Talk to our mentors for a Roadmap to 2023 Attempt. Click Here
Important Rebellions and Peasant Movements
Causative Factors for People’s Uprisings
- Colonial land revenue settlements, heavy burden of new taxes, eviction of peasants from their lands, and encroachments on tribal lands.
- Exploitation in rural society and growth of intermediary revenue collectors, tenants and moneylenders.
- Expansion of revenue administration over tribal lands leading to their loss of hold over agricultural and forest land.
- Promotion of British manufactured goods, heavy duties on Indian industries, especially export duties, leading to devastation of Indian handloom and handicraft industries.
Important Civil Uprisings
(1) Sanyasi Revolt (1763-1800)
- Cause: The disastrous famine of 1770 and the harsh economic order of the British and the restrictions imposed on the pilgrims visiting the holy places.
- Sanyasis were joined by a large number of dispossessed small zamindars, disbanded soldiers and rural poor. They raided Company factories and the treasuries, and fought the Company’s forces.
- Curtailed by: Warren Hastings
- Also referred to as the Fakir Rebellion.
- Important leaders: Majnum Shah, Chirag Ali, Musa Shah, Bhawani Pathak and Debi Chaudhurani
- Anandamath, a semi-historical novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, is based on the Sanyasi Revolt.
(2) Revolt in Midnapore and Dhalbhum (1766-74)
- Cause: Introduction of new land revenue system by the English in 1772.
- The zamindars of Midnapore sided with the ryots in case of conflict between the ryots and the English revenue collecting officials.
- Important leaders: Damodar Singh and Jagannath Dhal.
(3) Revolt of Moamarias (1769-99)
- It was a potent challenge to the authority of Ahom kings of Assam.
- The Moamarias were low-caste peasants who followed the teachings of Aniruddhadeva (1553-1624).
- To crush these revolts, the Ahom ruler had to request for British help. The revolt weakened kingdom and it fell to a Burmese invasion and finally came under British rule.
(4) Revolt of Raja of Vizianagaram (1794)
- In 1758, a treaty was made between the English and Ananda Gajapatiraju, the ruler of Vizianagaram, to jointly oust the French from the Northern Circars. In this mission they were successful.
- English refused to honour the terms of the treaty. Anand Raju died before he could seriously tackle the English.
- The East India Company demanded a tribute of three lakh rupees from Vizayaramaraju and asked him to disband his troops. This angered the raja as there were no dues to be paid to the Company.
- The raja supported by his subjects rose up in revolt. The raja died in a battle at Padmanabham.
(5) Resistance of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (1797; 1800-05)
- Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, popularly known as Kerala Simham (Lion of Kerala) or ‘Pyche raja’, was the de facto head of Kottayam (Cotiote) in Malabar region.
- Cause: The Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790-92), extended English paramountcy over Kottayam in violation of an earlier agreement of 1790 which had recognized the independence of Kottayam.
(6) Poligars’(palayakkarargal) Revolt/ (1795-1805)
- The Poligars of Dindigal and Malabar rose up against the oppressive land revenue system under the British during 1801-06.
- In September 1799, in the first Polygar War, the poligars of Tirunelveli District rose up in open rebellion.
- Kattabomma Nayak of Panchalamkurichi was considered as the main leader of the rebellion. Though he managed to escape initially, he was later captured in Pudukottai, and publicly hanged in front of other Polygars as a warning.
- The Second Polygar war of 1800-01, given the magnitude of participation, is also known as the ‘South Indian Rebellion’.
- The suppression was followed by signing of the Carnatic Treaty on July 31, 1801, whereby the British assumed direct control over Tamil Nadu.
(7) Diwan Velu Thampi’s Revolt (1808-1809)
- The East India Company’s harsh conditions imposed on the state of Travancore, after both of them agreed to a subsidiary alliance arrangement under Wellesley in 1805, caused deep resentment in the region.
- Prime Minister Velu Thampi rise against the Company and assisted by the Nair troops. Velu Thampi addressed a gathering in Kundara and was later known as the ‘Kundara Proclamation’.
