame for hanging criminals) on April 18, 1859.

Why Revolt Failed?

• The revolt remained confined to a small part of North India, primarily Ruhelkhand, Awadh, Delhi and parts of Central India and Bihar.

• The whole of Rajputana, Punjab, Eastern India including Bengal, and the entire South India remained totally unaffected.

• The Sikhs, Marathas, Rajputs and the ruling chiefs of Eastern India didn’t take any part in the revolt.

Aftermath of the Revolt

• The revolt of 1857 brought about fundamental changes in the character of the British administration. Some of these were:

• The Queen’s Proclamation: the proclamation was read out by Lord Canning at a Durbar held on November 1, 1858 at Allahabad.

• The Proclamation announced the end of the rule of the East India Company and assumption of the Government of India directly by the crown.

• Under the proclamation, Lord Canning became the First Viceroy and Governor-General.

• End of the era of the further expansion of the British Empire in India.

• The Act for the Better Government of India, 1858 was passed, which terminated the process commenced by the Pitts India Act, 1784.

• The Act of 1858 ended the dualism in the control of Indian affairs and made the Crown directly responsible for the management of the Indian affairs.

The Indian Councils Act of 1861
The Indian High Court Act of 1861
The Indian Civil Service Act of 1861
• Changes in Indian administration by passing the following acts:

• Perusing a conscious policy of “divide and rule”, regiments were created on the basis of caste, community and regions to prevent the emergence of nationalist feelings among soldiers.

• The Revolt ended the era of territorial expansion, and ushered in the era of economic exploitation.

• A severe famine broke out in Agra in 1861. Kanpur and Lucknow were gutted and Delhi was virtually depopulated.

• The public debt of India increased by about 98 million sterling, adding thereby to the annual interest charges by 2 million sterling.

Select opinions on the revolt of 1857

“The crisis came: at first as a mere military mutiny, it speedily changed its character and became a national insurrection”

G.B. Malleson

“On the whole, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the so-called First National War of Independence is neither First, nor National, nor a War of Independence”

R.C. Mazumdar

“On the whole, the rising of 1857 was an attempt – the last attempt of the medieval order – to halt the process of dissolution and recover its lost status”

Tara Chand

1. Politico-Religious Movements

Faqir Uprising (Bengal, 1776 -77)

• In Bengal there were a group of wandering Muslim religious mendicants known as Faqirs.

• Shortly after the annexation of Bengal, in 1776-77 Majnum Shah, the leader of these Faqirs, began to levy contributions on the zamindars and peasants defying the British authority.

• After Majnum Shah’s death, Chirag Ali Shah extended the operations to the northern districts of Bengal.

• The famous Hindu leaders who supported him were Bhawani Pathak and a woman Devi Chaudhurani.

Sanyasi Uprising (Bengal, 1770-1820s)

• Sanyasis rose in rebellion after the great famine of 1770 in Bengal.

• The immediate cause of the rebellion was the restrictions imposed upon pilgrims visiting holy places.

Pagal Panthis (North-East, 1813-33)

• There was a religious sect in the North-East known as Pagal Panthis, which preached the doctrines of truthfulness, equality and fraternity.

• In 1813 Tipu, the leader of the Pagal Panthis.

• Tipu became so powerful that he began to exercise independent authority and appointed a judge, a magistrate and a collector to carry on administration.

Wahabi Movement (North-West, Eastern India, Central India; 1820-1870)

• Wahabism was at first a religious reform movement of Islam and attacked the “religious corruptions” which had crept into Muslim society.

• Saiyid Ahmad of Rae Bareili (1786 – 1831) was the founder of the movement, which was named after Abdul Wahab of Nazd (1703-87), the founder of the Wahabi sect.

• Saiyid Ahmad’s ambition was to revive and restore Muslim power in India by over-throwing the Sikhs in the Punjab and the British in Bengal.

• Saiyid Ahmad captured Peshawar for a short while (1830) and struck coins in his own name; but in the ensuring year (1831) he was killed in the Battle of Balakot.

• After Saiyid Ahmad’s abrupt death in 1831, Patna became the centre of the movement. The movement was then led by Maulvi Qasim, Vilayet Ali, Inayet Ali, Ahmauulla.

