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Sannyasi Fakir Rebellion - 1770-1800

One of the greatest popular movement against the East India Company in 1770s was the rebellion of the Sannyasis and the Fakirs. The economic exploitation of the British East India Company, that resulted in great famines across parts of Bengal and Bihar, impoverished large sections of rural workers like weavers, potters, and other artisans and craftsmen, heavily taxed the peasants even when agricultural production was very low, led to a section of these along with the affected zamindars to rebel in different parts of the country. There was lawlessness everywhere and Sannayasis had to roam around in groups to the Holy places which were often remote and inside large tracts of forests infested by wildlife and bandits. The sannyasis and the Fakirs were dependent on the landlords and the peasants for the expenses of their trips to the Holy places as well as their sustenance. After 1770, when the taxation was increased to a great extent and the rural areas began starving, Sannyasis suffered as well. The Diwani or the tax collection had passed to the Company. The local zamindars were no longer able to support the Sannyasis. The poor peasants were dying in hoard in famines, esp. the 1776 famine left teh countryside of Bengal devastated as millions perished on account of the greed and near total exploitation by the East India Company's revenue and economic policy.  The British Government and the puppet Nawabs treated the Sannyasis and Fakirs as a group of bandits and therefore they were subjected to immense ordeal in the hands of the lower wrung law enforcers. In 1770 around 150 Fakirs were killed. The Sannyasis and Fakirs came together as a disorganized band of guerilla fighters who would arm themselves and fight the British soldiers. Many landlords and poor people supported them with information. They would loot the treasure meant for the Company and using that wealth would feed the poor and also develop their war machinery. Since they roamed around, the terrain was familiar to them. They would launch an attack and disappear. The leaders of the rebellion included Majnu Shah - a Shia-ite Fakir, Cherag Ali, Musa Shah, Ganesh Giri, Bhabani Pathak, Devi Chaudhurani, a woman leader (appears as the protagonist in Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel of the same name),  and other sannyasis from the Dashnami Giri and Puri sects. Despite having superior battle tactics and weaponry, the British troops suffered heavy casualties and sporadic battles continued atleast until the past part of the nineteenth century. The sannyasis rebellion and its objective has been immortalized in Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel Ananda Math. The same novel contains the song Bande Mataram, which later became the battle cry of many a revolutionaries against the British rule.

The sannyasi and Fakir rebellion in Bengal paved the way for the other unorganized movements like the Chuar rebellion in the plains of Bengal and the massive Santhal rebellion led by Sidho and Kanho in the Chotanagpur area in 1855.

Revolt of Baba Tilka Majhi - 1784

Baba Tilka Majhi was a tribal leader who paved the way for the future Santhal rebellion through his armed opposition. Santhals had been the owners and the custodians of the forests in the Rajmahal area of the Bengal Bihar border. The British East India Company acquired those areas and started establishing their own sovereignty, depriving the Santhals of their livelihood and forcing them to embrace poverty and deprivation. The Santhals naturally resented and their rebellion was led by Baba Tilka Majhi. Tilka Majhi killed the Collector of Bhagalpur, Cleveland, using a deadly slingshot. Afterwards Tilka took refuge in a jungle near Bhagalpur. The British forces encircled that forest and attacked the Santhals who fought bravely with their bows and arrows against the modern weapons. Many rebels were killed or captured. Tilka Majhi was finally injured and captured. The British forces, in an inhuman gesture, dragged Tilka by tying him to a running horse and hanged his body from a roadside tree. 