- The Maharaja of Travancore had not wholly supported the rebellion and defected to the side of the Company. Velu Thampi killed himself to avoid capture. The rebellion petered out.
(8) Kutch or Cutch Rebellion (1816-1832)
- There was a treaty between the British and Maharaja Bharamal II of Kutch in 1816, by which power was vested in the throne.
- The British interfered in the internal feuds of the Kutch and, in 1819, Raja Bharmal II raised Arab and African troops with the firm intention of removing the British from his territory.
- A British resident governed the areas as the de facto ruler with the help of a regency council.
(9) Rising at Bareilly (1816)
- Immediate cause: The imposition of the police tax which aroused the burning indignation of the citizens.
- Several armed Muslims from Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur and Rampur rose in rebellion for the defense of the faith and the Mufti.
(10) Upsurge in Hathras (1817)
- Cause: Progressive increase in high revenues, talukdar Dayaram constantly failed to pay arrears and even committed many acts of hostility by giving harbour to government fugitives.
- So, the Company with a large army attacked Hathras in February 1817.
- Rebels involved: Bhagwant Singh, Raja of Mursan
(11) Paika Rebellion (1817)
- The Paiks of Odisha were the traditional landed militia and enjoyed rent free land tenures for their military service and policing functions on a hereditary basis.
- Cause: British conquest of Odisha in 1803, and the dethronement of the Raja of Khurda had greatly reduced the power and prestige of the Paiks. Further, the extortionist land revenue policy of the Company caused resentment among zamindars and peasants.
- Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar had been the military chief of the forces of the Raja of Khurda. In 1814, Jagabandhu’s ancestral estate of Killa Rorang was taken over by the Company, reducing him to penury.
- The spark was lighted by the arrival of a body of Khonds into the Khurda territory in March 1817.
- With active support of Mukunda Deva, the last Raja of Khurda, and other zamindars of the region, Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar led a sundry army of Paikas forcing the East India Company forces to retreat for a time.
- The rebellion came to be known as the Paika Bidroh (rebellion). The rebellion was brutally repressed by 1818. In 1825 Jagabandhu surrendered under negotiated terms.
- The Paik Rebellion succeeded in getting large remissions of arrears, reductions in assessments, suspension of the sale of the estates of defaulters at discretion, a new settlement on fixed tenures and other adjuncts of liberal governance.
(12) Ahom Revolt (1828)
- Cause: Defying on the pledge to withdraw from Assam after the First Burma War (1824-26), the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms’ territories in the Company’s dominion. This sparked off a rebellion in 1828 under the leadership of Gomdhar Konwar, an Ahom prince along with compatriots.
- Finally, the Company decided to follow a conciliatory policy and handed over Upper Assam to Maharaja Purandar Singh Narendra and part of the kingdom was restored to the Assamese king.
(13) Surat Salt Agitations (1840s)
- Cause: The government’s step to raise the salt duty from 50 paise to one rupee.
- The government withdrew the additional salt levy and its measure to introduce Bengal Standard Weights and Measures in face of people’s determined bid to resort to boycott and passive resistance.
(14) Kolhapur and Savantvadi Revolts
- The Gadkaris were a hereditary military class which was garrisoned in the Maratha forts.
- These garrisons were disbanded during an administrative reorganization in Kolhapur state after 1844. The Gadkaris rose in revolt and occupied the Samangarh and Bhudargarh forts.
- Similarly, the simmering discontent caused a revolt in Savantvadi areas. A number of Sawantwadi rebels were tried for treason and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
- Ultimately, after the imposition of martial law and meting out brutal punishment to the rebels, the order could be restored in Sawantwadi region.to bring the region under control.
(15) Wahabi Movement
- It was essentially an Islamic revivalist movement founded by Syed Ahmed of Rai Bareilly who was inspired by the teachings of Abdul Wahab (1703-87) of Saudi Arabia and Shah Waliullah of Delhi.
- Syed Ahmed condemned the western influence on Islam and advocated a return to pure Islam and society. Syed Ahmed was acclaimed as the desired leader (Imam).
- A countrywide organization with an elaborate secret code for its working under spiritual vice-regents (Khalifas) was set up, and Sithana in the north-western tribal belt was chosen as a base for operations.
