Jharkhand played a significant role in the Indian freedom movement. It
provided financial support to the struggling coal mines and industrial workers
and contributed generously to the Congress funds. The pain and sacrifices of
Siddhu Murmu, Kanhu Murmu Tilka Manjhi, and the Birsa Munda will be always
remembered. Jharkhand being an Industrial place was always vulnerable for
exploitation by the Britishers but at the same time, it has also offered a lot
to the Indian national movement.
National leaders frequented time and again and
took an active part in solving industrial and labor problems. Revolutionary
nationalism entered in Jharkhand after the formation of Bihar and Orissa.
Jharkhand has also a locational advantage during the freedom struggle, in the
coalfield areas it was easy to shelter to absconders, conceal arm-pits, and the
dynamics and gun powder without the knowledge of the corollary authority. So
Jharkhand became an important center of revolutionary activities.
tried to understand the role played by Jharkhand in the National movement in
- Tribal Resistance and Aspirations for self Rule
- What Indian Democracy can learn from the Jharkhand movement
- Conclusion And Road Ahead
1.Tribal Resistance and Aspirations for self Rule:
The concept of self-rule can
be traced way back from Jharkhand tribal movement before enunciating by Bal
Ganga Dhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi. Adivasi armed revolts and resistance
characteristically differed from other contemporary currents of the struggle for
independence. Adivasi revolts were mass uprisings of peasants. They used bows
and arrows and other traditional arms against firearms. Their struggle was for
freedom, natural justice, identity and traditional rights on land, forest and
They adopted the tactics of guerilla warfare. They fought against the
British army and their sepoys, police, zamindars, money lenders and government
administrators. It might sound strange to many but the native tribes –
considered illiterate, naïve, and backward by rest of the people from the
so-called modern society – are among the first torchbearers of protest against
the invasion of forests by the outsiders. The British know it only too well. The
subjugation and colonization of Jharkhand region by the British East India
Company resulted in spontaneous resistance from the local people. Almost a
hundred years before India’s First War of Independence (1857), tribes of
Jharkhand were already engaged in a series of armed struggle to liberate their
land from the British colonial rule. There is a glorious history of resistance
by the forest-dwelling tribes who stood up to protect their community-based
governance and control on the surrounding forests. Even non-tribal Jharkhandis
feel proud about the legendary tribal leaders such as Tilka Majhi (Jabra Pahadia),
Sidhu Kanhu, Birsa Munda, Kana Bhagat, etc who not only caused heavy damages to
the powerful White invaders but also forced them to enact legislation to protect
their land rights.
The historic acts such as Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act (1908)
and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (1912) are two examples of the impact of tribal
struggle against oppression. Tribal struggle in Jharkhand gave a new direction
to the Indian national movement
Understanding the course of the struggle:
“Jharkhand is located on the Chhota Nagpur Plateau and Santhal Parganas and
abounds with forests, minerals, and scenic beauty. The subjugation and
colonization of Jharkhand region by the British East India Company resulted in
spontaneous resistance from the local tribes.
In fact, the Adivasis frequently
engaged the British in armed struggle in order to take control of their lands
from 1771 to 1900 AD. The first ever revolt against the landlords and the
British government was led by Tilka Manjhi – a valiant Santhal leader in Santhal
tribal belt – in 1771.
Then in 1779, the Bhumij tribes rose in arms in Manbhum,
now in West Bengal. It was followed by the Chero tribes’ unrest in Palamau in
1800 AD. Seven years later in 1807, the Oraons in Barway murdered the powerful
landlord of Srinagar, West of Gumla.
Soon the uprisings spread throughout Gumla.
Then it spread eastward to neighboring Tamar areas of the Munda tribes who rose
in revolt in 1811 and 1813. The Hos in Singhbhum came out in open revolt in 1820
and fought against the landlords and the British troops for two years. This is
known as the Larka Kol Risings 1820–1821. Then came the great Kol Rising of 1832
which was quite strong and greatly upset the British administration in Jharkhand.
It was a determined attempt to resist attempts by the Zamindars to oust the
tribal peasants from their hereditary possessions.
The Santhal rebellion broke
out in 1855 under the leadership of two brothers Sidhu and Kanhu. Towards the
end of the nineteenth century, the Birsa Munda’s “Ulgulan
” (revolt) broke out in
1895 and lasted till 1900. Though the revolt initially started in the Munda belt
of Khunti, it soon spread to other areas. It was the longest and the stiffest
tribal revolt against the British occupiers. It was also the last organized
armed tribal revolt in Jharkhand.
Needless to say, this uprising was also
quelled by the superior firepower and Birsa was soon killed. In the 20th
century, the tribal uprising was influenced by the mainstream freedom movement
of Mahatma Gandhi and the focus shifted from sporadic uprising to party politics
led by the urban intelligentsia. In 1914 Jatra Oraon started what is called the
Tana Movement. Later this movement joined the Satyagraha Movement of Mahatma
Gandhi in 1920 and stopped giving land tax to the Government. In 1915 the Chhota
Nagpur Unnati Samaj was established for the socio-economic development of the
In 1928 it petitioned to the Simon Commission for a separate tribal Jharkhand State which was ignored. Then in 1931, The able Oraon organized
Adivasi Mahasabha which merged with the Chhota Nagpur Unnati Samaj in 1935 in
order to become a stronger political force. In 1939 Jaipal Singh from Darjeeling
became the president of the Adivasi Mahasabha, which was renamed “Jharkhand
Party” after independence. Jaipal Singh remained its president from 1939 to
Post-Independence Tribal Aspiration And The Creation Of Separate State:
In 1939 Jaipal Singh from Darjeeling became the president of the Adivasi
Mahasabha, which was renamed “Jharkhand Party”
after independence. Jaipal Singh
remained its president from 1939 to 1960. Post-independence, the Jharkhand party
became a prominent force in Bihar politics until its decay in the sixties.
