Updated November 10, 2022
Basically, tribal movements in India are an account of Tribal’s fight against interventions into their livelihood, culture, religion and ethos, either by princely feudalism or British imperialism. Uprisings by Tribals mainly signify the protest against changes imposed on them in terms of rent, ways of livelihood, forest land.
Other movements also signify Tribals’ demand for autonomy and separate administrative units. Broadly, expansionist, oppressive and exploitative policies of princely states and British company were in the root of all these conflicts. Rebellions by Kol, Bhil, Ahoms, Santhal, Naga, Singpo, Gond communities of tribes are some prominent revolts.
List of the Tribal Movements in India
- Ahoms Rebellion– Place (Assam), Period (1828-1833), Led By (not known)
- Andamanese Revolution– Place (Andaman and Nicobar), Period (1942-1945), Led by (not known)
- Battle of Aberdeen– Place (Andaman), Period (1859), Led By (not known)
- Bhopalpatnam Struggle– Place (Bhopalpatnam), Period (1795), Led By (not known)
- Bhil Rebellion– Place (Vindhya and Satpura ranges), Period (1822-1857), Led By (Bhagoji Naik and Khajar Singh)
- Bhuiyan and Juang Rebellion– Place (Keonjhar of Odisha), Period (1867-68 and 1891-91), Led By (Dharnidhar naik and Ratna Naik)
- Bhil Revolts– Place (Western Ghats), Period (1817-19 and 1913), Led by (not known)
- Bastar Revolt– Place (Jagdalpur), Period (1910), Led by (not known)
- Bodo Movement– Place (Assam), Period (1987), Led by (Upendranath Brahma)
- Chero and Karwar revolt– Place (Chhota Nagpur, Bihar), Period (1857), Led By (Kharwars of Bihar)
- Chaur Rebellion– Place (Midnapore and Bankura), Period (1768), Led By (Jagganath Singh)
- Chakma Rebellion– Place (Chittagong Hill tracts), Period (1776-1787), Led By (not known)
- Dafla Rebellion– Place (North East India), Period (1875), Led By (not known)
- Dongria Kondh– Place (Orissa), Period (2008), Led by (not known)
- Forest Satyagrah– Place (Guntur, AP and Palamau, Bihar), Period (1920-30), Led by (chenchu and Karwars)
- Gond and the Kolan– Place (Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh), Period (1941), Led by (not Known)
- Gond Rebellion– Place (Adilabad), Period (1860), Led By (Ramji Gond)
- Heraka Cult– Place (Manipur), Period (1930), Led by (Rani Gaindinlui)
- Ho uprising– Place (Singhbhum and Chhotanagpur), Period (1827), Led by (Raja Prabhat)
- Jharkhand Movement– Place (Jharkhand), Period (1845), Led By (not known)
- Jharkhand Uprising– Place (Chhotanagpur region of Bihar, Orissa and Bengal), Period (from 1920s), Led by (not known)
- Koi Revolt– Place (Bastar), Period (1859), Led By (not known)
- Koli Movement– Place (Maharashtra), Period (1784-85), Led By (Mahadev Koli and Tilka Manjhi)
- Kol Rebellion– Place (Chhotanagpur, Sighbhum, Hazaribagh, Plamu), Period (1795-1831), Led By (Bir Budha Bhagat, Joa Bhagat)
- Khurda Rebellion– Place (Odisha), Period (1817), Led By (not known)
- Khond Rebellion- Place (Odisha), Period (1817), Led By (Chief Bishoi)
- Kuruchiyar and Kurumbar Rebellion– Place (Wayanad), Period (1812), Led By (not Known)
- Khasi and Garo rebellion– Place (Hilly region of Jaintia, Garo hills Meghalya), Period (1830), Led By (Nuklow Ruler, Tirath Singh)
- Kuki Invasion– Place (Manipur), Period (1860), Led By (not known)
- Kandh Revolt– Place (Eastern Ghats from Tamil Nadu hills to Orissa and West Bengal), Period (1837-56), Led by (Chakra Bisoi)
- Konda Dora Campaign– Place (Dabur Region of Vishakhapatnam), Period (1900s), Led by (Korra Malaya)
- Koraput rebellion– Place (Orissa), Period (1942), Led by (Lakshmana Naik)
- Koya Revolt– Place (East Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh), Period (1879-86), Led by (Toma Sora and Raja Anantaya)
- Kukis Revolt– Place (Manipur), Period (1917-19), Led by (not known)
- Munda Uprising– Place (South of Ranchi), Period (1899-1900), Led by (Birsa Munda) Naikada Movement- Place (Madhya Pradesh in Gujrat), Period (1860), Led By (not known)
- Naga Movement– Place (North East), Period (1879 and 1905-31), Led By (Tikendraji Singh and Jadonag)
- Phariya Sardar’s Movement– Place (Chhotanagpur , Rajmahal Area), Period (1778), Led By (Raja Jagganath)
- Paralkot Rebellion– Place (Bastar), Period (1825), Led By (Gend Singh)