- Since Dar-ul-Harb (territory of War or Chaos) was to be converted into Darul-Islam (the land of Islam), a jihad was declared against the Sikh kingdom of Punjab.
- After the defeat of the Sikh ruler and incorporation of Punjab into the East India Company’s dominion in 1849, the English dominion in India became the sole target of the Wahabis’ attacks.
- The Wahabis played an important role in spreading anti-British sentiments. A series of military operations by the British in the 1860s weakened the Wahabi resistance.
(16) Kuka Movement
- Founded in 1840 by Bhagat Jawahar Mal (also called Sian Saheb) in western Punjab. A major leader of the movement after him was Baba Ram Singh (founded the Namdhari Sikh sect).
- Its basic tenets were abolition of caste and similar discriminations among Sikhs, discouraging the consumption of meat and alcohol and drugs, permission for intermarriages, widow remarriage, and encouraging women to step out of seclusion.
- On the political side, the Kukas wanted to remove the British and restore Sikh rule over Punjab; they advocated wearing hand-woven clothes and boycott of English laws and education and products.
- So, the concepts of Swadeshi and non-cooperation were propagated by the Kukas, much before they became part of the Indian national movement in the early twentieth century.
- As the movement gained in popularity, the British took several steps to crush it in the period between 1863 and 1872. In 1872, Ram Singh was deported to Rangoon.
(1) Narkelberia Uprising
- Mir Nithar Ali (1782-1831) or Titu Mir inspired the Muslim tenants in West Bengal to rise against landlords, mainly Hindu, who imposed a beard-tax on the Faraizis, and British indigo planters.
- Often considered the first armed peasant uprising against the British, this revolt soon took on a religious hue. The revolt later merged into the Wahabi movement.
(2) The Pagal Panthis
- The Pagal Panthi, a semi-religious group mainly constituting the Hajong and Garo tribes was founded by Karam Shah.
- But the tribal peasants organized themselves under Karam Shah’s son, Tipu, to fight the oppression of the zamindars.
- They refused to pay rent above a certain limit and attacked the houses of zamindars. The government introduced an equitable arrangement to protect these peasants, but the movement was violently suppressed.
(3) Faraizi Revolt
- The Faraizis were the followers of a Muslim sect founded by Haji Shariat-Allah of Faridpur in Eastern Bengal. They advocated radical religious, social and political changes.
- Shariat-Allah son of Dadu Mian (1819-60) organized his followers with an aim to expel the English intruders from Bengal. The sect also supported the cause of the tenants against the zamindars.
- Most of the Faraizis joined the Wahabi ranks.
(4) Moplah Uprisings
- Cause: Hike in revenue demand and reduction of field size, coupled with the oppression of officials, resulted in widespread peasant unrest among the Moplahs of Malabar.
- The second Moplah uprising occurred after the Moplahs came to be organised by the Congress and the Khilafat supporters during the Non-cooperation Movement.
Causes for Tribal Revolts
- The land settlements of the British affected the joint ownership tradition
- As agriculture was extended in a settled form by the Company government, the tribals lost their land, Shifting cultivation in forests was curbed and this added to the tribals’ problems.
- Exploitation by the police, traders and money-lenders.
- Christian missionaries came to these regions and their efforts interfered with the traditional customs of the tribals. Some general laws were also abhorred for their intrusive nature.
Characteristics of Tribal Revolts
- Tribal identity or ethnic ties lay behind the solidarity shown by these groups.
- The resentment against the imposition of laws by the ‘foreign government’ that was seen as an effort at destroying the tribals’ traditional socioeconomic framework.
- Many uprisings were led by messiah-like figures who encouraged their people to revolt.
- The tribal uprisings were doomed from the beginning, given the outdated arms.
(1) Pahariyas’ Rebellion
- The British expansion on their territory led to an uprising by the martial Pahariyas of the Raj Mahal Hills in 1778.
- The British were forced to usher in peace by declaring their territory as damni-kol area.