• Saiyid Ahmad had appointed four khalifas or spiritual vice-regents.

Kuka Revolt (Punjab, 1860-70)

• The Kuka movement was probably founded in the Western Punjab by Bhagat Jawahar Mal, popularly known as Sian Saheb, in about 1840. Its aim was to purify the Sikh religion.

• Sian Saheb and his disciple, Balak Singh, gathered around them a band of followers and fixed their head quarters at Hazro in NWFP.

• In 1872 Ram Singh, one of its leaders, was deported to Rangoon where he died in 1885.

Movement by Dependants of Deposed Rulers

Ramosi Uprising (1822, 1825-26)

• The Ramosis, who served in the lower ranks of Maratha army and police, revolted in Satara in 1822 under the leadership of Chittur Singh in protest against heavy assessment of land revenue and very harsh methods of its collection.

• In 1825-26, they again rose in rebellion under the banner of Umaji on account of acute famine and scarcity in Pune.

• The British Government pacified not only by condoning their crimes but by offering them land grants and recruiting them in the Hill Police.

Gadkari Uprising (1844)

• The Gadkaris, who were hereditary servants of the Marathas attached to their forts, rose in rebellion in Kolhapur in 1844.

Sawantwadi Revolt (1844)

• The revolt in Sawantwadi was led by Phond Sawant with the help of Anna Saheb.

Movements by Deposed Rulers

Velu Thampi (Travancore, 1808-09)

• Dewan of Tranvancore (Kerala) rose in rebellion against the British attempts to remove him from the Dewanship and the heavy burden imposed on the state through the Subsidiary Alliance System.

Kittur Chennamma (Kittur, 1824 – 29)

• Chennamma, the widow of deceased chief, assisted by Rayappa, rose a rebellion.

• The Kittur rebels killed the Collector of Dharwar and declared independence of Kittur.

Visakhapatnam Revolts (1827 – 30)

• At Phalkonda, marshal law had to be declared in 1832.

Rebillion in Ganjam (1835)

• Dhananjaya Bhanja, the zamindar of Gumsur in Ganjam district, raised a serious rebellion.

Dhondji Wagh (Mysore, 1840 - 41)

• After the defeat and death of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, Dhondji Wagh organized a rebellion.

• Arthur Wellesley himself had to take to the field to suppress this rebellion.

• In the war, Dhondji died fighting bravely against heavy odds.

Dhar Rao’s “Bunds” (Satara, 1840 – 41)

• There was a great deal of disturbance against the deposition and banishment of Raja Pratap Singh of Satara.

• This discontent surfaced in the form of Dhar Rao’s Bunds (rebellion).

Bundela Rebellion (1842)

• The Bundela landlords in Sagar (M.P) broke into rebellion.

Poligar Rebellion (Kurnool, 1846-47)

• Narsimha Reddi, the dispossessed poligar of Kurnool, broke into a rebellion on the Government’s refusal to pay his lapsed pension.

Paik Rebellion (Orissa, 1904-06)

• The Raja of Khurda in Orissa organized a rebellion with the help of his Paiks (a warrior class enjoying rent free lands).

• During the later phase of this rebellion led by Jagabandhu, the Paiks, after defeating the British forces, occupied Puri in 1817.

Miscellaneous Movements

Sepoy Mutinies

Year Mutiny at
1906 Indian soldiers at vellore
1824 The 47th Native Infantry
1825 Assam
1838 Sholapur
1844 Sind
1849 – 50 The Punjab

• In 1844, the 34th Regiment was disbanded after it refused to march into Sind and defied the officers.

• The 66th Regiment posted at Govindgarh mutinied and was suppressed ruthlessly by Charles Napier.

White Mutiny (1858)

• The European soldiers of the British army mutinied at some cantonments like Meerut and Allahabad.

• They were opposed to the transfer of their services from the Company to Crown and wanted discharge from service or additional salary.

• Unable to contain their discontent, Canning thought it advisable to grant a discharge from service to those who desired.

• 10,000 European soldiers opted out of service.

Voilent Mass Agitations (1844, 1848,1860)

• The agitation against the doubling of salt duty from 8 annas to one rupee in 1844.