one of its splinter groups leads by Shibu Soren the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha
continued the struggle for a “Greater Jharkhand.” In the meantime the BJP came
out with its demand for a separate “Vananchal” state comprising 18 districts of
Bihar, arguing that demand for a “Greater Jharkhand”
including areas from
neighboring states was “not practical
In 1988, Ram Dayal Munda committee
submitted a report to the Union Home ministry advising it to grant ‘autonomy’
. After yearlong discussions at various levels the idea of
creating a “Union Territory” or “Jharkhand General Council”
emerged. In 1995 the Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council (JAAC) was set up after a tripartite agreement
between the Union government, the Bihar government and group of Jharkhand
leaders including Soren, Munda, Mandal, Besra, and Tirkey. Some Jharkhand tribal
leaders like Horo opposed the agreement, calling it a farce and stuck to the
demand for Tribal Homeland. But the road map to a separate Jharkhand state was
already laid down.
Aspirations of Jharkhand tribes came to fruition when the Jharkhandis got their
separate Jharkhand State in November 2000. But did they really achieve more
dignity and security?
Let’s understand the course of the history of the problem
Jaipal Singh Munda And The Betrayal By The Congress
No teacher teaches but learns so much more in the process. My students had been
tasked to write essays on the broad subject of Indias nationhood. There was not
a single essay from which I did not learn something. One of them, on tribal
India, contained a memorable quote from a speech given in the Constituent
Assembly on December 19, 1946, by the Munda leader, Jaipal Singh. I rise, he
said, to speak on behalf of... the original people of India... As a jungli...
The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and
dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and
disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at his word. I take you all at
your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter of
Independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be
Addressing a gathering of Christian leaders at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, in
February 2015, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, extolled the 2008 inter-faith
on human rights and announced: [S]peaking for India, and
for my government, I declare that my government stands by every word of the
My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that
everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her
choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any
religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred
against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal
respect to all religions.
is hardly the vehicle for a word of honor but if the prime minister
tweets a word of honor, the word becomes more important than its vehicle. On
World Press Freedom Day, last May, Modi tweeted, Our unwavering support towards
a free and vibrant press, which is vital in a democracy.
Both these -
guaranteeing freedom of faith and freedom of speech -
are our prime ministers
words of honor. They are words of honor in the highest Jaipal Singh sense of the
term. Our prime minister knows more than anyone else that many things have
happened, deeply troubling and shameful, that have belied his words of honor.
it too late, even futile, to say, like the Munda leader did to Nehru, ...and
yet I take Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his word?
His word of honor needs to
be recognized for what it is. That, in his own words, is vital in a democracy.
It is an accomplished fact that BJP is holding the true ideological legacy of
Jaipal Singh Munda. BJP jumps to Atal Bihari Vajpayee giving him credit to
create Jharkhand in 2000.He was the only person from this region who had been a
member of the Constituent Assembly and was a signatory to India’s Constitution.
Even the Congress, which is alleged to have had cheated the tribal leader in
merging his Jharkhand Party with a promise to get a separate statehood feels shy
to remember him. If he is remembered at all, its only for his contribution to
hockey that too perfunctorily. The mega sports complex constructed for the 34th
National Games at Hotwar was named after Jaipal Singh Munda in 2010 by the then
Arjun Munda Government. There is a stadium named after him in Ranchi, which is
in a shamble. But no major party claims his political legacy.
The speeches of
Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel and B R Ambedkar, in the constituent assembly,
made Jaipal as an embodiment of national tribal aspiration. “…I think it would
be our endeavor to bring the tribal people to the level of Mr. Jaipal Singh,”
Sardar Patel had declared in the Constituent Assembly.
While the political
parties, though acknowledge his immense contribution, may attribute their
forgetfulness to the tribal icon for his betrayal of Jharkhand cause, the
experts say it is not in the psyche of tribals to glorify their heroes.
Jharkhand Movement As A Social Movement:
Social movements are generally conceived as a manifestation of collective
behavior. They are often the results of organized group efforts aimed at~ome
reform of the existing social structure or creating a newer one through
revolutionary activities. They can also assume the form of counter-group
activity for the resistance of such changes in the status quo. In this sense,
Robert D. Benford defines social
movements as collective attempts to promote or resist change in a society or a group
On the basis of their objectives, social movements vary in scale and
nature. If the objective of any social movement has some bearing across the
whole society then it certainly acquires a larger scale than the one, which has
some particular objectives relating to any specific group or segment of society.
The objective of any movement,
the movement is an ethnic one.
The Jharkhand region, as we all know, is the home
of numerous Adivasi communities. These adivasis along with their social and
cultural attributes come very close to what we mean by an ethnic group. In the
movement, these Adivasis undoubtedly a major force to reckon with. Due to this,
the movement is often designated to be an Adivasi movement, hence ethnic. But
this is only one side of the argument.
There are some scholars who launch a
severe criticism against this on the following
- Firstly, the imposition of the ethnic status upon the Adivasi
communities follows from the word tribe which is a colonial construct
purposefully applied to convey a sense of inferiority to those indigenous
communities who tried to resist the colonial encroachment in India right from
its beginning. In the words of K.S. Singh, the tribal communities who with a
sensitivity born of isolation and with a relatively intact mechanism of social
control revolted more often and far more violently than any other
- Secondly, although the adivasis are participating in
the movement in large numbers non-adivasis are also present in it. Hence it is
incorrect to designate it as an ethnic movement.