(2) Chuar Uprising
- Cause: Famine, enhanced land revenue demands and economic distress goaded the Chuar aboriginal tribesmen of the Jungle Mahal of Midnapore district and Bankura district (in Bengal) to take up arms.
- The most significant uprising was under Durjan (or Durjol) Singh in 1798. Other leaders were Madhab Singh, Raja Mohan Singh.
- The uprising lasted from 1766 to 1772 and then, again surfaced between 1795 and 1816.
(3) Kol Mutiny (1831)
- Cause: Large-scale transfers of land from Kol headmen to outsiders like Hindu, Sikh and Muslim farmers and money-lenders who were oppressive and demanded heavy taxes. Besides, the British judicial and revenue policies badly affected the traditional social conditions of the Kols (inhabitants of Chhotanagpur).
- The Kols resented this and in 1831, under the leadership of Buddho Bhagat, the Kol rebels killed or burnt about a thousand outsiders. Only after large-scale military operations could order be restored.
(4) Ho and Munda Uprisings (1820-1837)
- The Raja of Parahat organized his Ho tribals to revolt against the occupation of Singhbhum. The revolt continued till 1827 when the Ho tribals were forced to submit.
- However, later in 1831, they again organized a rebellion, joined by the Mundas of Chotanagpur, to protest against the newly introduced farming revenue policy and the entry of Bengalis into their region.
- Though the revolt was extinguished in 1832, the Ho operations continued till 1837.
(5) Santhal Rebellion
- Cause: The Santhals of Rajmahal Hills resented the oppression by revenue officials, police, money-lenders, landlords—in general, by the “outsiders’ (whom they called diku).
- The Santhals under Sido and Kanhu rose up against their oppressors, declared the end of the Company’s rule and asserted themselves independent in 1854.
- It was only in 1856 after extensive military operations that the situation was brought under control. Sido died in 1855, while Kanhu was arrested in 1866.
- A separate district of Santhal Parganas was created by the Government to pacify the Santhals.
(6) Khond Uprising
- The Khonds lived in vast hill tracts stretching from Tamil Nadu to Bengal, covering central provinces, and in virtual independence due to the inaccessible mountainous terrain.
- Their uprisings from 1837 to 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), the introduction of new taxes by the British and the influx of Zamindars and money-lenders.
- The British formed a Maria agency, against which the Khonds fought with Tangi, a king of battle-axe, bows-arrows and even swords.
- Latter Savaras and some local militia clans also joined in, led by Radha Krishna Dand Sena. Chakra Bisoi disappeared in 1855 after which the movement petered out.
(7) Early Munda Uprising (1789-1832)
- In the period of 1789-1832, the Munda rose up in rebellion seven times against the landlords, dikhus, money-lenders and the British, who instead of protesting them sided with the oppressors.
- In the post-1857 period with a hope of a better future, many Mundas turned to the Evangelical Lutheran mission, which was overseeing mission work in Chhotanagpur.
- However, many apostates became more militant and broke away, spearheading the cause of seeking redressal of their grievances once they realized that the missionaries could not provide the solution to them.
- Their movement identified as ‘sardariladai’ or ‘war of the leaders’ was fought with the aim of expelling dikhus; and restoration of the Munda domination over their homeland.
- The tribal chiefs rose up against the erosion of Khuntkatti System or Joint tenures.
- While it failed it did not peter out but remained dormant and in need of a charismatic leader. It was given a new life by Birsa Munda in 1899.
(8) Bhils and Kolis Uprisings
- Cause: The Bhils were concentrated in the hill ranges of Khandesh in the previous Maratha territory. The British occupation in 1818 brought in the outsiders and accompanying dislocations in their community life.
- A general Bhil insurrection in 1817-19 was crushed by the British Military forces and though some conciliatory measures were taken to pacify them, they again revolted under the leadership of Seva Ram in 1825 and the situation remained unsettled until 1831 when the Ramosi Leader Umaji Raje of Purandhar was finally captured and executed.
- Minor revolts again took place in 1836 and 1846 as well.
- The Bhils’ local rivals for power, the Kolis of Ahmednagar district, also challenged the British in 1829 but were quickly subdued by a large army contingent.