• Surat witness two major agitations –
1. in 1848, when the government decided to introduce standard weights and measures of Bengal
2. in 1860, over the Income Tax Act.

III. Tribal Movements

• According to the 1991 census, scheduled tribes formed 7.85% of the total population of India.

• They have been divided by anthropologists into 2 categories:
1. The non-frontier tribes, which constitute 89% of the total tribal population.
2. Frontier tribes, of the seven North-eastern frontier states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

• There were about 70 listed tribal revolts from 1778–1947.

• The indigenous names for these tribal movements were meli, holl, and ulgulan.

Pahariyas Uprisings

• Phariyas, a martial tribe occupying the Raj Mahal Hills, waged a long and bloody struggle from 1778 under their sardars to resist encroachment on their territory.

• The British were compelled to make peace with them and declare it damni-kol area.

Khond Uprisings

• Their uprisings from 1837–1856 were directed against the British, in which the tribals of Ghumsar, China-ki-Medi, Kalahandi and Patna actively participated.

• The movement was led by Chakra Bisoi in the name of the Young Raja.

• The main issue was the attempt by the government to suppress human sacrifice (mariah).

• British formed a Mariah agency, against which the Khonds fought with tangi –a kind of battle axe.

• Later Savaras and some local militia clans also joined in, led by Radhakrishna Dandasena.

Kol and Ho Uprisings

• The Mundas of Chhotanagpur broke out in revolt in 1831, the Hos joining them.

• The rebellion soon spread over a considerable area, including Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamau and Manbhum.

• The wrath of the rebels was specially vented upon the foreign settlers, about a thousand of whom were slaughtered in their homes.

Santhal Rebillion (1855–56)

• The rebellion, covering the districts of Birbhum, Singbhum, Bankura, Hazaribagh, Bhagalpur and Monghyr in Orissa and Bihar, was precipitated mainly by economic causes.

• Under the leadership of two Santhal brothers, Siddhu and Khanhu.

• The rebels cut off the postal and railway communications between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal, proclaimed the end to the Company’s rule and commencement of the Santhal regime.

• They attacked the houses of money-lenders, zamindars, white planters, railway engineers and British officials.

Other Tribal Rebellions

• Tamar revolt in Chhotanagapur (1795)
• Koli disturbances in Maharashtra (1784–85)
• Chauri movement in Bihar (1798)
• Panchet estate revolt (1809-28)
• Bhil revolt in Gujarat
• Munda uprisings (1820, 1832 and 1837)
• Kherwar uprising under Bhagirath in Bihar
• Bhumij uprising and Gond uprising in Bastar (1842)
• Bhil revolts under Kunwar and Jivo Vasuo revolt in Gujarat (1850 and 1857-58)

• The Khol insurrection was followed by the Bengal Regulation XIII of 1833 by which the entire Chhotanagpur area was declared exempted from the administration of general laws.

• After the Khond uprising a Government Proclamation introduced reforms and a new system of land revenue and taxes.

• The Santhal rebellion led to Regulation XXXVIII of 1855.

Ksharwar Uprising

• The crushing of the Santhal rebellion (1855–56) was followed by the Ksharwar uprising of the 1870s, which preached monotheism and internal reform at first but had began to turn into a campaign against revenue settlement operations just before it was suppressed.

Khonda Dora Uprising

• Many charismatic leaders rebellious prophets claiming magical powers.

• The Khonda Doras of Dabur in Visakhapatnam Agency in 1900 followed Korra Mallaya who claimed to be an avatar of the Pandavas, and promised that he would by magic turn the tribals’ bamboos into guns, and the government’s weapons into water.

Naikada Movement

• The Naikada forest tribes in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

• They attacked police stations in 1868 in a bid to establish a dharma raj under their charismatic leader.

Bhil Uprising

• In Southern Rajasthan, the Bhils of Banswara, Sunth and Dungarpur States were stirred to action by a reform movement under Govind Guru, who was a bali or bonded labourer.

Bhuyan and Juang Uprisings

• In Keonjhar (Orissa) in 1867–68 and again in 1891-93.

• The first was led by Ratna Nayak.

