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Do You Know About These Adivasi/Tribal Freedom Fighters Of India?

It is often the names of Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel, Sarojani Naidu and Bose, that are foremost in the list of freedom fighters and therefore comes in our minds. These names are etched in our memories. Most institutions and public spaces like schools, colleges, the Parliament or the President's House/Rashtrapati Bhawan, not only reiterate the above mentioned names but also keep them at the forefront of our memories through symbolizations, pictures, discussions, etc. It is therefore important to talk about lesser known figures who have contributed to the freedom struggle of India and helped in its eventual nation building. The Indian history and the history of the Indian Independence Movements, can not be delved into without the role and contributions of these figures.


On the occasion of the 75th Independence Day, we have curated the contributions and struggles of various Adivasi figures, who have struggled against the Britishers and Colonialism. Through this we endeavour to rekindle the history that has been forgotten since decades.


One of the names that come to the minds of the people while talking about Adivasis in the Indian Independence Movements, is Bhagwan Birsa Munda. At the age of 25, during the 19th century, his 'Ulgulan' drew the attention of not only the British colonial government but also the Indian public. Similarly during 1784, Tilka Majhi became an immemorable figure. While many know these names, we intend to talk about the lesser-known names.

An illustration of an engagement during the Santhal rebellion by The Illustrated London News

Let us begin with the Santhal Rebellion of 1855. This rebellion was led by Siddhu Kanhu, Chand, Bhairav and their sisters Phulo and Jhano. This rebellion was centered in the present districts of Purulia and Bankura, situated in the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal. It was a struggle against the Britishers and the Indian land-owning classes, known as Zamindars. These zamindars charged exorbitant interest rates from the Adivasi farmers who took loans from them. The Adivasi farmers, on most occasions, could not pay such high-interest rates and failed to repay these loans. Thereafter, the zamindars took in these Adivasi farmers as bonded labours for their agricultural fields. More than 10,000 Adivasi farmers took part in this rebellion.

Pic Source :- Wikipedia

Next comes the name of Rani Gaidinliu from Nagaland. Her struggle against the Britishers and their colonial government began in 1932, when she was only 17 years of age. She was arrested by the British government, only to be released in 1947, when India became independent. She spent the most number of days behind bars, among the Indian freedom fighters who were women. Appreciating her bravery, Nehru had once stated, "What suppression of spirit they have brought upon her, who in pride of her youth dared to challenge the empire. And India does not even know of this brave child from the hills. The Rani of the Nagas." In 1931, when her brother was sentenced to capital punishment by hanging; by the British government, she rose to the leadership position. She and her people encountered the British forces and the Assam Rifles, multiple times and fought bravely for their rights and freedom.


The Tana Bhagat Andolan, which took place between 1914-1920, was lead by Jatara Oraon. He hailed from a small village Chingri Navtoli, situated in the Gumla district of Jharkhand. He was merely 25 years of age when he began his 'Andolan'. This 'Andolan', rapidly spread in the entire Chota Nagpur plateau. His fight and struggle was not only against the Britishers but also against the internal colonization carried out by the zamindars and merchant classes, who often grabbed Adivasi lands and agricultural fields. Moreover, they also extracted money from the Adivasi farmers.

Statue of Alluri Sitaraman Raju and Jatra Bhagat (Pic Source:- The Hindu and Vikaspedia)
Pic Source :- Wikipedia

Similarly, another figure is Surender Sai. He was born in 1809, in Orissa, 21kms away from the Sambalpur area, in a small village. Sai's rightful place as the ruler was snatched away by the Britishers, who were keen on establishing puppet governance all over the Indian subcontinent. Sai and his supporters were captured and jailed, where he took his last breath. Nonetheless, he is still remembered as one of the first Adivasi freedom fighters who challenged the British government.


We talk about these figures today on the eve of India's Independence because it would be unjust for both the Indian history and the Adivasi community of India, if they are wiped off from the pages of history.


Note:- This article has been taken from this video

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