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Santal Rebellion

Kunal Chattopadhyay


British colonial penetration in India resulted in major upheavals among ethnic groups collectively designated “tribals.” Tribals objected to the colonial intrusion of their areas, the imposition of alien norms, alien property laws, the abolition of customary rights (especially through control over forests), and above all the intrusion of moneylenders, traders, and revenue farmers emerging under British rule. The greatest of tribal revolts was possibly the Santal Hool (rebellion). With the establishment of the Permanent Settlement in 1793, Indian landlords (zamindars) were given ownership over land in perpetuity as long as they paid a stipulated tax to the state annually. Thus Santal lands came under colonial control. The Santals believed that the one who cleared the land first was its master. Repeated encroachments had led Santals to shift from several districts of Orissa, Bihar, and Bengal to a new area, freshly cleared by them, around the Rajmahal Hills, naming it Daman-e–Koh. But the zamindars and the trappings of a colonial-capitalist economy turned up again. The introduction of a money-based economy pushed them into the clutches of rapacious moneylenders and unscrupulous Bengali traders. Extortions, forcible dispossession of property and other natural rights, abuse and personal violence, and a variety of petty tyrannies led to uprisings in 1811, 1820, and 1831. The hool ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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