14th May 2021
Causes of the rebellions
- After seizing the power and starting their rule the British caused dislocation in ways Indian were used to. The areas in which the change was felt the most were viz. economy, administration and land revenue system.
- The British rule which adversely affected the interests of all sections of society had intensified the land revenue. The only interest of the company was the realization of maximum revenue with minimum effort. Consequently, settlements were hurriedly undertaken, often without any regard for the resources of the land.
- Traditional landed aristocracy suffered no less. Their estates were confiscated and they suddenly found themselves without a source of income, unable to work, ashamed to beg, condemned to penury.
- British rule also meant misery to artisans and handicraftsmen. The annexation of Indian states by the Company cut off their major source of patronage. Also, the British policy discouraged Indian handicraft and promoted British goods.
- The new courts and legal system gave a further fillip to the dispossessors of land and encouraged the rich to oppress the poor. Flogging, torture and jailing of the cultivators for arrears of rent or land revenue or interest on debt were quite common. The ordinary people were also hard hit by the prevalence of corruption at the lower levels of the police, judiciary and general administration.
Sanyasi Uprising, Bengal- (1770-1820s)
- At least three separate events are called the Sannyasi Rebellion. One refers to a large body of Hindu sannyasis who travelled from North India to different parts of Bengal to visit shrines. En route to the shrines, it was customary for many of these ascetics to exact a religious tax from the headmen and zamindars or regional landlords
- However, since the East India Company had received the Diwani or right to collect the tax, many of the tax demands increased and the local landlords and headmen were unable to pay both the ascetics and the English.
- The other two movements involved a sect of Hindu ascetics, the Dasnami naga sannyasis who likewise visited Bengal on pilgrimage mixed with moneylending opportunities.
- To the British, these ascetics were looters and must be stopped from collecting money that belonged to the Company and possibly from even entering the province. It was felt that a large body of people on the move was a possible threat.
- The sanyasis retaliated by organising raids on the Company’s factories and state treasuries. Only after prolonged military action could Warren Hastings contain the raids by the sanyasis.
- Towards the end of the 18th century, certain portions of the district around Raipur was affected by the Chuar rebellion.
- The leader of the rebels was Durjan Singha, a former zamindar of Raipur. He had a following of about 1,500 men and created havoc in certain areas.
- The uprising lasted from 1766 to 1772 and then, again surfaced between 1795 and 1816.
Moplah Rebellions, Malabar (1835-1921)
- The Moplah rebellions of Malabar, South India, were not only directed against British but also the Hindu Landlords.
- The relations of the Arabs traders with the Malayali society can be traced back to the ninth century. The traders helped the local Hindu chieftains and were granted concessions.
- Many of the Arab traders settled in Malabar marrying mostly Nayar and Tiyar women, and the subsequent descendants came to be known as Moplahs.
- In the traditional Malabar land system, the Jenmi held land by birthright and were mostly highcaste Hindus, and let it out to others for cultivation.
- The other main sections of the Malabar society were the Kanamdar, who were mostly Moplahs, the verumpattamdar (cultivators) and agricultural labourers. The peasants were mostly the Muslim Moplahs.
- The land was given by the ruling raja to Namboodiri Brahmins whose obligation was to look after the temple and related institutions, and to the chieftains (mostly Nayars), who provided martial aid when needed.
- Traditionally, the net produce of the land was shared equally between the three.
- But during the reign of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, Namboodiri Brahmins and Nayar Chiefs fled and the subsequent vacuum was filled by the Moplahs.
- The conflict arose when after Malabar’s cession to the British in 1792 and the return of the exiled Namboodiri Brahmins and Nayars, the government re-established and acknowledged their landlord rights.
- The British by recognizing the Jenmis as the absolute owners of the land gave them the right to evict the tenants at will.
- This reduced the other two to the status of tenants and leaseholders.
- The courts and the law officers sided with the Jenmis. Once the Jenmi landlords, who had the backing of the revenue officials, the law court and the police started tightening their hold and demands on the subordinate classes, the Moplah peasantry rose up in revolt.
- The first outbreak occurred in 1836 and during the period of 1834-54, there were 22 uprisings, with the ones in 1841 and 1849 being quite serious.
- The second phase of the revolt was recorded in 1882-85, while another spate of outburst in 1876 was also there.
Poligar Rebellions, Kurnool (1799-1805)
- The Poligars of Dindigal and Malabar rose up against the oppressive land revenue system under the British during 1801-06.
- The sporadic rising of the Poligars in Madras Presidency continued till 1856.
- 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 rebellion broke out when a band of Polygar armies bombed the British barracks in Coimbatore.
- The suppression was followed by signing of the Carnatic Treaty on July 31, 1801, whereby the British assumed direct control over Tamil Nadu.
- The Polygar system, which had flourished for two and half centuries, came to a violent end and the company introduced the Zamindari settlement in its place.
Ramosi Risings (1822, 1825-26)
- 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. Again, there were eruptions in 1825-26 and the disturbances continued till 1829.
- The disturbance occurred again in 1839 over deposition and banishment of Raja Pratap Singh of Satara, and disturbances erupted in 1840-41 also. Finally, a superior British force restored order in the area.
Kolhapur and Savantvadi Revolts (1844)
- The Gadkaris were a hereditary military class which was garrisoned in the Maratha forts.
- These garrisons were disbanded during an administrative reorganisation in Kolhapur state after 1844. Facing the spectre of unemployment, 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.
- 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.
- 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 sahookars (money-lenders) into their areas which was causing the tribals untold misery.
- 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.
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.
Bhils and Kolis Uprisings:
- The Bhils were concentrated in the hill ranges of Khandesh in the previous Maratha territory. The British occupation of this region 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.
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