• The main participants were Bhuyans, who were latter joined by Kals and Juangs.

• The main cause was the hurt pride of Bhuyans who held important positions in the administration of Keonjhar.

• The second uprising of 1891-93 was against the feudal and oppressive regime of the king who had been installed by the British.

• Leader: Dharni Dhar Nayak.

• It completely paralyzed the state administration and the raja was forced to seek refugee in Cuttack.

Bastar Uprising

• Partly provoked by a succession dispute, the main cause was the recent imposition of forest regulations and feudal levies.

Koya Rebellion

• In 1879–80 in the Eastern Godavari tract of present–day Andhra Pradesh and also affected some portions of Malkangiri district in Orissa.

• Its heart lay in the ‘Rampa Country’ of Chodavaram.

• The 1879–80 rebellion was led Tomma Sora.

• Tomma Sora was hailed as the king of Malkangiri.

• Sora was shot dead by the police.

• In 1886 another uprising took place here. The rebels, led by Raja Anantayyar, formed themselves into a Ram Sandu (Ram’s Army) and appealed to the Maharaja of Jeypore to help them in throwing out the British.

Munda Uprising

• The Ulgulan of Birsa Munda in the region south of Ranchi in 1899–1900 is the best known tribal rebellion of this period.

• The transformation of the Mundari agrarian system into non-communal, feudal, zamindari or individual tenures was the key to the agrarian disorders that climaxed in the religious-political movements of Birsa.

• Birsa Munda was the son of a share-cropper who had received some education from the missionaries and then come under Vaishnava influence.

• His initial popularity was based on medicinal and healing powers, by which Birsa claimed to make his followers invulnerable.

Khond Uprising

• News of the First World War in the Orissa feudatory state of Saspalla in October 1914 gave an ongoing Khond rebellion the hope that there would be no sahibs left in the country and the Khonds would have an autonomous government.

• British efforts to recruit tribal labour for menial work on the western front led to a Santhal uprising in Mayurbhanj.

Tana Bhagat Movements

• After the First World War there were a number of bhagat (religious mendicant or prophet) movements amongst the Mundas and Oraons of Chhotanagpur.

• These movements, led by the tribal bhagats, were a kind of Sanskritisation movements.

• The Oraons called these movements Kurukh dharman or the real and original religion of the Oraons.

• By the 1920s the Congress had established strong ties with the Tana Bhagat’s and preached them the lessons of nationalism.

• There were a number of these Bhagat movements like that of Jara Bhagat, Balaram Bhagat, Gau Rakshini Bhagats and even a woman bhagat named Devamenia.

• While these movements combine some form of sanskritisation, like asking followers to give up meat and drink, from the later part of 1915 these began to converge into a large powerful messianic movement which went under the name of ‘Tana Bhagat Movement’.

• Sometimes this Messiah was identified with Birsa Munda, or with the German Kaiser – (German) Baba – who would expel all foreigners from their land.

• They even inspired the Mos, a neighboring Munda tribe, to begin a similar bhagat movement in the 1930s under Hari Babu.

Chenchu Tibals Movement

• The Chenchu tribals of Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh launched a powerful forest satyagraha during the Non-Cooperation movement.

• The links were provided by leaders Venkattappaya and even Gandhi visited Cuddapah in September 1927.

• Similarly the Bhil movement under Motilal Tejawat got a more millenarian flavour in 1921-22, though the congress itself refuted any links with it.

• In Bengal at Jalpaiguri in February 1922, the police were attacked by Santhals wearing Gandhi caps, which they claimed made them immune to bullets.

Rampa Rebellion

• From the ‘Rampa’ region North of Godavari.

• Their grievances were against money-lenders and forest laws.

• An unpopular tahsildar, Bastian of Gudem, provided the immediate spark by trying to construct forest roads with unpaid labour.

• The movement was led by an outsider, Alluri Sitarama Raju, claiming astrological and healing powers, who has become a folk hero in Andhra Pradesh.

• Sitarama Raju was captured and killed in May 1924 after immense effort, which finally ended the massive rebellion which cost the Madras Government 15 lakh rupees.

