Tribal communities revolted more often and far more violently than any other community, including peasants, in India. The insurgency of the Adivasis was a deliberate and desperate way to escape from the clutches of extortionate usurers, venal police, irresponsible officials and the like.
Among the numerous tribal revolts in British India, few stand out. The Santhal ‘hool’ was one of them. In 1855-56, the Santhals, living between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal, rose in revolt against the dikus or outsiders. Their courageous insurrection was brutally crushed by the British Army. While providing anecdotal evidence of tribal uprisings, it shall be difficult not to underscore Birsa Munda’s Ulgulan or Great Tumult in the region south of Ranchi in 1899-1900. Birsa’s hymns of hate against the then Europeans and the Thikadars still reverberate.
Apart from these, the Chenchu revolt in the Nallamalai Hills (1898), the upsurge of the Oraons of Chotanagpur (1914) and the fituri led by Alluri Sitarama Raju (1922-24) were also significant.
- There was a combined action of extortions by the zamindars, the police, the revenue, and the court. The Santhals had no option but to pay all the taxes and levies. They were abused and dispossessed of their own property.
- The Karendias who were the representatives of the Zamindars made several violent attacks on the Santhals.
- The rich peasants confiscated all the property, lands, and cattle of the Santhals.
- The moneylenders charged exorbitant rates of interest. The Santhals called the moneylenders exploiters and were known as “dikus”.
The Chuar Revolt
The Chuars lived in Jungle Mahal of north-western Midnapur. Basically farmers and hunters, they also worked as paiks under local zamindars. They received tax-free land instead of salaries. When the Company imposed huge tax burden on zamindars, they revolted, and the paiks and Chuars joined in. The uprising continued for around three decades from 1768-69 to 1799.
This took place in the Khandesh Region by the native dwellers of the land.
This comprised three revolts in the Singhbhum and Chotanagpur Plateau.
The Kol Revolt
The tribal inhabitants of Chota Nagpur comprised Kols, Bhils, Hoes, Mundas and Oraons. They led an independent life.
In 1820 the king of Porhat owed allegiance to the British. He claimed the neighboring Kol region as his own to the consent of the British. He went on to collect taxes from the Ho segment of the Kols which they resented. A few officials were killed too. The Kols took up traditional arms like bows and arrows to face British troops armed in modern weapons. They put up a very brave fight but had to surrender in 1821.
It took place in 1824-29 and in 1844-1848 in the region of Gujarat.
It took place in 1829-1832 under the aegis of the local leaders, in the Khasi Hills area of Assam.
It took place between the years of 1830-39. The English Resident of the area was murdered by the people.
This revolt was organized in Andhra Pradesh, it took place during several years between 1840 and 1924.
This was a part of several revolts that took place in 1846-1848; 1855 and 1915 in Orrisa.
It was organized by two leaders in Gujarat, in 1858-1859 and in 1869.
Kacha Nags Revolt
It was organised under Sambhudan in Assam.
It was organised in the Ranchi area of the Chota Nagpur Region.
It took place in 1913 in Dungapur region of Rajasthan.
It took place in 1914-1915 in the Chotanagpur area.
Thadoe Kuki Revolt
It was organized in Manipur in 1919.
It took place in 1922-24 in Andhra Pradesh.