1855: The Great Santhal Insurrection (Part-I)

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Santhals had immigrated into this area from the regions now forming the Chotanagpur Plateau region, Bankur, Purulia and Midnapore districts of West Bengal and settled in what came to be known a “Damin-I-Koh”from 1832-33.
The Santhals are very industrious people and they made the area very fertile and inhabitable with their expertise.
Great Sido and Kanhu
But slowly and silently their exploiters also came to settle among them. They were the people from neighboring states and up-country merchants and money-lenders who had amassed large fortune at the cost of the simple Santhals denizens.
They lent a few rupees; some rice or some other articles to the Santhals and following a cunning and tortuous process within a short period became the arbiters of their fate and held in hand their destiny throughout their life. Not only a Santhal rapidly lost all his lands to pay off the Mahajan’s debts, but in numerous cases pledged his own person to work off the debt.
What is most strange, “this condition of rank slavery” tolerated, nay sanctioned, by the British Court of Law conveniently located at distant Bhagalpur. Further the greedy Zamindars started leasing Santhal villages to alien Thekadars who used to squeeze them bone-dry. The corrupt and oppressive police force used to be bribed by the Mahajan and usually play havoc on the life of the Santhal defaulters. Unsympathetic administrators like Mr. Pontent were not at all interested in the well-being of local Santhal population.
The Santhals of the South and West also spread the discontent of their brethren in Damin-I-Koh, and the allusions were made to a Santhal Chief, named Morgoh Raja, living near Parsavnath hill. It was rumored that he was trying to form an independent Santhal kingdom. One of the respected religious leaders of the Santhals was Bir Singh, who declared that the God Chando Bonga had appeared before him and gave him magical charms by means of which he could stop the exploiters of the local tribe population. Thus an initial resistance movement was organized in the Santhal-Pargana region.
Another set of respected leaders of the Santhals was the brothers Sido and Kanhu of Bhagandini, who through their aggressive leadership-qualities ignited the growing discontent among the Santhals into massive flames. They claimed to have seen their Thakur, experienced a wonderful revelation and to have favored with scraps of papers, which were distributed throughout the country. They also sent forth a ‘Sal’ tree branch to their brothers and others, as a sign to rouse the clans. 
On 30th June 1855, about 10000 Santhals met at Bhaganadihi where Sido and Kanhu proclaimed the divine order that the Santhals should defy and oppose their oppressors’ exploitative control over them. The Santhals declared their determination to do away with exploiters from neighboring states and up-country Mahajans to take possession of the country and set up a government of their own.
The Santhal mob proceeded from Bhognadih to the neighboring bazaar at Panchkathia to worship a local goddess there, and thereafter started punishing their exploiters ruthlessly. They killed 5 local mahajans.
When on 7th July 1855 the Daroga of Thana Dighee or Borio Bazar who had already attained notoriety reached the place with his heavy police force, he was soon killed by Sido along with a few others (19 in all) with the result that the police force fled away to safety. The Santhals then vented their anger on the streets of Barbait Bazaar (crowded by their exploiters) and after that marched into the different directions with their traditional weapons like bows, poisoned arrows, axes and swords in their hands to teach a lesson to their exploiters.

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