Chamar/Dalit : Freedom Fighters



Role of Dalits in the 1857 Revolt

By Badri Narayan
The 1857 national uprising against colonial rule is a landmark event in Indian history. Conspicuous in its absence however is the role played by the low castes in the rebellion, which has been largely ignored by mainstream historians. The image of the Dalits as being inactive, docile, submissive and filled with servitude are mainly Brahmanical constructions and interpretations. This article goes someway in addressing this imbalance and in ensuring that the lost history of a large section of the population is rightly retrieved.

The Indian Mutiny has been a popular subject with historians, both British and Indian. While Indian historians have glorified it as a ‘War of Independence’ (Savarkar, 1946) in which people rose en masse, gave no quarter to the English and fought to the bitter end, British historians like Sir John William Kaye and Col. G.B. Malleson have been inclined to dismiss it as a ‘sepoy mutiny’ that was “wholly unpatriotic and selfish.. with no native leadership and no popular support.”  On the other hand, another British historian Thomas Lowe wrote that” the infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, the luxury-loving, fat, paunched, ambitious Mahratta… had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow -worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater, the crier of Allah is One and Muhammed is His Prophet and the mumbler of the mysteries of Brahm, had revolted conjointly” (Lowe, 1860, p. 24). This description by a British historian proves beyond doubt that a mere mutiny of soldiers spread among large classes of the people in Northern and Central India, and converted it into a political insurrection (Dutt, 1950, p. 23). In short, the oft-voiced assertion of British historians that the rebellion of 1857 was no more than a ‘sepoy mutiny’ is not quite the truth. In fact, within a few weeks of the breaking out of the rebellion the British Empire in upper India had all but disappeared (Thornhill, 1884, p. 178).

Although the Indian historians are unanimous in asserting that the 1857 revolt was a popular uprising against the British, the role of different communities in the revolt is a matter of debate by historians and intellectuals. While few literatures, intellectuals and historians claim that it was confined to the local kings and feudal landlords scattered across various parts of northern India like Rani of Jhansi, Nana Sahib Peshwa, Tatya Tope, Kunwar Singh and so on, and the lower castes only functioned as their soldiers, guards, watchmen etc., another section of intellectuals feels that a revolt on such a large scale could not have been planned and carried out with the help of only few groups of people. It needed the active participation of all the people to make it a success. Since the Indian society comprises a large number of lower and backward castes, a revolt on such an immense scale could not have been planned and executed without their cooperation. This debate is being fuelled by the dalits who have started demanding a share in the development pie of the country that had earlier been divided among the elite upper classes by asserting their role in the nation building process and in the 1857 revolt through a number of dalit heroes of the revolt. A historical fact to support this claim is that the import of Europeans clothes and objects to India rendered traditional artisan communities like weavers, carpenters, ironsmiths, shoe smiths and so on, all of whom were lower castes, jobless and without any alternative sources of income except begging (Rawat, 2007: 22). Thus most of them actively joined in the revolt against the British as a protest against this social and economic injustice.  

Dalit intellectuals and academicians believe that dalits of many castes played significant roles as leaders and commanders in the revolt. The mainstream academicians on the other hand opine that the dalits as a community have always been docile, inactive and a subjugated. So how could they have played an active role in the 1857 revolt? In this paper we will examine the role of dalits in the revolt by making a thorough study of archival historical accounts, the oral histories that have been carried down over generations, and the histories that are being written by the dalits for carving their own identities, in order to establish whether the dalits made significant contributions to the revolt as leaders and decision makers or functioned only as servants and soldiers who obeyed the orders of the upper castes.

Upward mobility of the dalits around the year 1857

If one examines the events that took place around 1857 one would find that dalits as a community had started the process of upward mobility by migrating to cities from their villages in search of jobs and carving a better future for themselves. In 1820, after the abolition of slavery, when the colonial countries like Britain, the Netherlands and Suriname needed a source of cheap and abundant labour for their sugarcane, cocoa, jute and other plantations in their colonies in the Caribbean countries, the system of indentured labour was introduced in India. Under this system, beginning from 1833 and ending in 1916, nearly 1.2 million people from the Bhojpur region of Bihar and UP migrated to far off countries like Suriname, Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago etc. to work in the colonial plantations. From the registers that were prepared by the Dutch officers that have been carefully preserved in the archives in Suriname and the Netherlands it can be seen that the maximum number of migrants belonged to lower castes like Chamar, Dusadh, Kori, Kahar and so on. Only 5% of the migrants were Brahmins and 15% were Thakurs (De Klerk, 1951: 104). The same trend was visible in the case of the other countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad etc. From this we can infer that even at that time dalits and lower castes were not a subjugated community who spoke only in the voice of their masters under the feudal system. They were not prepared to remain confined to their land and villages but had the courage to venture out of their safe havens to unknown overseas destinations. Behind their wish to leave their roots lay the craving both to search for better economic options and to free themselves from the hierarchical feudal social system that oppressed and exploited the lower castes under the Brahminical code of conduct.  A strong desire had been aroused in them to explore economic options for earning their livelihood that was not restricted to merely working as labourers and servants of the local feudal landlords but enabled them to live with prestige and dignity. Thus the dalits gradually evolved into a risky and adventurous community who were ready to take on any challenge. The dalits who migrated to the Caribbean countries regularly remitted money to their family members who had been left behind, providing them a better future and better social security. This fact can be verified from the autobiography of Munshi Rahman Khan, an educated man who migrated to Suriname and wrote in vivid details about the life of the migrants in Suriname (Gautam 1995). From this it can be gleaned that the dalits who migrated overseas greatly facilitated the economic and associated social empowerment of dalits in India.

The famous Dutch historian Dirk H. Kolff in his  book ‘Naukri, Sipahi and Rajput’ has shown through his research into archival sources that around the 1857 revolt many dalits and backwards used to practice wrestling and learned fighting skills at wresting rings (akhara) along with the Thakurs. This was guided by the growing need for soldiers by the landlords, local kings and also by the British army. Kolff says, “Around 1630 a traveler named Peter Munde traveled from Agra to Patna. He found a large number of wrestling rings next to soldiers’ camps where wrestling was being practiced. Apart from them the entire Awadh and Bhojpur region was covered with akharas where men belonging to lower castes, middle castes and upper castes were building their bodies through wrestling. These men were preparing themselves for securing jobs as soldiers and constables with various kings, landlords and the Sultan of Delhi. Around 1814 the British army also contained many Indian soldiers who were known as Pahalwan Sahib.

At that time the Indians who were working for the British as soldiers and constables were not only Purabias, Ujjainias and Bundelas but also belonged to low castes and semi-shepherd communities. Baheliya was one such community which had emerged as an important one in the fourteenth century during the reign of Muhammed bin Tughlak in Delhi.  Since they were mainly concentrated in the region lying between Chunar and Banaras on the bank of the Ganga they used to be recruited from there and many were also given the ownership of twenty seven villages each as gifts. William Crooke informs us in his book that people who were hired as security guards of Akbar included a large number of Baheliyas and their commander was known as Hazaari. In 1772 when the Mughals conceded to the British many of them joined the British army. Along with the Baheliyas the Pasis who numbered nearly 1.2 million at that time also built up a reputation of being a courageous, brave and valiant community.  Posing a challenge to the laws, rules and orders of the East India Company they worked as the stick wielders, watchmen and security guards of the landlords and local kings and made a name for themselves as a stalwart martial community. Sleeman, who was on a capturing spree in that region in 1857, described the heroic Pasis by saying that many of them had formed their own armies and had acquired a considerable amount of land and property by committing robberies, murders and working as mercenary soldiers for small kings. The chivalry of the Pasis has also been described in the folk epic Alha-Udal. Before that, in 1678 in the Bundelkhand region the army of the king of Chhatrasaal included, in addition to higher castes like Rajputs, Brahmins and Baniyas, lower castes like Chhipi, Rangrej, lower Muslim castes and Ahirs on a large scale. In this manner the tradition of service, especially service as a soldier, had become established as a prestigious one at that time.

Like the Rajputs, chivalry as a life skill gradually evolved as the quality of many dalit castes like Kori, Pasi, Mushahar etc. Even though it is difficult to pin point the exact time period when a particular folk lore came into existence but there are many folk songs and folk tales around brave dalit heroes like Chuharmal and Sahles of the Dusadhs, Dina-Bhadri of the Mushahars etc. from which we can infer that the desire for the quality of bravery was one of the collective values of many dalit castes. If that was the case then it is difficult to believe that the  all dalits had been exploited and oppressed by their masters, were the victims of cruelty and violence, which they accepted with docility as their due. It is true that the quality of bravery may not have existed for all the dalit castes but among most of them ideas of progress, courage and dissent against the oppressive social system must certainly have existed. It must be clarified here that the concepts of servant, service did not exist in the same form as they do today, although being gainfully employed had become popular and prestigious. Acquiring a job was also seen as one of ways of getting reprieve from working as a labourer in the fields of the local landlords, which was the only option for people in order to supplement their family income. The increasing desire among rural folks, especially those belonging to the dalit castes, to get jobs, and also the growing awareness about the difficulties associated with formal employment, was what led to the local belief ‘uttam kheti, madhyam baan, nirivadh chakri, bheekh nidaan’, to convert into an idiom.

Consciousness among dalits for acquiring education was also visible around 1857, as can be gauged from the writing of William Adams who made an in-depth study of the state of education in Bihar in 1837-38. From his study it is apparent that many vernacular schools were running in south Bihar. In addition to lower caste students the schools also had many teachers who belonged to the lower castes. In this same time period many ‘free schools’ were running in Kanpur which also had many lower caste students. It is obvious that the students who were acquiring education in this process must also have acquired a high level of awareness and consciousness, which must have fostered their increasing participation in contemporary social and political issues. In such a condition one can easily infer that the dalits did not function merely as servants of the upper caste feudal landlords during the 1857 revolt but participated equally in it.

Even if for a moment we accept that most of the soldiers in the Bengal army were Brahmins and Kshatriyas it is certain that the allied services like sweeping, polishing shoes, cooking and serving food, stitching clothes, washing clothes drum beating etc. which involved a large number of people, were carried out by the lower castes for whom most of these services were caste based professions. All these people were in service in the army. In fact Matadin Bhangi, who is acclaimed by the dalits as being the father of the 1857 revolt since he instigated Mangal Pandey to revolt against the British army officers by informing him about the presence of animal grease on the cartridges, was employed as a sweeper (Mehatar) in the Bengal army. 

The first cantonment set up by the British was the Juhi cantonment in Kanpur. Close to it was a large amount of land which was owned by Rani Kunwari. Besides Rani Kunwari, the owners of the other portions of land were dalits. All of them lived in big houses and owned agricultural fields and villages. A temple called Saanwaldas Kuril’s temple still exists in Juhi and there is also a ghat (permanent river bank) near Jyora called Saanwaldas Ghat. Saanwaldas was one of the elite citizens of Kanpur who traveled in a carriage drawn by fourteen horses. He possessed many bungalows in the city at that time and many of them are still there in Kanpur. 

Rereading of the 1857 Revolt: The presence of dalits in contemporary narratives

During the reign of the last Badshah, the Kotwal of the Paharganj police station in Delhi was an elite Muslim called Muinuddin Hasan. Muinuddin Hasan had saved the life of Sir Theophilus John Metcalfe when the revolt erupted and was a sympathizer of the British. On Sir Metcalfe’s insistence he wrote his own version of the events in the book ‘Khandge-Gadar’. The book, which was originally written in Urdu, has recently been translated into Hindi. The book throws immense light on the revolt from the viewpoint of a man who was deeply loyal to the British and who describes himself as an elite Muslim constable, profession ‘aristocracy’. In his narratives he has denounced all the revolutionaries using adjectives such as traitors, conspirators, cruel etc. while expressing his heartfelt sympathy for the British who, according to him, were the victims of the conspiracies of the revolutionaries. But if we reread the text and also read between the lines we will find ample proof of the contribution of dalits in the 1857 revolt. Although the author has used a number of derogatory adjectives for them but it is clear that they played an active role in the revolt.  In many places he has also used the word ‘chamar’ for the revolutionaries as a form of abuse. At one place he writes that when Nawab Mirza Sahib was being pressurized by the revolutionaries to contribute funds for the revolt he retorted,’ Now you chamars have come to a stage when you are asserting yourself over us’ (ab tum chamaron ka yah star ki hum par dhauns jamaate ho).  In his narrative he has very often expressed his disgust with the lower castes by addressing them as ‘chhoti jati‘(smaller castes). However while describing the revolt in Allahabad or Prayag he says,’ A person named Maulvi Liaqat Ali lived in a mosque in the cantonment. He had many followers, many people were his devotees. He stitched a green flag and gave it the name muhammadi flag. He claimed it to be his kingdom  and inspired all his followers for jehad (holy crusade).  He himself became a self-proclaimed khalifa (emperor). At his call, a large number of julahas, bhatiyaras, kunjras, teli, nai, kasambhi muftkhor and looters gathered together. All the British and Sikh soldiers were imprisoned in the fort. Allahabad and its adjoining regions came under the rule of the Maulvi. 

From this narrative it is clear that a sizeable number of dalit castes joined forces with the Maulvi to protest against the British. Muinuddin Hasan further writes, ‘The Maulvi Sahib started his butchery at Sultan-Khusrobagh. Every day he gave a discourse and the Julahas and Kunjra used to attack the fort to get it evacuated’.

A little later Muinuddin Hasan writes that the revolutionary army scattered here and there after looting the treasury in Allahabad. Some went home; some went to Lucknow, while some went to Delhi. Maulvi Sahib now remained the khalifa of an army comprising of only Kunjras, Kasais, Julahas and Nais. Each of them was claiming to be a brave warrior (rustam) If we invert Hasan’s account it appears that the bedrock of Maulvi Ali’s army was the dalit community. Even after the revolutionary army left Allahabad the people of these castes in the Maulvi’s army remained behind and fought resolutely as ‘rustams‘. 

While mentioning the Akbarabad incident Hasan imparts with an information from which it appears that many men in the revolutionary army belonging to the lower castes where ensconced in commander-like positions. He writes, ‘ When a subedar belonging to the lower  caste who was a commander of the army abused the rajputs (who were British sympathizers) and ordered them to lay down their arms, a youth named Panjhi whipped out his sword and swiped him so hard that the subedar’s head got chopped off and fell on the ground. At this all the subedar’s soldiers together fired at the rajputs and all forty of them died.’ 

The same text can be read in many ways and different meanings can be culled out from them. As I mentioned in the beginning, Hasan perceived the lower castes in a very poor light. This can be inferred clearly at many places in his text. However at the same time it is obvious that the dalits had a very active presence in the 1857 revolt and made a significant contribution to it. Another narrative in the same vein is as follows,’ From Banda Nawab Ali Bahadur went to Kalpi to meet Laxmibai of Jhansi. Tatya Tope and Rao Bandarang had already reached there. All the leaders unanimously decided that Kalpi was not the appropriate place for fighting against the British, so they should head towards Gwalior. After an arduous battle the revolutionary leaders gained controlled over Gwalior. After gaining control Rao Sahib started recruiting men for their army. People from all castes like Dhuniya, Julaha, Teli, Tamoli, Chamar and so on unhesitantly joined as servants and soon the army was ready.

This narrative too shows how the dalits were present in large numbers in the revolutionary army. At that time a soldier in the army was different from being a soldier of today since it entailed prestige and a good social position. From the next narrative of Muinuddin Hasan the loathing attitude of a sympathizer of the British towards the lower castes in the revolutionary army can be discerned. ‘On the twenty third day Maharaja Scindia arrived with the help of the British army. The newly formed army which was engaged in protest, fled on seeing the British army. Since ancient times they are used to eating without working for it. What shame is there for the chamars to run? 

In spite of this degrading and insulting attitude Muinuddin gives a detailed account of the role of the dalits in the 1857 revolt. His account also informs that there were both British sympathizers and dissidents among the various castes like Kshatriyas and Muslims. Thus no caste was homogeneous in terms of its position towards the British.

Summary:

Although we know that the colonial archive has been created guided by the needs of the colonizers, yet these narratives function as rays of light in the search for the role of dalits in the 1857 revolt. The narratives around dalit identity which the dalits are using to prove their role in the 1857 revolt are also based on the colonial archives that enlist the names of the people who were hanged for their role in the revolt, since the mainstream nationalist Indian history completely ignores the contribution of dalits in the revolt. For example Matadin Bhangi, a sweeper in the British army at Barrackpore, who is claimed by the dalits to have spearheaded the 1857 revolt since he was the first to make Mangal Pandey, the mainstream nationalist originator of the revolt, aware of the fact that the cartridges were greased with cow fat, has been overlooked by the official record of the revolt.  However that he was not a figment of the imagination of the dalits can be proved by the colonial archives that show that  he was hanged to death for participating in the revolt.

The image of the dalits as being inactive, docile, submissive and filled with servitude are mainly Brahminical constructions and interpretations. Thus instead of rejecting the role of dalits in the 1857 revolt it is important that we develop a constructive viewpoint based on our rationality so that the lost history of such a large section of the population is retrieved.