- Finally, the objectives of the
movement got changed in and through the long history of it. With the passage of
lime, the movement gradually-acquired considerable maturity, which can be
revealed from its
objectives as it enveloped to cover the aspirations of the different The
Historicity of the Jharkhand Movement 115cross-sections of the Jharkhand
For the analysis of social movements, this debate, however, has no
serious implication simply because social movements encompass, they are of
ethically, a wider space in the society. There is no point in characterizing a
social movement on the basis of some of its dimensions exclusively. As a matter
of fact, all the social institutions of any given society play their role either
actively or passively in the long history of it.
Ethnicity which is shaped by
the social and
cultural institutions of any society, hence, may assume significance in some
stages in the life history of a social movement. The history of the Jharkhand
movement should be traced back to the introduction of British rule in India. It
is by no means the colonizers who were the first to subjugate the indigenous
Adivasi communities of Jharkhand. In fact, it well happened in the pre-British
period when the independent native states of this region were converted into
tributaries of the Mughal Empire.
This resulted in a considerable increase in
the economic significance of the region. To cope with the demands of the
changing economy the indigenous states required the generation of agricultural
for this, they invited people from the plains who with their better agricultural
technology could do this. By affecting the economic sphere through the change in
the agricultural relations of production and the cultural sphere through the
introduction of people from outside the region the Mughal rule prepared the
ground for rural class struggle with all of its pre-conditions.
colonialism made very excellent use of this situation and added some more
dimensions. Through the enactment of the Permanent Settlement Regulations Act in
1793, it introduced the concept of private property in land, which was unknown
in Indian history. As a result of this most of the erstwhile Adivasi r~jasor
chieftains were converted into zamindars or landlords and the common peasants
were transformed into serfs or Rayats. Instead of payment of nominal
subscription to the Mughal emperors, British rule made the payment of land
revenue a compulsion. The responsibility of revenue collection was vested with
The burden of this proved to be enormous for the peasants and a
large number of them were forced to sell their lands, only to
become landless laborers. The moneylenders, liquor vendors and other people from
outside the region exploited this situation. Hence a new class of absentee
landlords was also created. By
undermining the local rajas or the chieftains the British rule for the first
time in Indian history tried to bring this region under its uniform
administrative network. The people of this region did not have any such
experience of the monolithic ruling.
This provided a severe blow to their
political organization, which was governed more by custom rather than contract.
The land question here required some more attention. The adivasis of this region
conceived of themselves as natural owners of the land, which they have reclaimed
by extensive labor. laborer, land and the forest were not merely viewed as means
production in their custom; they were rather, culturally and religiously,
associated with the land and forest. In fact, the land was the primary medium
through which, in their view, they were connected to their ancestors. So, they
could hardly tolerate their alienation from the land and the forest as created
by the British agrarian policies. These, therefore, brought them into the arena
of resistance movement for the first time in Indian history.
Movement, as we know it today, definitely has its legacy in these earlier
insurrections of the indigenous communities of this region.Hence, the Jharkhand
Movement started through the unfolding of the agrarian movements pitted against
the colonial agrarian policy.
Then onwards it passed a long course of time to
reach its present state. For the analytical purpose we can divide it into four
discernible phases which are also indicative of the underlying trends of the
movement in relation to the social, economic, cultural and political scenario
through which it passed and is still passing today:
- The phase of Agrarian Struggle (1765-184
- The phase of Consolidation (1845-1920
- The phase of Confusion (1920-1970)
- The phase of Elevation to Social Movement (1970 onwards)
Phase of Agrarian Movement (1765-1845)
In the words of Alvin Johnson, True
agrarian movements take place whenever urban interest have encroached, in fact,
or in seeming,
upon vital rural interests.
Hence agrarian movements take place whenever urban
penetration occurs in the rural areas. It may be through the influence of urban
values, (as for example, interdependence, individualism, etc.) or through the
acquisition of better lands in the rural area, the imposition of land revenue,
The Historicity of the Jharkhand Movement tax and so on. Hence, in any
agrarian movement both the culture and economy occupy the center stage. In this
phase of the Jharkhand movement, all the uprisings bore the evidence agrarian
movement, especially the later ones.
The major peasant uprisings of this phase are as detailed below:
- First Chuar Rebellion ( 1767)
- Dhalbhum Rebellion (1769-1774)
- Tilka Majhis War (178(}-1785)
- Pahadia Revolt (1788-1791)
- First Tamar Rebellion (1795)
- Second Chuar Rebellion (1798-99)
- Nayek Hangama(180-1826)
- Second Tamar Rebellion (18201)
- Kol Insurrection (1831-32)
- Ganga Narayans Movement (1832-33)
Descriptions of these uprisings seem unnecessary at this stage. What is
important here is to have an analytical insight into the underlying trend of
these uprisings. British encroachment into the Jharkhand
region started in the year 1765 after receiving the Dewani of Bengal, Bihar,
At its initial stage, colonial administrators were basically
interested in collecting land revenues from this region which was quite
inaccessible due to its heavy hilly and forest covers. Apart from this, the
British administrators had to face another difficulty and that was concerning
the attitude of the indigenous communities who refused to pay land revenues.
Hence payment of land revenue and that too in a compulsory manner was the basic
reason behind the uprisings of this phase especially those prior to 1793, the
year in which the Permanent Settlement Regulation Act was enacted.
As in all
these, solely the land question came into prominence so we cannot say that all
the pre-conditions of an agrarian movement were present there. Here we have a
mixture of the essences of rural class struggle and agrarian movements. The
Permanent Settlement Regulation Act was enacted. As in all these, solely the
land question came into
prominence so we cannot say that all the pre-conditions of agrarian movements
were present there. Here we have a mixture of the essences of the rural class
struggle and agrarian movements.
