Bookmark: Beyond Gandhi-Nehru legacy
|Uprisings Against Colonialism in Jharkhand, 1830-1944 (Heroes, Leaders and Followers) by Abdul Azim Akhtar. Publisher: JanakiPrakashan, Delhi,
Pp 150, Rs INR 500
The book is a fresh take at the imperial records and other available sources to trace the origin of popular uprisings in Jharkhand. It has highlighted the role of Santhals, Mundas and other tribes in waging war against British colonialism to gain independence, and has attempted to look beyond the accepted narrative of freedom movement history, which for long, has been dominated by Gandhi-Nehru-Patel and, and has not given the marginalised and weaker sections their due to prevalent biases against them in the society. Perhaps, for the first time, a book has brought to notice, the importance of the Grand Trunk Road in the victory of the British army.
Madhav Nalapat, Professor of Geopolitics and UNESCO Peace Chair at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India's elite private university said that, the author Abdul Azim Akhtar has done immense service in throwing light on one of the several hundreds of thousands of “mini-rebellions” against Empire which sprouted all across India. The heroes of his narrative have been forgotten till now, yet their devotion and idealism paralleled that of much more famous contemporaries.”
The execution of the three rebels (Sheikh Harun, Salamat Ali, Amanat Ali) was arranged by Major McDonald himself. Describing the scene, Major McDonald said: ‘One of the prisoners was of a very high caste and influence, and this man was determined to treat with the greatest ignominy by getting a low caste man to hang him. To tell the truth, I never for a moment expected to leave the hanging scene alive, but I determined to do my duty and well knew the effect that pluck and decision had on the natives. The regiment was drawn out: wounded cruelly as I was, I had to see everything done myself, even to the adjusting of the ropes, and saw them looked to run easy. Two of the culprits were paralyzed with fear and astonishment…the third said that he would not be hanged, and called on the Prophet and on his comrades to rescue him…so, I seized a pistol, clapped it to the man’s head and said: ‘Another word out of your mouth, and your brains shall be scattered on the ground.’ He trembled and held his tongue. The elephant came up, he was put on his back, the rope adjusted, the elephant moved, and he was left dangling. The other met the same fate.’ (Excerpt Chapter 4)
The loyalty of the princes, Rajas, and landlords was an important factor for the first War of Independence in 1857. An excerpt from Chapter five has a British official reports to his senior saying: “I submit copy of letter bringing to notice the landholders and others of Lohardagga who conducted loyally and faithfully…the conduct of Parganait Jagat Pal Singh of Pithuria whose conspicuous loyalty in closing and holding his Ghaut against the two companies of the mutinous sepoys of 8th Native infantry has already been favourably viewed. His steady communication with me during the whole period of my absence from Ranchee provided me information as to the movements and intentions of the Mutineers. I respectfully propose as a suitable recognition of his services that the title of Rai Bahadur be conferred on him and that a pension of Rs. 313 per annum which for faithful and gallant services was bestowed on the Parganait's father Jaimangal Singh and lapsed on his death in August 1853 be now assigned for life to the equally loyal and energetic son.
(Excerpts from Chapter-5): (Birsa Munda) – He was arrested in August 1895 along with his followers and was convicted under section 505 IPC and sentenced to two years imprisonment. He was killed while fighting on the Sailrakab Hill. According to other accounts, he was arrested in 1900 by the police and buried alive in a very inhuman way.
In March 1940, the Indian National Congress held its 53rd session at Ramgarh, with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as president. Maulana Azad made his famous speech: “….For a hundred and fifty years British imperialism has pursued the policy of divide and rule, and by emphasising internal differences, sought to use various groups for the consolidation of its own power. That was the inevitable result of India's political subjection, and it is folly for us to complain and grow bitter. A foreign government can never encourage internal unity in the subject country, for disunity is the surest guarantee for the continuance of its own domination…” (Chapter 7)
“From heroes to humble tribes, from Birsa Munda to Jatra Oraon, from Siddhu and Kanhu to the
ordinary followers, Jharkhand and its people led the nation in raising voice against all acts of oppression,
exploitation and discrimination.
They scared the British power
with their bows and arrows, and
sometime with even power of rumour and miracles as happened in many cases.” (Chapter 9)