Reforms and Revolts
Theï¿½19thï¿½century in India witnessed both the reforms as well asï¿½the revolts. The reforms in theï¿½19thï¿½century were initiated byï¿½both the Britishers (the East India Company and the Britishï¿½Government) as well as the Indian social reformers. The revolts,ï¿½during theï¿½19thï¿½ï¿½century, were from numerous communities,ï¿½peasants and the tribal people.
The British administration took interest in eradicatingï¿½the social/religious evils only after the Indian social reformersï¿½began their reform movements. One of the social evils whichï¿½had gripped the Indian society was the constant deterioratingï¿½conditions of the women: women were an exploited lot; theyï¿½had no education; most of their life was spent within the fourï¿½walls of the house where they were born and dead; they had noï¿½access to the ancestral property. The viceroy Bentinck passedï¿½a law banning Sati in 1829. The laws were enacted to outlawï¿½female infanticide inï¿½1795,1802, 1804ï¿½and 1870; the Widowï¿½Remarriage Act was enacted in 1856 , support coming fromï¿½reformers like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar; the child marriageï¿½legislation like the Age of the Consent Act (1891) raised theï¿½age of marriage which helped ban the child marriage evil; theï¿½Purdh system was opposed by the Britishers in their region, soï¿½was condemned polygamy.
The Indian social-religious reformers had begun theirï¿½movements to eradicate religious evils and social taboosï¿½emanating from the religious practices. The Brahmo Samaj,ï¿½the Arya Samaj, the Ramakrishan Mission, the Satya Shodhakï¿½Samaj, the Prarthna Samaj, Radhaswami movment, Sanatamï¿½Dharam Sabha, Veda Samaj, the Theosophical Society, Doobandï¿½movment, the Singh Sabha and the like propagated againstï¿½the socio-religious evils facing the Indian society, especiallyï¿½those related to idol worship, superstitions, ill-treatmentï¿½and humiliation of women, in particular the widows, theseï¿½movements also laid emphasis on the formal education,ï¿½modernization, science and held high the concepts of universalï¿½equality, freedom, justice, nationalism, socio-economicï¿½development. All these reform movements made groundï¿½for a modern India. The contribution of reformers such asï¿½Raja Rammohan Ray, Swami Dayanand Sarswati, Swamiï¿½Vivekananda, Jyotiba Phule and the like went a long way inï¿½influencing the political leaders who were to lead the Indianï¿½national movement towards the goal of India’s independence.
Theï¿½19thï¿½century was not only the century of reforms, it wasï¿½also the century of revolts. Almost all the revolts or rebellionsï¿½during theï¿½19thï¿½century were related to tribal peasants, thoughï¿½some of these were purely farmers’ uprisings. A brief discussionï¿½of such revolts/rebellions can be given.
The Chhotanagpur area remained a centre of turbulentï¿½uprisings throughout theï¿½19thï¿½ï¿½century. The Oraons tribalï¿½community rebelled in 1820,1832. The Kol tribals organizedï¿½an insurrection in 1831-32 which was directed mainly againstï¿½Government officers and private money-lenders. The Mahajansï¿½extracted 70 per cent or more interest and many Kols becameï¿½bonded labourers for life. The immensity of the Kol rebellionï¿½could he gauged from the fact that the military troops had to beï¿½rushed from far off places like Calcutta, Danapur and Benarasï¿½to quell it.
The tribals of Tamar revolted over 7 times between 1789ï¿½1832 against the British. They were joined in the revolt byï¿½the tribals of adjoining areas-Midnapur, Koelpur; Dhadha,ï¿½Chatshila, Jalda and Silli. They revolted against the faulty alignï¿½system of the government. The Tamar revolts were led by Bholaï¿½Nath Sahay of Tamar. In 1832 the arrows of war was spreadï¿½throughout the region. Oraons, Mundas, Hos or Kols, who hadï¿½distinct social and cultural identity, joined the insurgents underï¿½the leadership of Ganga Narain Singh, a member of Banbhumï¿½Raj family. The tribals murdered the “dikus”, i.e., rich land lords,ï¿½in each village of the areas. They burnt and plundered theirï¿½houses. But the movement was suppressed by the governmentï¿½in 1832-33.
