1830s: The Great Rebellion in Plateau Region (Part-I)

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The horrors of numerous Ho insurrections in 1820s were still fresh in the memory of the British authorities when towards the end of the year 1831, another out-break ‘vastly more formidable in its magnitude threatened to wipe-out the rulers in the entire length and breadth of the plateau region’.
During the reign of Maharaja Jagarnath Sahdeo of Chotnagpur, the plateau region witnessed the advent of many ‘outsiders’ into the region, viz., the Musalmans, Sikhs and some others communities from the various neighboring states who came to this country as horse dealers and the merchants of items like shawls, brochade, etc. They were cunning traders, while selling their items, they never asked for the cash payment. Instead they managed to win fabulous gifts in the forms of zamindari of villages for their goods from the various Nagbanshi Chiefs. These ‘outsiders’ had no interest in the development and the growth of the village economy. They only tried to squeeze as much as possible from the raiyats (village farmers) in the shape of rents, adwabs and salamis (the various types of land revenues).
Besides they went all out to break up the old system of the Mundas by following devious means and soon their yoke proved very galling and it became very difficult for them to bear the onslaughts of Thekadaars and their tyranny. But these greedy ‘outsiders’ zamindars had the backing of powerful British rulers as well as the local Raja. This kind of support made zamindars more oppressive and the indifferent attitude of the British and local rulers further alienated the populace of the plateau region.
Toquote Dalton said, “it was the bursting of a fire that had long been smoldering.”
The ‘smoldering fire’ was further fanned into flame by the following episodes. 12 villages belonging to Sing Rai Manki and Mohan Manki, proprietor of Silagaon and eleven other villages had been granted to some ‘outsiders’. Colonel Dalton says not only was the Manki disposed but also these ‘foreigners / outsiders’ dared to abduct two of his sisters. Even the daughters of Sing Rai Manki were abducted.
Village Cholem and eleven other villages belonging to Bijoynath Manki were given to one more ‘outsider’ and the Manki was not only reduced to destitution, but also on a false pretext taken to the Daroga of Gobindpur and sent in iron chains to Sherghatty.
In another incident involving Munda women, whom the ‘foreign/outsider’ traders generally used to be insult in Murhu Bazars; often they used to snatch their personal belongings. A similar complaint was also made against a farmer of Bandgaon, in Singhbhum who had acted very oppressively towards a Munda of Bandgaon, who had abducted Munda’s wife. The distressed Tribal people having been denied justice at the hands of those to whom it concerned, invited all the Kols of Sonepur, Tamar and Bandgaon to assemble at the village Lunkah in Tamar.The leaders of the Tribals deliberated among themselves in the atmosphere surcharged with emotions.
In the meantime arrows of war were being circulated through the country like the fiery cross. By the middle of January 1832, the “Munda and the Oraon had entered with zeal into the spirit of insurrection” which developed into the great regional crusade with the avowed object of getting rid of the horde of foreigners and other outsiders that were indulging in exploitation and the general abuse.
The ‘outsider’ Zamindars sought safety in fight, as there were no troops available in the district. The news of the rising in Chotanagpur plateau region inspired the fighting Hos and they decided to join their brethren as their allies.
“It was simply the love of fighting for its own sake that Hos had not been able to resist,” says Bradley-Birt.
But ethnic affinity and the common weal under the administration made the Hos determined to join their Munda and Oraon brethren of plateau region.
Principal leaders of this revolt of 1832 hailed from Porahat. They were Lati Munda, Topa Munda, Binrai, Kate Sardar, Khanda Pator, Sing Rai Manki, Doona Munda and others of Sonepur Parganas with hordes of followers who joined the insurgents. Thousands of Hos and Mundas assembled at Sadom Gootoo Pahar and resolved to strike hard. Other leaders were Samad Manki, Rara Munda, Mathura Munda and Ganga Manki.
Therefore, at a large gathering of the Mundas convened at the village Lankah in Pargana Tamar it was unanimously decided that the injuries inflicted and the indignities heaped upon the Tribals (adivasis) were past all bearing and they had no alternative but “to burn, plunder, murder and loot “ their oppressors.
In no time, the ‘foreigners / outsiders’ thekadaars, zamindaars and other officials were attacked, their houses even the villages were pillaged, burnt and devastated. These popular insurrections spread like wild-fire all over the plateau region. Oraons also joined the Hos and Mundas.
“In every pargana”, said Colonel Dalton, “the villages in which Sads (outsiders) resided were destroyed and all Dikkus (outsiders) who fell into the hands of the insurgents were murdered.
Captain Impey with 5 companies of sepoys attacked Sillagaon and killed 150 Mundas with their leader Bhagat Singh in encounter, but Larka Kols and Mundas remained as undaunted as before and they kept on challenging the British army for regular rebellion battles. It was not till March 1832 that Captain Wilkinson with the collective help of all available forces succeeded in restoring some kind of law and order. Several leaders like Binji Rai (or Bin Rai) and others were arrested and sent in chains to Calcutta.

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