Not only was the 1857 Revolt a glorious chapter in modern Indian history, other heroes too valiantly struggled against the British yoke. Here, we study the stories of "Many other uprisings in India" including the Munda rebellion, the Indigo Revolt, the Santhal Uprising, the Sanyasi Rebellion, the Vellore Mutiny, and more.
During the British Raj, many groups and communities rose in revolt across the nation from time to time. In this session, we will focus on some of the most important revolts and rebellions against the British, other than the 1857 revolt, or the 1857 war of independence.
A. The Munda Rebellion
A.2 Birsa MundaBirsa Munda (1874-1900), the son of a sharecropper who had received some education from the missionaries came under Vaishnava influence and in 1893-’94 participated in a movement to prevent village wastelands from being taken over by the Forest Department. In 1895 Birsa, claiming to have seen a vision of god, proclaimed himself a prophet with miraculous healing powers. Thousands flocked to hear the 'new word' of Birsa with its prophecy of an imminent deluge. The new prophet became a critic of the traditional tribal customs, religious beliefs and practices. He called upon the Mundas to fight against superstition, give up animal sacrifice, stop taking intoxicants, to wear the sacred thread and retain the tribal tradition of worship in the sarna or the sacred grove. (Sarna can be regarded as the sacred grove of Sar(sal) trees where the Goddess Anna resides). It was essentially a revivalist movement, which sought to purge Munda society of all foreign elements and restore its pristine character. Christianity influenced the movement as well and it used both Hindu and Christian idioms to create the Munda ideology and worldview.
A.3 Various aspects of the Munda rebellion
The British, who feared a conspiracy, jailed Birsa for two years in 1895, but he returned from jail, much more of a firebrand. A series of nocturnal meetings were held in the forest during 1898-’99, where Birsa allegedly urged the killing of thikadars, jagirdars, rajas, hakims and Christians.
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B. The Indigo Revolt
Indigo planting was started in Bengal in 1777 by Louis Bonard. With the expansion of British power, the indigo cultivation became more and more commercially profitable because of large demand of blue dye in Europe. The indigo planters left no stone unturned in making profits. They mercilessly pursued farmers to grow indigo instead of food crops. They provided loans at very high interest rate. Once a farmer took this loan he remained indebted forever and passed it on to his successors. The price payed by the planters for this cash crop was very low, just 2.5% of the market price. The farmers were forced to sell at this price lest the planters would destroy their mortgage property. The governmental rules and regulations also favored the planters.
The revolt started from Nadia where Bishnucharan Biswas & Digambar Biswas first took up arms against the planters. It spread like wildfire to Murshidabad, Birbhum, Burdwan, Pabna, Khulna, Narail etc and the indigo planters were put into public trial and executed. Indigo depots were burnt down. Many planters fled to avoid being caught. The zamindars also became the target. The revolt was mercilessly suppressed and a large number of peasants were put to death by the police and military. Only some zamindars supported the peasants of whom Ramratan Mullick of Narail is the most known.
B.1 Effect of the Indigo revolt
B.2 Cultural effects
Dinabandhu Mitra's 1859 play Neel Darpan is based on this revolt. It was translated into English by Michael Madhusudan Dutta and published by Rev. James Long (1814–1887), who was a humanist, educator and a missionary to India. It attracted much attention in England, where people were stunned at the savagery of their countrymen. The British Government sent Rev. Long to a trial and he was briefly imprisoned, and fined. Kaliprasanna Sinha paid the fine for him.
C. The Santhal Uprising
The leaders of the Santhal rebellion were two brothers - Sido and Kanu of Bhagnadihi. The rebellion swept across the entire Santhal region from Bihar to Orissa. Frustrated in their repeated attempts in the past to seek justice from courts and minions of the law, the peasants raised the cry - "Death to the money-lenders, the police, the civil court officers and the landlords!" It thus took on in effect the nature of an anti-feudal and anti-state movement. Notorious landlords, traders and mahajans were selected and killed. Later historians expressed their shock at the "brutalities" committed by the rebels, but perhaps chose to ignore the years of grinding brutality that the peasants had to suffer at the hands of the landlords and traders. The poor and landless peasants of other lower castes and village artisans also joined the Santhal rebels. They defeated the British troops in several encounters, forcing the colonial administration to declare martial law over a vast expanse from Birbhum and Murshidabad in Bengal to Bhagalpur in Bihar - the area where the rebels succeeded in destroying all semblance of British rule. The Santhal rebellion was finally crushed by the British troops. About 10,000 rebels perished in the unequal fight between peasants armed with bows and arrows on the one side and soldiers equipped with firearms, on the other. This content prepared by Civils Tapasya Portal by PT's IAS Academy
D. The Sanyasi Rebellion
E. The Vellore Mutiny
The main cause of this mutiny, like the 1857 rebellion, was a religious one too. The sepoy dress code was changed in 1805. Under the new dress code, the Hindu soldiers were not allowed to wear any kind of religious marks on their foreheads and it was made mandatory for Muslims to shave their beards and trim their moustache.
There is quite a bit of similarity in the Vellore Mutiny of 1806 and the Rebellion of 1857, though the latter was on a much larger scale and is often described as the first war of Indian Independence. In 1857, the sepoys tried to quell British rule by announcing Bahadur Shah Zafar as the Emperor of India, just like the mutinees tried to give power to Tipu Sultan's son in 1806. Apart from that, anger against disrespect of religious sentiments of the soldiers was another major cause of unrest.
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