7 main peasant uprising(s)/rebellion(s) before 1857

The growing hardship of peasantry, their forced eviction, Bengal famine of 1770 propelled the movement that originally started with small group of Hindu (Sanyasi) who resisted the restriction imposed on their movement to religious places.

Further Muslim (Fakir) also rebelled. They formed small unit of mobile troops that raided and attacked storehouses and local rich men/ merchants/ zamindars and government institutions and officials.

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These Sanyasis were originally peasants and their membership swelled as they moved around in different parts of Bihar and Bengal.

They became a formidable force with rapid growth in number of bands that frequently attacked its targets using guerrilla tactics.

In fact they established independent government in Bogra and Mymensingh in which Hindus and Muslims participated enthusiastically.

This is evident from the names of important leaders like Manju Shah and his son Chirag Ali, Musa Shah, Bhawani Pathak, Debi Chowdhurani etc.

Warren Hastings was able to control Sanyasis rebellion only after military action. However, he did not succeed in quelling the movement altogether.

2. Peasants Rising of Rangpur [Bengal (1783)]:

Illegal demands, harsh attitude and severe physical punishment to ryots who failed to meet the unjust and arbitrary demands of East India Company/ revenue contractors/agents, ultimately forced the peasants of Rangpur and Dinajpur to plead for justice.

However after failure of all peaceful means of getting justice the peasantry finally rebelled.

The main target of rebels being local cutcheries, store houses and friend of colonial rulers. The rebels managed to form their own government and in fact levied such charges so as to meet the expense of rebellion. Hindus and Muslims fought together against the exploiters.

3. Pagalpanthi Uprising:

The peasant movement developed in the Sherpur pargana of Mymensingh district in East Bengal, where Karam Shah and later his successor Tipu Shah started a new religious movement among the peasants of the area and resisted the collection of illegal abwabs by the zamindars and opposed the new revenue settlement i.e. permanent settlement.

In such circumstances, around 1824 Tipu’s Pagalpanthi sect held out a promise of a new regime and just rents.

The new spirit gradually spread over the whole region and took the shape of an armed insurrection. It was crushed with the help of the army in 1833.

4. Titu Mir Rebellion:

In the northern part of the district of 24 Parganas of Bengal, a religious movement called Tariqah-i-Muhammadiy under the leadership of Titu Mir organized the poor muslim peasants and weavers of the area into a community with distinctive dress and beard as markers of identity so as to oppose the oppression of the peasants and the poor.

It owed its origin to the school of the 18th century Sufi-saint Shah Waliullah of Delhi and derived its inspiration from Shah Syed Ahmad of Rae Bareli, the followers of whom we commonly known as Wahabis’.

As this self-assertion of the peasantry challenged the established relations of power, the local zamindars tried to curb them in various ways, by imposing, for example, a tax on beard.

Titu Mir and his followers defied the existing authority as represented by the local zamindars, the indigo planters and the state established their own regime, started collecting taxes and struck terror in the region.

The government ultimately had to mobilise the army and artillery and on 16 November, 1831 blew off Titu’s bamboo fortress to crush the movement.

5. Faraizi Movement:

It developed among the peasants of eastern Bengal, under the leadership of Haji Shariatullah.

It was indigenous in origin and sought to purify Islam by purging all un-Islamic beliefs and practices and considered Koran as their sole spiritual guide.

The rural Muslim poor of east Bengal united under this religious sect and revolted against landlords, indigo planters and the British rulers.

After death of Shariatullah in 1839, his son Dadu Mian took over the leadership and mobilised the peasantry around an egalitarian ideology that all land belonged to God and collecting rent or levying taxes on it was against divine law.

He built a network of village organizations in the region and held local courts as alternatives to British judicial institutions, and collected taxes to meet the expenses of his movement.

Violent clashes with the zamindars and planters occurred throughout the 1840s and 1850s. There was a temporary lull in the movement after Dadu Mian’s death in 1862, but then it was renewed again at a different scale by his successor Naya Mian in the 1870s.

6. Rebellion at Mysore (1830-31):

The financial pressure from the company on ruler of Mysore (Wodeyar) ultimately fell on the cultivators. The corruption and extortion of local officials further added to their existing miseries of the peasants.

Revolt broke out in province of Nagar and peasants from adjoining areas joined the rebellion. Sardar Malla was a prominent leader of the rebels who defied the authority of Mysore ruler.

7. Mappila Uprising (1836-54):

Mappila (also Mopplah) were poor peasants and agricultural labourers cultivating tenants, petty traders and fishermen of South Malabar.

They were mostly descendants of Arab settlers/ traders and converts from lower castes (like Tiyya) Hindu and were followers of orthodox Islam. They represented lower socio-economic strata of the society.

British occupation of Malabar and introduction of new changes in land revenue administration aggravated the hardship of Mappilas.

Transfer of ‘Janmi’ from the traditional partnership with the Mappila to that of an independent owner of the land and the right of eviction of tenants infuriated the Mappilas.

Over assessment, imposition of illegal taxes, eviction and over all hostile attitude of British landlords etc., forced Mappila to opt for rebellion.

The role of religious leaders in this movement is significant and in fact they strengthen the movement and infused the ideal of martyrdom and propagated the concept of the fighting against injustice and oppressions.

Poligar Revolt (1801-05) in South India, uprising in Vizagapatnam (1830-34), Ganjam (1835) and Kurnool (1846-47) were other peasant revolts/rebellions of significance that took place before 1858.