Tribal Movement in India- Causes and Major Revolts 

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Tribal Movements

The term tribal movement refers to the collective social and political efforts of indigenous groups. These uprisings were mainly influenced by the urge to safeguard their cultural heritage and human rights. Although these movements trace the roots of their existence back to the colonial era, they are remembered even today for their unwavering resistance against oppressive British rule. In this blog, we will take a look at the causes, types, and major tribal movements in India. 

Causes of Tribal Movement in India

The tribal people of India were marginalized and exploited at the hands of British officers for several decades. As a result of their consistent oppression and exploitation, tribals and peasants often rose in oppression and conducted uprisings. Here are the most common causes of tribal movements in India:

  • Land alienation: Powerful and influential people of the society often displaced tribal people from their ancestral lands. This was done for several reasons such as urbanization, commercial exploitation, and other projects. 
  • Exploitative revenue system: Ever since the inception of British rule in India, their reign has been characterized majorly by exploitative revenue systems such as heavy taxes on commodities. 
  • Forest policies: Certain government policies such as the Forest Act (1865) and Forest Department Act (1864) limited tribal people’s access to forests and their resources. 
  • Cultural homogenization: The arrival of Christian missionaries was often associated with the cultural suppression of local people by means of conversion.
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Also Read: Peasant Movements: Causes, features and Impact

Classification of Tribal Movements

Phase Timeline Details 
First Phase 1795 – 1860The First Phase of Indian tribal movements ran parallel with the rise and expansion of the British Empire. 
Second Phase 1860 – 1920The Second Phase of the tribal movements saw colonialism in India as well as intense mercantilism which impacted the local economy, trade, and land. 
Third Phase 1920 – 1947The Third phase of tribal movements gave rise to agrarian and nationalist movements. 
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Also Read: Kheda Satyagraha

Major Tribal Revlots 

Below we have jotted down the major tribal revolts of India along with some prominent details. Let’s get started. 

Tribal Revolts Features 
Pahariya Rebellion Leader: Raja Jagganath
Year: 1778
Location: Chota Nagpur 
Reasons: It was against the British extension of settled agriculture in their territories. 
Conclusion: The British forces ruthlessly killed members of the Pahariya community. By 1780, the government had adopted a new policy that granted Pahariya Chiefs the allowance. They also became responsible for managing men’s conduct in the society. However, Pahariyas rejected the allowance and continued to rebel against the British forces. 
Chuar UprisingLeader: Durjan Singh
Year: 1798-1799
Location: Between Chota Nagpur and the plains of Bengal.
Reasons: The British forces continued to encroach on land which belonged to the local people. Consequently, tribals waged numerous wars using Guerrilla tactics. 
Conclusion: The British forces managed to suppress the rebellion. They injured and executed over 200 insurgents.
Tamar RevoltsLeader: Bhola Nath Sahay
Year: 1782-1820
Location: Chota Nagpur
Reasons: The Oraon tribes revolted against the unjust alignment system of the British government which illegally took over the land ownership rights of the tribal people. 
Conclusion: The revolt received aid from other tribal groups belonging to areas such as Jalda, Midnapur, and Dhadha.Despite their unwavering spirit, the government managed to suppress the movement in 1832-1833.  
Bhil UprisingLeader: Sewaram
Location: Khandesh Hill Ranges
Reasons: The British forces attacked and occupied the Khandesh region in 1818. However, the Bhils community saw them as outsiders who were gradually taking over their land and rights. 
Conclusion: The British tried to suppress the rebellion but couldn’t achieve anything. The government ended up giving tax concessions and returning forest rights to foster peace.
Ramosi uprisingLeader: Chittur Singh of Satara (1822) and Ramosis around Poona (1826)
Year: 1879
Location: Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.
Reasons: The Ramosi uprising arose due to the annexation of popular rulers of the region. After the Peshwa’s defeat, Ramosis lost their livelihood.  
Conclusion: People involved in the revolt continued it till 1829.Later on, Britishers adopted a pacifist policy and recruited several Ramosis members in the hill police.
Ahom RevoltLeader: Gomadhar Konwar 
Year: 1828
Location: Assam 
Reason: The British government did not stand up to the rules of the Treaty of Yandaboo which caused dissatisfaction among the common people. 
Conclusion: People involved in the revolt were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Gomadhar Konwar was also sent to exile by the East India Company. 
Khasi UprisingLeader: U. Tirot Singh 
Year: 1833
Location: Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills
Reason: The British forces annexed the tribal states of the Khasi Hills somewhere around 1826. Moreover, the government wanted to construct a road connecting the Brahmaputra Valley with Sylhet. 
Conclusion: Members of this rebellion were ultimately defeated by the British forces. The government subsequently gained control over their region.
Santhal RebellionLeader: Sidhu and Kanhu
Location: Birbhum, Bankura, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Bhagalpur, and Monghyr
Reasons: The primary reason behind this rebellion was colonial exploitation, heavy taxes, the permanent settlement system, and high interest rates. 
Conclusion: The rebellion witnessed major loss of life and destruction of property. Sidhu and Kanhu were killed on the battlefield. 
Khond Uprising Leader: Chakra Bisoi
Year:  1837 and 1856
Location: Orissa
Reasons: The British government banned the practice of Mariah’s sacrifices. Additionally, they also introduced new tax systems which caused public unrest. 
Conclusion: The Khonds used their primitive weapons to stand against the British forces. Despite their consistent efforts, they were eventually suppressed by the technologically advanced weapons of the British army.
Birsa Munda RevoltLeader: Birsa Munda
Year: 1899-1900
Location: Chotanagpur region
Reasons: The new land policies of the British government were gradually destroying the traditional land system such as joint tenures and the Khuntkatti system. 
Conclusion:The revolt forced the government to prevent dikus from exploiting tribals and snatching away their land. It helped the Mundas in achieving their social and political independence. 
Tana Bhagat movementLeader: Jatra Bhagat 
Year: 1914 – 1920
Location: Jharkhand Reasons: Members of the Oraon tribe were facing oppression at the hands of powerful moneylenders and zamindars. 
Conclusion:The movement was inspired by Gandhi’s non-violence ideology.People involved in this movement refused to pay taxes while others stopped cultivation. 
Rampa rebellion
Leader: Birsa Munda
Year: 1899-1900
Location: Chotanagpur region
Reasons: The new land policies of the British government were gradually destroying the traditional land system such as joint tenures and the Khuntkatti system. 
Conclusion: The revolt forced the government to prevent dikus from exploiting tribals and snatching away their land. It helped the Mundas in achieving their social and political independence. 

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Who is the father of the tribal movement?

Birsa Munda is renowned as the father of the tribal movement in India. 

Who led the first tribal revolt?

The first tribal revolt in India was led by Baba Tilka Majhi. It all happened in 1784 and was the aftermath of a great famine of 1770 and the Court of Directors’ orders. 

Why is Birsa Munda called God?

During his lifetime, Birsa Munda helped thousands of poor tribal people to prevent the rich non-tribal members of the society from taking what belonged to them. For instance, he helped the peasants in breaking free from the practice of bonded labour on their own land. This is why he was also often worshipped by his people and known as God.

That’s all about the Tribal Movement! If you want to know more about topics like this, then visit our general knowledge page! Alternatively, you can also read our blog on general knowledge for competitive exams!

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