Forest Satyagrahas

• In Hazaribagh, Bonga Majhi and Somra Majhi led a movement that combined socio-religious reform along sanskritisation lines with Congress sympathies.

• Santhals everywhere were said to have taken to liquor brewing, claiming Gandhiji as their leader.

• The Kharwars of Palamau, Bihar, participated in forest satyagrahas in the 1930s.

• The tribals of Garhwal region launched a movement against forest contractors in the 1930s.

• There were some isolated, localized movements, like those of the Andamanese tribals from 1925 and Telengana movement.

• In the 1940s the Ghonds, led by their ex-ruler, made an effort to moblise people professing Ghond-dharma though the unrest was related to land-based issues. Later was transformed into a demand for a separate Ghondland for Chhattisgarh tribes.

• In the 1940s and early 1950s a woman social reformer arose among them, Raj Mohini Devi by name, who preached against drinking and other social evils.

Jharkhand Movement

• The movement for a separate Jharkhand State comprising 16 districts in Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh is over 6 decades old.

• It originated in the 1920s with the formation of Chhotanagpur Unnati Samithi with a view to drawing government attention to tribal problems.

• Its political base widened with the formation of the Adivasi Mahasabha after the first elections of 1937.

Movements of Frontier Tribes

• In contrast to Central India, there was hardly any agrarian and forest-based movement as the tribals remained in possession of land and surrounding forests except in Tripura.

Khasi Uprisng

• As a result of the Burmese war the British got the possession of the Brahmaputra valley and conceived the idea of linking up this territory with Sylhet by a road passing through the entire length of the Khasi domain.

• Conscriptions of labourers for road construction led the Khasis to revolt under the leadership of Tirut Singh, a Khasi chief. The Garos joined them.

Singphos Rebellion

• While the British were engaged in a harassing warfare with the Khasis, the Singphos broke into open rebellion in early 1830.

Minor tribal movements

• In 1835 the saflas raided British plains subjects and the British took to reprisals to avenge this.

• In 1836 the Mishimis killed a botanist, Griffith, suspecting his intentions.

• Between 1839 and 1842 there was a Khampti uprising in Assam when they attacked and killed British Agent Adam White and 80 other officers and soldiers.

• In 1842 the Lushais raided British territory of Arakan, Sylhet and defeated the British forces.

• In 1843 the Singpho chief Nirang Phidu attacked the British garrison and killed several soldiers.

• In 1844 the Lushais attacked Manipuri villages. Reprisals by the British followed. The Lushai leader Sukla was arrested and transported for life.

• In 1849 Khasma Singpo attacked British villages in Assam and was captured in 1855.

• There was a punitive mission led by Eden against the Mishimis to avenge the killing of two missionaries.

• In 1860 the Lushai chief raided British Tripura and killed 186 British subjects.

• Between 1860 and 1862 there was a revolt of Syntengs of Jaintia Hills.

• In 1861 the Phulaguri uprising of tribal peasants took place.

• In 1872–73 the Saflas had to be quelled by a British military expedition.

• In 1882 the Kacha Nagas of Cachhar attacked the whites under a miracle worker named Sambhuden who claimed that his magic had made his followers immune to bullets.

• In Manipur there was a Nupital or a “woman’s war” in 1904 against the order issued by the Political Agent to rebuilt the Assistant Political Agent’s bungalow by forced labour.

Kuki revolt

• The Kukis had migrated to Manipur in the 18th century.

• The British policy of recruitment for coolie labour during World War – I seriously affected the stability of labour–short Kuki economy in general and their agriculture particularly.

• Guerrilla war under their chiefs went on for two years, fuelled also by other grievances like pothang (tribals being made to carry baggages of official without payment) and government efforts to stop shifting cultivation of jhum.

Tribal uprisings in tripura

• In Tripura, the only region to witness large-scale and agrarian and forest-based movements.

• Here the demographic profile of tribals changed from 64% in 1874 to 36% in 1911 because the Raja of Tripura invited Bengalis to settle in Tripura for economic reasons.

• Parikshit Jamatia led a movement against arbitrary rate of house tax in 1863.

• There was an armed rebellion in 1942–1943 in the southern sub-division of Tripura where Reangs rose under the leadership of Ratnamani, who declared himself king and proclaimed independence.

