Indian Freedom Movement , Contribution of Tribals in Indian Freedom Movement – Have historians ignored Tribals?

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Contribution of Tribals to the Indian Freedom Movement

       Indian historians have described the revolution of 1857 as the first movement of the freedom struggle. But in fact, 100 years before 1857, the tribals had sounded the bugle of the freedom movement. The author of “Kranti Kosh” Shri Krishna “Saral” has considered the period of national movement from 1757 to 1961. The Battle of Plassey took place in 1757, in which the East India Company defeated Siraj-Ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, and laid the foundation of British rule in Bengal. Goa was merged with India in 1961 after being freed from the Portuguese. This should be considered the period of the freedom movement.

Role of Tribals in the Indian Freedom Movement

To understand the role of tribals in the Indian independence movement, it is necessary to understand its initial background. It is true that the movements launched by the tribals were fought at the local level according to the local conditions. Although the tribals never fought a war against the British for the independence of India. So the main reason behind this is that the tribal community was divided into many sub-castes and groups. It is divided even today.

Number of tribals in India

Do you know that there are 428 notified tribes in India while their actual number is 642? In terms of population, the largest number of tribals in Asia reside in India. According to the 2011 census, 8.6 percent of the total population of India is tribal castes. These are spread over 19 states and 6 union territories.

From the Dang district of Gujarat to 24 Parganas of Bengal, 70 percent of the country’s tribals reside. Seven states of the North-East – Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Tripura – have the majority of tribals. This is the reason why the northeastern border states of Bihar and Jharkhand have been the main centers of the tribal movement. Tribals are settled in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, apart from the seven states of the Northeast.

There are 16 types of tribes in Meghalaya and they believe in Christianity. There are 19 tribes in Tripura that follow Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Apart from Jewra Gond in the Bilaspur division of Chhattisgarh, Sargujia, Ratanpuria, Matkodwa, Dhruv, and Rajgond have close communities. Even though Gonds are one community, there is no relation between bread and daughter. (Tribal Power Issue 2, March 2016)

In this way, the tribals are divided into many groups and communities. That’s why the battle for their autonomy was also fought separately. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the basis for the national movement of India was given by these tribal movements. Tribal movements have played an important role in building up the national movement in India.

Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar

Mahatma Gandhi wanted to free India from the British. That’s why he had said that the British should hand over the power in the hands of the Indians and go away. Mahatma Gandhi wanted the transfer of political power. Their aim was to get political power. On the contrary, Babasaheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar fought for social freedom.

Dr. Ambedkar said that political freedom has no meaning without social freedom. Dalits should be given social equality and freedom before attaining political power. That is why he started the untouchable movement in India. Economic freedom was equally important for the tribals, as was social and political freedom.

The moneylenders who were spreading like mushrooms were exploiting the tribals fiercely. The loan once taken from the moneylender could not be repaid for generations. Ultimately, the moneylenders forcibly occupied the land of the tribals with the help of the landlord. That’s why social as well as economic freedom was necessary for the tribals. This is the reason why the tribals demanded complete autonomy in every movement.

Mahatma Gandhi had only agitated against the British. Mahatma Gandhi never opposed the injustice and atrocities of kings, emperors, feudal lords, and landlords. Never spoke against him. He remained his supporter till the end.

Exploitation by moneylenders and the role of the British

He had the same policy regarding the exploitation of the moneylenders. The British did not rule the Indian people directly. He ruled through kings, emperors, feudal lords, and landlords. If the British rulers had to implement any law on the Indian people, they would have implemented it through them only. Revenue collection was also done through the kings-maharajas and landlords only. That’s why the tribals had a direct fight with the landlords and feudal lords.


When the tribals were out of the control of the landlords and kings, they used to seek help from the British government. The British used to send their army to help them. In such a situation, the tribals had to compete directly with the English army and landlords. Tribals were also against the moneylenders. That’s why the moneylenders also supported the landlords. In such a situation, in every movement for autonomy and independence, the tribals had to struggle with the English government as well as with the feudal lords and moneylenders. The movement of tribals was more widespread.


Tribals have paid a heavy price

The tribals had to pay a heavy price for the freedom movements. The British had a well-equipped army in large numbers. There were modern weapons-guns, cannons, ammunition, and gunpowder. The feudatories had a trained police force. The moneylenders had the power of wealth. In comparison to these, the tribals had the traditional means of war – three bows, spears, axes, and maces. The tribals were economically weak. There was a paucity of resources. That’s why in every movement the tribals had to bear a heavy loss of life and property.