The Permanent Settlement Act of 1793 brought
certain administrative changes which much more directly undermined the
traditional customs of the Adivasi communities of this region.
- Firstly, the payment of land revenue by the cultivators to their chiefs were
customarily guided but the Permanent Settlement Act tried to
suddenly substitute contract for custom as argued by W.W. Hunter.
- Secondly, the law and order of this region were maintained by theghatwals or
the likes under the command of the local chiefs
who were well informed of the customs and local cultures of the people. These
pykes enjoyed gifts of lands from their chiefs for the service rendered by them.
But the Permanent Settlement Act brought these lands also under its purview.
Naturally, the pykes suffered due to this change and became rebellious. The
British administration dispossessed the pykes from their duties and the
government took into its hands the law and order system. The indigenous people
perceived it as a threat to their traditional system of administration.
- Thirdly, due to strict revenue assessment, most of the local chiefs were found
in huge arrears and their estates were auctioned to meet the revenue balances.
The indigenous communities had a traditional organic relationship with their
chiefs and could not bear the system that eventually led to their
- Finally, and most importantly, the estates of the local chiefs in arrears were
auctioned and in most of the cases, they were purchased by the outsiders, mostly
non-adivasi zamindars This was the final assault to be tolerated by the adivasis.
They perceived the entry of the non-adivasis into the region as a severe their
Therefore, the Permanent Settlement Act of 1793
the peasantry economically and also drove them towards a state of cultural
alienation. The traditional economic and political organizations of the
indigenous people centering on the autonomous village community were undermined.
The entry of the outsiders in this region became associated with a considerable
degree of urban encroachment which had its effect felt in the life of the
indigenous communities there. This ~esultedin a value conflict and the
all-important issue of the collective identity
of these communities was facing the crisis of disintegration. The uprisings after
I 793 were, thus, the voices of protest of the
indigenous adivasi communities to protect their economic self-sufficiency and
The second Chuar Rebellion of 1798-99, later the Kol
Insurrection of 1831-32 and the Ganga Narayans uprising of 1832-33 most
prominently showed this trend.
In all these the Adivasi communities especially
the Bhumijs of the Jungle Mahal and adjacent areas of the Chotanagpur, The
Historicity of the Jharkhand Movement 119 plateau region participated in large
numbers. Economic to the question of land and land revenues were definitely
there but the uprisings were more and more directed to protect the culture and
custom of the autochthons which were on the verge of submergence due to the
onslaught of an alien rule.
The magnitude of these rebellions reached such a proportion that led E.T. Dalton
to write with a great degree of despair: I do not think that the settlement of
any one of the Bhumij Jungle Mahal was effected without a fight.
these rebellions, particularly those of the post-1793
the period can be designated as agrarian struggles.
Agrarian struggles are always indicative of an emerging conflict of values,
ideas, beliefs, and, so to speak, cultures of the two polar opposites-the rural
and the urban. In the case of underdeveloped economies where the differences
between these two are highly pronounced, there the rural communities due to its
sheer backwardness, grown out of relative isolation, develop kind of hatred
towards the townsmen. But we should not blame the backwardness of the rural
people for this exclusively. In fact, the urbanites also try to use the
backwardness of the rural people and exploit them, their resources.
conflict often turns to be more violent if some other dimensions viz. race,
class, region, ethnicity, etc. are added into it. In the case of the Jharkhand
movement, this happened in its second phase where the conflicts, which were
already there in its first phase, assumed some other dimensions, most
Ethnicity, as we all know it, is primarily a method of group formation in the
societies on cultural accounts. It pertains to the individual, or the group, a
sense of identity, which only assumes significance in the context of inter-group
relations by creating a demarcation between the we
and the they
With the entry of the outsiders into the Jharkhand region, and with the
increasing intensity of the agrarian struggles in the first phase, gradually the
insider-outsider contradiction became crystallized. In the second phase, this
gained momentum, as the insiders were increasingly becoming conscious of their
(original inhabitant) identity in contrast to the outsiders who were largely
These outsiders were mostly the zamindars, moneylenders, etc.
created by the British rule, and they used to exploit the peasantry severally.
In this way, the identity of the outsider became largely conterminous with that
of exploiter to the insideradivasis whom the latter designated as diku
Christianity in the
second phase of the movement also played a m£Yor role in the process of identity
formation of the indigenous communities of Jharkhand. Christianity was
introduced into this region in the middle of the nineteenth century. Unlike in
some other parts of the globe, Christianity in India never became an agrarian
Rather, the main mission of Christianity in India was to prepare a
support base for the British rule among the indigenous communities. To attain
this they quite successfully utilized the prevailing insider-outsider
contradiction, which was there in the socio-cultural mosaic of Indian society.
In Jharkhand also, like many other Adivasi-inhabited regions of India, they
appropriated it and tried to consolidate it. In the words of K.S.Singh They
gave a new sense of self-respect to the tribal peasants and sought to create a
separate identity for them. Although Ganga Narayans uprising of 1832-33 was the
final major uprising of the first phase but the fallout of the combined
uprisings continued until the middle of the next decade. In this period the
British authority felt the need of separating Chotanagpur from the Calcutta
Presidency for its smooth administrative functioning. For this, the South West
Frontier Agency (SWFA) was established and Captain Wilkinson became the first
administrative agent of it.
This separation also contributed to the development of the ethnic identity of
the inhabitants of the Chotanagpur region. This was the major achievement of all
the uprisings of the first phase. Hence it was 1845, the year which saw the
introduction of Christianity into this region, which should be regarded as the
starting point of the second phase.
The major uprisings of the second phase are as under:
- The Santhal Insurrection (1855)
- The Sepoy Mutiny (1857)
- Sardaro Agitation or Mulkui Larai (1858-1895)
- Kherwar Movement (1874)
- The Birsa Munda Movement (1895-1900)
- Tana Bhagat Movement (1914-19).
