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Role of Jharkhand In Freedom Movenment

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.

This paper tried to understand the role played by Jharkhand in the National movement in different:

  1. Tribal Resistance and Aspirations for self Rule
  2. What Indian Democracy can learn from the Jharkhand movement
  3. 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 water.

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 tribes.

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 1960.

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.

Then 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’ to ‘Greater Jharkhand’. 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 faced:
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 neglected...

Addressing a gathering of Christian leaders at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, in February 2015, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, extolled the 2008 inter-faith Hague Declaration on human rights and announced: [S]peaking for India, and for my government, I declare that my government stands by every word of the above declaration.

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.

A tweet 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.

Is 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 grounds.

  1. 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 administrative sanction.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 society.


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 surpluses and 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.

British 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 zamindars.

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 of 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.

The Jharkhand 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:

  1. The phase of Agrarian Struggle (1765-184
  2. The phase of Consolidation (1845-1920
  3. The phase of Confusion (1920-1970)
  4. 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, land.

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:

  1. First Chuar Rebellion ( 1767)
  2. Dhalbhum Rebellion (1769-1774)
  3. Tilka Majhis War (178(}-1785)
  4. Pahadia Revolt (1788-1791)
  5. First Tamar Rebellion (1795)
  6. Second Chuar Rebellion (1798-99)
  7. Nayek Hangama(180-1826)
  8. Second Tamar Rebellion (18201)
  9. Kol Insurrection (1831-32)
  10. 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, and Orissa.

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.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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 extinction.
     
  4. 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 cultural distinctiveness.


Therefore, the Permanent Settlement Act of 1793 marginalized 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 cultural distinctiveness.

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.

Hence, all these rebellions, particularly those of the post-1793 the period can be designated as agrarian struggles.

Phase Of Consolidation (1845-1920)

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.

This 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 prominently, ethnicity.

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 Adivasi
(original inhabitant) identity in contrast to the outsiders who were largely non-adivasis.

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 institution.

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:

  1. The Santhal Insurrection (1855)
  2. The Sepoy Mutiny (1857)
  3. Sardaro Agitation or Mulkui Larai (1858-1895)
  4. Kherwar Movement (1874)
  5. The Birsa Munda Movement (1895-1900)
  6. 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 Santhal Raj.

In the Birsa Munda Uprising, the new religion Birsaism preached by prophet 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) and insistence of ceremonial purity in food and drink (in case of Tana Bhagat Movement).

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 systematic.

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 the participants.

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 urbanization.

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:

  1. Chotanagpur Improvement Society (Chotanagpur UnnatiSamaj).
  2. Adivasi Mahasabha, and
  3. 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 activities.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 only.

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 nomenclature.

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 schools.

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 it.

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 Party:

  1. Urban orientation in thinking and activity;
  2. Christian domination and close links with the Churches;
  3. Pre-dominantly Munda-Oraon organization and,
  4. 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 of Jharkhand.

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 oppression.

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 other.

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 Jharkhand sentiment.

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 statehood only.

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 movement

should make a thorough study of its historicity. To understand the interrelationship of society and the movement, the contextualization of different social
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 social character.

Written by:

  1. Rajesh Ranjan (IIIrd semester student at National Law University jodhpur) - E-mail [email protected]
  2. Naina Bhargava ( IIIrd semester student at Miranda House University of Delhi ) - Email: [email protected]

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