Tribal Movements of Jharkhand (Prelims Special), Download PDF Here

By Mayank Yadav|Updated : July 20th, 2021

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TRIBAL MOVEMENTS OF JHARKHAND

In 1765, the British were given the Diwani right of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam - II. Jharkhand then was a part of Bihar. Hence, the British got control over it too. The rulers and tribal people were not happy with the exploitative law, order and policies of the British.

Dhal Revolt (1767-1770 AD)

This was the first tribal revolt in Jharkhand which was led by the deposed King of Dhalbhum, Jagannath Dhal.  The main cause of this revolt was the advent of the British East India Company in the Singhbhum and Manbhum area that made people of the region discontented. This revolt continued for 10 years.  Lt Rook and Charles Morgan were sent to suppress the revolt but they failed. As a result, in 1777, the British again declared Jagannath Dhal as the ruler of Dhalbhum.

Ramgarh Revolt (1772-1778 AD)

This revolt was started under the leadership of Raja Mukund Singh.  On 25th October, 1772, Ramgarh was attacked by Captain Jacob Camac from Chota Nagpur from one side and Tej Singh from the other side. Due to this, Mukund Singh fled from Ramgarh. The supporter of Mukund Singh, Raghunath Singh, started revolted and captured four Parganas and Jagirdars from Parasnath Singh. Captain Ackerman was called to suppress this revolt.  Increasing revenue demand and control of the company forced Parasnath Singh to support the rebel king of Benaras Raja Chet Singh.  By the end of 1781 entire Ramgarh was in a rebellious mood.  By 1782, the British Government relieved the king of Ramgarh from the responsibility of revenue collection and made direct Revenue settlement with Jagirdars. Thus, the king of Ramgarh remained only a titular king.

Paharia Revolt (1776-1824 AD)  

Paharia tribe was settled in Rajmahal, Godda and Pakur regions. Their revolt against the British is considered as the first major revolt in the history of tribal revolts against the British.  This tribe revolted many times against the British in 1766, 1772 and 1781-82.  In 1766, they revolted under the leadership of Ramna Aahdi.  In the revolt of 1772, many leaders, including Changrun Sanwariya, Pachge Domba Paharia and Kariya Pulhar died.  In 1781-82, queen Sarveshwari, the wife of king Maheshpur, revolted against the British, Paharia chiefs helped the queen. The British settled Santhals in a large number in this region between 1790 and 1810. The Paharias became minority, but their movement continued.  In 1827, British declared the land of Paharias as Damin-e-Koh and declared it as government property to suppress the revolt.

Tilka Manjhi Revolt (1783-1785 AD)  

The objective of this revolt was to chase out the British from the region and to defend tribals’ autonomy.  Tilka conveyed the message of revolt through sal leaves by circulating them in the villages. Tilka Manjhi attacked Augustus Cleveland, who died later. He is regarded as the first martyr of the Indian independence struggle.

Tamar Revolt (1782-1820 AD)

It was started in 1782 in Chota Nagpur by the Oraon tribe. The leader of this revolt was Thakur Bholanath Singh.  In 1807, 1811, 1817 and 1820, Munda and Oraon tribals rose in revolt against zamindars and non-tribals.

The Ho Uprising (1821-1837 AD) 

After the third Anglo-Maratha War (1818), the East India Company made an agreement with the ruler of Singhbhum, Jagannath Singh.  The Singhbhum ruler not only declared supremacy over the chiefs of Kharwar and Seraikela but also made an effort to control the Ho tribe with the help of the company.  On 31st January, 1821, Hos attacked the Subedar and his party. But the Britishers overpowered the Hos and they accepted their subordination to the British.

Kol Uprising (1831-1832 AD) 

It was the first well organised and extensive tribal revolt of Jharkhand, which was against the oppressive administrative policy of zamindars, contractors, moneylenders, non-tribal merchants and king’s agents.  The main tribes involved in this revolt were Munda, Ho, Oraon, Kharwar and Chero.  The main leaders of this movement were Buddhu Bhagat (Oraon tribe), Bindrai Manki, Soe Bahadur, Desai Munda, Surga Munda, Kartik Sardar but this revolt was suppressed by Captain Wilkinson in 1832. In order to collect arbitrary taxes from these people, who depended on agriculture and hunting, they were tortured in various ways and in their inability to pay taxes, their land was given to ‘dikus’ (outsiders).  The Munda tribe convened a gathering of tribals in Bandgaon. About seven Kol tribals came to this meeting and from there, this fierce rebellion started. Diku, the British and their loyal zamindars, came in its grip. The rebels burned villages one by one.  As a result of this revolt, Wilkinson law was implemented in 1834 AD and a new province called South-East Frontier Agency was formed.  The company investigated the reasons for the rebellion and radical changes were made in the governance system of Jharkhand.  The company enacted a new law called ‘Regulation-XIII’, under which Ramgarh district was divided.  A new administrative region was formed, with the Jungle Mahal and the Tributary Mahal, a non-regulation province. 