The Role of Dalits in the 1857 Revolt: Badri Narayan 
    
Dalit Oral Memory and 1857: 

The Story of Gangu baba

In my book ‘Women Heroes and Dalit Assertion in North India’  I had explicated at length how dalit women heroes of the 1857 revolt like Jhalkaribai, Udadevi etc. are being reincarnated in dalit oral memories,  dalit popular booklets, dalit collective histories and dalit politics. In this paper my attempt is to bring out how the dalits of today are inventing their own histories around the 1857 revolt in order to create their distinct identities and to define their own politics within the present socio political scenario. This often leads to the weaving of fantasies around these women heroes which sound hard to believe. But we should not have any trouble in accepting that there is some truth behind these myths, which can be recognized from Muinuddin Hasan’s account of the events that took place during the 1857 revolt. For example, the basis of all the narratives of the dalits around Jhalkaribai is ‘a look-alike friend of the Rani belonging to the Kori caste who fought shoulder to shoulder with her against the British in the revolt’. Now let us see Muinuddin Hasan’s description of the events that took place in Gwalior and Jhansi during the revolt. He writes, ‘ ….After that the queen’s friend and assistant took the boy whom the queen had adopted and left overnight for Bundelkhand along with the queen’s old aide Qutubuddin Khan Risaldar. It has been heard that the boy has now attained maturity and lives in a village in Bundelkhand. 

Although we know that the colonial archive has been created guided by the needs of the colonizers, yet these narratives function as rays of light in the search for the role of dalits in the 1857 revolt. The narratives around dalit identity which the dalits are using to prove their role in the 1857 revolt are also based on the colonial archives that enlist the names of the people who were hanged for their role in the revolt, since the mainstream nationalist Indian history completely ignores the contribution of dalits in the revolt. For example Matadin Bhangi, a sweeper in the British army at Barrackpore, who is claimed by the dalits to have spearheaded the 1857 revolt since he was the first to make Mangal Pandey, the mainstream nationalist originator of the revolt, aware of the fact that the cartridges were greased with cow fat, has been overlooked by the official record of the revolt.  However that he was not a figment of the imagination of the dalits can be proved by the colonial archives that show that he was hanged to death for participating in the revolt. In the same vein there is another myth about a dalit hero of the 1857 revolt which is popular in the oral memories of the region adjoining Kanpur and Bithoor. This is the myth of Gangu Mehtar who is also known as Gangu Baba. The people of that region say that Gangu Baba was a Bhangi who worked as a drum beater (nagarchi) in the army of Nana Saheb. He was built extremely powerfully and was also a wrestler. He himself owned a wrestling ring where many youths practiced wrestling under his tutelage. During the 1857 revolt Gangu Baba fought against the British along with his students at a place near Satichaura and killed many of them. After the revolt was quelled he was arrested by the British and hanged to death. 

The story of Gangu baba has transcended from the real world into the ethereal world and there is a popular story about him that is still circulated among the people in the region where he died which establish his supernatural qualities. According to them, after his death when some workers of the British were in the process of constructing a culvert on a drain very close to where he was hanged, his ghost used to materialize every night and smash the construction work that had been done in the day time. The British engineers were puzzled about the identity of the revolutionary Indian hero who had the courage to stand up to them even after the defeat of the Indians in the 1857 revolt. One night Gangu Baba appeared in the dreams of the engineer and told him that the culvert would be completed only after a small pond (chabutara) was constructed at the place where he died and the British had prayed at it. Following his instructions the British constructed a chabutara at the place where he died. It was only after this was done was the culvert successfully completed.  

Babulal and Mohanlal, two residents of Sudarshannagar in Kanpur narrate in unison that nearly one and a half centuries ago a pond was constructed in Chunniganj, the site of Gangu Baba’s martyrdom, where people lay flowers and offer prayers. It is believed that if they do so before launching a new venture, it will be accomplished successfully. After the venture is successfully completed the devotees once again visit the site to express their gratitude by ringing a bell and offering sindoor. As the belief of the people grew a fair started being organized there, which has now become a regular feature of that region. At present the fair is held near the Bhangi basti in Kanpur. On 3 November 1972 the local people got together and installed a statue of Gangu Baba at that spot. Everyday incense sticks are lighted and flowers are placed with great respect at the feet of the revolutionary hero. 

Gangu Baba’s story that is popular in the oral history of that region has now become an important part of dalit history that is being used by the educated section of the dalits for asserting their collective dalit identity. The story has been reinterpreted and recreated to fit it into their meta narratives describing the heroic qualities of dalits. Their narrative is as follows:
Gangadin alias Gangu Pahalwan was a fair complexioned six footer with a wide chest and long arms. His ancestors lived in village Akbarpur, district Kanpur Dehat. Gangu was a highly skilled wrestler and he had set up a wrestling ring and a beautiful garden on a 110 acre land in the village Sattichaura. After the demise of Bajirao Peshwa, when the second Nana Sahib Peshwa became the king of that region, he expanded his army and soldiers from the lower castes were also recruited. Gangu Baba joined the army as a nagarchi.  He used to beat the drum when the soldiers did their march past each day and also practiced all the skills of a soldier along with the others. Later he was promoted to the post of a commander (subedar). Gangadin was one of the most loyal soldiers of Nana Saheb and fought steadfastly against the British shoulder to shoulder with him. Nana Saheb’s army in Bithoor also consisted of a number of soldiers belonging to the Giri castes of the Naga (naked saints who smear ash on their bodies) community. In their company Gangu took to spiritualism and started seeking the company of saints who followed the tenets of Sant Kabir and other nirgun (formless) saints. This also gave him the sobriquet of Gangu Giri.
 “When Nana Sahib took control over the canon of Bithoor the name of Gangadin alias Gangu Pahalwan was the most prominent one among his body guards. In addition to fighting, Gangadin was also the Nagarchi who played the huge drums to herald the beginning of a battle. After the arrival of the British these drums were replaced by brass trumpets known as military bands, which were blown at the beginning of a battle. The trumpet blowers and drum beaters also participated in the fight along with the other soldiers. The posts of drum beaters in armies have traditionally been held by Bhangis, an untouchable lower caste to which Gangadin belonged.

“One day in the middle of the 1857 revolt when Gangudin was at the Sattichaura wresting ring a platoon of Nana Saheb’s soldiers came to inform that the British army was on his trail. After some time the British soldiers led by Captain Havelock reached the wrestling ring where they confronted Gangudin and his followers. Ganga taunted the captain by saying that he and the other soldiers were not like the Rajas and Maharajas who ran away when the British army attacked their forts and palaces. They were the original settlers of Bithoor and the land was theirs. Nana Saheb might have come from Poona but the soldiers were local inhabitants. Bithoor belonged to the ancestors of all the Indian soldiers and they would fight till their last breath to defend the land of their forefathers.
“As the British soldiers started firing on Gangu and his soldiers he pulled out his sword from its sheath and pounced on Havelock. But just before he could chop off Havelock’s head the British soldiers surrounded him and directed their forces at him. Bloody and injured, Gangu jumped on his horse and started running towards the pond in Chunniganj. Unfortunately, he fell from his horse on the way. The British soldiers tied him to the horse and dragged him to the makeshift prison for Indian revolutionaries that had been set up in Kanpur and locked him up there. ”
“On the dawn of 5 June 1858 some British soldiers arrived in the prison and tied up Gangu’s mouth with a black cloth. Then they took him to the British Civil Surgeon John Nicholas Tresidar, who conducted his medical check up and photographed him. He was then taken to the forest of Chunniganj with his head covered with a black cape. There he was hanged to death on a neem tree. One end of the rope used as a noose was tied to the tree while the other was tied to a horse. The reins of the horse were then pulled hard which made it start galloping at full speed. This tightened the noose around Gangu’s neck and killed him instantly. When his family members heard of his death they took his body with them and buried it in the wrestling ring so that the future generations could worship him. ” 27

Gangu Baba: Myth and Reality

Although the story of Gangu Baba narrated by the dalits might be filled with elements of high drama and might seem to be highly exaggerated, nevertheless it is difficult to write off the story as being mere fantasy. The following may be the reasons for this:

1. The photograph of Gangu Mehtar taken by the English doctor named John Nicholas Tresidar taken just before his hanging was found in the personal collection of Alkaji. The photograph was published in a special issue on the 1857 revolt published by the literary magazine Nayi Dilli. 

2. Gangu Baba’s descendants including Babulal, his great grandson, still live in Kanpur. Babulal, resident of Sudarshan Nagar, Kanpur, says that his ancestors originally lived in Kasba Akbarpur, district Kanpur Dehat. But later Gangadin’s family comprising his father Bakhtawar and his mother Budhiya left Akbarpur and came to Kanpur where they settled down in Subedar ka Talab, Chunniganj. Babulal’s father and grandfather had told him that Gangu Baba, his great grandfather, was a drummer in Nana Saheb’s army. Because of his bravery Nana Saheb had elevated him to the post of Subedar.

3. Gangu Baba had converted into a Naga Sadhu towards the end of his life. That is why he came to be known as Gangu Giri. In the register of the Banaras branch of the Juna Akhara a name Gangu Giri, resident of Kanpur, is lodged. A fair in memory of Gangu Giri is organized in Sattichaura near Gangu Babu’s tomb. 

Thus there appears to be a certain element of truth in the folk tales of the dalits connected with the 1857 revolt that have transformed into myths. They cannot be dismissed as figments of their imagination. Folk culture is a valuable source for authenticating the contribution of dalits in the nationalist movement and in the nation building process and should be accepted by historians. In addition, folk culture helps to liberate the image of the dalits as inactive, docile, submissive and filled with servitude that are mainly Brahminical constructions and interpretations. Thus instead of rejecting the role of dalits in the 1857 revolt it is important that we develop a constructive viewpoint based on our rationality so that the lost history of such a large section of the population is retrieved.




CONDEMNATION AND COMMEMORATION:


(EN)GENDERING DALIT NARRATIVES OF 1857

Charu Gupta





This paper is attempting to do two simultaneous things. Firstly, it examines ways in which contemporary debates and popular Hindi Dalit literature of north India have dealt with the role of Dalits in the freedom struggles of the colonial period, particularly the revolt of 1857. And secondly, it relates this specifically to the representations of Dalit women in 1857, and whether it symbolises a collusion or subversion of patriarchies. In the process, the paper wishes to interrogate conventional and historical writings on 1857, portrayals of Dalit women, and the contradictory Dalit perceptions of the revolt. Ambiguous Dalit Genealogies of 1857




The recent festivities around 1857 have invoked heated debates regarding the position and participation of Dalits in it. We mainly get two responses. On the one hand, there is deep condemnation of 1857 from a Dalit perspective, and on the other, there is an assertion and commemoration of Dalit contribution, particularly that of Dalit viranganas, in it. Both these viewpoints however need to be placed in a larger context. Various scholars have effectively argued that subaltern political actions and consciousness revealed a great degree of autonomy from mainstream nationalism.1 Various scholars working on Dalits in colonial India particularly state that Dalits have had an ambivalent relationship with both Indian nationalism and colonialism, often contradictory with the views of dominant Hindu communities.2 A Dalit intellectual argues that the British liberated the Dalit masses from the oppressions of Hindu society by abolishing the laws of Manu and by providing Dalits with the most important tool of liberation, which is access to education. Thus, British rule was good for the Dalits.3 In UP, many of the activists within the Dalit movement had articulated similar ideas as early as the 1920s.4 Dalits were neither fully convinced of the Congress-led agenda of nationalism, nor did they share universally the Indian nationalists’ opposition to colonialism. Their struggles and agendas pointed in different directions. For example, the Adi-Hindu movement and its leaders were keen to show their loyalty to the British Government, and adopted various resolutions in their meetings to this effect. They thanked the British for liberating them from Hindu domination, for establishing schools for them, and for instituting the ‘rule of law’.5 In UP, the British  government had set up 41 schools especially for the depressed classes, who were not allowed to enter the general schools by caste Hindus.6 Dalit activists, thinkers and intellectuals have thus often held positions at odds with those of mainstream caste Hindu historians, scholars, and political leaders. These positions and mentalities have had a basis in their material and social realities.



1857 too cannot be isolated from these positionings. The upper-caste modes of thought and anti-Dalit biases of 1857 are well documented. Thus proclaimed Birjis Qadr, who was raised to the throne of Awadh by the rebels on 5 July 1857, under the regency of his mother Hazrat Mahal: All Hindus and Mussalmans know that four things are held dear by every human being: 

(1) religion and faith;
(2) honour and esteem; 
(3) life of self and relation;
(4) property. 

These four were protected under the rule of the Indians, under whose government no one interfered with religion; everyone followed his own faith and everyone’s honour was protected in accordance with their position. No mean person (paji), for example, sweeper (churha), leather-worker (chamar), carder (dhanuk) or village watchman (Pasi) could claim equality with them…. But the English are the enemies of these four things…. They have brought the honour of the high classes on a level with that of the lower people – sweepers and leather workers. In fact, the English show preference to the lower castes over the higher classes. On the complaint of a sweeper or a leather-worker, they seize the person of even a Nawab and a Raja and disgrace him.




The proclamation by Bahadur Shah on 25 August 1857 also read:

It is evident, that the British Government in making zemindary settlements have imposed exorbitant Zumas, and have disgraced and ruined several zemindars, by putting up their estates to public auction for arrears of rent, in as much as, that on the institution of a suit by a common Ryot, a maid servant or a slave, the respectable zemindars are summoned into court, arrested, put in gaol and disgraced…. Such extortions will have no manner of existence in the Badshahi government.

These derogatory statements reflect deep contempt for the Dalits in 1857, and also symbolise the authoritarianisms of pre-colonial caste formations. These nostalgic yearnings for pre- British pasts have obviously not found any favour among the Dalits.

Conventional and standardised histories of the revolt stress its upper caste character. According to nationalist historians like S. B. Chaudhuri, Tara Chand and R. C. Mazumdar, the social composition of 1857 consisted of the ruling class and the traditional elite of the society, who were the ‘natural leaders’ of the revolt. The elitist disposition of the revolt is highlighted by referring to it as a general movement of the Muslims and the Hindus --
princes, landholders, soldiers, scholars and theologians.10 Marxist scholars broadly fall within the same paradigm where they basically see the revolt as a last attempt of the elite medieval order to halt the process of its dissolution and recover its lost status. Thomas R. Metcalf too emphasises that it was not merely a mutiny nor a war of independence. For him 1857 was ‘a traditionalist movement in which those who had the most to lose in the new sought the restoration of the old pre-British order.’11 In his significant work, Eric Stokes, while highlighting the local background of the upsurge, also argues that it was the fear of the loss of an upper caste status due to the use of fat greased cartridges that precipitated the uprising. He shows how ashraf Muslims, Brahmins and Rajputs had secured a near monopoly over entry into the Bengal army and they were afraid of a loss to their status.12 Many other contemporary accounts too emphasize the hurt and the fears of pollution felt up upper caste Hindus as an important reason for the revolt.

In fact, eminent scholars have reflected on the overwhelmingly upper caste composition and character of the Bengal Army to underscore the internal caste contradictions within Indian society. These upper caste soldiers were largely recruited from Awadh and Bihar, and carried with them their caste sentiments and prejudices, upholding divisions of caste in food, clothing and housing. As these high caste personal of the Bengal Army turned against the East India Company, the British mobilised a section of the low castes. The Awadh Police Force for example had a large component of Pasis, Bhungis, Chamars and Dhanuks, who participated in the suppression of the revolt. It thus appears that Dalits did not have much to gain and only something to loose by being active allies in the revolt. The purity/pollution ties of the upper castes and classes, linked with the crossing of seas or biting of the flesh of the cow or the pig, did not fit in with Dalits. It is not surprising that Jyotiba Phule congratulated the Mahars for aiding the British in suppressing the 1857 revolt.

In fact, from Phule to Ambedkar, a significant part of Dalit tradition has repeatedly celebrated the victory of British in 1857, which according to some Dalit intellectuals, was an antithesis of modernity, and was retrogressive and narcissistically upper caste.

Dalit positionings thus point out to the limits of 1857, and by extension of nationalism. There is a political illegitimacy of 1857 from a certain Dalit perspective. A part of Dalit politics has thus refused to bow down to the more powerful and inclusive categories of nation and nationalism, and have maintained a separate identity, which still has its relevance in the lives of Dalits in north India.At the same time, it would only be a partial reading to end here. There were much more complex and contradictory pulls at this time, and the multilayered character of 1857 cannot be denied. Thus remarked M. H. Court, Magistrate and Collector of Allahabad:

The poorer classes particularly amongst the Hindoos, are, I believe, indeed, I am certain, at heart favourable to us and would gladly see us confirmed in power but they believe our power is gone and acting on this belief they join in plundering and rebelling against the Government.

Various scholars have also emphasized the popular and low caste basis of the revolt. Thus for example Rudrangshu Mukherjee focuses on Awadh and stresses the mutual dependence between peasantry and talukdars, which provided bases for common and united action at this tumultuous juncture. He thus links the seemingly disjointed and contradictory realms of the elite and the common masses.19 Tapti Roy too regards 1857 as a popular uprising, where sepoys, thakurs and the people came together to resist the British, even though their goals and visions differed.20 Gautam Bhadra highlights the common leaders of the revolt. 

Though the attention here is not on the Dalits, the low caste and class basis of the revolt is recognised. More important, post-independent India, particularly of the past three decades, coinciding with the meteoric rise of Dalit movements in north India, has seen a flourishing of popular Hindi Dalit literature, pamphlets and booklets. This literature is mass produced in thousands and sold in large quantities through public rallies and melas of Dalits.