Chuar Rebellion - 1798 to 1800

The Chuars were the primitive tribal people living in the Western Medinipur, Bankura, Manbhum and other forested and hilly areas of Bengal who rose in protest against the treatment meted out to them by the rich landlords under the British patronage. They lived on agriculture and resources from forest. However their lands were forcibly taken away from them  and a lot of tax were levied on the remnant, driving them to desperation. Chuars were supported by the Paiks, who were basically the peace keeping forces in the villages, employed by the landlords in the pre British era. Their lands too were forcibly taken away. Under the sunset rule of the Permanent Settlement, unless the Zamindars or the landlords could provide the collection of taxes to the Company on time, on the last day of the period of taxation, before sunset, their Zamindari would be taken away by the British collectors. Many good landlords and tenants suffered as a result and the one who could forcibly extract their shares from the tenants, could survive. They partnered with the Company's forces, police and army, to extort, torture and terrorize the common people. The Chuars were led by Durjan Singh who had a force of one thousand five hundred rebels controlling atleast thirty villages. They fought a desperate battle with the Company forces, attcked the offices of the Collector and barracks of the soldiers and killed few officials. Eventually the rebellion was suppressed ruthlessly. The Laiks were another set of tribal tenants who fought under their leader Achal Singh adopting guerilla tactics against a vastly superior British force in 1816. Few local traitors helped in capturing Achal Singh and the Laik rebellion was also mercilessly suppressed. 

Polygar Rebellion 

The Polygars were the landlords of the Tinevelly area of Tamilnadu. They were independent rulers of their resp. domains under the Nawab of Arcot. The British East India Company entered into an arrangement with the Nawab of Arcot and tried to usurp the territories of the Polygars. The Polygars rebelled under their leader Kattabomman Nayak of Panchalankurichi whose base was in Ramnad. In 1799 in a dispute over the payment of taxes, Kattabomman killed Lt. Clark and entered into a bloody feud with the British. The Britosh kept a price on the head of Kattabomman, thus further angering the polygars. A series of battles followed in the Panchalankurichi fort with British troops reinforced from Tiruchirapally. The British troops were led by collector Major Bannerman. Kattabomman escaped the British to flee to the jungles along with his two brothers but was caught by the treachery of the Raja of Pudukottai. He was executed in the full view of the public. Rebel leaders and associates of Kattabomman like Subramania Pillai and Soundra Pandian were mercilessly tortured and killed to instill terror in the hearts of the people. Polygars did not stop here. They got the two brothers released and unleashed another set of attacks in 1800, this time more stealthy and covert. They bombed the British barracks in Coimbatore. Polygar leaders like Oomaithurai,  Maruthu Pandiyar, Dheeran Chinnamalai allied with the Raja of Malabar and launched guerrilla warfare using dense jungle forts. A long campaign that lasted more than a year followed. The British troops under Lt. Col. Agnew laid siege to the Panchalankurichi fort and captured it. Oomaithurai and the Maruthu brothers escaped but were pursued by the British forces and were eventually caught. They were publicly hanged and brutal suppression of the polygars followed until 1805.

Gurjar Rebellion

The Gurjars rose in revolt in 1813 when the enormous state of Raja Ram Dayal was passed to the British. This was suppressed, but in 1842 , Bijai Singh, who was a land owner near Roorki and was a relative of Ram Dayal, declared open revolt against the British. He was joined by Kalwa, a notorious bandit. The rebel leader assumed the title of Raja and levied taxes on adjoining districts. After a fierce battle in which nearly two hundred rebel fighters were killed, the mud fort was taken and the rebellion was suppressed. This rising was supposed to be reinforced by others from the nearby districts but unfortunately it collapsed before the right time. 

Savantvadi Rebellion

Savantvadi on the Konkan coast passed under British protection in 1819, but rebellions broke out in 1830, 1832 and 1836. The British further tightened their hold on the state and assumed its Governance. Anna Saheb, the heir apparent, joined the rebels of Kolhapur, and assumed the royal power. He began to collect revenue and opened negotiations with the native officers of the British Army. The revolt spread to the British occupied districts but it was suppressed. The rebellion continued until 1859 after which it was ruthlessly crushed.

In Bijapur a Brahmin named Diwakar Dikshit, gathered a band of followers and assumed title and a local Government. In 1840 a Brahmin named Narsimh Dattatreya led a band of 125 Arab soldiers from the Nizam's territory and captured the fort of Badami. He took possession of the town and proclaimed himself as Narsimh Chattrapati and hosted the flag of Sahu. He plundered the Government treasury and gave lands on lease to cultivators. 