- Rampa Revolt– Place (Grandpa region of Andhra Pradesh), Period (1922-24), Led by (Alluri Sitaram Raju of Koya Tribe)
- Synteng Tribal Revolt– Place (Jaintia hills in East Bengal and assam), Period (1860-62), Led By (not known)
- Sentinelese tribe Movement– Place (Andaman and Nicobar), Period (1883), Led by (not known)
- Singhpos Rebellion– Place (Assam), Period (1830), Led By (not known)
- Santhal Revolt– Place (Bihar, Rajmahal Hills), Period (1855-56), Led By (Sido and kanho)
- Tamar revolution– Place (Chhotanagpur), Period (1789-1798), Led By (not known) Tarapur and Maria Rebellion- Place (Bastar), Period (1842-63), Led By (not known)
- Tana Bhagat Movement– Place (Chhotanagpur Area), Period (1914-1918), Led by (Jatra Bhagat and Balram Bhagat)
- Zeliangsong Movement– Place (Manipur), Period (1920s), Led by (By Zemi Liangmei and Rongmei tribes)
Causes of Tribal movements In India
Forest was the essential component for the survival and existence of tribals. However, the entry of non-tribals in the forest for settled agriculture, completely disturbed the lives of tribal communities. Hunting, gathering, fishing and sustainable agriculture were the main occupation of the tribals.
Tribals also used forest products for making temporary settlement in the forests. But, with the establishment of Forest department in 1864, the Government Forest Act in 1865 and Indian Forest Act in 1878 laid government monopoly over the forest land. The tribal community were deprived of their rights relating to forest. The new order created stress in the tribal society that led to tribal movements in India.
Introducing money lenders by the British government in the tribal communities made the tribals exploited and a lot of them eventually had to become bonded labourers as they couldn’t pay their loans. Enactment of British land settlement and land law replaced the tradition of joint ownership by private ownership. And, this made tribal communities to pay rents forcibly and work as bonded labourers to the zamindars which was obviously not acceptable the Tribals.
Some of the movements focussed on their tribal identity and political solidarity too. Eco-cultural isolation, financial backwardness and a sense of desperation have been the major reasons for these uprisings. Interesting part about these movements is that, those tribals who are either very isolated or intensively integrated with Hindu society are not seen involved in these socio-cultural movements.
These are some of the major reasons for the tribal uprising. However, different scholars have different approach over the causes of tribal movements in India. Different scholars classified the movements differently on the basis of its causes.
Surajit Sinha has classified movements into five group as (i) Ethnic rebellion, (ii) Reform movements, (iii) Political autonomy movements within the Indian Union, (iv) Secessionist movements, and (v) Agrarian. According to S.M. Dubey the uprisings were (i) Religious and social reform movements, (ii) Movements for separate statehood, (iii) Insurgent movements and (iv) Cultural rights movements. Ghanshyam Shah says that the tribal movements were (i) Ethnic, (ii) Agrarian, and (iii) Political.
Important Tribal Movement and the Tribes Associated
Numerous tribal movements have taken place in India, that started with one in Bihar in 1772, followed by many revolts in different regions of India like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The important tribes involved in the major tribal revolts of India were Mizos, Kols, Mundas, Daflas, Khasi and Garo, Kacharis, Santhals, Muria Gonds, Nagas, Bhuiyas and Kondhas. Movements remembered as a mark of significance in the history of tribal uprisngs are discussed below.
Kol Rebellion (1832)
Kol rebellion of 1832 in the Chhotta Nagpur region was one the important tribal movements. The armed rebellion had been started by the tribals against the British, they burnt houses and killed British officers. It lasted for two years but at last it was ruthlessly suppressed by the British. Other than Kol rebellion, Munda uprising led by Birsa Munda, is the most important tribal revolt took place in Chhotanagpur region. Birsa Munda was an Indian freedom fighter and a religious tribal leader, belonged to Munda tribe.