Given the imperative political assertions by the Dalits in present times, there has been a need felt to declare and 
prove the nationalist credentials of the Dalits in a section of this literature. Thus, some popular pamphlets and books on Dalit histories have come out with copious volumes on their contribution and role in the independence movement. 1857 especially figures in a major way here, where there is a convergence of histories, myths, realities and retelling of the pasts.25 There has been an appropriation and a differential interpretation of 1857 here. Given the circumstances which have generated this literature, many of these Dalit writers are attempting to look upon the mutiny as part of their struggle for freedom, and portray their histories as the real and comprehensive truth. In this literature, the revolt has taken on the character of a Dalit resistance, where alternative Dalit rebel heroes -- some constructed, some exaggerated, some ‘discovered’ -- are represented as the real symbols of 1857 in Dalit popular nationalist consciousness. In these accounts, the armies of soldiers against British consist largely of Dalits. The focus of this literature is no longer on the sepoys or the greased cartridges, but on Dalits groaning under foreign oppression. As the famous Dalit poet Bihari

Lal Harit says regarding 1857: nai, dhobi, kurmi, kachchi/bharbhuje bhaat kumhaar lare. Lare khak rub mochi dhanak/sab daliton ke parivar lare.


(Barbers, washermen, Kurmis, gardners, grain-parchers, bards and potters fought.

Cobblers rolling in dust and cotton-carders fought. All Dalit families fought.)

These Dalit narratives of 1857 deploy an impassioned language, and are written usually by Dalit men who are not trained historians. These writers are inspired by altogether different sentiments, and their writings reveal the inner dynamics of Dalit politics as well. They are writing history with a mission by claiming a past and using it for the furtherance of their future. One of their purposes in writing inspirational histories of this kind is to stimulate Dalit nationalism, Dalit patriotic sentiment, and their pride. They are rewriting history to provide dignity to the Dalits.27 Thus they say: dalit upekshit virvaron ka, hoga phir se nav samman, samay chakra ki chaal karti – parivartan ka sabko gyan.

(The neglected Dalit brave warriors will again gain new respect. As time passes, this change will be realised by all.)

Present day feelings are ascribed to Dalit heroes of 1857, and they are seen as teaching a moral lesson that the Dalits of today need to emulate the heroic deed of their past heroes, and fight for their rights now as well. It has an inspirational quality, an effective conviction, which signifies a present political importance. Thus the present circumstances have made new constructions and hitherto unimaginable imaginings possible for the Dalits. Through 1857, they are also seeking to win acceptance from the wider society by creating and legitimising a space for themselves within the nationalist narratives.

However, these histories are not just reinventions of the past or inspirational histories. They also reveal a deep impassioned plea to recognize the unsung heroes of the revolt, who were often illiterate and left no written records. Dalits claim to be overturning the inaccuracies and prejudices of mainstream historiography, be it nationalist, Marxist or western, by retrieving lost histories. As says one: yatra-tatra sarvatra milegi, unki gaatha ki charcha. kintu upekshit veervaron ka -- kabhi nahin chapta parcha.

(Here, there and everywhere, you will find discussions on their deeds, but the scorned [Dalit] heroes are never written about in papers.)

This literature is representative of a Dalit imagined nation in search of its own historical narration. However, even in its inspirational and celebratory mode, it has an inherent tension within it, as it constantly grapples with its ambiguous genealogies of 1857 and Dalit relationships to the very character of the Indian nation. It cannot help but denounce certain features of 1857 and it too stresses that Dalits had nothing much to lose in pre-British times, as their condition was miserable even then. It reflects on the high caste biases, partial presentations and prejudices in histories of 1857, and condemns the upper caste Hindus and Indian rulers, who only fought to restore their rule.31 I will elaborate this point later in the paper.

It is not possible to talk of a homogenous Dalit politics or nation. At the same time, it is significant that whether Dalits argue for an anti or a pro 1857 stance, the social constructions of the role played by Dalits in 1857 have been changed by the Dalits themselves in tandem with changing social and political conditions in specific historical moments within Dalit communities. 1857 provides a moment for negotiation of Dalit identities, where Dalits themselves emerge as subjects involved in self-constitution, recognition and reflection. Their agendas and articulations dramatically depart from, and challenge, conventional histories, presenting a different perspective on 1857. They animate and alter received assumptions, and, as such, revise history. This underscores the disjuncture between a codified view of 1857 and its complex construction by Dalits. More important, the paradoxical Dalit perceptions of 1857 signify the genealogies of ambiguous nationalisms, where the Dalits, from their own viewpoint, play with restrictivelineages of historical pasts. The contradictory politics of exclusion and inclusion, censure and celebration shows that Dalits wish to be a part of the nation and yet cannot be. Dalits swing in their stances on 1857 because of their political compulsions about domains of power and nationalist assertions on the one hand and their autonomy and resistance to a dominant and hegemonic nation on the other. Their dilemmas reflect their wish to be integrated into the heroic deeds of 1857, but also have their distinct domain. They hope to claim 1857 but can never fully do so. Their discourse is thus marked by complicated, shifting and selective appropriations, in which they can only have an ambivalent, incomplete, partial and fragmentary relationship with 1857.

Vellore sepoy mutiny


The garrison of the Vellore Fort in July 1806 comprised four companies of British infantry from H.M. 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot and three battalions of Madras infantry. Two hours after midnight, on 10 July, the sepoys in the fort shot down the European sentries and killed fourteen of their own officers and 115 men of the 69th Regiment, most of the latter as they slept in their barracks. Among those killed was Colonel St. John Fancourt, the commander of the fort. The rebels seized control by dawn, and raised the flag of the Mysore kingdom over the fort. Tipu's second son Fateh Hyder was declared king. However a British officer escaped and alerted the garrison in Arcot. Nine hours after the outbreak of the mutiny, a relief force comprising the British 19th Light Dragoonsgalloper guns and a squadron of Madras cavalry, rode from Arcot to Vellore, covering 16 miles in about two hours. It was led by Sir Rollo Gillespie – one of the most capable and energetic officers in India at that time – who reportedly left Arcot within a quarter of an hour of the alarm being raised. Gillespie dashed ahead of the main force with a single troop of about 20 men.

Arriving at Vellore, Gillespie found the surviving Europeans, about sixty men of the 69th, commanded by NCOs and two assistant surgeons, still holding part of the ramparts but out of ammunition. Unable to gain entry through the defended gate, Gillespie climbed the wall with the aid of a rope and a sergeant's sash which was lowered to him; and to gain time led the 69th in a bayonet-charge along the ramparts. When the rest of the 19th arrived, Gillespie had them blow the gates with their galloper guns, and made a second charge with the 69th to clear a space inside the gate to permit the cavalry to deploy. The 19th and the Madras Cavalry then charged and slaughtered any sepoy who stood in their way. About 100 sepoys who had sought refuge in the palace were brought out, and by Gillespie's order, placed against a wall and shot dead. John Blakiston, the engineer who had blown in the gates, recalled: "Even this appalling sight I could look upon, I may almost say, with composure. It was an act of summary justice, and in every respect a most proper one; yet, at this distance of time, I find it a difficult matter to approve the deed, or to account for the feeling under which I then viewed it. The harsh retribution meted out to the sepoys snuffed out the unrest at a stroke and provided the history of the British in India with one of its true epics; for as Gillespie admitted, with a delay of even five minutes, all would have been lost. In all, nearly 350 of the rebels were killed, and another 350 wounded before the fighting had stopped.


Dalit ‘Viranganas’ of 1857: 

Collusion or Subversion of Patriarc 1857 also emerges as a gendered arena from a Dalit perspective. Some of the scholars, while stressing the upper caste biases of 1857, have also accentuated how the revolt was an attempt to reinstate feudal patriarchies. Remarriage of widows and abolition of sati was condemned by many leaders of 1857.32 A different kind of gendered tension however is visible in the popular Hindi Dalit literature of 1857, to which I now turn. When it comes to women, the memory of 1857 is inevitably tied to that of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, with celebration of her valour in poetry, ballad, folktale, drama, school text-books and comics.33 A chief feature of the popular Dalit histories of 1857 though has been an emphasis on the participation of their own Dalit viranganas (heroic women), foreshadowing and marginalising Lakshmibai and Begum Hazrat Mahal. In many popular Dalit histories, Dalit viranganas are being reinvented as part of a movement to define Dalit identities. 

Thus women like Jhalkari Bai of the Kori caste, Uda Devi, a Pasi, Avanti Bai, Lodhi, Mahabiri Devi, a Bhangi, and Asha Devi, a Gurjari, all stated to be involved in the 1857 revolt, have become the symbols of bravery of particular Dalit castes and ultimately of all Dalits.

Thus for example, to take the case of Jhalkari Bai, there has been a proliferation of a vast number of popular tracts, written by various authors, and cultural invocations on her, including comics, poems, plays, novels, biographies, nautankis,35 and even magazines and organisations in her name. To name just a few, there is the comic Jhalkari Bai; poems variously titled Virangana Jhalkari Bai KavyaJhansi ki Sherni: Virangana Jhalkari Bai ka Jeevan Charitra and Virangana Jhalkari Bai Mahakavya; plays and nautankis called Virangana Jhalkari Bai and Achhut Virangana Nautanki; novels and biographies like Virangana Jhalkari Bai and Achhut Virangana; and a magazine called Jhalkari Sandesh, published from Agra.36 Various Dalit magazines have published articles on her. Similarly, on Uda Devi, there are poems, plays, stories and magazines penned and narrated on various occasions. 

These representations of Dalit women as viranganas can be an important source of insight into gender politics from a Dalit perspective, and a site of struggle over meanings of 1857. They indicate certain ways in which 1857 is remembered and retailed by the Dalits, its relationship to their social and political positioning, and sense of belonging to the nation. By looking deep into the interior of constructions and projections of these Dalit viranganasone can learn ways in which other realities of 1857 are conjugated. They also provide perspectives on the disjunctive forms of representation that signify Dalit women, giving them a shape, image and texture. While functioning as storytelling mechanisms, these representations of Dalit viranganas through multiple mediums help in circulating ideas about them. They are also symbols, struggling to impose definitions upon what is and what should be, often reflective of the hidden desires of the collective unconscious of Dalits. While highlighting the centrality of these women in the symbolic constitution of Dalit identity, this literature reveals a world turned upside down, and shows how resistance to dominant discourses about Dalit women has been coded and lived by various Dalits communities at different historical moments. Dalit women viranganas emerge here as not only visible, but as conspicuous characters, and objects of adulation. While reading these representations, I have grown keenly aware that they signify contradictory voices, simultaneously asserting and subverting patriarchies. They can be read in multiple and different ways, stretching boundaries of both 1857 and images of Dalit women.

The various narratives go something like this. Jhalkari Bai is depicted as an immortal martyr of 1857, belonging to the Kori caste. She hailed from Jhansi and her husband was an or inary soldier in the kingdom of Raja Gangadhar Rao. Jhalkari Bai is stated to be brave since her childhood and further got training from her husband in archery, wrestling, horse-riding and shooting. Her face and body structure is said to resemble Lakshmibai exactly. Slowly Jhalkari Bai and Lakshmibai become friends. Jhalkari was entrusted with the charge of leading the women’s wing of the army, known as the ‘Durga Dal’

 When the 1857 revolt began, and the British besieged the fort of Jhansi, Jhalkari fought fiercely. She urged Rani Lakshmibai to escape from the palace and instead she herself took on the guise of the Rani. She killed many British, and managed to hoodwink them for a long time, before they discovered her true identity.

Uda Devi
is said to have been born in the village Ujriaon of Lucknow, and was married to Makka Pasi. She became an associate of Begum Hazrat Mahal, and formed a women’s army, with herself as the commander. Her husband became a martyr in the battle at Chinhat and Uda decided to take revenge. When the British attacked Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow under Campbell, he was faced with an army of Dalit women: koi unko habsin kehta, koi kehta neech achchut. abla koi unhein batlaye, koi kahe unhe majboot.


(Some called them Black African women, some untouchable. Some called them weak, others strong.)

At this point Uda Devi is said to have climbed over a pipal tree and shot dead, according to some accounts 32 and some 36, British soldiers, before she herself was shot dead.

 Asha Devi Gurjari
 is portrayed as providing leadership to a large number of young girls and women and it is stated that on 8 May 1857, she along with a large number of other Dalit women attacked the British army and died while fighting.

Avanti Bai 
claim that she was the queen of Ramgarh, and belonged to the Lodhi community. In 1857, she faced the oppression of the British and retaliated by fighting fiercely. When she was surrounded by British soldiers, she decided to kill herself rather than surrender to them. Her last death wish was that British should leave the Indian soil and return to their country.

Mahabiri Devi
 belonged to the Bhangi caste and lived in the village Mundbhar in the district of Muzaffarnagar. In 1857, she made a group of 22 women, attacking and killing many British soldiers. Finally she herself was killed by them and along with her 22 other unknown women died.

As a historian, when I started working on these Dalit viranganas of 1857, what concerned me was the relative absence of ‘hard core’, ‘written’ historical evidence on them in the archives, and in the British official and nationalist narratives. I am here not making any claims for the validity of histories of these women as it must have happened. But are these historical fictions or fictive histories or something more? At one level, I am tempted to argue that anything that mesmerizes one is worth cherishing and the magic is ruined by questioning its ‘authenticity’. How real, exact and truthful in any case are the ‘official’, canonised histories of 1857, which are available to us through narrativisation of events? Scholars have questioned the possibility of any single authentic history or truth. These glorified Dalit virangana centred histories hint at larger possibilities, as they thrive on culture-specific ideals engineered through myths and realities about the position of Dalits, their caste oppression and their marginalisation. They stand as persuasive accounts, reaching towards their own ‘realities’, and establish a coherence and consistency for the members of Dalit communities. Carlo Ginzburg effectively shows how an early manifesto on history ‘from below’ appeared in the form of an ‘imaginary biography’, where the intention was to salvage through a symbolic character, a multitude of lives crushed by poverty and oppression. The mixture of imaginary biography and historical documents makes it possible even for these Dalit histories to leap at a single bound over a threefold obstacle: the lack of evidence; the lack of importance of the subject according to commonly accepted criteria; and the absence of stylistic models. A multitude of lives that have been cancelled, destined to count for nothing, find their symbolic redemption in the depiction of immortal characters.

But this is not enough. Dalits themselves are keen to prove the historical credibility of their viranganas, and constantly site sources from literary accounts, British narratives, archaeology and oral histories. They claim their works to be ‘scientific’, ‘truthful’, ‘detailed’. Theirs is a conscious effort to suggest the existence of historical dimensions that are hidden,in part (but not only) owing to the difficulties of documentary access, where gaps are filled  with the use of memories, folksongs, oral accounts, and elements taken from larger present contexts. As says one: aithihasik sandarbhon bhitar, ankit sari hai ghatna. nahin kalpana se kalpit hai – amar humari yeh rachna.


(The whole incident is noted inside historical sources. This immortal story of ours is not a figment of imagination.)

These Dalit histories of 1857 take recourse to historical events and intermesh them with subaltern renderings. The dim boundary between the imaginary and the real is the home terrain of these writings. They impel us to recognize their validity, especially within a political and social context. They represent a practice of writing which neither disregards history nor, in its insistence on legitimacy, is completely oblivious of other myths and memories. The actual and the fictional, the myth and the history, coalesce here, pointing to further possibilities of ‘truths’ about 1857. Scattered, often thin, evidence is sited and quoted by Dalits repeatedly. Thus on Jhalkari Bai, a constantly quoted source is Vrindavan Lal Varma’s Jhansi ki Rani Lakshmibai. It was published in 1946 after intense personal research and historical reflection, and it mentioned the dusky-complexioned newly wed Jhalkari Dulaiya of the Kori caste, who bore a striking resemblance to the Rani.51 Vishnu Rao Godse, who is said to have been present in the fort when the Rani had fought against General Rose, too had made a reference to Jhalkari in his Marathi book Majha Pravas (My Travels). Similarly on Uda Devi, Amritlal Nagar’s Gadar ke Phool and William Forbes-Mitchell’s Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny are often cited.52

Other historical narratives sometimes substantiate these claims. Thus for example it is significant that W. Gordon-Alexander’s account of the storming of Sikandar Bagh by British troops states:

In addition… there were… even a few amazon negresses, amongst the slain. These amazons having no religious prejudices against the use of greased cartridges, whether of pigs’ or other animal fat, although doubtless professed Muhammadans, were armed with rifles, while the Hindu and Muhammadan East Indian rebels were all armed with musket; they fought like wild cats, and it was not till after they were killed that their sex was even suspected.

And today these stories stand as given, visible truths, with stamps issued in their name, many statues constructed, public rallies and meeting organised, celebrations and festivities conducted, and even colleges and medical institutions formed in their name. Thus for example a huge public rally and a mela is organised in Lucknow every year near the statue of Uda Devi at Sikandar Bagh on 16 November, the stated day of her martyrdom. With constant evocation, these names have become inscribed in popular Dalit memories. Different political parties have repeatedly used these viranganas and made them an integral part of their electoral campaigns and mobilisation strategies, the most successful being the Bahujan Samaj Party, who have used them to build the image of Mayawati particularly.

