Among the various tribal revolts, the Santhal revolt or uprising was the most massive. Santhal insurrection which took place in India dates back to of 1855-56. The Santhal, who live in the areas between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal, Known as Daman-i-koh, rose in revolt. They are mainly agriculturalists and used to farm by two process- ‘’ Jhoom and Phadu’’
The beginning of British rule disturbed their life. British Government enacted such as system for the ownership of land as per their wishes which later gave birth to the tradition of zamindari. British gave the status of zamindar to tribal chief and used them for their self interest. A new system of ‘Lagaan’ or tax was introduced. The tax was so heavy that there was three times increase in tax collection which was beyond the capacity of Santhali.
People from north India was appointed to collect new form of taxes. Outsiders was encouraged to trade with them. Thus there was increase in outsiders (Deekus). The new system gave opportunities for Mahajans to exploit the tribals and gradually mahajans became dominant. Mahajans used to miscalculate the accounts and increased the interest rate.
The Zamindars, moneylenders, group of Europeans and government officers increased the land tax and oppressed the common peasantry. The Santhals were oppressed to an extent that they rise against the Zamindars, moneylenders and traders.
The Europeans were employed in Bihar for railroad construction from Bhagalpur to Vardhma like forcing the Santhals into ‘Begari Pratha’. The Zamindars, the police, the revenue officers and court exercised a combind action of extortions. The Santhals were to pay all kinds of taxes and levies. They were dispossessed of their property and were abused.
Santhalis had their own social system and have several hierarchies in it. Their social composition was very friendly. They had cooperative roles in the economic system of their society. Santhalis also had their political form. Their representative ruled on them through ‘ Purha Panchayat’. Thus the society of the tribals are all sufficient in all forms. The imperialist rule weakened their conditions by badly affecting these all system.
The Santhal Peasants subdued to such an extent that there was no alternative left for them rather than to tick to insurrection(revolt). The leading Santhals began to rob the Mahajans (moneylenders) and the Zamindars of their ill-earned wealth. The Santhals took to guerilla fighting, making their own armies, composed of rebellious peasants marching against their oppressors. Sindhu, Kanhu, Chand and Bhairav were the prominent leaders of this movement.
Almost 60000 Santhalis participated in the revolt. Ten crops of the army under Major General Wooro to curb the rebellion but were defeated badly by the Santhalis. Later Captain Alexander and Lt Thomson led the corps of the army. Marshall law was imposed in the affected villages and the reward was announced against the tribal leaders. Arund 15000 Santhalis were died. Villages were ruined on Aug 1855, Siddhu was caught and shot dead. Kanhu was caught in 1856. After the intensity of rebellion gradually became weaker.
Results (Outcome) of the Santhal Revolt:
- The government declared the Santhal concentration area as the Santhal Pargana, it was due to Santhal insurrection that the British government recognized the tribal status of the Santhals. Now they come under the uniform administration.
- Gram Pardhan was recognized and village officials were given the powers of police.
Although the Santhal Revolt/impact were limited in terms of area, the legend of the Santhal Revolt was a turning point in Santhal pride. This was re-affirmed, over a century and a half later with the creation of the first tribal province in Independent India.
More from us