Raja of Vizianagram Vizieram Rauze had a troop of seven thousand soldiers of his own and could count on the military resources of subsidiary chiefs. The British,s ensing risk, decided to disband the troops and add the amount thus saved to the rent to be paid by the Raja. The British also decided to remove his control over his tributary chiefs. Raja collected a force and fought with East India Company forces in 1794. He was defeated and killed but his son Narayan Rauze continued with the hostility. Very soon he became the centre of collective resistance, organized defences and collected revenue. The British was forced to come to terms with him. A rebellion also broke out in the Ganjam district in 1798 because of the arrest of a popular Zamindar for non payment of taxes to the British. 

Rebellions broke out in Maharastra when soldiers were disbanded post annexation of states. The Ramosis rose in revolt between 1826-19 near Pune. Gadkaris rose up in revolt in Kolhapur in 1844. 

In Kathiawar, Rao Bharmal raised an Arab army to drive the English out of Kathiawar, he was defeated but the struggle was continued by the other chiefs. 

Several Zamindars in Bengal were up in arm against the British rule because of the economic plunder by the Company. The Raja of Dhalbhum offered a stiff resistance to the British in 1767 and when he was forced to flee, the British put his nephew Jagannath in his place who showed a similar resistance. When Captain Morgan was sent against him, he found that the whole country was up in arm against the British. Chuars and other tribal communities had joined Jagannath and the British authorities were forced to send several expedition. After a series of violent clashes, the British finally made peace with Jagannath and allowed him to rule his estate. 

The extractions and the oppressions of the notorious Debi Singh, one of the flag bearers of the East India Company in Bengal, that led to severe economic exploitation and plight, led to a violent rising of the peasants in Rangpur in 1783. It is to be noted that Edmund Burke had immortalized the same Debi Singh in his speeches during the impeachment of Warren Hastings. 

An outbreak took place in Bareilly in 1816, led by Mufti Mohammad Aiwaz. The revolt was caused by the grievances related to the unjust and uncalled for taxation, economic plight and highhandedness in extorting money for maintaining a Municipal police. Aiwaz was much venerated in the Rohilkhand area and he took up the cause of the oppressed people. The police even tortured a woman and inflicted injuries on Aiwaz, which led to the local Muslim population to rise up in arm against the British forces. Mufti mustered the religious fanatics from all over the Provinces i the North, who unfurled the green flag of Islam and attacked the British police with swords and guns. Forces under Captain Boscawen and Lt. Lucas, were defeated and troops under Capt. Cunningham and Major Richards were despatched to Bareilly post haste.  The British forces suffered some set backs but were ultimately able to defeat the rebels by killing atleast three hundred of them. Rest were either wounded or taken prisoner. Twenty one soldiers were killed on the British side. 

In 1814 a number of petty chieftains or Taluqdars in the Aligarh region rose in revolt. They had built fortresses and commanded troops. They also had patronized local gangs who would reinforce their troop. Regular soldiers were employed to tame the Badhiks and the Mewatis, who were based out of Mursan and Hathras. The most formidable among the petty chieftains was Dayaram from Aligarh. He had built a formidable fort with guns at the top and ditches around. He had a strong garrison of eight thousand soldiers and three thousand five hundred among them were mounted on horseback. Dayaram however did not commit any open act of defiance against the British and yet, unjustly, the East India Company, sent a division under the command of Major General Marshall against him in February 1817. Dayaram resisted and fought a determined battle against the British forces for about a month. Dayaram's fort was considered to be the strongest in India. Its defences had been formidable, reinforced by the latest innovations. He had trained artilleries stationed in Meerat, Kanpur, Mathura. The town encircling the fort was soon breached and firing began at the fort. There was the most powerful assemblage of artilleries as forty two mortars and three heavy batteries went into action and fired throughout the day to bring the fort down.

