Bengal and Eastern India

The establishment and spread of the East India Company's rule in Bengal and its adjoining areas resulted in many civil rebellions and tribal uprisings beginning from the latter half of the eighteenth century. The British rule in Bengal after 1757 brought about a new economic order which was disastrous for the zamindars, peasants, and artisans alike. The famine of 1770 and the callousness on the part of the Company to redress the sufferings of the common man were seen as direct consequences of the alien rule.

  • Sanyasi Revolt:   Also known as the Sanyasi-Fakir rebellion, it was a confrontation between armed wandering monks and the Company's forces in Bengal and Bihar which began in the 1760s and continued until the middle of 1800s. These groups were severely affected by the high revenue demands,  resumption of rent-free tenures, and commercial monopoly by the Company. The Company also placed restrictions on their access to holy places. This resulted in organized raids by the sanyasis on the Company's factories and state treasuries in retaliation. Only after prolonged military actions, this revolt was contained.
  • Chuar Uprising: Famine, enhanced land revenue demands, and economic distress forced the Chuar tribesmen of Midnapur district to take up arms against the Company. The revolted lasted from 1766 to 1772 and then again surfaced between 1795 and 1816.
  • Ho Uprising: The Ho and Munda tribesmen of Chhota Nagpur and Singhbhum challenged the Company's forces in 1820-1822, again in 1831 and the area remained disturbed till 1837.
  • Kol Uprising: The Kols of Chhotanagpur resented the transfer of land from Kol headmen to the outsiders like the Sikh and Muslim farmers. Hence in 1831, they killed and burned over a thousand outsiders. The rebellion spread to Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Palamau, and western parts of Manbhum. Only after a large-scale military operation, which lasted for several years, order could be restored in the region.
  • Santhal Uprising: The Santhals, living in the area between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal Hills, resented the oppression by revenue officials, zamindars, and the money lenders. They were determined to expel those who were considered to be outsiders, also called the 'dikus'. In 1855, the Santhals rebelled under the leadership of Sidhu and Kanhu and declared the end of the Company's rule and set themselves independent. Extensive military operations had to be conducted by the Company to bring the situation under control by 1856. Several reforms were introduced by the Government of Bengal afterwards, including the creation of a separate district of Santhal Parganas, to pacify the Santhals.
  • Ahoms Revolt: The Company authorities had pledged to withdraw from the territory of Ahoms (Assam) after the conclusion of the Burmese War (First Anglo-Burmese War, 1824-1826). However, the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms' territory in the Company's dominion and this sparked off a rebellion in 1828 under Gomdhar Konwar. The superior military prowess of the Company aborted the move. A second revolt was planned in 1830. But the Company, under a pacifying policy, had handed over upper Assam to Maharaja Purander Singh Narendra in 1833. Thus a part of the Kingdom was restored to the Assamese Raja while the rest came under the control of the Company.
  • Khonds Uprising: Khonds were the tribal people of Orissa who had first revolted in 1846 and then again i 1855. The leadership to the uprising was provided by Chakra Bisoi. The uprising was finally put down by the British but not without great difficulty.
  • Khasi Uprising: The East India Company, after occupying the hilly region between Jaintia Hills in the east an  Garo Hills in the west, had planned a military road to link the Brahmaputra valley with Sylhet region and brought a large number of Englishmen, Bengalis, and other labourers to work on the project. This was seen as an intrusion by the Khasis into their native lands and was resented by them. This led to an insurrection under Tirot Singh, the ruler of Nunklow who was supported by the Garos, the Khamptis, and Singhpos, in a bid to drive away the lowland strangers. The insurrection developed into a popular revolt against the British rule in the region. However, the revolt was suppressed under the superior English military might in 1833.
  • Pagal Panthi's Revolt: Pagal Panthis were a semi-religious sect founded by Karam Shah and lived in the northern districts of Bengal. Tipu Shah was the son of Karam Shah and succeeded in taking up the leadership of the cause of the tenants who were oppressed by the zamindars. In 1825, he captured Sherpur and assumed royal power. The insurgents spread their activities to the Garo hills and the region remained disturbed in the 1830s and 1840s until order was restored by the Company's forces.
  • Paika Rebellion: Also known as the Paika Bidroha. Paikas were a military class under the local zamindars of Orissa. They were peasant militia who rendered military services to the Gajapati rulers of Orissa during the times of war while resorting to cultivation during peace time. They first rose up in revolt in 1803 when the Company tried to extend its control over Orissa, after occupying Bengal in the north and Madras in the south. However, it was brutally suppressed. Again in 1817, they rebelled under the leadership of Baxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhara with an aim of overthrowing the British rule. Paikas attacked the symbols of the British rule, set ablaze police stations, administrative offices, and the treasury. The rebellion received widespread support from zamindars, village heads, and ordinary peasants. The British initially faced several setbacks but managed to regain their control after three months. The Government of India has recently recognized Paika Rebellion as the First War of Indian Independence, which was earlier associated with the Revolt of 1857.
  • Faraizis Revolt: The Faraizis belonged to a Muslim sect founded by Haji Shariatullah of Faridpur in eastern Bengal. Dadu Mian, son of Shariatuallah, organized the Faraizis to expel the English from Bengal, who were considered by them as intruders. The sect also supported the cause of the tenants against the exactions of zamindars. The Faraizi disturbances continued from 1838 to 1857.
  • Sambalpur Outbreaks: Frequent interference of the British in the internal affairs of Sambalpur created many problems in the region. Surendra Nath, popularly known as Veer Surendra Sai, led the revolt in 1827 but was arrested by the British in 1840 and the outbreak was crushed.
  • Mundra Revolt: The Mundas had been struggling against the destruction of their system of common land holdings by the intrusion of jagirdars, thikadars, and money lenders. The rebellion of Munda tribesmen occurred in 1899-1900 under the leadership of Birsa Munda who had mobilized his followers on religious and political grounds. In 1899, Birsa proclaimed a rebellion to establish Munda rule on the land by killing the thikadars and jagirdars. For this, he had gathered a force of 6000 Mundas. However, he was captured in February 1900 and died in jail in June.
  • Singhpos Revolt: This revolt occurred in 1830 in Assam and continued until 1839 when it was brutally crushed by the British.
  • Kachanagas Revolt: It took place in 1882 and Cachar, Assam under the leadership of Sambhudhan. It was brutally suppressed by the British.

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