Kol uprising: Why did the Kol uprising take place and what were the impacts of the rebellion?

The Kol uprising started in small form in 1801 but reached its final shape in 1831-1832.

In the first half of the 19th century, especially immediately after 1820, the normal way of life and independent existence of the Kol tribals was severely disrupted by the British colonial rulers; this led the Kols to become rebellious. The Kol uprising started in small form in 1801 but reached its final shape in 1831-1832. Here is a brief discussion of the Kol uprising.

Introduction to Kol tribe

Kol is an indigenous or tribal group of India. The agrarian tribals living in areas like Chotanagpur, Singhbhum, Ranchi, Manbhum etc. which are part of Bihar in present day India are known as Kol. They were foresters and an independent agrarian caste dependent on forest resources. The Kol tribes were divided into several clans.

From history it is known that the tribals lived independently in remote mountainous areas and forested areas since ancient times. They were generally self-governing and none of the ancient and medieval rulers embarrassed them or interfered with their freedom. The people of Kol tribe also lived independently like other tribes.

Kol uprising; Kol uprising; Kol revolt; Kol mutiny

The Kol uprising; also known as the Kol rebellion; Kol revolt; or Kol mutiny, was a reaction to economic exploitation brought on by the East India Company’s land tenure and administration systems. During the British rule, the Kol tribe living in Bihar was subjected to extreme oppression, torture and exploitation by the British East India Company authorities or the British government and foreign landlords.

Led by Buddhu Bhagat, Zoya Bhagat, Jhindrai Manki and Sui Munda in 1832 AD, Kol people rebelled against the tax hike by British East India Company and oppression of foreign Hindu, Muslim and Sikh moneylenders and leaseholders in Ranchi district (present day) of India, known as the Kol uprising in the history of the Indian subcontinent.

The Kol tribe rebelled in two phases in 1820-1821 and 1831-1832 against the extreme oppression and exploitation of the British rulers and their allies; This revolt is called Kol revolt. Major Sutherland, secretary of Charles Metcalfe, said that the Kol uprising was like a slave rebellion. Some called the Kol Rebellion the ‘Kol Awakening’. In English Kol Uprising is known as both ‘Kol Uprising’ and ‘Kol uprising’.

The Kol uprising was one of the various peasant and tribal revolts that took place in India during the rule of the English East India Company. The Kol uprising started when the British tried to bring the people of the Kol tribe under their control.

Causes of the Kol uprising or rebellion

The British established colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent by defeating the young and scrawny Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daula at the Battle of Plassey (Palashi). After the British colonial rule was established in India, every region, township or every caste and class-occupation people was unfairly exploited. The British were no exception to the Kol tribals.

In the first half of the 19th century especially, immediately after 1820, the normal way of life and independent existence of the Kol tribals was severely disrupted by the British colonial rulers, due to which the Kols became rebellious.

Some of the notable causes of the Kol uprising are mentioned below:

Introducing private ownership system of land

In areas dominated by the Kol tribe, especially in Chota Nagpur, outsider Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lessees introduced individual ownership systems instead of joint ownership in land ownership to facilitate revenue collection. When the leaseholders introduced this system, there was widespread unrest and protests in the Kol community. The system of private ownership of land allowed tenants to easily evict recalcitrant peasants from their lands and settle land at higher land revenue rates for others.

Tribes lived together in communities and work in coordination among themselves and the concept of individual ownership in tribal society made them angry. When the landlords introduced the system of private ownership in the case of land, there was turmoil in the family life of the Kols and there was great resentment among them over the issue of private ownership.

Eviction from land and torture

Tenants changed the system of joint ownership of land to individual ownership to collect higher land revenue. If the Kols could not pay the high land revenue, they were evicted from their lands; The families of those who failed to pay the revenue were imprisoned and subjected to various social tortures. This is also one of the major reasons for the Kol uprising.

Introduction of leasing system

The British East India Company divided and leased the territory inhabited by the Kole tribe. Before that, they grabbed the land of the Kol people and occupied it. The British levied unreasonably high land revenue on the Kols to whom they granted leases. Along with increasing the land revenue at a high rate, they started increasing its amount successively which was not taken well by the Kol community and caused great resentment among the Kols. In addition to the land revenue, the landlords and the British government imposed various illegal taxes on the Kols; Besides, the Kols were used for unpaid labor in various types of work such as road, house construction, etc.

Increase in revenue/tax

The British East India Company, as part of their regime, entrusted the collection of revenue on outsiders Hindu, Muslim and Sikh moneylenders in Chota Nagpur. When the outsider moneylenders started to collect revenue, they tried collecting additional revenue from the Kols, this unfair and amoral task made the Kols rebellious. Not only this, the Kols were tortured in various ways to collect the revenue.