These popular histories of Dalit viranganas are open to simultaneously persuasive, contradictory and competing readings. There are of course limitations of this literature as a historical source. Their representation of Dalit women too needs to be questioned. As the main narrative plots have become more elaborate with time, they have also become more ‘sure’ of themselves, connected to larger purposes of Dalit identity. Elements of exaggeration have further seeped into them. In the Jhalkari Bai story, one episode repeatedly narrated is of Jhalkari being blamed for killing a cow, which had actually been hidden by a Brahmin, but the truth is revealed. This story maybe linked to challenging dominant colonial and Hindu narratives which have regarded Dalits, along with Muslims, as killers of the ‘holy’ cow. Or to take another example, Jhalkari and Uda start as subordinates of Lakshmibai and Hazrat Mahal respectively, functioning under their tutelage. These have slowly given way to more authoritative and ‘mature’ Dalit histories, where Jhalkari and Uda have acquired larger than life status. Alongside, Lakshmibai, instead of a model nationalist ruler, appears as a weakling, as reluctant to fight the British.58 In fact she is shown as a British supporter and agent. It is Jhalkari Bai who is the real martyr and virangana. It is her name that ought to be written in golden letters. She was a Dalit woman, with no kingdom, no palace, no expensive jewellery, and no silken clothes. She was neither a queen nor the daughter of a feudal lord, nor the wife of a jagirdar. She fought selflessly, only for the love of her country, and thus her sacrifice far surpasses anyone else’s. Amplification and admiration are a hallmark in these stories. Mitchell’s account has formed the most important source for Uda Devi, but it is selectively appropriated. After describing how the woman was shot dead, he clearly states:

She was armed with a pair of heavy old-pattern cavalry pistols, one of which was in her belt still loaded, and her pouch was still about half full of ammunition, while from her perch in the tree, which had been carefully prepared before the attack, she had killed more than half-adozen men. (emphasis mine)

However, all Dalit accounts of Uda Devi interestingly leave this out, and the number of soldiers killed by her has kept growing, ranging from 32 to 36!61 There are thus stresses and  omissions, additions and subtractions in these tracts. Reflecting the ambiguities of nationalisms, there is sometimes even a covert admiration for the British. It is said that realising the brave feet of Uda, even British officers like Campbell bowed their head on her dead body in respect. Mitchell is again quoted repeatedly when he says:

When Wallace saw that the person whom he shot was a woman, he burst into tears, exclaiming: “If I had known it was a woman, I would rather have died a thousand deaths than have harmed her.” Mimicry becomes an important tool in these popular histories. Many of these viranganas appear to have the same features as reflected in popular memories of Lakshmibai, and they use a similar language, symbols and idioms. All of these Dalit viranganas are super brave.

They are physically attractive in their appearance, ‘classic’ beauties, falling also into the stereotype of female beauty. There are descriptions of their beauty as being tall, with pointed nose and beautiful eyes.64 In these stories, poems and songs occupy a central place. Again many of the narrative poems (khand kavyas) have cleverly appropriated the famous poem written by Subhadrakumari Chauhan on Lakshmibai. Thus goes one on Jhalkari Bai:

khub lari jhalkari tu tau, teri ek jawani thi.
dur firangi ko karne mein, veeron mein mardani thi.
har bolon ke much se sun hum teri yeh kahani thi.
rani ki tu saathin banker, jhansi fatah karani thi....
datiya fatak raund firangi, agge barh jhalkari thi.
kali roop bhayankar garjan, mano karak damini thi.
kou firangi aankh uthain, dhar se shish uteri thi.
harbolon ke much se sun ham, roop chandika pani thi.


(Jhalkari you really fought, your youthfulness was unique.
You were a man among the brave in ousting the British.
We heard your story from the mouth of warriors.
You pledged for Jhansi to be victorious by being a friend of the queen.
Jhalkari, you rode from the Datiya gate, trampling the British.
You were like the Kali, and your strike was like lightning.

As soon as a British raised his head, you struck immediately. We heard your deeds from the warriors, reciting tales of your bravery.) Most of these Dalit viranganas have Devi or Bai suffixed to their name. They are projected as super moral Dalit female subjects, who were very ‘noble’, besides being highly brave and fantastic nationalists. Many of the tracts appear didactic in their endorsement of certain patriarchal values as they are often replete with images of the obedient daughter, loyal wife and ideal mother, and of morally chaste, virtuous and ‘ideal’ women.The moral language perhaps also allows Dalit men to police the behaviour of Dalit women in general. 

There is a fight against oppression, and yet certain hegemonic scripts get rewritten. Almost all these popular histories of Dalit viranganas have male authors, catering in no small measure to masculinised political-public spaces. Very few Dalit women have penned these pamphlets. The gendered subaltern rarely speaks about herself in these histories, as the voices of Dalit viranganas usually remain faint discursive threads. It has been argued that modern political arenas have been the ‘natural’ homelands of masculinity. The written and visual images of these viranganas in the texts itself and on the cover of these pamphlets spectacularise them as usually clad in ‘masculine’ attires, with their bodies all covered up, feeding into conceptions of masculinity. In all of them, they are expert in horse-riding, swimming, bow-arrow and sword fighting.68 They are depicted as brave from their very childhood, and 1857 revolt becomes the turning point which sparks them to accomplish great deeds in face of high odds. The tracts are infused with militaristic versions of 1857, symbolised through these women, who have become symbols of glory and pride for mainly masculine political articulations. Through them, an embattled Dalit masculinity is asserting itself in the public-political sphere. It maybe argued that the leadership of Mayawati provides a corrective to this, but she too fits into the mould of masculinity. Further, Uda Devi for example has become a figure to mainly promote the political aspirations of Ramlakhan Pasi, who is stated to have ‘discovered’ her. He has established the ‘Uda Devi Smarak Sansthan’, which through its reverence to Uda Devi has emerged as a symbol of Pasi honour, dignity, pride, mobilisation and rights.69 At the same time, it is utilised by Ramlakhan Pasi to appropriate political-public spaces, where there is as much praise of him as of Uda Devi.

Even as these Dalit viranganas are portrayed as ‘superwomen’, full of bravery, and doing ‘impossible’ acts, these glorifications and celebratory accounts do not extend to all Dalit women in general. While it is easy to be susceptible to the lure of such images, they offer a filtered vision, viewed through the eyes of the creators of these images. Victimhood is replaced by a new archetype of heroism. Jhalkari Bai is shown as even killing a tiger singlehandedly.  Although empowering, these images are not necessarily more representative of Dalit women. They often remain simplistic, rarely revealing the diversity, complexity, and dimensionality that make up Dalit women’s lives. They offer incomplete projections to which not many Dalit women can fully relate to. It may thus be argued from a Dalit feminist perspective that the emergence of popular Dalit male literature on 1857 has not altered much the images of Dalit women. Though different in their scope, area, and portrayals, these presentations codify Dalit women in certain ways, and fail of offer a more intelligent, aware, and meaningful portrayal of them. Foucault writes that all representations are by their very nature insidious instruments of surveillance, oppression and control -- both tools and effects of power. Here too, save for who controls the representations, has anything much changed for the Dalit woman? As has been contended by bell hooks, this may apply a mere transference, without radical transformation. 

At the same time, if we argue that representations of these Dalit viranganas are constructed only to support dominant modes of ideology, and that their aim is ultimately coercive, then how can we use this space also for confrontation? Does their representation also have the scope of carving out more contingent, varied and flexible modes of resistances? Can they also provide counter-hegemonic and oppositional perspectives about Dalit women and about the 1857 revolt?

For example, in these stories, in the very act of speaking back, of mimicry, new interpretations and meanings are imparted. As remarks Homi Bhabha: 

To the extent to which discourse is a form of defensive warfare, mimicry marks those moments of civil disobedience within the discipline of civility: signs of spectacular resistance. Then the words of the master become the state of hybridity – the warlike, subaltern sign of the native – then we may not only read between the lines but even seek to change the often coercive reality that they so lucidly contain.

Even the representation of Dalit viranganas on a high moral and heroic ground can be seen as an appropriation of respectability and ‘credibility’, imparting Dalit participation in past histories new meanings. Moral codes have a completely difference valance here. Through such portrayals, Dalits hope to garner greater respect, opportunity and dignity to these viranganas, and through them to all Dalits. Such portrayals thus acquire more layered meanings. They embody an inspiring picture, claiming to be centred around neglected Dalit women warriors of 1857, whose marginalisation cannot be tolerated by Dalits any longer.These Dalit viranganas represent Dalits in service of freedom and Indian nationalism, also providing a powerful appeal for redeeming images of Dalit humiliation.

Their portrayal also covertly disrupts the usual dominant notions of Dalit female sexuality, and can be seen as a reaction to images of sexually immoral Dalit women. By shunning outward expressions of sexuality, Dalit women can also hope to build a space where they can wield more control over their bodies and gain dignity and respect within the dominant culture. In spite of various limitations, it also questions the hegemonic stereotypes of Dalit women, either negatively as kutnis (evil) and vamps, or as passive victims, powerless and subordinated, both of which deny Dalit women any agency of their own. Here Dalit women are actors and agents in their own right, are active and armed, and are transformed from victims to victors within the context of a narrative. They point to their power and strategies of resistance, even though penned largely by men. Jhalkari Bai, Uda Devi, Mahabiri Devi, and along with them many other Dalit women, emerge as physically commanding and armed, infused with power, strength, bravery, activism and sacrifice, locked in violent conflict with the British. The fact that their narratives are seeped in militaristic feats and violence may also implicitly indicated the realities of Dalits that are marked by violence. Dalit women here are signifiers of Dalit identity. These are not just stories of brave Dalit women but of all Dalits, of their legacy, of their bravery, of their pride, of their sacrifice in service of the nation. At places the achievements of these Dalit viranganas are juxtaposed to the pathetic conditions of Dalit women in general, blaming society at large and men as well, stating that in spite of having a brave past and being protectors of Dalit dignity, Dalit women have been denied education, have been made slaves, have been oppressed by men.77 Some Dalit women too are now trying to use these images to their maximum advantage. Besides ways in which these symbols have helped build up Mayawati, many have used these figures to question representations of Dalit women in general, as well as their oppression and exploitation in real life. Thus Meena Pasi stated, ‘Uda Devi and Jhalkari Bai have shown to me that I too can resist all kinds of injustices. I do not have to take things lying down. These figures inspire me to question why I am getting less wages from the landlord, why I am beaten up by my husband when I do equal, if not more, work. I can look up to Uda Devi and say that nothing is impossible if one has the will to resist and fight’. These representations of Dalit women

viranganas may thus also be seen as ‘positive engendering’,79 holding a certain appeal for Dalit women themselves. The centrality of the Dalit viranganas in 1857 provokes reflection on the enabling potential for women’s real lives of ubiquitous icons of Dalit feminine power. Thus the encounter with Dalit viranganas urges Dalits to produce a more critical and selfreflexive account of 1857, which reflects the limits but also the potentialities of gendered Dalit readings of the revolt.

Conclusion

What we are dealing with here are no ordinary, academic histories, but histories that wish to challenge conventional modes of thinking about 1857 and Dalit women. While they may not be inherently radical or transformative, they can be seen to represent alternative and dissident voices, coexisting with and simultaneously challenging dominant ideologies. They are a counterpoint to hegemony. They also reflect Bakhtin’s notions of dialogics and heteroglossia, and Stuart Hall’s concept of ‘oppositional’ decoding, challenging ‘dominanthegemonic’ and ‘negotiated’ reading positions. They may also be equated with Raymond

William’s useful paradigm of ‘dominant’, ‘residual’ and ‘emergent’ cultural practices, in constant interaction.

Dalits are negotiating the tensions of being both within and outside 1857 through a simultaneous process of positioning and repositioning, denunciation and glorification. They identify 1857 as an arena of Dalit suppression, of attempts to restore feudal patriarchies, of assertion of Dalit viranganas, of establishing masculinised Dalit political and public spaces.

Their writings are caught in a dialectics of collusion with and subversion of notions of nationalism, and patriarchal and caste conceptions of 1857 and Dalit women. These simultaneously contradictory processes signify their multiplicity of identity positions and their dynamic relationships with the revolt. There is no single coherent story here, also marking differences in Dalit perceptions. It is a diological process that stands at the border between disavowal and designation, rejection and eulogisation. The spaces of Dalits in 1857 are lived, deciphered, negotiated and transformed repeatedly. Mainstream historiography of 1857 gives hardly any space to hierarchies of nationalism. However, the hybrid identifications of Dalits with 1857 signify the genealogies of ambiguous nationalisms, marking a third space, where the mutiny is concurrently transformed and recouped, and its boundaries expanded and exploded.
______________________________

 The obelisk was featured on the Mahar Regiment's crest until Indian Independence. While it was built by the British as a symbol of their own power, today it serves as a memorial of the Mahars.
The Mahars were considered untouchable in the contemporary caste-based society. The Peshwas, who were high-caste Brahmins, were notorious for their mistreatment and persecution of the untouchables. Because of this, the Dalits (former untouchables) now see the Koregaon obelisk as a symbol of their victory over the high-caste oppression. The Dalit Buddhist leader B. R. Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927. To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year's Day. A number of Mahar gatherings have also been held at the place.






Shri Prabhu Bajyar
(1918-1971)(Mochi-Chamar Julaha)
Shri Prabhu was born in 1918 in the month of Kartika (October/November) in very difficult times of the then prevaling epidemic generally known as "Kartik wali Bimari", in an ordinary family at villa District Panipat, Haryana, India. He had one younger brother Shri Bhola and elder sister Smt Bhauli. He was unfortunate to depart with his parents at the age of 10 years. His sister had already been married and his brother was sent to his mother Mrs Sundari Devi's parent's house in Safidon Khera. His brother Shri Bhola, however, died there prematurely due to some illness. Deadly epidemics were very common those days and life was very insecure and vulnerable to various health risks for want of desired medical facilities. Thereafter Mr Prabhu lived with his sister Mrs. Bholi Devi at Village P, Assandh, Distt. karnal, India. He learnt reading, writting Hindi and some math by himself while serving on agriculture farm till he joined British India Army on 2nd Febraury, 1942. He also got working knowledge of English during his service in Army. Everybody appreciated his integrity, hard work, pure life and good character.
*

List of Medals and army awards won by Shri Prabhu Bajyar



WAR MEDAL 1939-1945



1939-1945 STAR



AFRICA STAR



DEFENCE MEDAL 1939-1945



He served British India Army from 2nd Febraury, 1942 to 3rd Febraury,1947 during IInd World War and was honoured with Africa Star, War Medal, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal-1939-45 and Exempelary Character Certificate for his exempelary honest services. His area of operation was Africa (Egypt etc.), Pelestine, India and Germany etc. Shri Prabhu was a man of great character and truly honest. He was one of the strongest man in his unit and set many examples of pure life, honesty and excellent duties. During service he got knee and leg injury and had to leave the army service on 3rd Febraury,1947 on medical grounds.

.After leaving army service Shri Prabhu settled in his Village , Distt panipat, Haryana and started business and farming. His return to the village was a great relief to many unemployed people (man & woman) who got employment on account of trading in farm produce initiated by Shri Prabhu. He also purchsed some land out of savings from the business. According to one farmer Prakash s/o Tilakraj, 'Shri Prabhu was the first to bring paddy sappling in their village and introduced cultivation of rice for the first time in that area of Panipat District.' Now the Panipat District is one of the leading rice producer in the Haryana State of India. He was elected as Member Panchayat (Village management Commitee) in Village and got constructed a magnificent well drained Panghat wala Cemented Well for providing drinking water to poor people during early 1950s. He himself paid more than half of the cost of this well which comes to several lakhs of rupees today. Now the Well has dried now like all others wells in the region due to depletion of under ground water and a Temple is being constructed at the site of the Well with its bricks (numbering several thousands) and other material.
.
Shri prabhu had firm faith in God and regularly performed prayers and worship even while in British India Defence Services. He himself narrated an instance when he was in his army camp probably in some desrted area during service. Some people were inside their tents and others out. Shri Prabhu Bajyar was performing his prayers, and meditational services when all of a sudden a very violent storm happened to pass from that place. The storm was so strong that it uprooted trees and every thing was flown away that came its way. All the tents of the defence personnels also uprooted and flown away. But there was only one tent that of Shri Prabhu which was still there. People shouted and told Shri Prabhu to come out of it as he was still there performing his routine worship and prayers. He was uneffected by what was going on outside and did not leave the tent till completion of his prayers and meditation. Every body was surprised that the tent of Shri Prabhu was unaffected by the strong storm which had already uprooted even very strong trees. The storm was still there and Shri Prabhu completed his worship. But as soon as he stepped out to see what was going on outside his tent also got uprooted and went out of sight in the strong storm. Shri Prabhu was deeply devoted to Hindu God Krishna, nevertheless, he never developed ill will and disliking for people from other religions and rather extended his help and cooperation to them in their difficult times. He gave significant part of his residential plot free of cost to a very needy Mohmaddan who was about to leave the village for want of space for living.

Shri Prabhu was initially married to Srimati Phooli Devi before joining the British India army but could never bring her home as she left to her heavenly abode at her parents house due to some incurable disease when Shri Prabhu was in the army service during 2nd World War. His second marriage was solemnised in 1950 to Shrimati Bhuro Devi from Village Thari, Distt. Karnal, india. Mrs Bhuro Devi, a very pious and gentle lady,who is also known as a woman of great character and virtues in the village. This marriage was however was unnecessarily dragged to litigation by a person to whom Mrs Bhuro Devi was verbally told to have been engaged by her dying mother at a very small age of 2-3 years. Her father Shri Jumman had already expired when she was barely a 6 months baby. Shri Prabhu won the court case as there was no valid point in the false contention on part of the litigant as Mrs Bhuro Devi did neither know him nor remembered any verbal or real engagement ever worded out by her mother. It was a custom those days that a girl had no option but to marry a person selected by her parents and other family kiths and kins. Now becouse her parents had already left to their heavenly abode, therefore, she was being looked after and brought up by her elder sister, brothers and maternal uncle. Her sisters, brothers and maternal uncle chose Shri Prabhu Bajyar and the marriage was solemnised rites in accordance with prevalent custom. The litigant, however, objected to this marriage and took the matter to court for securing a decision in his favour. The complainant had no valid arguments to justify his claims of his right to marry Mrs. Bhuro Devi and therefore, lost the case in favour of Shri Prabhu. The case took a very long time to settle and Mr. Prabhu had to spend lot of money on lawers fees, court fees and daily expenses of lunch, refreshments etc. for the hundreds of strong supporters present during court proceedings. This litigation continued for significant time and hundreds of people with arms and otherwise used to accompany both the parties in the court proceedings as a measure of safety. Court decision was purely in favour of Shri Prabhu and his marriage with Shrimati Bhuro Devi was declared valid and legal in all respects. The opposite party made a false litigation against Shri Prabhu in court causing unnecessary wastage of time and money. Mr. Prabhu was a very generous and honest person of very fair vision and voluntarily offered to pay all litigation expenses to the opposite party eventhough it was not required by the court. This unnecessary extra expenses was undoubtedly heavy on an honest person.

