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Tribal Revolts in Colonial India

Updated on February 7, 2018

British in India consolidated their power and to achieve more paramountcy they have began to expand their colonial rule through acquiring more territories. In this regard they have come across many oppositions. Tribal revolts were one out of them as British have tried to achieve supremacy over the native tribal lands. However, British have overcome all the hurdles and established their paramountcy ultimately. The tribals were the earliest fighters for the independence and their revolts were all armed movements.

Causes of the Tribal Revolts

  1. Expansion of British Colonial Rule: Several plains were occupied by the English and to raise substantial revenue, they have started encroaching the rich mineral zones where tribals were inhabiting. Taxes were imposed over the tribals and in addition to that agricultural practices of tribals like shifting cultivation was banned. In 1831 – 32, Kols in India revolted against the British as they have imposed the ban on their traditional shifting cultivation.
  2. Penetration of the exploiters: The outsiders including the English East India Company penetrated into the lands of the tribals and began exploiting them. Land alienation was taking place. In consequence, Santals in India have started a rebellion in 1855 against the exploiters. They called the outsiders as `DIKUS`.
  3. British interference in the Socio-Religious affairs of the Tribals: In 1846, British made a Social legislation to prevent the human sacrifice. Human Sacrifice Abolition Act was passed, Konds in India whose society was prevalent for human sacrifice have revolted against the British in protest of the foregoing act.
  4. Evangelization of Tribals : the Christian missionaries actively spreading the Christian religion at this point of time. The missionaries tried introducing the Christian religion into the tribal`s society. This lead to the conflict and tribals revolted to save their traditional culture.

To end the exploitation of the British, to end the activities of the Christian missionaries and finally to put an end to the exploitation of the outsiders and to expel them, tribals have began the revolts.

Santhal Rebellion

Santhals were the agricultural people belong to Manbhum, Barabhum, Hazaribagh, Midnapur areas in India. The Permanent Settlement Act in 1793 lead to a disaster in their lives, as their lands were given to zamindars and high rents were demanded subsequently. They left their lands and settled in Rajmahal hills in India. However, still the exploitation against them was not having come to an end.

In 1855, Santhals held an assembly with 6000 of their people. Sidhu and Kanhu were the leaders of Santhals announced their intention to take possession of the country and setup a government of their own. Their slogan was 'Ending Kaliyug and establishing Satyayug.'

Infrastructure was targeted by them. Postal and railway communication between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal was cut off. The British mobilized troops and military operations was began in consequence. Out of 60000 Santhals mobilized, 15000 were killed including Sidhu. Konhu was arrested. Finally martial law was imposed in the areas where Sonthals were prevalent.

Munda Rebellion

Mundas inhabit in the Ranchi region of India. They were frustrated with the activities of Christian missionaries and lead a movement against the same. Their rebellion was called as `Ulgulan`, it was lead by Birsa Munda from 1899 – 1900. On 25 December they have started their revolt. They have started a new religion with Birsa as their priest and `Sing Bongpa` as their God. Ultimately the movement was suppressed and Birsa was arrested.


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