- The seeds of rebellion, however, persisted, to erupt again in 1844-46, when a local Koli leader successfully defied the British government for two years.
(9) Ramosi Risings
- The Ramosis, the hill tribes of the Western Ghats, had not reconciled to British rule and the British pattern of administration.
- They rose under Chittur Singh in 1822 and plundered the country around Satara.
(10) Khasi Uprising
- The Khasis, Garos, Khamptis and the Singphos organized themselves under Tirath Singh to drive away the strangers from the Brahmaputra Valley.
- The uprising developed into a popular revolt against British rule in the area.
The Non-Cooperation Movement- 1920-22
Following events acted as the catalysts which finally resulted in the launch of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhiji on August 1, 1920.
- The Rowlatt Act (February 1919), the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (13 April 1919) and martial law in Punjab had belied all the generous wartime promises of the British.
- The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms satisfied few.
- The treatment meted out to Turkey after the World War-I incensed had incensed the Indian Muslim, which led to the launch of Khilafat movement.
What were the aspects of Non-Cooperation Movement?
- The program of the non-cooperation included within its ambit-
- Surrender of titles and honours.
- Boycott of government-affiliated schools and colleges, law courts, foreign cloths and could be included to resignation from government service.
- Mass civil disobedience.
- Non-payment of taxes.
- On the other hand, it also included-
- Establishing national schools and colleges.
- Establishing panchayats to settle the disputes.
- Encouraging hand spinning and weaving.
- Maintaining Hindu-Muslim unity.
- Observing strict non-violence.
- Several changes were made in Congress’ creed and organisation, which include-
- The goal of the Congress was changed from attainment of self-government to attainment of Swaraj by peaceful and legitimate means.
- The Congress was now to have Working Committee of fifteen members to look after its day-to-day affairs (the same proposal made by Tilak in 1916 was not accepted!).
- The provincial Congress Committees were now to be organized on linguistic basis.
- Congress was to use Hindi as far as possible.
How the movement unfolded?
- Gandhiji, along with Ali Brothers (who were the foremost Khilafat leaders) undertook nationwide tour during which he addressed hundreds of meetings and met a large number of students.
- R. Das played a major role in promoting the movement and Subhas Bose became the principal of the National College in Calcutta.
- The spirit of unrest and defiance of authority engendered by the Non-Cooperation Movement contributed to rise of many local movements in the different parts of the country.
- In May 1921, the British Government tried through Gandhi-Reading talks to persuade Gandhiji to ask Ali brothers to withdraw from their speeches those passages that contained suggestions of violence.
- This was an attempt to drive the wedge between the Khilafat leaders and Gandhiji.
- By December 1921, the Government had changed the policy and started repression of the movement.
- Public meeting and assemblies were banned, newspapers gagged, and midnight raids on Congress and Khilafat movement became common.
- In response, Gandhiji declared mass civil disobedience movement would begin in Bardoli taluqa of Surat district.
- But before the launch of the mass civil disobedience, the Chauri Chaura incident on February 5, 1922, resulted in the withdrawal of the movement by Gandhiji.
The Civil Disobedience Movement 1930-31
On 2 March 1930 Gandhiji addressed his historic letter to the Viceroy Irwin in which he first explained at great length why he regarded British rule as a curse. He then informed the Viceroy his plan of action. When Gandhiji reached the Dandi on 6 April 1930 by picking up a handful of salt he inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement.
- An announcement on 8 November 1927 of an all-White Simon Commission to recommend whether India was ready for further constitutional progress and on which lines.
- The response in India was immediate. That no Indian should be thought fit to serve on a body that claimed the right to decide the political future of India was an insult no Indian of even the most moderate political opinion was willing to swallow.
- The Congress resolved on the boycott of the commission at its annual session in Madras in December 1927.
How the movement unfolded?
- Once the way was cleared by Gandhiji’s ritual beginning at Dandi, the defiance of salt laws started all over the country.
- The Government’s failure to arrest Gandhiji for breaking the salt law was used by the local level leaders to impress upon the people that ‘the Government is afraid of persons like ourselves’.