Unmindful of bitter experience of unnecessary litigation, Mr Prabhu resumed his job honestly and everything was again put on usual tracks. Besides being an exceptionally witty person Mr Prabhu was very laborius and hardworking and nobody could equal him in field operations like ploughing and intercrop activities. According to the people from his village Shree Prabhu use to plough and weed out more than one Bigha (over 1000 square yards) hard surfaced dry land with his hands with simple hand tools like Khurpa, Kassola (a kind of spade like small hand tools used for farm operations like weeding out) etc, (without use of any machine or animal support) before lunch. This is a record feat accomplished by any body in that area (and perhaps unmatched in other places too). He became richer by his honest efforts both in business as well as farm operations.
*
The couple i.e Mr Prabhu and Mrs Bhuro Devi lived this period comfortably in affluence. They had six children out of which only three survived becouse of high infant mortality rate in rural areas during 1950s. This was inspite of all locally available medical facilities and best efforts on part of Shri Prabhu that the couple had to lose three children out of six children.
*
During the above gracious period Mrs Bhuro Devi used to live like a queen to be envied with other ladies in neighbourhood. She was not required to do anything and used to stay at home while other ladies and man used to work hard to earn their livelihood. She was younger than Shri Prabhu by around 15 years. The happy period however, lasted for relatively short duration of around 9 years from 1950 to 1959 for the couple.

Shri prabhu totally devoted to God and turned sanyasi (ascetic) in around 1960 when Mrs Bhuro Devi was in quite young age of around 25 years. Devotion for God was not any new for Mr Prabhu as earlier also he was inclined toward God's meditation and prayers. Now he started leading a complete acetic life while living with family at home. Shri Prabhu was now totally devoted to God meditation. Almost all his time was spent in God's meditation, prayers and reading of holy books. He was a devotee of Lord Krishna. He used to walk 4-5 kilometers to take a bath in yamuna River daily early at 4 AM in all seasons and weather condtions then start his daily paath of Geeta, Mantras, Aarties, bhajans (Prayers)in the morning and similarly aarti and prayers in the evening followed by bhajans etc. upto midnight. His routine daily prayer after Geeta Jaap in the morning was, 


"Tere Poojan Ko Bhagwan Bana Man Mandir Alishan...".
http://ajjimusic.com/playaudio.html?songid=9009

and routine aarti prayer in the evenimg was 

"Om Jai Jagdish Hare.."..
.. 
http://www.totalbhakti.com/bhajans.phpplay=4470&startPostion=0&tags=om%20jai%20jagdish%20hare&visit=visit 

He gave up bed and started sleeping on ground. After changing to ascetic life Shri Prabhu did not cut or harm any plant or tree. He placed small pots in the nearby jungle fields and used to fill drinking water in the small pots for birds and small animals like cats, dogs, rabbits, rats etc in extremly hot summer days of April, may, June and July etc.
*
The earnings of the family now came to standstill as Shri Prabhu was the only earning hand. Family expenses increased even further as Shri Prabhu now spent more on performing a number of Hawans during a year(on this occasion he used to arrange sweets and meal for children and other people on each Hawan). Apart that Shri Prabhu used to 1kg or more foodgrains for feeding the birds early in the morning on daily basis, a mixture of sugar, wheat flour and refined butter for ants and other insects, putting of water pitchers at diffrent places in long stretch of barren land and jungle during extremly hot summer months from April to July and other dry months of each year. Other expenses were on Shri Prabhu's routine daily prayers, such as diya, dhoop, samagree, flowers, purchase of holy books, mala and bit yellowish cotton kurta, dhoti and khadau (wooden foot wear), donating cows free of cost to the priest class, pilgrimage to holy places etc. Being a Karamyogi since beginning Shri Prabhu did not take help, either financial or otherwise, of any sort from others and was determined to manage everything with family's own income. But there was virtually no income now except a very small military pension and negligible farm income from the small piece of barren land that the family owned.
*
Mrs Bhuro Devi was well aware of the changing circumtances and prepared herself to face it boldly. Being a committed lady she resolved to assume all responsibilities and started doing all available jobs for earning a livelihood. It was very difficult to manage as the daily wages were the lowest of all times in rural India at that time. Household expenses increased significantly as Shri Prabhu continued feeding birds, cows and stray animals etc. as generously as earlier. He use to arrange Havans every month when food such as halwa, kheer were served to children, and other people. The family did not accept or sought any help from outside and everything was now to be managed with almost neligible family income from Shri Prabhu's military pension and almost negative income from small land holding. The children were still below 5-6 years of age who also needed expensive medical and nutritional care as the couple had already lost three of their children.
*
All the responsibility fell directly upon Mrs Bhuro Devi. Every body was surprised on the changed circumtancial crisis the family was undergoing at that point. Everything became darker and darker and people felt that the family will not survive such circumtances. Some woman even advised Mrs Bhuro Devi to Mr Prabhu alone. Mrs Bhuro Devi was now to take a decision to forgo all the pleasures of life henceforth at the young age of 24-25 and assume the family responsibility while keeping the family honour at high esteems. She acted with maximum restraint and proved a true, honest and good character lady admired and recognised by all the people.

Shri Prabhu was man of principles and always kept his word even among all odds and very difficult times. Shri Prabhu was a tall person due to which he was known as 'Prabhu Laamba' (Tall Prabhu) in his village and near by villages. People who knew him when enquired, took deep breath and said, "Oh Prabhu! Great people as honest and good charactered and man of word as Shri Prabhu will not be born again."
Shri Prabhu left to his heavenly abode on 15 May, 1971।

 by leoorg 

मंगल पांडे नहीं, तिलका मांझी और सिदो-कान्हू थे पहले स्वतंत्रता संग्रामी

भारत का पहला स्वतंत्रता संग्राम 1857 में मंगल पांडे ने नहीं, 1771 में तिलका मांझी ने शुरु किया था। बाद में 1855 में सिदो-कान्हू ने संताल विद्रोह को आगे बढ़ाया। यह हूल विद्रोह था। लेकिन भारतीय इतिहासकारों ने संतालों के विद्रोह को लिखा ही नहीं। जबकि इसके सारे प्रमाण मौजूद हैं। हूल दिवस के मौके पर संताल विद्रोहियों को याद कर रहे हैं विशद कुमार

हूल विद्रोह : तिलका मांझी और सिदो-कान्हू सहित संताल आदिवासियों की शौर्य गाथा

हूल विद्रोह की पेंटिंग

आज संताल हूल दिवस है, यानी अंग्रेजी ​हुकूमत के खिलाफ विद्रोह दिवस। वैसे तो भारतीय इतिहास में अंग्रेजी ​हुकूमत के खिलाफ पहला विद्रोह 1857 है, मगर जब हम आदिवासियों के इतिहास को देखते हैं तो पाते हैं यह विद्रोह 1771 में ही तिलका मांझी ने शुरू कर दिया था।

वहीं 30 जून 1855 को संताल आदिवासियों ने सिदो, कान्हू, चांद, भैरव और उनकी बहन फूलो, झानो के नेतृत्व में साहेबगंज जिले के भोगनाडीह में 400 गांव के 40,000 आदिवासियों ने अंग्रेजों को मालगुजारी देने से साफ इंकार कर दिया। इस दैरान सिदो ने कहा था — अब समय आ गया है फिरं‍गियों को खदेड़ने का। इसके लिए “करो या मरो, अंग्रेज़ों हमारी माटी छोड़ो” का नारा दिया गया था। अंग्रेजों ने तुरंत इन चार भाइयों को गिरफ्तार करने का आदेश जारी किया। गिरफ्तार करने आये दारोगा को संताल आंदोलनकारियों ने गर्दन काटकर हत्या कर दी। इसके बाद संताल परगना के सरकारी अधिकारियों में आतंक छा गया।

बताया जाता है जब कभी भी आदिवासी समाज की परंपरा, संस्कृति और उनके जल, जंगल जमीन को विघटित करने का प्रयास किया गया है, प्रतिरोध की चिंगारी भड़क उठी। 30 जून  1855 का हूल इसी कड़ी का एक हिस्सा है। महाजनों, जमींदारों और अंग्रेजी शासन द्वारा जब आदिवासियों की जमीन पर कब्जा करने का प्रयास किया गया तब उनके खिलाफ आदिवासियों का गुस्सा इतना परवान चढ़ा कि इस लड़ाई में सिदो, कान्हू, चांद, भैरव और उनकी बहन फूलो, झानो सहित लगभग 20 हज़ार संतालो ने जल, जंगल, जमीन की हिफाजत के लिए अपनी कुर्बानी दे दी। इसके पूर्व गोड्डा सब-डिवीजन के सुंदर पहाड़ी प्रखंड की बारीखटंगा गांव का बाजला नामक संताल युवक की विद्रोह के आरोप में अंग्रेजी शासन द्वारा हत्या कर दी गई थी। अंग्रेज इतिहासकार विलियम विल्सन हंटर ने अपनी किताब ‘द एनल्स ऑफ रूरल बंगाल’  में लिखा है कि अंग्रेज का कोई भी सिपाही ऐसा नहीं था जो आदिवासियों के बलिदान को लेकर शर्मिंदा न हुआ हो। अपने कुछ विश्वस्त साथियों के विश्वासघात के कारण सिदो और कान्हू को पकड़ लिया गया और भोगनाडीह गांव में सबके सामने एक पेड़ पर टांगकर फांसी दे दी गयी। 20 हज़ार संतालों ने जल, जंगल, जमीन की हिफाजत के लिए अपनी कुर्बानी दे दी थी।

अंग्रेजों ने प्रशासन की पकड़ कमजोर होते देख आंदोलन को कुचलने के लिए सेना को मैदान में उतारा और मार्शल लॉ लगाया गया। हजारों संताल आदिवासियों को गिरफ्तारी किया गया, लाठियां चली, गोलियां चलायी गयी। यह लड़ाई तब तक जारी रही, जब तक अंतिम आंदोलनकारी जिंदा रहा।
सिदो-कान्हू की पेंटिंग
इसके पूर्व 1771 से 1784 तक तिलका मांझी उर्फ जबरा पहाड़िया ने ब्रिटिश सत्ता के विरुद्ध लंबी और कभी न समर्पण करने वाली लड़ाई लड़ी और स्थानीय महाजनों-सामंतों व अंग्रेजी शासक की नींद उड़ाए रखा। पहाड़िया लड़ाकों में सरदार रमना अहाड़ी और अमड़ापाड़ा प्रखंड (पाकुड़, संताल परगना) के आमगाछी पहाड़ निवासी करिया पुजहर और सिंगारसी पहाड़ निवासी जबरा पहाड़िया भारत के आदिविद्रोही हैं। दुनिया का पहला आदिविद्रोही रोम के पुरखा आदिवासी लड़ाका स्पार्टाकस को माना जाता है। भारत के औपनिवेशिक युद्धों के इतिहास में जबकि पहला आदिविद्रोही होने का श्रेय पहाड़िया आदिम आदिवासी समुदाय के लड़ाकों को जाता हैं जिन्होंने राजमहल, झारखंड की पहाड़ियों पर ब्रितानी हुकूमत से लोहा लिया। इन पहाड़िया लड़ाकों में सबसे लोकप्रिय आदि विद्रोही जबरा या जौराह पहाड़िया उर्फ तिलका मांझी हैं। इन्होंने 1778 ई. में पहाड़िया सरदारों से मिलकर रामगढ़ कैंप पर कब्जा करने वाले अंग्रेजों को खदेड़ कर कैंप को मुक्त कराया। 1784 में जबरा ने क्लीवलैंड को मार डाला। बाद में आयरकुट के नेतृत्व में जबरा की गुरिल्ला सेना पर जबरदस्त हमला हुआ जिसमें कई लड़ाके मारे गए और जबरा को गिरफ्तार कर लिया गया। कहते हैं उन्हें चार घोड़ों में बांधकर घसीटते हुए भागलपुर लाया गया। पर मीलों घसीटे जाने के बावजूद वह तिलका मांझी जीवित था। बतया जाता है कि खून में डूबी उसकी देह तब भी गुस्सैल थी और उसकी लाल-लाल आंखें ब्रितानी राज को डरा रही थीं। अंग्रेजों ने तब भागलपुर के चौराहे पर स्थित एक विशाल वटवृक्ष पर सरेआम लटका कर उनकी जान ले ली। हजारों की भीड़ के सामने जबरा पहाड़िया उर्फ तिलका मांझी हंसते-हंसते फांसी पर झूल गए। तारीख थी संभवतः 13 जनवरी 1785। बाद में आजादी के हजारों लड़ाकों ने जबरा पहाड़िया का अनुसरण किया और फांसी पर चढ़ते हुए जो गीत गाए – हांसी-हांसी चढ़बो फांसी …! – वह आज भी हमें इस आदिविद्रोही की याद दिलाते हैं।     

तिलका मांझी संताल थे या पहाड़िया इसे लेकर विवाद है। आम तौर पर तिलका मांझी को मूर्म गोत्र का बताते हुए अनेक लेखकों ने उन्हें संताल आदिवासी बताया है। परंतु तिलका के संताल होने का कोई ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेज और लिखित प्रमाण मौजूद नहीं है। वहीं, ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेजों के अनुसार संताल आदिवासी समुदाय के लोग 1770 के अकाल के कारण 1790 के बाद संताल परगना की तरफ आए और बसे।
सिदो-कान्हू की स्मृति में भारत सरकार द्वारा जारी किया गया डाक टिकट
‘द एनल्स ऑफ रूरल बंगाल’, 1868 के पहले खंड(पृष्ठ संख्या 219-227) में सर विलियम विल्सर हंटन ने साफ लिखा है कि संताल लोग बीरभूम से आज के सिंहभूम की तरफ निवास करते थे। 1790 के अकाल के समय उनका पलायन आज के संताल परगना तक हुआ। हंटर ने लिखा है, ‘1792 से संतालों का नया इतिहास शुरू होता है’ (पृ. 220)। 1838 तक संताल परगना में संतालों के 40 गांवों के बसने की सूचना हंटर देते हैं जिनमें उनकी कुल आबादी 3000 थी (पृ. 223)। हंटर यह भी बताता है कि 1847 तक मि. वार्ड ने 150 गांवों में करीब एक लाख संतालों को बसाया (पृ. 224)।

1910 में प्रकाशित ‘बंगाल डिस्ट्रिक्ट गजेटियर: संताल परगना’, वोल्यूम 13 में एल.एस.एस. ओ मेली ने लिखा है कि जब मि. वार्ड 1827 में दामिने कोह की सीमा का निर्धारण कर रहा था तो उसे संतालों के 3 गांव पतसुंडा में और 27 गांव बरकोप में मिले थे। वार्ड के अनुसार, ‘ये लोग खुद को सांतार कहते हैं जो सिंहभूम और उधर के इलाके के रहने वाले हैं।’ (पृ. 97) दामिनेकोह में संतालों के बसने का प्रामाणिक विवरण बंगाल डिस्ट्रिक्ट गजेटियर: संताल परगना के पृष्ठ 97 से 99 पर उपलब्ध है।

इसके अतिरिक्त आर. कार्सटेयर्स जो 1885 से 1898 तक संताल परगना का डिप्टी कमिश्नर रहा था, उसने अपने उपन्यास ‘हाड़मा का गांव’ की शुरुआत ही पहाड़िया लोगों के इलाके में संतालों के बसने के तथ्य से की है।

बांग्ला की सुप्रसिद्ध लेखिका महाश्वेता देवी ने तिलका मांझी के जीवन और विद्रोह पर बांग्ला भाषा में एक उपन्यास ‘शालगिरर डाके’ की रचना की है। अपने इस उपन्यास में महाश्वेता देवी ने तिलका मांझी को मुर्मू गोत्र का संताल आदिवासी बताया है।
वहीं हिंदी के उपन्यासकार राकेश कुमार सिंह ने अपने उपन्यास ‘हूल पहाड़िया’ में तिलका मांझी को जबरा पहाड़िया के रूप में चित्रित किया है।

बहरहाल, हूल विद्रोह की जो वजहें 19वीं सदी में थीं, उसी तरह की परिस्थितियां आज भी आदिवासी इलाकों में कायम हैं। पूंजीवादी घरानों के लिए आदिवासियों को जल, जंगल और जमीन से वंचित किया जा रहा है। विरोध करने पर उन्हें नक्सली कहकर उनका सरकारी नरसंहार भी जारी है। झारखंड में ही सीएनटी और एसपीटी एक्ट में बदलाव के जरिए आदिवासियों की जमीन को हड़ने की साजिश हो रही है। दिखावे के लिए उड़ता हाथी दिखाया जा रहा है। ऐसे में हूल विद्रोह की प्रासंगिकता और भी बढ़ जाती है।
(कॉपी एडिटर : नवल)

Battle of Koregaon


Battle of Koregaon
Part of the Third Anglo-Maratha War

Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar

500 Infantry of the 2nd Battalion 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry along with 250 cavalry and 24 cannons, all mostly Mahars20,000 cavalry and 8,000 soldiers of the Maratha Army

The Battle of Koregaon took place on January 1, 1818, at the bank of the river Bhima in Koregaon, northwest of Pune, India. A small force of 500 men of the 2nd Battalion 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry (mostly Mahars) under the command of Capt. F. F. Staunton fought continuously without rest or respite, food or water  for twelve hours against a large force of 20,000 horse and 8,000 infantry of Maratha Leader Peshwa Baji Rao II who was threatening the British garrisons at Kirkee and Poona.

