Role of Tribal Communities in India’s Fight for Independence

We often talk about our national heroes who laid their life for the sake of their motherland. Their immense sacrifice and determination lead us to independence. Today we shall talk about some of the lesser known stories of the tribal communities whose courage and struggle ignited the cause of our freedom struggle.

Except the frontier tribal areas, most of the tribal movements were concentrated in central, west-central and southern India.

Paharias Rebellion (1778):

The Paharias were hill people and resided around the Rajmahal hills in the north-eastern Chota Nagpur Plateau. These folks were remote people and considered the entire territory to be their country. The British expansion on their territory led to a clash between the Paharias and the Britishers. The revolt was leaded by Raja Jagannath. The revolt was carried out as the British had launched a campaign against the Paharaias to kill them.

Chuar Uprising (1766-1816):

Chuar revolt was not a single revolt but a series of rebellions that lasted from 1766 to 1772 and then again from 1795-1816. The Chuars were mostly farmers and hunters and inhabited the West Bengal settlements of Midnapore, Bankura and Manbhum (part of present day Bihar). Though there were many leaders like Jagannath Singh of Ghatsila, Shyam Ganjan of Dhadka, Subla Singh of Kaliapal and Dubraj who stood against the British, the most prominent uprising was under Durjan Singh in the year 1798. He was the zamindar of Raipur but was dispossessed due to the Bengal Regulations. Durjan Singh, with the help of 1500 Chuars, started violent activities in May 1798 to stop the auction of Raipur’s estate. The revolt was crushed by the British. Some other notable Chuar leaders were Madhab Singh, brother of Raja of Barabhum; Raja Mohan Singh, Zamindar of Juriah and Lachman Singh of Dulma.

Kol Mutiny (1831):

Kols were the inhabitants of Chota Nagpur. This included Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Palamau and western parts of Manbhum. The kols were prodded to take arms with the large scale transfer of lands from their headmen to outsiders like Hindu, Muslim and Sikh farmers and money lenders. These outsiders were oppressive,  demanded huge taxes and subjected brutal atrocities on the tribals.. Also, the British judicial and revenue policies badly affected the Kols. This led to an uprising in 1831 leaded by Buddho Bhagat. The rebellion was suppressed by the British but later many tribal movements started in this region.

Kol Mutiny served as an inspiration for coming generations to fight against inequality and injustice.

Santhal Rebellion (1855-56):

Santhals were primarily agricultural people and had settlements in the plains of the Rajmahal Hills. With the backing of the police and others, the money lenders conspired with the zamindars to oppress and rob the peasants of their lands. Sidhu and Kanhu, two brothers led the Santhal uprising and converted it into an anti-British movement. They declared the area between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal as autonomous. The revolt was stamped down by the British in the year 1856.

Ho and Munda uprisings (1820-37) :

The Ho tribals revolted against the occupation of Singhbhum under the leadership of The Raja of Parahat. The revolt lasted till 1827 and soon the tribals were forced to submit. In 1831, along with the Mundas of Chota Nagpur, the Ho tribe again revolted against the newly implemented farming revenue policies and entry of Bengalees into their region. The revolt ended in 1832 but the Ho continued to operate till 1837.

Khond Uprising (1837-56):

The Khonds of the region ranging from Odisha to Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam rose against the British under the leadership of Chakra Bishnoi. He was a young raja and was supported by his people who were joined by the Kalhandi, Ghuamsar and other tribals to fight the atrocities like new taxes, human sacrifices and entry of zamindars into their areas. Soon, Chakra Bishnoi disappeared and the revolt subsided.  However, in 1914, another Khond Uprising was seen in the Orissa region with a hope to end the British rule.