Written by one who had been the director of the Rajasthan Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, before he died in September this year, this book describes the struggle against the British by Govind Guru in the late 19th and early 20th century in the Bhil-dominated areas of Vagad and Itar of Rajasthan state, before he was killed by the British on November 17, 1913 on Mount Mangarh.
During the reign of the Mughals as also the British, the various states in India were ruled by separate rulers as a result of which it was mandatory for the local rulers and landlords to keep in touch with the local population. In 1765, during the rule of Shah Alam II, the states like Bihar, Bengal and Orissa came under the direct control of the East India Company. Chhota Nagpur, being a part of the Santhal Parganas, was greatly influenced by this. The British delegated the powers to the state rulers, zamindars and others to collect the taxes. Prior to this, the people used to pay taxes in kind instead of cash. As the British wanted extra cash, they put these rulers and landlords to collect a greater amount of taxes, it meant trying to maintain peace with the masses. The increase in taxes began to sour the relations between the two. The rulers and landlords began to rebel against the British but these were quashed. Those rulers who failed to deliver were stripped off their powers and made to rebel against each other. This sowed the seeds of the demand for freedom from British yoke. In 1782, the Vanvasis revolted against the British in Rajmahal hills.
Gradually the rebellion spread to Chhota Nagpur to give rise to the Chauri revolt under the leadership of Thakur Bholanath. Then it spread to Bhagalpur, Andamans, Sonepur Pargana, Hazaribagh, Ranchi districts. In 1845 came the Christian missionaries who began the conversion of Vanvasis to Christianity. The rebellion spread to other states like Gujarat, Orissa, Assam, etc. but it was crushed every time by the British.
In 1899, Dungarpur came under the control of an agency of the British. The Bhils rebelled. The Bhakti movement became the basis of all movements and in Rajasthan, the Bhakti movement of Sant Mavji, Sant Surmal Das and Govind Guru became the basis for rebellion by the Bhils. In 1880, Govind Guru met and was influenced by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. He began his religious work among the Vanvasis and established the Bhagat Panth whose aim was to enlighten the people on Dharma. Gradually the movement began to acquire a social and political complexion.
On his appeal, the duration of the punishment was reduced to ten years, but with the World War breaking out, Govind Guru was released. He spent his remaining years in religious preaching at Dahod, Jhalod and other areas of Gujarat.
This is a book which would boost the morale of the Vanvasis.
(Suruchi Prakashan, Keshav Kunj, Jhandewalan, New Delhi-110 055.)