Santhal Rebellion 1855

In the year 1855, there was a revolt of tribal brave warriors Siddu and Kanhu of Santhal (Jharkhand). 30-35 thousand tribals participated in it. The movement took a violent form. Many British soldiers and officers were killed. In the end, the entire area was handed over to the army. Martial law was implemented. The orders to shoot on sight were given to the army. Murder became common. 10 thousand tribals were killed in this. Ramnika Gupta and Mata Prasad have confirmed these figures.

Similarly, in the tribal movement in Mangarh in 1913, 1500 tribals were martyred. These figures show that lakhs of tribals lost their lives in tribal movements.

Revolt of Tilka and Manjhi 1780 – ‘Damin Rebellion’

The tribals first started the freedom movement in India in 1780 in Santhal Pargana. Two tribal heroes Tilka and Manjhi led the movement. This movement lasted till 1790. This is called ‘Damin Rebellion’. The British army was troubled by the activities of Tilka and Manjhi. The army was sent to catch them. Tilka had already got a clue about this.

Tilka climbed a tall palm tree to see how far the British army had reached. Incidentally, the English army was hiding in the nearby bushes. He is led by Mr. Cleveland was doing. He had seen Tilka climbing the tree. He reached the tree riding a horse.

The army had also put a cordon around the tree. Cleveland challenged Tilka and got down under the tree and asked him to surrender. Tilka fired an arrow at Cleveland which hit his chest. Cleveland fell down. Started flirting. The army ran to handle him. Meanwhile, Tilka hurriedly got down from the tree and disappeared into the forest. The English army resorted to guerilla warfare to capture Tilka.

In the end, the British army succeeded in arresting Tilka. To avenge his loss and revenge, Tilka was hanged from a tree by the British. Tilka became a martyr while fighting for the freedom of his state. Tilka should be considered the first martyr of the freedom movement. But Indian historians have declared Mangal Pandey, who was martyred in the revolution of 1857, as the first martyr of the freedom struggle. The truth is that Tilka was martyred in the freedom movement 70 years before Mangal Pandey.

How is the history of Indian independence only for the upper castes?

The correct history of India has never been written. Whatever the upper caste historians wrote, it was biased and one-sided. The irony is that Dalits and tribals have always been kept out of history. His biggest sacrifice, sacrifice, and bravery stories were not even mentioned in history.

From 1780 to 1857, tribals did many freedom movements. “Damin Rebellion” of 1780 which was run by Tilka Manjhi, the “Sihu Kanhu Rebellion” of 1855, and “Larka Movement” run by Budhu Bhagat from 1828 to 1832 are very famous tribal movements.

There is no mention of these movements anywhere in history. Similarly, there is no mention of the tribal revolutionaries who lost their lives fighting the British.

       The first martyr of Chhattisgarh, Veer Narayan Singh, was martyred in 1857. The first rebel Bhil Tantia alias Tantia Mama of Nimad in Madhya Pradesh was martyred in 1888. Similarly, Birsa Munda, a man of the tribal era, was martyred in the year 1900. He died in the jail itself. There is no mention of Govind Guru, the hero of the Mangarh movement in 1913, anywhere in history.

Historians did not give Dalits and tribals any place in history but played an important role in distorting and destroying their history. Veer Narayan Singh, Tantia Mama, and Birsa Munda were described as dacoits and robbers to tarnish the image of tribal activists, while they have been very popular among tribals and have successfully led the freedom movements. Historians did not perform their writing duty with fairness and honesty.

The truth of history is that in the 77 years from 1780 to 1857, lakhs of tribals were killed in the freedom movements carried out by the tribals. On the other hand, in the 90 years from 1857 to 1947, not even one thousand people would have been killed in the national freedom movements carried out by non-tribals.

It can be estimated from the fact that the biggest massacre in the national movements took place in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. 379 people were martyred in that. Compared to this, 10,000 tribals were martyred in the Sihu and Kanhu rebellions in 1855. There have been many such movements of tribals. It is a different matter that historians have not even mentioned these movements anywhere.

By doing this the historians have made the entire history of India questionable and unreliable. Undoubtedly, the role of tribals in the freedom movement has been important. Today there is need of correct history writing. 

Artocle Credit-Dalit dastak

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