In all these uprising ethnicities played a major role although we The
Historicity of the Jharkhand Movement cannot neglect the general discontent of
the masses arising out of the exploitative British agrarian policy. But what we
can assert with a great degree of certainty is that all these were the products
of an ethnicized socio-political structure where the question of economic
inequality was viewed through the lenses of ethnicity. All these uprisings
centered on the Adivasi-non Adivasi divide.The adivasis in order to safeguard
their distinct cultural identity, which in their view was jeopardized by the
non- Adivasis often sought the political solution of it in the form of
self-determination through self-rule. This wi.s most prominent in the Santhal
Insurrection, Kherwar Movement and Birsa Munda Movement.
In the first two, the Santhals participated enormously and tried to establish the Santhal Raj while
the Birsa Munda Movement went for the Munda Raj under the leadership of Birsa
Munda. Religion also proved to
be very significant in shaping the ethnic identity of the contending groups.
Apart from the Santhal Insurrection, in all the other uprisings religion became
a major issue;
The Sepoy mutiny of 1857
got ready support from the Hindu zamindars of the region as they were engaged in
the struggle against their Christian ryots who were aided by the Christian
missionaries. The suppression of the mutiny turned the tide in favor of the
Christian ryots to launch severe protest movements against the zamindars, that
marked the beginning of the Sardari agitation in which the Munda Sardars and the
Oraons of Chotanagpur region took part in 1858.
Just as the Sardari Agitation
was influenced by the Christian missionaries
so was the Kherward Movement of 1874 by Hinduism. According to S.C.Panchbhai,
the leaders of the movement, sought to introduce social reforms in the line
with the Hindu traditions and adopted many Hindu symbols to mobilize the
masses. 9 The general aim of the movement was to drive away from the British
and the Christian missionaries from the country and in, this way, to establish a
In the Birsa Munda Uprising, the new religion Birsaism
Birsa assumed an important role in mobilizing the adivasis against
all the outsider Dikus
Indian as well as English. Finally in the Tana Bhagat
Movement too religion in the form of Hinduism became crucially important in
order to mobilize the Oraons. In the- Words of Sachidananda the entire Bhagat
movement may be conceived as an attempt to raise the status of its members in
the eyes of Hindu neighbors by Sanskritization which also included the
inculcation of Hindu beliefs land practices.
The revivalist, revitalizing, and the messianic characters of these uprisings
bring them close to what is perceived as ethnic movements. These were
revivalist, revitalizing or to be more precise revivalistic nativism
to use Ralph Lintons 11 concepts as they tried
to revive and revitalize certain chosen moribund elements of Adivasis a culture
like wearing of sacred threads and sacred paste, the practice of offering
prayers instead of sacrifices to spirits (in case of BirsaMundas uprising
insistence of ceremonial purity in food and drink (in case of Tana Bhagat
To have a glimpse of the revivalist nature of these uprisings Mcpherson wrote in the context of Santhal Uprisings of 1855:
Santhal yearning for independence, a dream of the ancient days when they had no
overloads perhaps a memory of the pre-historic times when according to some
speculators they were themselves, masters of the Gangetic valley and had not yet
been driven back by the Aryan invaders.
These uprisings were also millenarian and messianic in character as in all these
the belief was there that they were always supported by the divine power either
in the form of God or of any prophet. W.H. Grimley the Esq. Commissioner of
Chotanagpur Division in his report on the Birsa Munda Uprising mentions in 1895,
that Birsa claimed that he was a prophet sent by God to preach the coming of
a deluge which not only made it unnecessary for the people to cultivate their
lands but would sweep away government.
Hence, all these major uprisings of the
second phase reveal their resemblance with ethnic movements. In fact, the
British rule through a very crude interference in the indigenous communities
economic and socio-cultural system created the pre-conditions for ethnic
conflict to emerge in the Indian social structure.
In any ethnicized social
structure all its elements become conscious of their identity and it becomes
more vibrant to those who are being pushed into the periphery. In the instances
of these peripheral groups deprivation in economic as well as cultural terms
conjointly influence the process of
collective identity formation. This was the case with the uprisings of the
second phase as Swapan Dasgupta writes, To the adivasis, the loss of land was
not merely a matter of economic deprivation, but an affront to their dignity,
their izzat, a theme recurrent in subaltern perception.~
The Phase of Confusion (1920-1970)
All the uprisings prior to this were largely unorganized, though spontaneous in
character, but the opposition comprising the landlords, the moneylenders, and
the British Authority combine was not only well organized but also very
This may be the reason behind the failure of these uprisings. The
third phase, which covered a considerable portion of the twentieth century,
however, witnessed a significant change in this respect. The need for the
organization of the oppressed was felt at the very beginning of this stage.
In the words of Susan B.C. Devalle, The twentieth century inaugurates the
modality of formal politics in Jharkhand
. The central objective of these formal
organizations was to turn the unorganized Adivasi uprisings into a systematic
movement. But their endeavor was not successful, as they became plagued with a
great dilemma concerning their objectives, structure and the nature of
It was in this phase that mining and industrial activities
ranging from small to large scale were introduced in the Jharkhand region. As a
result of this, the process of working-class
the formation began here. Industrialization triggered the process of
urbanization also. Some large cities like Jamshedpur, Rourkela, Ranchi, and
Bokaro came into being containing a sizeable portion of the middle class whose
genesis went hand in hand with the twin process of industrialization and
A considerable section of the industrial workforce was composed of
people from outside. All these made the social composition of the area quite
complex. Ethnicity, which emerged as an engine of mass mobilization in the
second phase, especially among the adivasis, found itself in a very confusing
state, which manifested itself in several dimensions but the centrality of it,
in my opinion, was located in the nature of interaction and interrelationship of
ethnicity and class.