- In Tamil Nadu, C. Rajagopalachari led a salt march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast.
- On 23 April, the arrest of Congress leaders in the North-West Frontier Province led to the mass demonstration of unprecedented magnitude in Peshawar.
- In Peshawar, the atmosphere created by the Khudai Khidmatgars contributed to the mass upsurge in Peshawar during which the city was virtually in the hands of non-violent revolutionaries.
- It was increasingly becoming clear that the Government’s gamble of non-interference with the movement would result in its spending itself out.
- On May 4, the Viceroy finally ordered Gandhiji’s arrest.
- Gandhiji’s announcement that he would now proceed to continue his defiance of the salt laws by leading a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works had forced the Government to act.
- Coming as it did at a high point in the movement, it only acted as a further spur to activity, and caused endless trouble for the government.
- Dharsana Satyagraha carried out in the absence of Gandhiji with Sarojini Naidu in the lead, in which Satyagrahis were beaten with the lathis till they fell down.
- This form of Satyagraha was adopted by the people who soon made it a mass affair.
- But the salt Satyagraha was only the catalyst and the beginning, for a rich variety of forms of defiance that it brought in its wake.
- Eastern India became the scene of a new kind of no-tax campaign-refusal to pay the chowkidara tax levied specifically on the villagers.
- In Gujarat, in Kheda district, in Bardoli taluqa in Surat district, and Jambusar in Broach district a determined no-tax movement was in progress.
- P. was setting up another kind of movement- a no-revenue no-rent campaign.
- On January 5, 1931, the Viceroy announced the unconditional release of Gandhiji and all other members of the Congress working committee.
- On March 5, 1931 the fortnight-long discussion culminated in Gandhi-Irwin Pact which was variously described as a truce and a provisional settlement and ended the Non-Cooperation Movement.
The Quit India Movement
‘Quit India’, this powerful slogan launched the legendary struggle which also became famous by the name of the ‘August Revolution’.
- The failure of the Cripps Mission in April 1942 made it clear that Britain was unwilling to offer an honourable settlement and real constitutional advance during the war.
- The empty gesture of the Cripps offer convinced even those Congressmen like Nehru and Gandhiji, who did not want to do anything to hamper the anti-fascist War efforts.
- Other factors that made a struggle both inevitable and necessary were-
- Popular discontent product of rising prices and war-time shortages.
- The growing feeling of an eminent British collapse.
- The manner in which British evacuated from Malaya and Burma leaving the people there to their fate
How the movement unfolded?
- A fortnight after Cripps’ departure Gandhiji drafted a resolution for the Congress Working Committee, calling for Britain’s withdrawal and the adoption of non-violent non-cooperation against any Japanese invasion.
- Congress edged towards Quit India while Britain moved towards arming itself with special powers to meet the threat.
- The historic August meeting at Gowalia Tank in Bombay marked the beginning of the movement. The meeting was unprecedented in the popular enthusiasm it generated.
- The Government, however, was in no mood to either negotiate with the Congress or wait for the movement to be formally launched.
- In the early hours of 9 August, in a single sweep, all the top leaders of the Congress were arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
- The sudden attack by the government produced an instantaneous reaction among the people.
- As soon as the news of the arrest spread lakhs of people flocked to Gowalia Tank where a mass meeting had been scheduled.
- There were similar disturbances on 9 August in Ahmedabad and Poona.
- On the 10th, Delhi and many towns in U.P. and Bihar, including Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, and Patna followed the suit with hartals, public demonstrations and processions in defiance of the law.
- Meanwhile, many provincial and local level leaders who had evaded arrest returned to their homes through devious routes set about organising resistance.
- As the news spread in the rural areas, the villagers joined the townsmen in recording their protest.
- For the first six or seven weeks after 9 August, there was a tremendous mass upsurge all over the country.
- The brutal and all-out repression succeeded within a period of six or seven weeks in bringing about a cessation of the mass phase of the struggle.
- But in the meantime, underground networks were being consolidated in various parts of the country.
- This leadership saw the role of the underground movement as being that of keeping up the popular morale by continuing to provide the line of command and a source of guidance and leadership to the activists all over the country.