Paik Rebellion of 1817 in Orissa

Paiks comprised the band of army and police force of the local zamindars. They were given land for subsistence for generations. With British East India forces occupying their lands and evicting tyhe zamindars who were their mainstay, their sources of livelihood were threatened. Paiks therefore rose into rebellion under their formidable leader Jagabandhu Mahapatra who commanded a major influence in Khurda. He was the commander of the forces of the Raja Mukunda Deva of Khurda who was evicted by the British for anti British activities in 1804 and suffered much in the hands of the East India Company. The strength of the Paiks was reinforced by Kandha (Khond) tribal joining their ranks and they rose into revolt as one army.  They attacked the police stations and Government offices in Banapur where they killed 100 men and looted the treasury. Their success inspired the whole country to revolt. Rebels proceeded to Khurda and their ranks swelled in number with more people joining in. For a brief period all the traces of British rule were wiped away. All Government officers fled. Puri also broke out in rebellion and the British forces had to beat a hasty retreat to Cuttack. A new force was despatched to Puri.  The local zamindars of adjoining districts actively supported the rebellion and even Muslims joined the same, thus giving considerable weight to the rebellion. Company Government led by Eliza Impey sent forces to suppress the rebellion. Of the two Lieutenants sent, Faris was killed by the Paiks and the other was forced to retreat to Cuttack. Another force was sent to Khurda that took charge of Khurda and declared martial law. Jagabandhu captured Puri and the Company forces retreated to Cuttack. The Company then sent  the troops from Khurda to Puri and the ill equipped rebels were defeated. Raja was captured and the Paik forces were also defeated in Cuttack. Uprising continued throughout Orissa where Paiks continued to fight the British forces. By 1818 Company recaptured the lost provinces in Orissa and resorted to brutal suppression by torturing, killing and transporting the rebels. Massive manhunt was launched between 1818 and 1826 to capture all the rebel Paiks. Leader of the rebels Jagabandhu surrendered in 1825 and remained a prisoner until 1829 when he died. Raja Mukunda Deva had died as a prisoner of the Company in 1817. 

There were various other rebellions that took place in Orissa between 1825 and 1857 - rebellion in Banapur in 1835, rebellion of the Kandhas under Dora Bisoi and Chakra Bisoi, Sambalpur uprising by Veer Surendra Sai, Gond uprising, Bhuyan uprising by Dharanidhar Naik (source: Wikipedia). 

Religious Fanatics and Islamists also tried to resist the British rule, but mainly on the grounds of religious fundamentalism. Their ire was also directed at the Hindus and while they battled against the Zamindars, Indigo planters and British administrator, they also routinely descrecated temples of Hindus, broke the idols of the Hindu Gods and indulged in cow slaughter. The most notable among them were Dudhu Mian and his father Shariatullah, who set up the highly communal Faraizi movement, Sayyed Ahmed of Rai Bereilly in U.P who set up the Wahabi movement in 1820, following the doctrines of the Wahabis in Arab. Sayyed Ahmed's movement was not strictly anti British, as he set up battles against the Sikhs. The Wahabi movement was carried out in Bengal under the leadership of one Titu Mir who operated in the Basirhat region. He gathered a large number of followers. Titu Mir set up a bamboo fort in Narkelberia in South 24 Parganas and waged war against Hindu Zamindars, murdered Hindu Brahmin priests, slaughtered cows, desecrated Hindu temples, plundered the shops of Hindus, insulted the Muslims who did not join their crusade and committed vioelnt outrages on the Hindu lives and properties. They declared that the British raj was over and proclaimed their right as the heriditary right of the Muslims to rule over the infidels. They formed a military order and committed atrocties in several districts of South Bengal. The Wahabis won small battles as the Company did not unleash its forces against them. Local administrations were captured by the Wahabis. The British then sent a force of ten Regiments under one Alexander who had been defeated earlier. This time the British forces killed Titu and captured his associates who were executed or imprisoned. The movement of the Wahabis and Faraizis were of completely communal character and hence would not qualify as freedom movement. Some Marxist historians have attempted to portray these as rebellion against the British, but in view of the communal character of the movement it can only be inferred that these religious fanatics were only driven by their zeal to establish their own agenda. Another religious body - the Pagla Panthis of Mymansingh led an insurrection against the Government under a person called Tipu. He preached the doctrine of equality of men and gathered a large number of followers who carried out outrages against the landlords. 

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