Monday, May 10, 2010

Hul - The Santal Rebelion

Santal Hul was one of the fiercest battles in the history of Indian freedom struggles causing greatest number of loss of lives in any battles during that time. The number of causalities of Santal Hul was 20,000 according to Hunter who wrote it in annals of Rural Bengal.  The Santal Hul of 1855-57 was master minded by four brothers Sidhu, Kahnu, Chand and Bhairav; a heroic episode in India's prolonged struggle for freedom. It was, in all probability, the fiercest liberation movement in India next to Great Sepoy Mutiny in 1857.
With the capture of political power of India by the East India Company, the natural habitats of the Adivasi (indigenous) people including the Santals began to shatter by the intruders like moneylenders. Traders and revenue farmers, who descended upon them in large numbers under the patronage of the Company.
Believe it or not, the rate of interest on loan to the poor and illiterate Santals varied from 50% to 500%. These intruders were, needless to mention the crucial links in the chain of ruthless exploitation under colonial rule. They were the instruments through which the indigenous groups and tribes were brought within the influence and control of the colonial economy.
Discontent had been simmering in the Santal Paraganas( presently in Jharkhand ) from the early decades of the nineteenth century owing to most naked exploitation of the indigenous Santals by both the British authorities and their collaborators, native immigrants.
Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu, hailing from the village Bhognadih in Sahibganj district, had long been brooding over the injustices perpetrated by the oppressors like hundreds and hundreds of their tribe's men. The situation finally reached a flash point and, not surprisingly, a small episode that took place in July 1855 triggered one of the fiercest uprisings that the British administration ever faced in India.
The emergence of Sido and Kanhu, youthful, dynamic and charismatic, provided a rallying point for the Santals to revolt against the oppressors .On 30th June 1855, a large number of Santals assembled in a field in Bhagnadihi village of Santal Paragana, They declared themselves as free and took oath under the leadership of Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu to fight unto the last against the British rulers as well as their agents.
Militant mood of the Santals frightened the authority. A Police agent confronted them on the 7th July and tried to place the Murmu brothers under arrest. The angry crowd reacted violently and killed the Police agent and his companions. The event sparked off a series of confrontations with the Company's Army and subsequently reached the scale of a full-fledged war.
At the outset, Santal rebels, led by Sido and Kanhu, made tremendous gains and captured control over a large tract of the country extending from Rajmahal hills in Bhagalpur district to Sainthia in Birbhum district. For the time being, British rule in this vast area became completely paralyzed.
Many moneylenders and native agents of the Company were killed. Local British administrators took shelter in the Pakur Fort to save their life. However, they rebel could not hold on to their gains due to the superior fire power of the East India Company came down heavily on them.
The courage, chivalry and sacrifice of the Santals were countered by the rulers with veritable butchery. Out of 50,000 Santal rebels, 15,000 20,000 were killed by the British Indian Army. The Company was finally able to suppress the rebellion in 1856, though some outbreaks continued till 1857.
The Santals showed great bravery and incredible courage in the struggle against the military. As long as their national drums continued beating, the whole party would stand and allow themselves to be shot down. There was no sign of yielding. Once forty Santals refused to surrender and took shelter inside a mud house. The troops surrounded the mud house and fired at them but Santals replied with their arrows. Then Soldiers made big hole through muddy wall, and the Captain ordered them surrender but they again shot a volley of arrows through the hole and Captain again asked them to surrender but they continued shooting arrows. Some of the soldiers were wounded. At last when the discharge of arrows from the door slackened, the Captain went inside the room with soldiers. He found only one  old man grievously wounded, standing erect among the dead bodies. The soldier asked him to throw away arms, but instead he rushed on him and killed him with his battle axe.
It is believed that Sido was captured by the British forces through treachery and Kanhu through an encounter at Uparbanda. And was subsequently killed in captivity. The Santal Hul, however, did not come to an end in vain. It had a long-lasting impact. Santal Parganas Tenancy Act was the outcome of this struggle, which dished out some sort of protection to the indigenous people from the ruthless colonial exploitation. The understanding the mistake, tired to appease the Santals by removing the genuine grievances. Santal territory was born. The regular police was abolished and the duty of keeping peace and order and arresting criminals was vested in the hands of parganait and village headman.
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