The Progress of Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion)

The Progress Of Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion)

The official account of the Rebellion is given in Mc Pherson's Settlement Report, and as this is not easily available it will perhaps be of interest if I reproduce it here. 

"The progress of the peaceful development of the district was rudely but only temporarily interrupted by the Santal rebellion which broke out in the Damin-i-Koh on the last day of June 1855. The outbreak was quite unexpected and by none more so than by Mr. Pontet, as his letters of that year disclose."

A certain amount of unrest had been noticed in the cold weather of 1854-55 and Mr. Pontet in his annual report of 28 May 1855 discussed the relations of the Santal's with their Mahajan, the extortionate interest of 50 percent charged by the latter and also certain complaints against the railway people, who were making the new Loop line from Burdwan to Rajmahal; but so far as revenue demands were concerned there was perfect contentment, and it never crossed Mr. Pontet's mind that the other grievances of the Santal's would lead to open revolt.

Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion)

It was exactly one month after this letter was written that 10,000 Santal's gathered together at Bhognadih in the heart of the Barhait valley under the leadership of the four brothers Siddhu, Kanhu, Chand and Bhairab and proclaimed was against Mahajans, zamindars, and all rich Bengalis.

On the 7th July, the Daroga of thana Dighi attempted treacherously to arrest the leaders of the revolt and was himself killed with nine of his escort. Mr. Pontet had attempted to use his influence with the Santhals within the Damin, but found his efforts in vain and reported in July that he could 'never again consider himself safe without firearms'.

There were no troops at hand to contend with the insurgents except the Hill Rangers stationed at Bhagalpur. These advanced to Clogging, but on 16th July were defeated by the Santhals at Piolapur with the loss of their sergeant-major and 25 men. The rebels then got out of hand and committed numerous acts of atrocity, butchering many of the Mahajans who had held them for so many years in a state of bondage.

Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion) Sido Kanhu Chand Bhairoh

But the Hill Rangers were speedily reinforced by European troops and native infantry and by the end of August they had cleared the country on the Bhagalpur side of Santal insurgents, inflicting a serious defeat upon them at Sangrampur. East of the hills Rajmahal was saved by exertions of Mr. Vigors, railway Engineer, who fortified his residence there.

On the Murshidabad side Mr. Toogood, Magistrate of the district, brought up troops from Berhampur and inflicted signal defeats on the Santhals at Maheshpur and again at Raghunathpur on 24th July. Further, operations against the rebels were postponed on account of the rains.

There were still about 30,000 of them under arms, and they began to display renewed activity, especially on the Birbhum side. Martial law, at first refused by the Government of India, was proclaimed on 10th November over Bhagalpur right of the Ganges, Murshidabad right of the Bhagirathi and the whole Birbhum district.

Santhal Freedom Fighter Sido Kanhu Birsa

The disturbed country was then swept by some 8,000 troops under the command of Major General Lloyd and Brigadier General Bird and by the last day of the year, the rebellion was officially declared to be at an end. Martial law was suspended on 3rd January 1856. The work of revenue collection within the Damin-i-Koh had been resumed before that date.

The Dumka Damin remained longest disturbed. In Rajmahal and Pakaur Mr. Pontet reported in January that more than one-fourth of the raiyats had already settled down again, and he expected to realize one-half of the past year's revenue.

In the Godda Damin, which was first pacified, he expected three-fourths. By the following year, collections were again in full swing. The Santhals were excluded from the working of Regulation I of 1827 and exposed to the rapacity of police and civil court underlings of Bhagalpur, working hand and glove with extortionate Mahajans and, outside the Damin-i-Koh, oppressive zamindars.

Santhal Hul (Santhal Rebellion)

Mr. Pontet had no police or magisterial powers and could not do much to protect them. When he attempted to interfere, he was snubbed. The following is Jugia Haram's version.

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