Four tribal revolts President Murmu invoked in her inaugural speech
29th Jul, 2022
Droupadi Murmu scripted history by becoming the country’s first tribal and only the second woman to occupy the country’s highest constitutional office.
Addressing the nation after being sworn-in, President Murmu spoke about her journey from a small tribal village in Odisha to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She also invoked four tribal revolutions that she said had strengthened tribal contribution to the freedom struggle.
- On June 30, 1855, over 10,000 Santhals were mobilised by their leaders — Kanho Murmu, Chand Murmu, Bhairab Murmu and Sidho Murmu – to revolt against the East India Company over oppression by revenue officials, zamindars, and corrupt moneylenders.
- The seeds of the protracted rebellion, however, were sown in 1832 where the East India Company created Damin-i-koh region in the forested belt of Rajmahal hills, and invited the Santhals to settle there.
- Over the years, Santhals found themselves at the receiving end of exploitative practices aided by the British.
- After the rebellion broke out in 1855, both sides continued clashing till the uprising was crushed in 1856.
- The British defeated the Santhals using modern firearms and war elephants in decisive action in which both Sidho and Kanho died.
- In several recent descriptions, the 1817 Paika Rebellion in Odisha’s Khurda is referred to as the “original” first war of Indian Independence.
- That year, the Paikas – a class of military retainers traditionally recruited by the kings of Odisha – revolted against the British colonial rulers mainly over being dispossessed of their land holdings.
- In the run-up to the revolt, the British had dethroned and exiled the Khurda king in 1803, and then started introducing new revenue settlements.
- For Paikas, who were into rendering martial services in return for hereditary rent-free land (nish-kar jagirs) and titles, this disruption meant losing both their estates and social standing.
- The trigger for the revolt came as some 400 Kondhs descended from the Ghumusar area to rise against the British.
- Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bharamarbar Rai, the highest-ranking military general of the banished Khurda king, led an army of Paikas to join the uprising of the Kondhs.
- The Kols, alongwith other tribes, are inhabitants of Chhotanagpur. This covered Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Palamau and the western parts of Manbhum.
- The trouble in 1831 started with large-scale transfers of land from Kol headmen to outsiders like Hindu, Sikh and Muslim farmers and money-lenders who were oppressive and demanded heavy taxes.
- The Kols resented this and in 1831, under the leadership of Buddho Bhagat, the Kol rebels killed or burnt about a thousand outsiders.
- Only after large-scale military operations order was restored.
- After the British intruded into the Bhil territory in Maharashtra’s Khandesh region, the tribals pushed back fearing exploitation under the new regime in 1818.
- The revolt was led by their leader, Sewaram and was brutally crushed using the British military might.
- This uprising again erupted in 1825 as the Bhils sought to take advantage of reverses being suffered by the British in the first Anglo-Burmese war.