In November 1817, Peshwas devastated the Regency of Pune giving no scope for the British army to retaliate successfully. The British commanding officer in Pune called the Chief of the second Battalion-first Regiment Native Infantry for help which was encamped in the Shirur Taluka of Pune district. This contingent, with only 500 foot soldiers and 250 cavalry both predominantly having with Mahars defeated the mighty Peshwa army of 8,000 foot soldiers and 20,000 cavalry.

The Peshwa's troops inexplicably withdrew that evening, despite their overwhelming numbers, giving the British an important victory. The men of the 2/1st Regiment Bombay Native Infantry, who fought in this battle, were honored for their bravery. The official report to the British Residents at Poona recalls the "heroic valour and enduring fortitude" of the soldiers, the "disciplined intrepidity" and "devoted courage and admirable consistency" of their actions.

This battle had unusual significance. First, the British army fought this battle with a minuscule army despite expecting the worst. Secondly, the battle of Koregaon was one of the most important events which helped tear down the Peshwa Empire and subsequently the Peshwa had to abdicate. Thirdly and most importantly, it was an attempt by the untouchables of Maharashtra to break the shackles of the age-old caste order.

The battle is commemorated by an obelisk, known as the Koregaon pillar, which featured on the Mahar Regiment crest until Indian Independence. The monument has names inscribed of twenty two Mahars killed there, erected at the site of the battle and by a medal issued in 1851. Today, the monument "serves as a focal point of Mahar heroism". Historian have acknowledged this historical event and praised Mahars for their bravery. Many sections of society glorifies the Mahars who died in the battle, majority terms them as great hero who shown incredible perseverance and gallantry to defeat the might Peshwa.


During the period of British rule, India saw the rebellions of several lower castes, mainly tribals that revolted against British rule. These were:

  1. Halba rebellion (1774-79)
  2. Bhopalpatnam Struggle (1795)
  3. Bhil rebellion (1822–1857)
  4. Paralkot rebellion (1825)
  5. Tarapur rebellion (1842-54)
  6. Maria rebellion (1842-63)
  7. First Freedom Struggle (1856-57)
  8. Bhil rebellion, begun by Tantya Tope in Banswara (1858)
  9. Koi revolt (1859)
  10. Gond rebellion, begun by Ramji Gond in Adilabad (1860)
  11. Muria rebellion (1876)
  12. Rani rebellion (1878-82)
  13. Bhumkal (1910)


 
Volume 7, No. 1, January. 2006

Nitin

"The Forest is Ours" — Assert the indigenous Adivasi inhabitants of Dandakaranya and the vast hinterland of India

"Jal, Jungle, Jameen hamara hai!" "The forest is ours! Our Right over the forest produce is inalienable!"—These slogans are reverberating across the vast forested, hilly regions of India stretching from the seven North Eastern States to the Wynad belt in the south western tip of the Peninsula, where the indigenous adivasi people of India reside, people who have long suffered the oppression, suppression, exploitation and discrimination in the hands of the imperialists, comprador big business houses, feudal forces, rapacious contractors, moneylenders and traders, forest officials, government bureaucrats and policemen. Ironically, despite its unending chatter about uplifting the girijans (literally hill people), it is the Indian state that is spearheading this oppression and exploitation of the adivasis.

The oppression and exploitation of the adivasis has been continuing for centuries and has taken the most cruel forms since the invasion and occupation of our country by the British colonialists. The British colonialists, recognising the vast potential for profits that the backward, hinterland inhabited by the adivasis held in store, exploited its rich mineral and forest resources to the maximum possible extent. They undertook mining exploration, set up plantations and constructed railways on a war footing to plunder the vast natural wealth. They converted these regions into profitable sources of raw material inputs for their industries or for simply looting and selling off the forest wealth. They dug several mines all over the country to carry away the iron ore, manganese, coal, bauxite, gold, diamonds, dolomite, quartz, limestone and lots of other mineral wealth. They cut down the forests for Sal, Teak, bamboo and other natural wealth. They hunted and killed animals and birds driving several rare species to near-extinction. In short, they destroyed the economy, society and culture of the adivasi communities, broke up their collective life, carried them away to distant places to work as cheap labour in tea-gardens, coffee plantations, as construction labour, as casual labour in mines and industries. This was the first big onslaught by imperialist capital on the adivasis of India.

Revolts broke out all across the country against the terrible exploitation of these thugs. The great Santhali rebellion of the mid-19th century led by heroic warriors like Siddu Kanu, Birsa Munda and others, the Halba rebellion of 1774-79, the Paralkot rebellion of Gend Singh in 1825, the Muria rebellion of 1876, Gond adivasi revolt (bhumkal) of Abhujmad led by Gundadhur in 1910, the Rampa rebellion of the 1930s led by Alluri Seetharama Raju in East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam in north Andhra, the Gond rebellion of Adilabad led by Komuram Bheem, and several such adivasi revolts shook the British empire and showed the seething anger and the united might of the adivasis.

The post-British period in India saw the same pattern of development by the reactionary ruling classes of India who came to power by colluding with the British and other imperialists. Large-scale eviction of the tribals became one of the cornerstones of the new pattern of industrial development. Millions of adivasis have been uprooted from their natural habitat by the huge irrigation, hydro-electric and multipurpose projects, thermal plants, steel plants, bauxite and alumina plants, etc., initiated since the time of Nehru and that are continuing till date. National Parks under various nomenaclature have displaced several lakhs of adivasis from the interior forests.

In addition to tribal land alienation there are tribals/ non tribals displaced by development projects (such as dams, mines, industry etc.) that have not received rehabilitation and have ‘encroached’ forest land to eke out a living. According to the estimates of the Planning Commission, 21.3 million people were displaced by development projects between 1951 and 1990 alone. Of these, 8.54 million (40%) belonged to Scheduled Tribes who constitute less than 8% of the total population. Only 2.1 million (25%) of them are reported to have been rehabilitated. The rest were left to fend for themselves.

Today, the imperialists continue to step up their plunder unhindered along with their comprador capitalists in India. Contractors, traders and forest officials continue their rampage fleecing the adivasis of what they have. The adivasis are prevented from enjoying their traditional rights of collecting forest produce and they are fined even for collecting wood for the construction of their huts. On the other hand, the contractor-smuggler-CBB-bureaucrat nexus, with the blessings and active connivance of the State, take away the forest wealth without paying a pie. The story of exploitation of the adivasis and the snatching away of their traditional rights over the forests differs little whether it is in the deep jungles of the North East or in mineral-rich Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Kerala. The pattern of so-called development being pursued by the reactionary ruling classes of India in collusion with the imperialists is the same—plunder the mineral and forest wealth in the name of developing the industries, displace the local adivasi communities, snatch their rights over the forests, convert them into cheap labourers for the big business and imperialist ventures. And now this plunder is set to increase ten-fold with just the three states of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa having signed MoUs of over Rs.3 lakh crores in the course of just the past one year for mega iron ore and steel plants.

In the present article let us see the pattern of development pursued by the reactionary ruling classes led by the CBB and backed by the imperialists in Dandakaranya, its impact on the region and its people, the history of struggles of the adivasis and the present upsurge in these struggles for their right over land and forest and mainly for their political power.

Undivided Bastar district, now divided into three revenue districts—Bastar, Kanker and Dantawara—and two police districts, Bijapur and Narayanpur, is the heart of the region of Dandakaranya. It is in this district that the exploitation is at its worst. Besides undivided Bastar, the other two districts that form part of Dandakaranya are Rajnandgaon and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. Undivided Bastar has an area of over 39,114 sq km (which is slightly larger than the state of Kerala), of which 62 per cent is covered by forests. The forests provide livelihood to the predominantly tribal population that comprises around 87 per cent of the total population in the district. The trees are sal, teak, bijasal, sirsa, kusum, palas, kanha, harra, dhowara, amla, samara etc. Almost 93 per cent of the district’s population is rural and the relative index of development had come down from 44 in 1980 to 35 at present if we take 100 for India as a whole. The comparative index for MP is 73. Irrigation covers only 2 per cent of the cropped area. Agriculture is still subsistent in nature and collection of forest products such as mahua, tamarind, chironji seed, ambadi, kusum, mango kernel, harra, shikakai, karanji, peng seeds, Kosa cocoons, charota seeds, amchur, tora, chirayta, nirmali seeds, karkatiya seeds, bhilwan seeds, cashew, dhavai phool, gum are an important means of livelihood for the majority of the adivasis. Plucking of tendu leaves and cutting of timber provide some income to the families. All family members participate in the collection of tendu leaves during the summer season.

The adivasis sell the forest produce in the haat i.e., the weekly bazaar at nominal prices. The traders dupe them by exchanging goods by their weights such as selling a Kilogram of salt for a Kilogram of tamarind, mango kernel, chironge seed, or mahua. The traders also offer loans at an exorbitant rate of 120 per cent per annum to the adivasis. Although traders are prohibited from buying the forest produce from the adivasis under the Mandi Act, they continue to be the biggest buyers in the haats due to the connivance of the police and administration. The unscrupulous traders cheat the innocent adivasis in every sphere—in pricing, grading, weighing and counting of the forest produce. The tendu leaf contractors and officials exploit the adivasis by paying low prices which compels the adivasis to often go on strikes demanding a rise in the rates.

While the traders and contractors are looting the adivasis at the micro level, the Indian state, the CBB and the imperialists are carrying out large-scale exploitation by draining the region of its minerals and natural wealth. Iron ore is sold at a nominal price from Bailadilla mines to the imperialists and the CBB. A special railway line was laid to supply iron ore to the Japanese imperialists at a very cheap rate. The Bailadila range of mines is perched on the southern tip of Chattisgarh in Dantewada District. The range comprises of 14 iron ore deposits rising to a height of 1260 metres above mean sea level. The Commercial discovery of Bailadila dates back to 1955-56 when Prof. Euemura of Japanese Steel Mills Association, drew the attention of the Japanese Steel Mills to the richness of the vast deposits of iron ore and its proximity to the Eastern Coast of India. Later an agreement has been signed with the Japanese Steel Mills in 1960. An approval of the project report prepared by NMDC has been given in 1964 and the Mine Plant was inaugurated in November 1968.

Recently, the Gujarat-based comprador house of Essar was given permission to set up a pipe-line to transport iron ore from Bailadilla to Vishakhapatnam. In Kanker district, plans have been drawn to open iron ore mines in Chargaon and Raoghat. The government also sanctioned the construction of a railway line from Dalli-Rajahara to Jagdalpur via Raoghat in order to fully exploit the mineral wealth. The Courts rejected a public interest petition filed by an organization against the opening of the mines and gave its green signal to the government to go ahead with its monstrous plans to drain the district of its iron ore. Earlier, the mining of iron ore had begun in Kuvvemari and Budhwarimaad in the same district.

The contract for mining the ore in Chargaon and Raoghat was given to NIKKO company which opened an office in Bhanupratappur. The company officials conducted a survey and tried to send the material but were obstructed by the local people. It is said that the mining in Chargaon can go on for 125 years so much are the reserves of iron ore. The effects of the mining on the people’s livelihood and environment are quite terrible. Due to the mining of iron ore in Bailadilla in Dantewara district the water of the two rivers, Sankhani and Dankini, have become poisoned. The mining in Chargaon hill would pollute the stream that flows into rivers Paralkot and Mendhaki ruining the livelihood of thousands of families who survive on these rivers for their irrigation and for fish. Several villages along the stretch of the rivers will not have access to drinking water. The villages around Chargaon have fertile land and they produce two crops of foodgrains. But if the mining is taken up 16 of these villages will be the direct sufferers while several hundred more villages will suffer acute shortages of even drinking water. Following these developments the people of the district formed the Chargaon Khadaan Virodhi Jan Sangharsh Manch. The adivasis of Chattisgarh have been agitating against the various iron ore and other mining projects since long and they bore the brunt of government repression as when they protested setting up of the projects in Bailadilla, Nagarnar and Maulibhat.

Let us see the disastrous effects of other projects in Dandakaranya. It is estimated that around 3,278 hectares of forest would be cleared by Raoghat mines. There is a proposal to set up a hydro-electric project on the Indravati river near Jeethamkhandi which would uproot several villages and deplete the forest. Permission has been granted to a private company to set up industry in Maulibhaat. The proposed Rs. 600 crore power project near Bodhghat over the Indrawati is estimated to generate 400 MW of power. This project would clear 13,750 hectares of agricultural land and 9,309 hectares of forest. Adivasi families in 60 villages will become homeless. The effects on the environment are quite severe. Moreover, the power generated from this project is meant for use not for local people but for the big industrial houses and for other states. In undivided Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh produced a substantial 36 percent of the total power generated, contributing 42 percent Thermal and 14 percent of Hydel power but in terms of power consumption, it consumed around 24 percent of total consumption in 1996-97 and 1997-98. Thus the power generated by Chattisgarh is used up by other states even as the people in the state face acute shortages in supply. Hence the people formed the Bodhghat Sangharsh Samiti and began a campaign for the scrapping of the proposed project.

Why are the ruling classes showing keen interest in the region? The secret, obviously, lies in the vast treasure that the region holds in its bosom—the millions of tonnes of mineral wealth and timber that could fatten the vultures from Washington to New Delhi. No matter if the entire region is devastated, rivers are contaminated, environment is polluted, homes of adivasi families in hundreds of villages are destroyed and lakhs of people are displaced by this "development". The wealth of the region is mind-boggling to greedy hawkish treasure-seekers who will not hesitate to unleash brutal war against their own people and spell death and destruction to countless people in order to capture this natural wealth.

For instance, in Tiriya-Machkot area alone 450 lakh tonnes of dolomite reserves are found which can be used in the iron and steel industry. In Deverapal, Potanar-Laroji, Raikot and Manjhi Dongri of Bastar district 1770 lakh tones of lime stone reserves are estimated. Bauxite is found in abundance in Keshkal tehsil of Bastar district. 53 lakh tones of bauxite reserves are estimated in this region alone. In Markatola of Kanker district and in Barchhegondi region silimanite/ kinite deposits have been discovered and gold deposits have been found in Sona dehi, Michgaon and in some other region of Bhanupratappur Tehsil.

Chathisgarh has a variety of rich minerals—iron ore, bauxite, coal, manganese, limestone, dolomite, tin ore, china-clay, quartzite, quartz-silica, fluorite, diamond, granite, corundum etc. In the districts of Bastar, Dantewara, Kanker and Rajnandgaon, iron ore is abundant. In Dantewara and Kanker the reserves are in excess of 600 million metric tonnes each. Bastar also has dolomite and bauxite. Tin ore and corundum are exploited by the MP State Mining Corp in Bastar. It is estimated by the government that there are 75 lakh tonnes of bauxite in Chattisgarh and the entire tin ore is found in Chattisgarh.

A fifth of the iron ore in the country is here, and one of the best quality iron ore deposits in the world is found in the Bailadila mines in south Chhattisgarh, from where it is exported to Japan. Rich deposits of Bauxite, Limestone, Dolomite and Corundum are found in the State. The State is lucky to have large deposits of coal, iron ore and limestone in close proximity, making it the ideal location for the lowest cost of steel production. Workable deposits of Corundum are widespread in South Chhattisgarh. Corundum includes semi-precious varieties of Ruby and Blue Sapphire, and possibilities of finding precious varieties exist as well. The corundum mines in Bhopalapatnam have become a source of enrichment for the smugglers and government officials but are of no use for the local adivasis.

According to an estimate, the amount of reserves available for some of the major minerals in the region are: 35,000 million tones of coal, 2336 million tones of iron ore, 3580 million tones of lime stone, 606 million tones of dolomite, 96 million tonnes of bauxite and so on.

The region of Chhattisgarh, which falls in the present Dandakaranya, has witnessed several tribal rebellions starting from the late 18 century through the 19 century to the first few decades of the 20 century. Some of these tribal revolts were localised while others were more widespread. All these rebellions were centred around the traditionally inalienable right of the tribals on the local resources land and forests. Often the mobilisation was around the issues of tradition, culture and the tribal way of life. These rebellions were also a protest against an alien system of governance and an alien political, economic and social order that had been forced upon them by the British. These tribal rebellions, although they predominantly took place in Bastar, were spread across the various tribal areas of Chhattisgarh as well. It is important to understand the long tradition of protest and rebellion of the adivasis of the region in order to understand their present role in the ongoing people’s war against the Indian state.

The Halba rebellion was the first documented rebellion of the adivasis in Bastar against the British and the Marathas. It lasted for nearly five years from 1774-1779. Its significance lies in the fact that it was the first organized resistance by the adivasis against the intrusion of the British in Bastar. The Halba rebellion is also a very important event in the history of Bastar as it was responsible for the decline of the Chalukya dynasty. The fundamental reasons for the rebellion were economic in nature. There had been a prolonged famine, which had severely affected the people who had very little cultivable land. The presence of Maratha forces and the terror caused by the East India Company in these adverse circumstances precipitated the rebellion. The stronger armies of Bastar supported by the British and the Marathas crushed the rebellion. A massacre of Halba tribesmen followed the defeat of the Halba army.

