The Causes of Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion)

Causes of Santhal Hul

Socio-economic Causes by Santhal Hul 

The Santhal Rebellion was not begun on the spur of the moment as a result of sudden passion, but it was the result of a long endurance of exploitation and oppression. It came at a time when the destitution and sufferings of the Santals had reached an extremely high level.

Among the various causes which led the Santals to rebel the most commonly cited is the merciless exploitation of the grasping and rapacious Mahajans or money-lenders and by the zamindars or landlords.

During the same time that the Santals began occupying the Damin-I-Koh (an area surrounding the Rajmahal Hills and comprising 1,366 square miles demarcated by the British government in 1833 and declared as government property) large numbers of Hindu traders and money-lenders began to infiltrate the area.

When the spendthrift Santals took loans, they more often than not found themselves trapped in a vicious circle of extortion from which they could not escape in their lifetime. Before long, as a result of the usurious rates of interest, fraudulent dealings in the use of measures, weights and prices used in the execution of bonds, these merchants and money-lenders amassed large fortunes at the cost of the simple and honest Santals who were in turn reduced to utter misery.

The immigrant landlords took advantage of the Santals misfortunes and started exacting heavy taxes which the over-burdened Santals could never possibly pay. The revenue administration organized to collect rent and settle land disputes was riddled with corruption. As a result of all these factors, the Santals were being forcibly ousted out of their own property.

The Santals had made a number of attempts at presenting their grievances to the government. These were, however, repeatedly rebuffed and the aggrieved Santals could never get court redress. For civil and criminal cases the Santals were forced to go to the courts at Deoghar or Bhagalpur which even today with the modern means of transport are still considered to be far away placed out of the reach of the ordinary villager.

Moreover, the prevalent oppression of the Santal Police Rules and the corruption of the judicial administration especially of the amlahs (clerks), mukhtars (pleaders) and peons, rendered the making of such long journeys to Deoghar and Bhagalpur to not avail. Since the Santals did not know any language other than Santali, they were forced to make use of interpreters and pleaders and also of clerks to file their grievances before the judges.

All these were in turn in the pay of the landlords, traders, and money-lenders. The courts of law supposedly the guardians of justice, thus gave more security to the propertied classes and as far as the Santals were concerned legalized the rapacity of their oppressors. They found themselves subjected to forcible dispossession of property, abuse, personal violence and a variety of petty tyrannies.

Santhal Hul Santhal rebellion

However, though the Santals demands which preceded the rebellion were mainly concerned with the improvement of their general economic situation, three other factors were of paramount importance in forcing the Santals to revolt en masse.

The Importance Of Land

For the Santals, the land not only provides them with economic security but is also a powerful link with their ancestors whom they keep in very high esteem and veneration. No land is taken possession of, no site for a new village is selected unless the ancestral spirits first approve of it.

For the Santals, the land is thus part of their spiritual as well as their economic heritage. Following this belief according to their tribal customary laws and practices, much of the land was owned collectively by the village as a whole.

The idea of individually owned land was unheard of. The English government, however, which more often than not was completely ignorant of the tribals traditions and customs, could not conceive of such traditional beliefs. They knew only of one pattern of land ownership - individual ownership.

Santhal Hul Group  event

This principle guided a number of land legislation which instead of benefitting the Santals, the original owners of the land, encouraged the Deku settlers to acquire more and more land forcibly mortgaged by the Santhals.

The Honour Of Their Womenfolk

Though the introduction of the railway and of the indigo plantation in Santal Parganas was a source of material gain to the Santal workers, both factors soon turned out to be a threat to the Santals long-cherished traditions and customs especially those concerning their tribal marriage code. In Santal society, women enjoy a high degree of respect and of equality with the menfolk.

Any immodesty shown to them provokes intense and angry disapproval and is treated with great severity. Such actions also incur the wrath of the village spirits who are said to become polluted with the result that they stop protecting the villagers.

According to their traditions, the Santal ancestors twice ran away from the country in which they were living rather than submit their women to marrying outsiders or persons not of the tribe (Volume 2). Now the Santals were often seeing their womenfolk being forcibly abducted and dishonored by European railway men and indigo planters.

The reason Behind Santhal Hul Santhal rebellion

The religious message from Thakur Jiu received by Sido and Kanhu the rebellion leaders: Another important element in the complex of factors which led to the Santal rebellion was the yearning for independence - the dream of ancient times when the Santals were said to be their own masters without any overlords. This urge for independence reached its climax when the two brothers Sido and Kanhu proclaimed that they had received a divine message from Thakur Jiu, the supreme deity of the Santals into an open revolt against their oppressors.

This religious sanction gave the leaders the authority they required to be accepted by the Santals at large and to start the rebellion. Everyone firmly believed that the gods could not fail them. On 30 June 1855, more than 30,000 Santals rose in arms.

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