Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Malangi Revolt of Medinipur (1793-1804)

The East India Company,that took over the rule of Bengal in 1772, monopolized the profitable salt-business in 1781.The Salt Department was created and,towards the end of the century,Contai or Kanthi became its headquarter.From Nimak Mahal (Salt Factory)built on a sand – mound at Contai in 1788,the business of the coastal area was conducted. The salt of East Cost used to exported to the outside wold for thousands of Years by the marchants.

Situation before the Company
Till the Mughal period traders used to purchase the salts from the Malangis. They were not in a mood to control the production process. The production was controlled by the rural peasantry.

Later when Company invade to rule Bengal, the industrial revolution was started in the Western hemisphere and salt became one of the important ingredient of any heavy industry over the world. So the British traders trying to control not only the trading process, but poke their nose in to mode of production of salt to control the salt trade and maximize the profit.

The historical papers suggests that the control of the companies was so cruel that they did forced the salt grower farmers to render more and more tax on the salt which was practically unbearable.

Production of Salt & the Malangis:
Salt was produced from the saline earth of the low-land areas often flooded by the sea.It was a strenuous job to produce salt from saline earth and water by means of evaporation and filtration process.Only poor people would agree to engage themselves in this job and very often workers were forced to do it. The workers who produced salt were called the Malangis.

Their Grievances
The exploitation was stretched to the extreme point .Wages were very low.Workers were sometimes forced to work gratis.They would have give presents to the company personnel. The work was so unpaying, so laboursome and loathsome to some that they tried to flee.

The Malangis, to redress their grievances, formed a crisis committee in 1793. the leaders were Ram Dinda, Bhawagan Maity, Haru Mandal, Haru Patra, Jaydev Sahu and Baisnav Bhunia. On 29th April, 1800, Malangis from Birkul, Digha, & Mirgoda came in procession to Kanthi. The Malangi leader of Birkul, Balai Kundu, lead the procession. They made the salt-agents and handed a petition to him but to no effect.

Premananda or Paramananda
In Tamluk – Hijli – Kanthi region, 60 thousand Malangis were engaged in salt – producing job. Agitation spread all over the area. In 1804, Paramananda (alias, Premamanda) Sarkar united the Malangis of all salt producing centers of the area. They laid seige to the salt agency headquarter at Kanthi.When the leader Mr. Sarkar was arrested, the Malangis were greately agitated and the situation went out of control. Only when all the demands of the Malangis were conceded, the movement come to an end.

About Midnapore district the British Govt. remarked, “It is a land of Revolt”. The Government that had to confront so many revolts and uprisings here that it was natural for it to make the remark. And regarding the participation of people in these uprisings, irrespective of sex, age, social rank or class, the coastal area of the district including Contai Sub-Division claims special mentioning. The history of the Sub-Division from 1905 to 1942 will easily substantiate this claim.
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