The Paralkot rebellion was representative of the resentment felt by the Maria gonds of Abujhmar against the invasion of outsiders, primarily the Marathas and the British. This rebellion was led by Gend Singh who mobilized the Marias against the British. One of the objectives of the rebellion was to establish a world free of loot, plunder and exploitation. The presence of the Marathas and the British threatened the identity of the Marias and they resisted this through organising the rebellion of Paralkot in 1825. The immediate reason for their resentment was the heavy taxes levied by the Maratha rulers. In essence this rebellion was directed against the foreign interference and control of Bastar and its aim was to re-establish the independence of Bastar.

The rebellion of Tarapur (1842-54) was once again the assertion of the tribals against the invasion of their local culture and the tampering with their traditional principles of social, economic and political organization. It started with an opposition to taxes levied under the pressure of the Anglo-Maratha rule. For the tribals, these experiences of coercive taxation were alien and new, and therefore they opposed them. The local Diwan became a symbol of oppression and bore the brunt of tribal anger.

The Maria rebellion, which lasted nearly 20 years from 1842 to 1863, was seemingly in favour of an inhuman practice of human sacrifice. In reality, the revolt was against the insensitive and intrusive handling of tribal faith. The Anglo Maratha combine did not hesitate to enter and pollute the temple of Danteswari. The facts clearly indicate that this rebellion was more defensive in nature and was waged by the tribals to protect their land and tradition. Furer Hamendorf (Aboriginal Rebellions in the Deccan, Man in India, No.4,1945, PP 2089) writes that all these rebellions were defensive movements, they were the last resort of tribesmen driven to despair by the encroachments of outsiders on their land and economic resources.

The adivasis of Bastar were actively involved in the First War of Independence of 1857 with Southern Bastar as the centre of the revolt. Under the leadership of Dhruvarao a battle was waged against the British. He belonged to one of the Maria tribes called Dorla and was supported by his tribesmen.

The First war of independence in 1857 was spearheaded in Chhattisgarh by Vir Narain Singh who was a benevolent jamindar of Sonakhan. The British arrested him in 1856 for looting a trader’s grain stocks and distributing it amongst the poor in a severe famine year. In 1857 with the help of the soldiers of the British Army at Raipur, Vir Narain Singh escaped form prison. He reached Sonakhan and formed an army of 500 men. Under the leadership of Smith, a powerful British army was dispatched to crush the Sonakhan army. The British succeeded after a prolonged battle and Vir Narain Singh was arrested and later hanged on the 10th December, 1857. He became the first martyr from Chhattisgarh in the War of Independence. Vir Narain Singh’s martyrdom has been resurrected in the 1980’s and he has become a potent symbol of Chhattisgarhi pride.

Later in 1858, the Gonds challenged the British in several battles. In 1859 a very important rebellion began to take shape in Southern Bastar with the tribals refusing to let contractors undertake cutting of Sal trees. The people of these Jamindaris were called Kois or Koyas. This rebellion was against the decision of the British to give contracts for cutting forests to contractors from Hyderabad. These contractors were also responsible for the exploitation of the tribals. The local tribals in 1859 decided that they would not allow the felling of a single tree. The British took this as a challenge to the might of the empire and used coercive methods to continue the felling of trees. This rebellion was a loud and clear assertion by the tribals of their inalienable rights on their forests and natural resources.

In 1867, Gopinath Kapardas was appointed the Diwan of Bastar State and was responsible for large scale exploitation of the tribal population. Tribals from different parganas jointly requested the King to remove the Diwan but the King did not concede to these demands. This led to the Muria Revolt of 1876 The rebelling tribals surrounded Jagdalpur on 2 March 1876; the King with great difficulty was able to inform the British forces. Finally a strong British army sent by the Resident of Orissa, crushed the rebellion.

The 150 year history of protests and rebellion in Bastar culminated in the Bhumkal rebellion of 1910. This rebellion was widespread affecting more than half of the parganas of Bastar. It symbolized the struggle of tribals against an alien rule attempting to remould the tribal pattern of life. The rebellion was ultimately crushed by strong armies of the British. After the crushing of the rebellion, the local tribals and supporters of the rebellion were subjected to severe abuse. However, the post Bhumkal British policy in Bastar was forced to be more sensitive to the tribals and their traditional way of life.

Several policies of the state at that time proved extremely oppressive for the tribals of the region and became focal points of the Bhumkal rebellion. Extensive forest areas were declared reserved forests; resulting in the tribals feeling that their inalienable right over forests has been subverted. Due to the excessive revenue demands of the colonial rule, several tribal villages were given on lease to thekedars who adopted extremely oppressive means to collect revenues from the tribals. The monopoly on liquor brewing also was a causal factor for the Bhumkal rebellion. The tribals considered liquor as the prasad of Gods, and the order banning liquor brewing, amounted to interference in their religious affairs to them.

During the rebellion on 7 February 1910, Rani Subaran Kunwar declared that the British rule on Bastar has been abolished and tribal rule was re-established. This declaration sums up the Bhumkal rebellion and the protests of Bastar. It articulates the assertion of the tribals to weed out alien rule and protect their traditional tribal way of life.

It is against the above background of continuous intrusion into tribal lands, society and culture by the outside exploiters and the continuous struggle of the adivasi peasantry for their inalienable right over their traditional lands and right over the forests that the present explosive situation in Dandakaranya, the militant struggles of the adivasis against exploitation in all its forms, particularly against the rapacious plunder by the CBB and the Indian state, and the increasing role of the Gond adivasis in the advancing people’s war can be properly understood.

Gonds, who are almost 70 lakhs, are spread out in seven states, but mainly concentrated in five states. This division of the Gond population into several administrative territories is a cruel ploy of the ruling classes to scuttle their development into a single nation. While several other advanced nationalities achieved their statehood through prolonged struggles or through political lobbying, the Gonds have not yet been able to unify their community into a single nationality. In fact, the subjugation of the Gonds commenced from the period of the Kakatiya kings who ruled from Andhra Pradesh in the 14th century. They remain victims of the policy of ‘divide and rule’ first introduced by the British colonialists and which is continuing after the British left. The Gonds are known by different names—Rajgond, Baiga, Madia, Muria, Dhurva/Parja, Bhatra, , Halba, Durggond and Dorla.

The Gonds began to lose their traditional lands to the non-adivasis who came from outside and snatched away the lands by taking advantage of the adivasi culture of considering land as a non-commodity and as collective property. As long as the adivasis were unconnected with the outside world, the influx of non-adivasis from the "civilized" world was hardly existent. However, with the construction of roads, railways and bridges, the civilized people from outside flocked to adivasi areas and began to usurp their lands. This so-called development, without any protection to the local adivasis, only made them landless and drove them away from their traditional lands. As observed rightly by the renowned anthropologist, Hamendorf, construction of roads and bridges in the adivasi areas brought forth, not real development, but, impoverishment and destitution to the ordinary adivasis.

It is this pattern of development that is continuing to displace the Gonds from their hearths and homes, turning them into homeless migrants, beggars and cheap labourers. The slogan "The Right over the Forest belongs to adivasis!" arose out of this alienation of the adivasis from their traditional means of livelihood.

In continuation of their 150-year-long tradition of militant protests and armed rebellions, the adivasis of Dandakaranya, during the period since 1980, have demonstrated their collective might and fighting capacity by turning up in thousands to protest against the government policies that were aimed at depriving them of their rights over the forests. And thousands of them joined the armed struggle spearheaded by the CPI(ML)[People’ War] since 1980 and now advancing under the leadership of the newly-formed CPI(Maoist). Hundreds of villages have armed people’s militia units whose presence, along with that of the regular units of the PLGA, protects the adivasis from the exploitation by the outside land-grabbers, comprador capitalists, contractors, forest officials, government bureaucrats, traders and policemen. The adivasis have taken up massive struggles against the tendu leaf contractors, traders and forest officials and won several victories. Of particular significance is the continuous struggle of the adivasis of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra against the Ballarpur Paper Mills of the big comprador business house of Thapar. As a result of this militant struggle against Thapar’s exploitation of the adivasis, the latter could increase the rates of bamboo several times. The adivasis had also stopped the indiscriminate felling of the forest by the contractors, timber smugglers and the CBB in Dandakaranya region. Now wherever they are organized they enjoy the right over the land and the forest resources. It is now well established that it is not the adivasis who are responsible for the denudation of the forests but it is the contractors and the CBB who are the culprits. Contrary to the myth floated by the ruling classes that forests are being denuded by the adivasis, it is the latter, led by the CPI(Maoist), who are the real protectors in DK and other regions in the country. The attempts by the ruling classes to plunder the wealth of the region through various mining and other projects that cater to the needs of the imperialists and the CBB, have been thwarted by the organized and consistent resistance of the adivasis.

The Indian state is desperately trying to break the back of the movement by resorting to massive suppression campaigns through the might of the police and central para-military forces as well as through various cunning ploys and intrigues such as: creating divisions among the adivasis, taking up so-called developmental activities to win over a tiny section, creating a network of police informers, and unleashing a brutal reign of terror. The Jan Jagaran Abhiyan or Salwa Judum, initiated mainly in Dantewara district, and Gaon Bandhi in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, are recent examples of the attempts by the reactionary ruling classes to pit one section of adivasis against another, aimed at creating schisms within the adivasis and weakening the ongoing revolt of the adivasis. Given the huge mining interests in the region the ongoing Salwa Judum campaign in the region is particularly horrifying with the forces having mobilised lumpens burning down 50 villages, brutally killing over 100, including children and raping about 30-40 women. To terrorise the populace the severed heads are hung on trees and post of their own houses.

Despite all these desperate attempts by the Indian state, the struggles of the adivasis are forging ahead undeterred. For instance, adivasis of Bastar came out in large number protesting against the inclusion of Bastar (i.e., the three districts of Bastar, Dantewara and Kanker which were in Bastar district until 1998) in the new state of Chattisgarh which was formed in November 2000. Thousands participated in demonstrations and rallies held in Kunta, Bhopalapatnam, Madded, Bhairamgarh, Bhasagudem, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Koelbeda and other towns. 

Around 25,000 people attended the rally in Narayanpur in 2001. Also in end-2001, a 10,000-strong morcha was held by adivasi peasantry in Orcha in Maad division demanding education for their children and healthcare for the adivasi people. Demonstrations took place in Kunta, Bijapur and other towns in south and west Bastar. As drought struck the area in 2002 and government bureaucrats played with the lives of the people by swallowing the foodgrains and funds allotted for the ‘Food for Work’ scheme, adivasis under the leadership of the DAKMS confiscated the foodgrains from the government godowns and private hoardings and distributed them to the starving people. In Maad and North Bastar divisions several famine raids were conducted on the godowns and foodgrains were seized. In south Bastar, the houses of landlords and traders mainly in the bordering areas of Andhra Pradesh were attacked and several tones of foodgrain were distributed to the people. Thousands of people were mobilized in these raids which became successful despite heavy police protection to the landlords.

The gond adivasis have also begun to directly confront the armed police defying the threats, intimidation and restrictions imposed by the latter. In January 2003, for instance, around 12,000 people demonstrated in front of Manpur PS in Rajnandgaon district protesting against police atrocities. When the police opened fire on the adivasis they retaliated by beating up some police officials upon which the latter turned tail. Soon after 3000 adivasis demonstrated in front of Gyarapathi PS in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra and warned the police of dire consequences if they did not stop their atrocities. The peasants also issued similar warnings to the police in Marripalli PS. Four thousand adivasis of Kishtaram area in south Bastar demonstrated peacefully in Seethapuram village condemning the atrocities perpetrated by the police of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The police opened indiscriminate fire on the people killing an 18-year-old adivasi girl, Kadthi Some.

On February 10, 2004 bhumkal divas was celebrated throughout the region of Maad. 10,000 adivasis, including 4,000 women, attended the meeting held in Nelnaar village to commemorate the bhumkal (rebellion) that took place in 1910 against the British imperialists. The significance of bhumkal lies in the fact that for the first time the Madiya gonds formed their own kingdom by throwing out the British. The uprising, however, was crushed within five days after the formation of the adivasi kingdom.

No society can survive without food and no industrial development can take place without access to minerals and forest products. A society can survive without the computer or the internet but it is impossible to do so without agriculture, mining, and forest products. That is why in spite of the hype about information technology and knowledge revolution, the imperialists and the ruling classes everywhere are unleashing plans to control the natural wealth without which the wheels of industry and, consequently, the advance of society, grinds to a halt.

It is a fact that the natural resources in the world are limited. In India the resources are continually being depleted due to the unbridled loot by the imperialists and big business. As the mineral and other natural resources are getting depleted the imperialists and the ruling classes of India led by the CBB and their imperialist masters are evincing keen interest in the hitherto unexplored mineral-rich regions in order to keep their profits from falling. Today, most of these resources lie in regions where the people’s war led by the CPI(Maoist) is strong and advancing. Whether it is the mineral-rich region of Jharkhand, or Orissa, Chattisgarh or Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh, the regions inhabited by the adivasis are virtually in the control of the Maoists. This fact was acknowledged by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Talking to journalists at Bangalore, he stated: "The Union Government is concerned, particularly as the Naxalites have emerged in the hilly areas of central India, where there are our mineral and hydel resources. The Naxalite movement is gaining momentum and the Centre (the Central Govt.) is concerned."

The Indian ruling classes are obviously worried that the adivasis in this vast tract of land have risen up in arms against the reactionary Indian state and exploiters of various hues and are asserting their inalienable right over land, natural resources and forest. They are fighting for establishing their power and authority over these regions by destroying the power and authority of the Indian state that represents the comprador capitalist and feudal forces.

Hence the imperialists and the Indian ruling classes, through the armed might of the Indian state, have been drawing up diabolic schemes to unleash the most cruel terror over this vast tract, to enact massacres of adivasi people who dare to resist the exploitative practices of the ruling classes and to turn the entire region into a graveyard if necessary in order to squeeze it of its mineral and forest wealth. Hence it is all the more important that the people of the entire country stand up in support of the ongoing people’s war and the militant struggles of the adivasis and fight unitedly against the machinations of the Indian ruling classes and their mentors abroad.

Conclusion

The anti-imperialist and anti-State struggles of the adivasi peasantry of Dandakaranya

The 150-year-long history of struggles of the adivasi peasantry of Dandakaranya

The Exploitation of Dandakaranya and the Myth of Development



 Mahabiri Devi (Bhangi):

She was from, Muzaffarpur District of Bihar State of India. She was born in Mandbhar-Bhaj village of Kairana Tehsil of the district. She was pity and fighter frm childhood. 

In young life Mahabiri made an organisation of her caste ladies. Her aim was to detach the people from the indecent jons.

In 1957 , when British attacked on Muzaffarpur, Mahabiri Devi alongwith 22 ladies and killed several British soldier but could not save her troop and sacrifice in fight. She is icon of Dalit .

Jhalkaribai

Jhalkaribai
BornNovember 22, 1830(1830-11-22)
Bhojla Village, near Jhansi
Died1890 (disputed)
Jhalkaribai (November 22, 1830 – 1890)  was an Indian revolutionary who played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 during the battle of Jhansi. She was a soldier in the women's army of Queen Laxmibai of Jhansi. Born into a poor Kori family, she started her career as an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's female army, but rose up to a position to participate and advise the queen in vital decisions. During the rebellion, at the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as the queen and fought on the front to let the queen escape safely out of the fort.

Jhalkari Bai, a little known chapter on a woman's courage in colonial India

This is the story of a courageous woman who came from a humble background but rose to the occasion to fight for her people and country.

The history of India is full of rulers -- both men and women -- who combined bravery with a strategy to repulse attacks by foreign invaders down the ages. Members of royal families were known to have shown exemplary courage when the situation demanded.

But Jhalkari Bai's saga is a study in contrast. She was the 'double' of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, the legendary warrior who fought the invading British army in the first War of Independence. A little known figure in Indian history, Jhalkari Bai lives on in the folklore of the Bundelkhand region.

Laxmibai and Jhalkari Bai led the Durga Dal (women's army) recruits to repeatedly foil attacks by the British army. And but for the betrayal by one of Laxmibai's generals, the Jhansi fort would have remained invincible for at least some more time.

Ignored by mainsteam historians, Jhalkari -- a dalit woman -- has now emerged from oblivion and finds mention in works of local writers, which include an epic poem by Chokhelal Verma, Virangana Jhalkari Bai by Bhavani Shankar Visharad, and a biography by dalit scholar and Arunachal Pradesh Governor Mata Prasad.

Her appearance, which was strikingly similar to Laxmibai, helped the Jhansi army evolve a military strategy to deceive the British. But before all that, Jhalkari was an ordinary village girl in Bundelkhand who would take care of household chores besides tending cattle and collecting firewood from the jungle.

She once had an encounter with a tiger in the jungle and killed the beast with her axe. On another occasion, she challenged a gang of dacoits who raided the house of a village businessman and forced them to retreat.

As a mark of gratitude, the village organised her marriage with Pooran Kori who matched her in courage. Pooran was inducted into Laxmibai's army and his fighting skills were soon recognised by her generals. Once on the occasion of Gauri Puja, Jhalakari with the other village women went to the Jhansi fort to pay homage to the queen.

Laxmibai was struck by Jhalkari's uncanny resemblance to her. After being told about her courage, she ordered Jhalkari's induction into the Durga Dal. Jhalkari, along with the other village women, was trained in shooting and igniting the cannons at a time when the Jhansi army was being strengthened to face any British intrusion.

The British did not allow the childless Laxmibai to adopt her successor, in a bid to bring the state under their control. However, her generals and the people of Jhansi rallied round the queen and resolved to take up arms against the British instead of surrendering to them.