Santhal Revolt (1855-1856 AD) 

The Santhals, started settling in the Santhal-Pargana region, known as Damin-e-Koh, from 1790 AD.  Peasant oppression was a prominent cause of the rebellion. The Santhal tribes also depended on agriculture and forests, but the zamindari system started evicting them from their land.  The British-backed zamindars were completely exploiting the zamindars and at the same time, the company had increased agricultural taxes so much that the Santhals were unable to pay it. This led to the practice of bonded labour in institutions. The bonded labour was also called ‘Kamiya’ or ‘Kamyoti’.  Two young men named Sidhu-Kanhu came to protest against such gross harassment of Santhals. In 1855, thousands of Santhals held a meeting under the leadership of Sidhu, Kanhu, Chand and Bhairava, the four sons of Chunnu Manjhi of Bhognadih, in which they took an oath to fight a fierce battle against their oppressors. Declarations were made of disobedience to the Government, to establish their own Government in Damin region and not to pay rent.  Two days after the warning, the Santhals selectively started killing their exploiters. It was an open-armed rebellion, which spread from Kahalgaon to Rajmahal. This rebellion also spread to Birbhum, Bankura and Hazaribagh in 1856.  Sidhu and Kanhu were caught. They were hanged in Barhet.  This rebellion nevertheless had some success, as the Santhals either killed or drove away most of the British and their supporters from their region. The father of this rebellion, Sidhu-Kanhu became revered to the people of Jharkhand and are still remembered as the Jannayak of Jharkhand.  As a result of this Santhal Rebellion, on 30 November 1856 AD, the Santhal Pargana District was duly established and Ashlee Eden was made the first Collector.  Every year in the state in memory of this rebellion ‘Viplava Day’ is celebrated on 30 June.  Santhal Revolt is also known as Santhal Hul or Hul Revolt.

The Birsa Munda Movement (1895-1900 AD)  

This movement was considered to be the most organised and widespread in Jharkhand. Birsa Munda, was recognised as an incarnation of God.  Like other tribes, the Munda tribes were also dependent on agriculture and forests to preserve their traditions and beliefs. One of the main reasons for the rebellion was the influence of other culture on their culture. In time, the young man named Birsa Munda came forward by undertaking the upliftment of the Munda tribe. Birsa Munda had a spark in his speech and also had the ability to hurt the system at that time. He would hold meetings and ask people to stay away from the evils, talk about giving place to dependency in life and also to know about their organisational power.  By 1895, Birsa Munda was able to organise about six thousand Mundas into groups. It was the largest tribal gathering ever.  Its main objectives were as follows:

  1. Completely suppress the British Government
  2. To drive away the ‘Dikus’ from all other areas, including Chota Nagpur
  3. Establish independent Munda State

He exhorted all the Mundas to jump into this crusade with courage and planned and attacked the moneylenders, landlords, missionaries, the Dikus, etc. He was arrested by the Company Army in Ranchi, but a few days later, he was freed and he returned to his squad. This time Birsa Muda gave his plan a good shape and chose to attack on December 25, 1897, when it was Christmas day and the Christians were about to celebrate this day. In this attack, he resolved to kill more and more Christians.  On a certain day, the Munda rebels raged around and the Christians and the Mundas who had converted to Christianity were killed. This rebellion was mercilessly suppressed. Birsa Munda and his partner Gaya Munda were arrested and sent to jail. Birsa Munda died while in jail due to some incurable diseases and a lack of proper treatment. The British made new land rights rules and for the first time under the tenancy act, the Mundari Khuntkari system was implemented. Administrative facilities were made even better. An attempt was made to end the hatred of the Adivasis from the hearts of the administration.  Gumla subdivision was formed in 1908, while Khuti was made a subdivision in 1905.

Tana Bhagat Movement (1914) 

This movement originated along with the Birsa movement. This movement started in 1914. Tana Bhagat was not an individual, but a branch of the Oraon tribe, who had adopted the Kudukh religion. The main leaders of this movement were Jatra Bhagat and Sibu Bhagat. The condition of these people was extremely pathetic and they mostly carried out labour works. The young man named ‘Jatra Bhagat’ was recognised as the hero of this movement, who lived with supernatural beliefs. On the basis of Janushruti, this Jatra Bhagat was given a vision by an Oraon deity named ‘Dharmesh’ and gave him some instructions and ordered him to start this movement.  He refused to believe in the superstition of the people and gave the message of bringing sattvikta in the conduct. Jatra Bhagat brought agrarian issues to the fore and launched a no-rent campaign. He also ordered forced labour or low-wage labourers not to do such work. The Tana Bhagats fought along with the revolutionary Hindu Congress workers. They participated in Satyagraha Movement and also took part in the Non-Cooperation Movement. They were also active in the Civil Disobedience Movement.  This movement was a non-violent movement as they were the participants of the non-violent Indian National Movement. They worked with the Congress workers and raided liquor shops, destroyed roads, telegraph lines, attacked police stations and government offices. 

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Mayank YadavMayank YadavMember since Mar 2021
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