The major organizations of this phase were:
- Chotanagpur Improvement Society (Chotanagpur
- Adivasi Mahasabha, and
- Jharkhand Party
The first formal organizations of the adivasis having the support of all the
core groups were the Chotanagpur Improvement Society formed in the year 1915
under the leadership of some educated Christian adivasis. From the very
beginning, it was concerned with the issues of social security and the distinct
identity of the adivasis. Although formed in 1915, this organization officially
came into existence in the year 1920. The Samaj tried to ameliorate the
social, economic and political backwardness of the adivasis of Chotanagpur. To
safeguard the identity of the adivasis, the samaj placed a demand before the
Simon Commission in 1928 to form a sub-state of Chotanagpur joined either to
Bengal or Orissa.
This should be regarded as the first demand for the separation of Chotanagpur
from Bihar. Its attempt, however, failed to attain the desired objectives
because it could not resolve the contradictions regarding its scale and scope of
- Firstly, it was concentrated only on the educated segments of the
Adivasi population, but initially, it had the goal of the upliftment of the
Adivasi society in general.
- Secondly, although there was an effort to extend its range of activities
to the rural areas, in reality, it remained confined within the urban areas
One reason for this may be its orientation towards the middle class that was
basically urban in nature. Finally, as only the Christian adivasis dominated it,
the large section of the non-Christian adivasis of the region, somehow, remained
isolated from it.
In fact, this intra-ethnic contradiction centering on the question of
Christianity was so fundamental that it led to the division of the samaj
into two parts. The non-Christian adivasis formed the Kisan Sabha while the
Christian adivasis formed the Chotanagpur Catholic Sabha. In order to bridge
this intra-ethnic gulf, the Adivasi Mahasabha was formed in the year 1938 in
which all the organizations that had the vision of developing the Chotanagpur
region were merged.
The Adivasi Mahasabha tried to respond to the demands, which were there in the
then society of Jharkhand. Due to industrialization and urbanization, as we have
mentioned earlier, the area witnessed an influx of outsiders from the
neighboring states which led to a change in the social fabric of the Jharkhand
region. To ensure the proper representation of the different cross-sections of
this society, the Mahasabha under the leadership of Jaipal Singh, an
Oxford-educated Adivasi, opened itself to all the non-adivasis also despite its
This led to a change in the concept of Diku also. Previously all the
non-adivasis were regarded as Dikus.Hence, the Bengalees who founded their
interest unsafe in Bihar, and the Muslims who had some strategic interest in
Chotanagpur at that time stood beside the Mahasabha and The Historicity of the
Jharkhand Movement were not considered as Dikus.
The term only signified those outsiders, according to Sinha, Sen and Panchbhai
who are from north Bihar in particular ... Who earn and send their earnings
outside to their homes.
This type of precision in defining the term diku gave the Adivasi Mahasabha a
relatively wider space of operation. But unfortunately, it could not capitalize
on this as, with the passage of time, the non-Adivasis became gradually
separated from it, the reasons whereof can be diagnosed from the objectives of
the Adivasi Mahasabha as mentioned by B.P. Mohapatra:... the establishment of a
separate province for the aboriginal tribes of Chotanagpur within the framework
of the Government of India, the representation of the aboriginal tribe in the
state cabinet of Bihar by at least one educated aboriginal, an the introduction
of Santhali and other aboriginal languages as the media of instruction in
Hence, just like the intra-ethnic contradictions that had plagued the
Chotanagpur Unnati Samaj earlier, here in the case of the Adivasi Mahasabha, the
inter-ethnic strife centering on the Adivasi non-Adivasi conflict besides other,
led to its downfall. But here we should take into account the resilience of the
factor of class. In fact, the Dikus who were the people of North Bihar,
Marwaris, etc.were also viewed by the adivasis as exploiters.
There were plenty of outsiders who were non-adivasis, located in the lower
stratum of Hindu caste hierarchy, were never regarded as Dikus. Therefore,
here ethnic identification coincided with that of class. But the Adivasi
Mahasabha perhaps failed to grasp this crucially important social reality. At a
specially convened meeting in Jamshedpur in the year 1950, the Adivasi Mahasabha,
which was gradually becoming unpopular, was wound up and the Jharkhand Party
was formed under the leadership of Jaipal Singh to mobilize all segments of the
people of Chotanagpur with the demand of a separate Jharkhand state.
Under its auspices, the concept of Jharkhand was enlarged to include all the
areas that once formed part of the Chotanagpur administrative division. Thus,
some parts of West Bengal, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh was included in it. The
result of this was quite interesting.Some portion of the non-Bihari moneylending
community who otherwise could be regarded as Dikus became the members of
the Jharkhand Party.
This led to the apparent transition of the Jharkhand Movement from the level of
ethnicity to regionalism. Overemphasis on regional solidarity made the Jharkhand
Party unable to read the nexus between class and ethnicity, although the formal
liberal policies of the party gave it some electoral success in the first two
general elections of independent India in 1952 and1957. At the height of the
movement for a separate state, the Jharkhand Party submitted a memorandum to the
State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) in April 1954 demanding the formation of
the Jharkhand state within the national and the constitutional framework of the
Sovereign Democratic Republic of India.
The SRC, however, rejected the demand on certain grounds like, the minority
status of the adivasis in the Jharkhand the region, absence of a viable link
language, the Jharkhand Party not having a clear majority of seats in the region
and the imbalances between industry and agriculture which such a bifurcation
would cause for a residual Bihar state.