Santhal Revolt (1855 to 1856)
The Santhal revolt (currently in Jharkhand region) from 1855 to 1856, was another important tribal movement by Santhal Tribes. This revolt was basically against Zamindari system. This tribal movement was a big-armed revolt with about 10000 rebels who attacked British officials and moneylenders. But the same went with this also, 20000 tribals were killed in the revolt and like Kol rebellion, it too was brutally suppressed by the British at last.
Tarapur and Maria rebellion (1842- 63)
Tarapur and maria rebellion were started in Bastar which is a part of Chhattishgarh in present day. These revolt are the another great examples of the tribal rebellions, in which common people of Bastar stood against the foreign rulers. The revolt of Tarapur took place from 1842 to 1854 and of Maria rebellion from 1842 to 1863. During this period of 21 years continuous uprisings had taken place in Bastar against the foreign rulers. Sense of being harmed, the local tradition and culture of native people of Bastar made them stood against the Anglo-Maratha reign in order to restore their native culture.
Jharkhand movement (1845)
Establishment of a separate Adivasi state was the main objective Jharkhand movement. The movement resulted in the formation of a new regional party “United Jharkhand Part” in 1948. And the party declared to establish a separate state comprising of mineral belts of Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
Bhil Rebellion (1822-1857)
Bhils were the first to start the revolt against the princely feudalism and British imperialism. These Bhils were enjoying the complete forest right before the arrival of British rule but in 1818 state like Banswara, Dungarpur Mewar established treaties with British government and new law and order came into force. Bhils were used to be the regular force of the state and Jagirdars but with the establishment of new treaty in 1818, made bhils unemployed. Therefore, they revolted in 1818 against the new treaty.
Concluding Views on Tribal Movements in India
Tribal communities have been of conservative mind set and were also very keen about retaining their social features. Objective of the tribal movements in India was to alter, reconstitute, reinterpret, restore and to protect their social structure.
Basically, the struggles of the tribals were inspired to fight against the ill-tendencies that attempted to change the structure of their society. These social movements of the tribals also aimed to improve cultural, political and socio & economic conditions of the tribal people.
Hinduism, Christianity, British rule and modern education have generated a high level of rationality among the tribals, which in turn led to the beginning of several tribal movements in India. Numerous tribal uprisings have taken place in India during the period of 18th to 20th Century.
Although every revolt is unique in its character and equally important as well but tribal movement like Tarapur and Maria rebellion (1842- 63), Jharkhand movement (1845), Santhal revolt (1855- 56), Kol rebellion (1832), Bhil Rebellion (1822-1857), etc. are remembered as a mark of significance among all the tribal uprisings.
Questions Mostly Asked About Tribal Revolts (FAQ)
Ans- Although every revolt is unique in its character and equally important as well but tribal movement like Tarapur and Maria rebellion (1842- 63), Jharkhand movement (1845), Santhal revolt (1855- 56), Kol rebellion (1832), Bhil Rebellion (1822-1857), etc. are remembered as a mark of significance among all the tribal uprisings.
Ans- However, these are not certain in number but K.S. Singh (1982) has given detailed accounts of 36 tribal movements in India. Among these 36 uprisings 14 were in the North-East region alone. Singh has classified the various movements on the basis of their causes of rising, as (i). Movements for political autonomy (ii). Agrarian and forest-based movements (iii). Sanskritisation process and Cultural movements.
Ans- Different scholars classified the movements differently on the basis of its causes. Surajit Sinha has classified movements into five group as (i) Ethnic rebellion, (ii) Reform movements, (iii) Political autonomy movements within the Indian Union, (iv) Secessionist movements, and (v) Agrarian. According to S.M. Dubey the uprisings were (i) Religious and social reform movements, (ii) Movements for separate statehood, (iii) Insurgent movements and (iv) Cultural rights movements. Ghanshyam Shah says that the tribal movements were (i) Ethnic, (ii) Agrarian, and (iii) Political.
Ans- Forest was the essential component for the survival and existence of tribals and with the entry of non-tribals in the forest for settled agriculture, completely disturbed the lives of tribal communities. Hunting, gathering, fishing and sustainable agriculture ere the main occupation of the tribals. They also used forest product for making temporary settlement in the forests. But, with the establishment of Forest department in 1864, the Government Forest Act in 1865 and Indian Forest Act in 1878 was introduced which established complete government monopoly over the forest land. The tribal community were made deprived of their rights with regards to forest. It created stress in the tribal society that led to tribal movements in India.
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