Torture

Men of Kol families were imprisoned and women were subjected to degrading treatment in various ways if they could not pay the land revenue properly or under the pretext of Konanna Konal. It was alleged that Kol members were employed without pay in the construction of government roads.

Compulsion of payment of taxes in cash

The Kols did not take it well when the English East India Company enacted laws to collect taxes in cash from the Kol tribes. Because Kol members did not have the habit and ability to pay rent in cash.

Hurting ethnic heritage

Like all other tribes, the Kol people also lived independently according to their own social norms. But the British rulers imposed their authority and governance in the Kol-dominated areas and introduced some new rules which hurt the ethnic heritage of the Kols. Hurting the Kole ethnic heritage by the British in this way led them to an uprising.

Compulsory cultivation of opium

As we know that the forest or hill tribes live by doing hard labor and their main and traditional occupation is agriculture. The first occupation of Kol people was agriculture. But the British East India Company forced Kol People to cultivate opium by stopping this traditional farming practice. As a result, their livelihood traditions are also affected.

The bottom line is that the Kol uprising against the tenants and the British was took place due to land grabbing, high rates of revenue collection, unpaid labour, exploitative treatment and torture and injury to ethnic and professional traditions, the Kol people were oppressed and forced to accept British, outsider Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. 

Leaders of the Kol uprising

Some of the notable leaders of the Kol uprising are Buddhu Bhagat, Zoya Bhagat, Jhindrai Manki and Sui Munda, Singhrai Manki, etc.

From the beginning of the 19th century, in 1801, 1817, 1820 and 1823, the people of the Kol tribe staged small rebellions to protest injustice.
From the beginning of the 19th century, in 1801, 1817, 1820 and 1823, the people of the Kol tribe staged small rebellions to protest injustice.

Spread of the Kol uprising

From the beginning of the 19th century, in 1801, 1817, 1820 and 1823, the people of the Kol tribe staged small rebellions to protest injustice. But all those smaller movements did not help them much. Once upon a time when the Kol people felt that their backs were against the rope. They were already a united people, and the tyranny of the outsiders further united them. This led to the Kole rebellion in 1831-1832. The rebellion spread in areas like Chota Nagpur, Ranchi, Singhbhum, Manbhum, Hazaribagh, Palamau, etc.

Besides Kols, tribes like Ho, Munda, Onrao etc. and lower class exploited people like common farmers, blacksmiths, potters, goalas, etc. also joined this revolt. Early in the rebellion, the Kol rebels asked the monks to leave the area and declared death inevitable if they did not. During the revolt, the Kols killed many Dikus in front of their gods. [diku means outsider; outsider moneylender]

End of Kol uprising or rebellion

One of the main objectives of the attacks of the Kol rebels was to expel foreign moneylenders or dikus, zamindars, jotdars and English servants from their homelands. Hundreds of thousands of foreign moneylenders, landlords and English servants were killed in the attack by the Kol people. Naturally, the East India Company wanted to control the situation as the situation was gradually getting out of control. The leaders of the East India Company became active in suppressing the rebellion. With the help of a large army, the Company government brutally and forcefully suppressed this rebellion. The Kol uprising ended in 1833. Captain Wilkinson led the British forces to suppress the And Cole Rebellion.

Consequences or result and importance of Kole uprising or rebellion

The Kol uprising started in small form from 1801 but reached its final shape in 1831-1832. The Cole Rebellion ended in 1833 under the leadership of Captain Wilkinson. The Kol uprising failed. However, in terms of results, the Kole Rebellion was a failure, but the importance of this rebellion was immense.

The Kol uprising started in small form from 1801 but reached its final shape in 1831-1832.

The results and importance of the Kol uprising are mentioned below:

  1. After the Kol uprising, the government led by the British East India Company assigned a new territory called the South-West Frontier Agency to the Kol tribes.
  2. A new administrative system was established in Chota Nagpur soon after the mutiny ended.

  3. The British government introduced unique rules and regulations for the Chota Nagpur region in keeping with the culture of the inhabitants.

  4. The land was taken away from the zamindars and returned to the village headmen, and arrangements were made to prevent the zamindars from recapturing the land.

  5. Land survey was arranged and land distribution and revenue systems were introduced as well.

The Kole Rebellion was a failure, but the importance of this rebellion was immense.
The Kole Rebellion was a failure, but the importance of this rebellion was immense.

Looking at the outcomes of the rebellion, one might think that the rebellion or the mutiny was actually successful. But later it was found that despite taking the above measures, the problem of Kols was not really solved. The landlords and moneylenders continued to oppress them. And for this reason, the Kols occasionally rebelled during the entire nineteenth century, but no other rebellion of the Kol tribes became so terrible as in 1831-1832.

[Taken help from the some of Indian textbooks and educational websites]

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