This refusal of the SRC had a tremendous frustrating impact upon the Jharkhand
Movement, and in the general election of 1962, the strength of the Jharkhand
party decreased considerably. Jaipal Singh, thinking that the separate state
cannot be achieved by the politics of separatism or isolation merged the
Jharkhand Party with the ruling Congress in 1963 ignoring all the views against
Regarding this merger, and the consequent degeneration of the Jharkhand
Movement, many a reason can be put forward. But the reason that merits a
sociological analysis must concern itself with the internal contradictions
prevailing at the level of the then Jharkhandi society. In fact, these
contradictions were present there throughout the third phase and none of the
organizations could resolve them.
Nirmal Sengupta very succinctly summarises the issues of these in his
characterization of the features of both the Adivasi Mahasabha and the Jharkhand
- Urban orientation in thinking and activity;
- Christian domination and close links with the Churches;
- Pre-dominantly Munda-Oraon organization and,
- Efforts to establish tribal solidarity alone tending to sectarian
behavior against non-tribal autochthons.
Thus despite its advocated policies of liberalism, the Jharkhand Party failed to
bring the rural agricultural non-Christian Adivasis into its fold. Being
predominantly a Munda-Oraon organization it also failed to win over the Santhals
of the Santhal Pargana region who had a very proud legacy of struggle against
the alien rule.
Moreover, the non-adivasis who had remained indifferent earlier became rather
skeptical towards it. Against this backdrop, the merger of the Jharkhand Party
with one of the mainstream nationalist parties, like the Congress, made it very
difficult for the future Jharkhandi organizations to reorganize it. As the
causes of the deprivation of the people were there, so also the movement, but
practically there was no organization to lead it.
Some associations were formed particularly in the Santhal Pargana region during
this period, which tried to bring together the factors of class and ethnicity
into the degree of their agenda. During the closing period of the 1960s, some
degree of radicalization entered into their politics due to the influence of the
Naxalite Movement going on in other parts of the country. This paved the way for
the emergence of radical politics under the banner of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)
led by Shibu Soren and some others, which ushered in a new phase in the history
4. Phase of Elevation To Social Movement (1970 Onwards)
This phase witnessed the maturation of those tendency hints of which were
apparent in the closing period of the last phase. The agrarian issues, hitherto
neglected by all the organizations of the third phase were brought into a sharp
focus. Ethnicity, which was considered the primary mobilizing agency, lost its
exclusive significance. Efforts were being made to blend the ethnic factor and
the class factor together, which was really the challenge before all the
Jharkhandi organizations in the third phase.
The first organization that tried to accomplish this goal was the Shivaji Samaj,
a social reform organization established by Binod Bihari Mahato in the year
1971. This organization tried to bring the Kumi-Mahatos of the Jharkhand region
close to the adivasis. It also tried to develop the consciousness of the people
against the evil of land alienation. Hence it sought to form a kind of
pan-ethnic solidarity of the wretched peasantry of Jharkhand to struggle against
In the words of Arvind N. Das, the leaders of the movement took the
stand that any such struggle should be taken up by the people as a whole and not
by any particular community.But, primarily being a social reform organization,
this could not actually lead the people in any political struggle.
This led to the birth of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, a radical political
organization in the year 1973 under the leadership of Binod Bihari Mahato, A.K
Roy, Sadanandjha and Shibu Soren. This is the first time in the history of the
Jharkhand Movement that non-adivasis became iL> leaders, as the first three
leaders mentioned were non-Adivasis. Binod Bihari Mahato was the leader of the
Mahatos who was basically agriculturists in the Chotanagpur region.
A.K. Roy had a considerable influence among the colliery workers of the Dhanbad
belt of the region. Sadanand Jha was a militant trade union leader operating
among the railway workers at Gomoh and finally, Shibu Soren had wide acceptance
among the adivasis of the region who called him Guruji. Naturally, the
composition of the leadership resulted in the seeming unity of the adivasis and
the non-adivasis on the one hand and the workers with the peasantry on the
The JMM leadership realized that the problem of the oppression of the Jharkhandi
sub-nationality was integrally linked with the class exploitation of the workers
and the peasantry of this region by both the private and the bureaucratic state
capital. As Arunabha Ghosh says, The Morcha projected itself as a radical
Marxist party which not only demanded a separate state of Jharkhand with
reservation of jobs for the sons of the soil but also to free that state from
class exploitation. Hence, JMM. by blending the factor of class and ethnicity
widened the social base of the Jharkhand Movement.
It also led to a change in the connotation of the term Jharkhandi as well, by
signifying, a producer, irrespective of caste, tribe or nation, residing in the
Jharkhand region. 21 But the JMM, in spite of having some initial success,
failed to achieve its objective in the long run. This failure may be attributed
to the complexity that the process of the working class formation experienced
here due to the intervention of ethnic factors.A large portion of the working
class here, as mentioned earlier, was composed of immigrants who considered the Dikus
as their ethnic brethren.
Consequently, there was a split among the working class, and the movement along
with the organizations lost the momentum,
which was gained in the initial period of this phase. The immigrant
working-class gradually distanced itself from the JMM and to achieve political
mileage out of this hazy situation almost all the nationalist
parties opened their Jharkhand cells here during 1978-1980.
The salt was added to the injury when Shibu Soren, like his predecessor Jaipal
Singh, decided to fight the seventh Lok Sabha election in 1980 by
forming an alliance with the Congress(!). Binod Bihari Mahato in protest leftJ
MM and formed JMM (B) while A.K. Roy also resigned. The history of the Jharkhand
Movement from this point was marked
by the evil of narrow electoral politics. Unethical political adjustment, The
Historicity of the Jharkhand Movement corrupt practices of the leadership,
mushrooming of political organizations devoid of any concrete ideological base,
and factionalism, isolated the people from all these.