• Revolutionary activities were started in Tripura by the Bharti Sangh in the mid-1920s.
• A Ganga Parishad was formed in 1937 on the lines of the States People’s Conferences in other Princely States.

Zeliangsong Movement

• The only other important tribal movement of the frontier to have made some link with the national movement was the Zeliangsong movement among the Nagas of Manipur belonging to Zemi, Liangmei, and Rongmei tribes.

Rani Gaidinliu’s Naga Movement

• Jadonang (1905–31), a young Rongmei leader, came to the fore to bring about social unity and to revitalize the age-old religion by abolishing irrational customs.

• His aim was the establishment of a Naga Raj.

• Jadonang was captured and hanged on August 29, 1931.

• After the execution the movement was carried on by 17-year-old Gaidinliu till it was suppressed in 1932.

• She integrated the tribal movement with the Civil Disobedience movement and preached disobedience to oppressive laws and non-payment of house tax.

• The movement used Gandhi’s name and the Indian National Army called Gaidinliu ‘Rani’. This link however, remained weak and the Congress could not enter the hills, except the municipal jurisdiction of Shillong, before independence.

• Jadonang’s religious ideas crystallized in the Heraka cult led by Gaidinliu.

• After the movement was finally suppressed, it was converted into a peaceful movement with the establishment of tribal organizations like Kabui Samiti (1934), Kabui Naga Association (1946), Zaliangong Council (1947) and Manipur Zeliangong Union.

De-Sanskritisation Movement

• In Manipur, a ‘De-Sankritisation’ movement was begun among the Meiteis, some of whom rebelled against the corrupt malpractises of the neo-Vaishnavite Brahmins during the rule of the Churchand Maharaj (1891-1941).
• They felt that a combination of Brahmins, the Maharaja and the British were spoiling their society, and wanted to return to the nativistic Sanmali cult.

• In 1939 they led a movement and in 1946 the state Congress was formed by Raj Kumar Bhubansena.

• Hajin Irbot formed the Krishak Sena and later the Communist Party.

Tribal Movements (1935–47)

• The importance of the Government of India Act, 1935 in this process was twofold.

• First under the Act, the administrative pattern of the region was bifurcated from April 1937.

• The Mizo Hills, Naga Hills, North Cachar hills and North East Frontier tracts were called “excluded areas” – that is, excluded from ministerial jurisdiction; and the Garo Hills, the British Portion of Khasi Jaintia Hills and Mikir Hills were termed “partially excluded” areas.

• The excluded areas were guarded by “inner line” which prevented the entry of outsiders without permit.

• There was, besides, a “twilight zone” of British power, i.e., two princely states (Manipur and Tripura) with which the relations were maintained through the agency of the Government of Assam, and an “unadministered Naga tribal area”.

• The 1935 Act marked a major beginning in the growth of tribal alliances. In this period the major tribes of the hills and the plains such as the Nagas, Khasis, Bodos, Miris, Kacheris, and Seweris pressed their demands through various organizations such as the Naga club, Seng Khasi club (founded in 1911, for association of Angamas, Senas, Rengamas), Khasi Darbar, Tribal League and Ahom League.

• Many leaders of these groups, such as Rup Nath Brahma, Karo Chandra Boley and Jadav Chandra Khaklari were members of the Legislative Assembly.

• In the shadow of new hopes and fears, the Naga Hill District Tribal Council was organized by Charles Pawsy, Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills district, in 1945.

• In April 1946 at Wokha this organization was renamed the Naga Nationalist Council and the idea of ethnocentric nationalism emerged.

• During the first half of 1946 two other prominent organizations were formed.
1. The Garo National Council (Feb. 1946)
2. The Mizo Union.

• At the time of independence there were two major political trends among the frontier tribes.

• The first was in favour of asserting more tribal autonomy within the Indian Union. This was visible in the politics of the Mizo Union, Garo National Council, East Indian Tribal Union and All Party Hill Leaders Conference.

• The second trend was towards complete independence for tribal areas. Its protagonists were the Naga Nationalist Council, the United Mizo Freedom Organization and the Mizo National Front.


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