The Moplahs of Malabar, a type of uprising in the southernï¿½part of Malabar, experienced revolts between 1836 and 1854,ï¿½and more during 1882-85 and again in 1896. In these roitings,ï¿½a considerable number of Malabar Muslims were killed. Theï¿½Malabar outbreaks were, in a way, a form of rural terrorism. Theï¿½anti-Sahukar Deccan riots of May-September, 1875 affected 33ï¿½places in 6 talukas and took the form of forcible seizure of debtï¿½bonds by engaged villagers led by their traditional headmen,ï¿½called the Patels.
Another important rebellion of this period was the Wahabiï¿½uprising in Bengal under the leadership of the famous Tituï¿½Meer in 1831. What began as a religious reform movementï¿½soon turned into an armed revolt against orthodox mullahs,ï¿½feudal landlords and the British soldiers. Although Titu andï¿½his peasant followers who fought their heroic battle fromï¿½within a bamboo fortress in a village called Narikelbaria, wereï¿½defeated by the British in course of the insurrection, Titu hadï¿½managed to oust the British through successive operationsï¿½from several villages in South 24-Parganas, Nadia and Jessore,ï¿½where he established a parallel authority and collected taxesï¿½from zamindars.
A more striking source of inspiration for future agrarianï¿½struggles was the Santhal uprising of 1855-57. The Santhalï¿½region extended from Bhagalpur in Bihar in the north to Orissaï¿½in the south, the centre being Damin-i-koh (meaning theï¿½skirts of the hill), situated near the Rajmahal Hills, stretchingï¿½from Hazaribagh to the borders of Bengal. The Santhal Tribesï¿½reclaimed from wild jungles every square foot of arable land,ï¿½where they cultivated and lived peacefully till the arrival ofï¿½Bengali and other traders and merchants. The latter persuadedï¿½the Santhal peasants to buy luxury goods on credit, andï¿½later at harvest time forced them to pay back the loans alongï¿½with interest. The balance against the Santhal in the mahajancum-trader’s book increased year by year, till the poor peasantï¿½was compelled to give up, not only his crops but gradually hisï¿½plough and bullocks, and finally his land, to meet the demandsï¿½of the traders. The leaders of the Santhal rebellion were twoï¿½brother-Sidu and Kanu of Bhagnadihi, organized on a vastï¿½scale, it swept across the entire Santhal region from Bihar toï¿½Orissa. Frustrated in their repeated attempts in the past toï¿½seek justice from courts of the law, the peasants raised the cryï¿½”Death to the money-lenders, the police, the civil court officersï¿½and the landlords!” It, thus, took on in effect the nature of anï¿½anti-feudal and anti-state movement. The Santhal rebellionï¿½was finally crushed by the British troops. About 10,000 rebelsï¿½perished in the unequal fight between peasants armed withï¿½bows and arrows on the one side and soldiers equipped withï¿½firearms, on the other.
During the second half of theï¿½19thï¿½ï¿½century, the Kukaï¿½movement played an important role in arousing the feelings ofï¿½patriotism and revolution in Punjab. The chief inspiration cameï¿½up from Bhai Ram Singh. Bhai Ram Singh was deeply moved byï¿½the sufferings of farmers, labourers and artisans. In his messageï¿½to his people, Bhai Ram Singh asked them to lead a simple lifeï¿½and denounce such social evils as dowry, infanticide, ete. Heï¿½even asked his followers not to get their children admitted inï¿½government schools, not to file cases in the English courts andï¿½also not to use the foreign goods. Bhai Ram Singh was deportedï¿½to Burma where he died in 1861.
- The Bokta rising took place in various parts of Chhotanagpur area, aiming at regaining the tribals’ ancient rights on land by expelling the landlords. This movement evolved through three phases:(i) The agrarian phase, (ii) the revivalistic phase and (iii) the political phase. The first two phases were marked by the clashes between the landlords and the tribal tenants. The tribal tenants revolted against the rise in rent eviction from land and harassment of the tenants by the landlords. The Sardar movement, the third phase, turned against all Europeans, both missionaries and officials, who were suspected to be collaborating with the landlords: people thought that British rule was the main cause of all evils. When the constitutional means did not yield, the tribals became violent. They used their traditional weapons such as bows and arrows. In September 1892, the Sardars hatched a conspiracy to kill the contractors and missionaries, but their plan misfired.
The tribal and the peasant’ uprising if theï¿½19thï¿½ï¿½century, madeï¿½it clear that the common people, all over the country, were notï¿½only violently opposed to the English rulers but also against theï¿½landlords and money-lenders created by them.
Written by princy