Several organizations like JMM (M),_ Jharkhand Peoples Party, All Jharkhand
students union and many others came up but all these failed to achieve any
noteworthy success. At times there were some efforts at the integration of these
splinter Jharkhandi groups. These saw the formation of the Jharkhand
Coordination Committee (JCC) in 1987 but this also disintegrated without making
any positive contribution due to the inimical stands taken by different leaders
regarding its structure and operation. Basically, during the 80s and 90s, there
was no Jharkhand Movement, despite the fact that there were a number of
Jharkhandi organizations. These organizations did not try to organize and
mobilize people over the demand of Jharkhand their only intention was to convert
it into an issue having considerable electoral value.
The game of political understanding and adjustments for electoral benefit;
resulted in the formation of the Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council (JAAC) in
August 1995 which was a powerless and crippled body gifted to the people of this
region to ensure their loyalty to the system of electoral politics. The same
political arithmetic of electoral profit and loss saw the passing of the
Jharkhand Bill by the Indian Parliament on 2 August 2000, which resulted in the
formation of a separate Jharkhand state on 15 November 2000.
The people of this region, realizing that the formation of the state as a result
of political manoeuvering instead of their active struggle, remained
indifferent. They were enough conscious to perceive that this could not resolve
their contradiction with the Dikus both indigenous and outsiders, hence the
story of their exploitation would also carry on.
The attitude of the common people of Jharkhand towards the new state was well
reflected in The Times of India report<; on 5 August 2000: A quick survey of
the Santhal Pargana area reveals that it is the Dikus who are celebrating the
formation of Jharkhand, not the tribals. The reason, they are preparing for the
loot of the vast natural resources of the area. Although electoral politics
occupied the center stage one should not underestimate the role played by the
people, in general.
In the later part of the 1970s and almost throughout the 1980s we saw the
alienation of the immigrant working class from the movement. But the indigenous
working class, however minimum their proportion in the total workforce might be,
was always there in the movement. The economic policies of liberalization,
privatization was undertaken by the Government of India in the latter part of
the 1980s and the early 1990s resulted in severe exploitation of the working
class. The economic reality of exploitation again brought the immigrant, mostly
the non-Adivasi working-class close to their adivasi counterparts. This was
evident in some of the programs of Jharkhand bandh, the days-long economic
blockade of the region, organized by the Jharkhandi political outfits here,
where they participated in large numbers.
Therefore, at the societal level the working class, both indigenous and
immigrants and the peasantry were on the same track. But unfortunately, there
was no political organization to recognize the merit of this to further the
cause of the Jharkhand Movement. As a result, this force remained unorganized,
rather unutilized too. Even the Communist parties like the Communist Party of
India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) perhaps due to
their over-allegiance to constitutional politics did not make any serious
attempt to mobilize these people. In such a situation of extreme political
vacuum, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which did not have a very strong base
here, realizing the popular mood of frustration, appeared as a savior with its
slogan of Vananchal
The people knowing fully well that Vananchal
is a Sanskritic version of
the word Jharkhand accepted it hesitantly. Thus, behind the formation of the ]harkhand
state, in no way, can we undermine the role of the people of Jharkhand.
A.K.Roy summarizes it:
The feeling of Jharkhand is so strong that no manipulation from the top can
control it. Even if all the leaders are bought, the movement is reborn in
another form. At present, the Jharkhand parties are weak but not so the
It is the pressure from the bottom that forced national parties like BJP and
Congress to form this new state to survive politically in the area. Hence, the
fourth stage, as the above discussion reveals, is successful in bringing out the
movement from the clutches of ethnic particularism.
In this period we witness the combined operation of both the cultural and
economic variables in terms of ethnicity and class respectively. By exposing the
social reality of this combination, this phase, no doubt, contributed in a great
deal towards the widening of the social base of the movement although, during
some period in this phase the movement became dormant this should not be
regarded as death of it. As a matter of fact, this will be a great analytical
mistake to confuse the objective of the Jharkhand Movement with the issue of
In the context of Indian social polity the achievement of the statehood status,
of course, is a major determinant of nationality but this by no means is the
only one. This is equally true in the context of Jharkhand also. Statehood is,
undoubtedly, a step towards the achievement of the nationality status of the
Jharkhandi sub-nationality but this alone is not enough.
The people of Jharkhand have to go many a mile to establish a state and society
which is free from all sorts of exploitation, economic, and national, which was
the dream of the forerunners of the Jharkhand Movement in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. In this sense, the movement in its fourth stage is still
continuing. In conclusion, we can mention that the analysis of any social
should make a thorough study of its historicity. To understand the
interrelationship of society and the movement, the contextualization of
factors in the history of the social movement is a necessity. Only through this,
we can reveal the inner dynamics of any social movement. Without this, the
analysis tends to be partial and looses its sociological significance. This
weakness in methodology is responsible for a great many less systematic and
unrevealing understanding of the Jharkhand Movement.
The imposition of the ethnic attribute upon the Jharkhand Movement is indeed a
result of this. In the long historiography of the movement, as our analysis
points out, in some period ethnicity had played a major role, but socio-economic
factors also contributed to its reinforcement while in some other period it gave
way to other social factors, keeping itself in a dormant position. In the
process of group identity-formation, ethnic factors, indeed, act hand in hand
with other socioeconomic and cultural factors. The same is true of the process
of identity formation in Jharkhand. The quest for identity of the relatively
long history of the movement and for this it is in a process of acquiring a
- Rajesh Ranjan (IIIrd semester student at National Law University
jodhpur) - E-mail [email protected]
- Naina Bhargava ( IIIrd semester student at Miranda House
University of Delhi ) - Email: [email protected]