1850s: Rai Movement

Christian Missionaries might have been attracted to Ranchi by “straight-forwardness and light-big heartedness of few tribal coolies (porters)” they came across on the streets of Calcutta but the tribals of Chotanagpur were attracted towards them on their assured help to fight against the alien Thicadars and Jagirdars.
To quote Captain Davies, the senior Assistant Commissioner in 1858, “With Christianity has naturally come an appreciation of the rights as original clearers of the soil which rights in many instances they had asserted and established. This, independent of other causes which induced the higher caste of natives to view with displeasure the spread of Christianity, caused great alarm amongst the landlords and farmers who it is alleged were not slow to use against these converts every means of persecution which they could safely venture on.”
Hereit may be mentioned that during the disturbances which followed the rebellion in 1857 (Mutiny) the zamindars and their men taking advantage of the absence of the authorities oppressed and plundered the whole of the native converts and destroyed the Church property. Many a convert lost their lives while the others had to take shelter in the forests and hills.
It must be admitted that most of the new inquirers looked to the secular benefits the Christians enjoyed rather than the spiritual side of the new religion. Again to quote Captain Davies on this point, “Of the parties concerned in these proceedings, I have had a number of people before me, and regret to say many stated openly that their object in becoming Christians was to regain their lands etc. In justice to the true faith but they imagine they have become so because they have been a few times to the Mission and have cut their hair off, but it is to be more regretted since it gives a colouring to the complaints brought by the zamindars against the Christian as a body for these men undoubtedly been guilty by taking the law into their own hands, instead of preferring their claims through the ordinary courts, but which in reality they have not the means of doing.”
Growing conversion of the tribals into Christianity had been at once a cause and consequence of their dispute with their landlords. It became a constant subject of complain of the Zamindars that the Missionaries held out hopes to the aborigines of complete emancipation from their landlords and of a restoration of state of affairs which prevailed in the country before the advent of Hindus.
Missionaries were ready to help the tenants in their resistance to the exorbitant demands of the landlords and they did so on several occasions. A belief spread throughout the district that the tribals who went to court as a Christian were uniformly successful that those who had not changed their faith. This resulted in great accession of strength to the ranks of Christians.
A reasonable desire to be reinstated in Bhuihari lands actuated some, a dishonest idea to become one of the favoured family of Bhuihars seized others, so much so that towards the end of 1858 the conflict assumed a serious proportion and a detachment of native infantry had to be sent from Ranchi to Gobindpur for preservation of law and order in Pargana Bassea and Sonpur, both largely populated by the Mundas. In the meanwhile their number also increased in adjoining Parganas of Bassea, Becudde and Doessa.
The result of this movement was that Captain Davis recommended survey of Bhuihariland. Lala Loknath Shahi, a local Zamindar and a sub-Assistant Commissioner was deputed to prepare a register of all Bhuinhari lands which was done till 1862 when he died. But the decisions of Lala were on the whole more favorable to the others, and seemed inadequate for the Bhuinhars and thus the seething discontent continues unabated.

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