During April 1858, from inside the Jhansi fort, the queen led her army and repulsed several attacks by the British and their native allies. One of her commanders, however, betrayed her and opened a well protected gate of the fort. When the fall of the fortress became imminent, her generals advised Laxmibai to escape with a handful of fighters. The Rani slipped away from Jhansi on horseback.

Jhalkari's husband Pooran was killed defending the fort but instead of mourning her loss, she worked out a plan to deceive the British. She dressed up like Laxmibai and took command of the Jhansi army. After which she marched out of the fort towards the camp of British General Hugh Rose. On reaching the British enclave, she shouted that she wanted to meet the general.

Rose and his men were exultant. Besides capturing Jhansi, the British thought they had caught the queen alive. When the general -- thinking she was the queen -- asked Jhalkari what should be done to her, she firmly said, ''hang me.''

Bundelkhand legend has it that her reply stunned the general, who said that if even one per cent of Indian women were like Jhalkari, the British would soon have to leave India.

The legend of Jhalkaribai remains in the popular memory of Bundelkhand over centuries. Her life and especially the incident of her fighting with East India Company army on the front in disguise, continues to be sung in various Bundeli folklores. Her bravery along with her identity as a Dalit has helped to create a sense of pride and cultural unity in Dalits in North India.

In the recent years, the name of Jhalkaribai, along with the others, has played a crucial role in the political landscape of North India, especially of Uttar Pradesh. Taking advantage of her popular image, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the leading Dalit-based party in India, projected Jhalkaribai as one of the symbols of Dalit pride and honour. Efforts were taken in research and find facts about her life and propagating them to the masses. Emphasis was given to portraying her as a historical heroine of the bahujans (read masses).

Life

Jhalkaribai was a daughter of a Kori farmers, Sadovar Singh and Jamuna Devi. She was born on November 22, 1830 in Bhojla village near Jhansi. After the death of her mother when she was very young, her father raised her like a boy. She was trained in horse-riding and using weapons. Consistent with the social conditions of those days, she could not have a formal education, but soon became well-trained as a warrior. She garnered notoriety in her region when she killed a leopard in the forest with a stick she used to herd cattle.

Jhalkaribai bore an uncanny resemblance with Rani (queen) Laxmibai. In due course of time, she was married to an artilleryman, Puran Singh, from the artillery unit of Rani Laxmibai. Jhalkaribai was introduced to the queen by Puran Singh. She joined women's army, headed by Rani Laxmibai. After joining the army, she gained further expertise in all aspects of warfare.

During the Rebellion of 1857, General Hugh Rose stormed Jhansi with a large army on April 3, 1858.The queen was not in position to face such a big army and as per the plan with rebels she has to join them at Kalpi . Jhalkaribai made a suggestion to the queen that she would go on the front in disguise as the queen and the queen should escape out of the fort. On the night of April 4, the queen escaped from the fort and left for Kalpi. At the same time, Jhalkaribai set out for General Rose's camp in disguise as the queen and declared herself to be the queen Laxmibai. This led to a confusion that continued for a week and she was released only after it was revealed that she was not the queen but a common soldier.

Very little, if any, information is available about later days of Jhalkaribai. Some sources state that she was killed during the battle of Jhansi; others state that she was released by the General Rose and thereafter lived until 1890. She was most favourite soldier & warrior of Laxmibai.She was a very kind girl.

Historiography

Very few references are found about Jhalkaribai in the contemporary records. The diary of General Hugh Rose, who was the general of the company army, and commissioner's gazetteer has no mention of Jhalkaribai. However, Vishnubhat Godse, a contemporary Marathi traveller who travelled in North India during the rebellion and was the court priest of Jhansi during this period mentioned her in his travelogue, though he mentioned her as a maid.

One could find no references of Jhalkaribai or her bravery in early historiography. In pre-independence India, British historiographers like Kaye and Malleson or Thompson and Garratt made no mention of Jhalkaribai. Even the Indian authors ignored her feat. Savarkar neglected her in his The Indian War of Independence and Nehru did not mention her in his Discovery of India. Majumdar, Raychaudhuri, and Datta did not specify the deed of Jhalkaribai though they noted that the queen Laxmibai escaped out of the Jhansi fort on the night of April 4, 1858 and left for Kalpi as Sir Hugh Rose "stormed" in Jhansi on April 3.

The name of Jhalkaribai appeared in the printed history after the Independence of India in 1947. First reference of her story in this period is found in a novel Jhansi ki Rani written in 1951 by B.L. Varma, who created a subplot in his novel about Jhalkaribai for which he interviewed Jhalkaribai's grandson. He addressed Jhalkaribai as Korin and an ordinary soldier in Laxmibai's army. Another novel where we can find mention of Jhalkaribai was written in the same year by Ram Chandra Heran in his Bundeli novel Maati. Heran depicted her as "chivalrous and a valiant martyr". The first biography of Jhalkaribai was written in 1964 by Bhawani Shankar Visharad, a Dalit intellectual, with the help of Varma's novel and his research from the oral narratives of the lower caste people living in the vicinity of Jhansi.

Legacy
The image of Jhalkaribai has risen to a significant place in North India in the recent years. The socio-political importance of the story of Jhalkaribai to create social awareness and a sense of pride in the Dalits has been successfully recognized and used by political parties like Bahujan Samaj Party. The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is celebrated as Shahid Diwas (Martyr Day) by various Dalit organizations every year.

The story of Jhalkaribai is utilized not only by the Dalits. The movement to create a separate Bundelkhand state has also use the legend of Jhalkaribai to create the Bundeli identity. The Government of India's Post and Telegraph department has also issued a postal stamp depicting Jhalkaribai.

Udadevi

The dalit women heroes of the 1857 Rebellion have become symbols of dalit assertion and pride. They have become the icons of the castes to which they belong. Such legendary character who is claimed to have played a significant role in 1857 Rebellion alongside Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow and who has become the icon of the Pasi community, but whose aura encompasses all the Dalit castes, is Udadevi.

Her story:….. There British forces met desperate resistance of rebels who fortified the position. In the sanguineous battle that followed, over 2,000 rebels and many soldiers lost their lives in hand-to-hand combat.

After the British overran Sikandarbag, an officer noted that many of the British casualties had bullet wounds indicating steep, downward trajectory. Suspecting that a sniper remained hidden in the pipal tree, British officers fired at the tree and dislodged a rebel who fell to the ground with a thud, dead. Further investigation revealed that the rebel was, in fact, a low-caste woman named Udadevi Pasi, who had donned men’s clothing to participate in the uprising.

Uda Devi is said to have been born in the village Ujriaon of Lucknow, and was married to Makka Pasi. She became an associate of Begum Hazrat Mahal, and formed a women’s army,with herself as the commander. Her husband became a martyr in the battle at Chinhat and Uda decided to take revenge. When the British attacked Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow under Campbell, he was faced with an army of Dalit women: At this point Uda Devi is said to have climbed over a pipal tree and shot dead, according to some accounts 32 and some 36, With constant evocation, these names have inscribed in popular Dalit memories. Every year near the statue of Uda Devi at Sikandar Bagh on 16 November, the stated day of her martyrdom.

Memory of Udadevi was created.


It was created in 1953 as part of the NBRI’s initiative to build a museum based on the history of Lucknow, A painter was commissioned to paint her image based on the description of Udadevi in the narratives collected by the botanist N. N Kaul. Following this a cement statute was made based on the image in NBRI, this was not made well and soon started cracking. Unskilled laborers were called in to fill in the cracks but in the process the image got distorted. Later when BSP wanted to build her statues and print her portrait in posters they picked up this distorted image. That is why the statue at NBRI grossly differs from the roadside statues.

This is so poignant , along with a burden of forced amnesia, which completely eliminates the memory of the role the dalits played in the Independence struggles and continue playing in nation building activities, is the tucked in history we have contributed. When a chance presented itself for the resurrection of one such memory; poor choice, material and attitude bequeaths us a distorted image! These stories also reminds each one of us, of other heroes, known only to a small handful, often only in oral form. They forcibly make us conscious of all our current heroes who have kept the struggle going on with such meagre resources, but with unending determination. As, are we the internet accessing ‘other voices’ in every way are also ‘heroes’ with our own set of anxieties, confronting our own set of unique hostilities, we continue to extend upon the history of resistance. The additional responsibility we carry, comes with the knowledge that we are doing so on a full stomach, unlike many of our counterparts in Dalitwadas in villages and city slums. Stories in rural India of young people handwriting pamphlets, xeroxing copies and delivering them on foot and cycles, can be heard everywhere. Most often done after a long day at work, in dimly lit huts, shops and under streetlights, often in the face of hostility, quite often on hungry stomachs. We can never lose our hard won ability to question incessantly every notion that hinders the possibility of well being of all our people and we do that by questioning ourselves in the same light.

Asha Devi Gurjari

is portrayed as providing leadership to a large number of young girls and women and it is stated that on 8 May 1857, she along with a large number of other Dalit women attacked the British army and died while fighting.

Udaia Chamar

Before 1957 revolt, in 1804 the sons' of Chhatari Nawab Nahar Khan were againt the British and the fight to save their Kingdom. Udaia Chamar was wellwisher of Nawab's sons, he set bombs in the empty Quila of Ganauri. When British entered into Quila bombs exploided one after other and many of enemies solder killed. Udaia was captured late and hanged to death. His bravery is alive today.

Maatadin Bhangi

 In a factory of bullets making htere were many worker like Mangal Pandey.There were untouchable too. One day one untouchable was thirsty and asked a Lota from Mangal Pandey. But the worker Mangal Pandey did not give his Lota to that untouchable. Then the untouchable said, " Bada aya hai brahman ka beta : Jin kartooson ko estemal karte ho us par Gai aur Suar ki charbi lagai jati hai aur tum use daant se tor kar bandook me bharte ho, us samay tumhara brahmanatva kaha chala jata hai? Dhikkar hai tumhare is brahmnatva ko." That worker was Matadin Bhangi who raise the fire of independence.

After hearing Matadin voice, Pandey surprised and decided to to take revenge. This news spred in cantoment areaon 1st March 1957, Mangal Pandey came out of of monrning arms drill parade and blamed British for this act and opened fire on them. This  morning was the of begining of Independence. So don't forget the Dalit role in Independence.




Chet Ram Jatav & Ballu Mehtar

Banke Chamar was also from Village Kurarpur, Dist. Jaunpur ,Uttar Pradesh.This Brave Revolutionary laid down his life for the country and was hanged by britishers for his active role in freedom struggle of 1857.

Neelan, powerful warrior and king of Thirumangai (part of Chola Empire), devotee of Lord Vishnu 

Kalu Singh Mahara

Kalu Singh Mahara was a Kumauni leader during Indian Rebellion of 1857. He is known as the first freedom fighter from Kumaun, then in the United Province.
Kalu Mahara was the leader of the Vishung Patti of Kumaun, Karnakarayat in present. This region is situated near Lohaghat, in district Champawat of Uttarakhand.

The Rebellion

He received a cryptic letter from Audh, inviting the Kumauni people and other hill people to join the Rebellion against the British. The government of Awadh proposed that after regaining the power from the British, the hill area will be returned to Kumauni people and the Tarai (plain area) will be taken by Oudh. Kalu Mahara organised the local people against British empire.
Skirmishes all across the area of Kali KumaunSuiGumdesh and the adjoining areas, now in the Champawat district, frustrated the British. His militiamen composed mainly of riflemen Bandukchi ambushed and harassed the British forces on several occasions.

Support

Kalu Mahara received the support of many other leaders of the Champawat region including Anand Singh PhartyalBishan Singh Kharayat and many others.They led the anti-British Militia then active in the Kali Kumaun region of Kumaun. The rebellion failed as Delhi and Awadh fell to the British.

Arrest

Kalu Mahara, Anand Singh Phartyal and Bishan Singh Kharayat were arrested at Annakhera. Kalu Mahara was executed along with the others.

Legacy

He is still revered as the first freedom fighter in Kumaon and is remembered on the day of his birth by the people of Champawat and Kumaon for his ultimate sacrifice.

Alluri Sitarama Raju
Alluri Sitarama Raju was an Indian revolutionary involved in the Indian independence movement. After the passing of the 1882 Madras Forest Act, its restrictions on the free movement of tribal peoples in the forest prevented them from engaging in their traditional podu agricultural system, which involved shifting cultivation. Raju led the Rampa Rebellion of 1922–24, during which a band of tribal leaders and other sympathisers fought against the British Raj, which had passed the law. He was referred to as "Manyam Veerudu" ("Hero of the Jungles") by the local people. Raju led a protest movement in the border areas of the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam regions of Madras Presidency, in present-day Andhra Pradesh.
Inspired by the patriotic zeal of revolutionaries in Bengal, Raju raided police stations in and around Chintapalle, Rampachodavaram, Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Peta, Rajavommangi, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Annavaram. With his followers, he stole guns and ammunition and killed several British army officers, including Scott Coward near Dammanapalli. Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli, then tied to a tree and was executed by gunfire in Kayyuru village. His tomb is in Krishna Devi Peta village.
Life
Details of Alluri Sitarama Raju's early life vary. An official report suggests that he was born in 1898 in Bhimunipatnam taluk, Visakhapatnam district. The young Raju lived mainly in Mogallu.

Rampa Rebellion of 1922

After the passing of the 1882 Madras Forest Act, its restrictions on the free movement of tribal peoples in the forest prevented them from engaging in their traditional podu agricultural system, which involved shifting cultivation. Raju led a protest movement in the border areas of the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh. Inspired by the patriotic zeal of revolutionaries in Bengal, Raju raided police stations in and around Chintapalle, Rampachodavaram, Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Peta, Rajavommangi, Addateegala, Narsipatnam and Annavaram. Raju and his followers stole guns and ammunition and killed several British army officers, including Scott Coward near Dammanapalli.
In December 1922, the British deployed a company of Assam Rifles, near Pegadapalle under the leadership of Saunders. Raju, who had by then gone underground, resurfaced after about four months and continued the fight, strengthened by tribal volunteers using bows and arrows under the leadership of Gam Mallu Dora and Gantam Dora.

Death

Following a raid led by Raju on the Annavaram police outpost on 18 September 1923, Gam Mallu Dora was arrested. The Government entrusted the task of containing Raju's activities to the District Collector of Visakhapatnam district, Rutherford, who fired the first salvo when his forces arrested Surya Narayana Raju Pericherla, popularly known as Aggiraju, a devoted follower of Raju. The British campaign lasted for nearly a year from December 1922.
Raju was eventually trapped by the British in the forests of Chintapalli then tied to a tree and shot dead in Kayyuru village.
Raju's tomb is in Krishna Devi Peta village.

In popular culture


Alluri Statue at Beach road in Visakhapatnam
  • In 1986 the Indian Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp featuring Raju in the series 'India's struggle for freedom'.
  • The Telugu-language movie Alluri Seetharama Raju, featuring actor Krishna, depicted Raju's life
  • Andhra Pradesh is to celebrate his birthday, 4 July, annually as a state festival.
  • Alluri Sitarama Raju Cricket Stadium in Eluru is named after him.
  • On 9 October 2017, at the request of Members of Parliament, Thota Narasimham and V. Vijayasai Reddy, the Government of India decided to install a statue of Raju at the precincts of the Parliament of India in recognition of his work as a freedom fighter, and for the welfare of the tribal people.


(Chauri Chaura incident,1923),

 Kallu Chamar, Shri Garib Chamar, Jagesar Chamar, Nahar Chamar, Falai Chamar, Birija Chamar, Medhai Chamar, Raghunath Pasi, Ramjas Pasi, Ramsharan Pasi are some names who participated in the freedom struggle, especially in the second phase of the nationlist movement.



Ayodhya Chamaar


Sampati Chamar

Medhai Chamar

Magal Mochi


Ram Pati Chamaar

Medhai Chamar


Baldev Prasad Kureel (Derapur , Kanpur)

Suchit Ram Jaiswar- Lal Kua Luckow

Babadin Kori (Mohanlal Ganj)

Narayan Das Chamar

Maikulal Chamar(Sitapur)

Shivdhan Chamar (Azamgarh)

Hari Chamar ( Ballia)


Inderjit Harijan

Vindeswari -Gorakhpur

Chotu Passi

Ramsaran Passi

 Alghu Passi (Chauri-Chaura episode 1923)

Veera Passi

Ramchadra      Bhagi (movemet Agaist ,1918 Rowlatt Act)

Nathu Dhobi ( ivolve in Jalliawala bagh 1919 episode)

Duli Dhobi

Govardhan Passi

Keshav

Sadashiv Mehre

Nepal Mallah

 Siddu Kanu,







  • R.Chennigaramaiah

  • Freedom Fighter, First Cabinet Minister in K.C.Reddy Cabinet in 1947(Mysore State)Karnataka


  • P. Kakkan


    P. Kakkan
    Minister for Home Affairs (Madras state)
    In office
    3 October 1963 – 5 March 1967
    Minister of Agriculture (Madras state)
    In office
    13 March 1962 – 3 October 1963
    Member of Madras Legislative Assembly for Samayanallur
    In office
    1962–1967
    Minister of Public Works (Madras state)
    In office
    13 April 1957 – 13 March 1962
    Member of Madras Legislative Assembly for Melur
    In office
    1957–1962
    Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) for Madurai
    In office
    1951–1957

    Succeeded byK. T. K. Thangamani
    Member of Constituent Assembly
    In office
    1946–1950
    MonarchGeorge VI of the United Kingdom
    Prime MinisterPandit Jawaharlal Nehru
    Preceded byNone
    Succeeded byNone
    Personal details
    Born18 June 1908
    Nagercoil, Madras Presidency, British India
    Died23 December 1981
    Madras, India
    NationalityIndian
    Political partyIndian National Congress
    ProfessionPolitician
    ReligionHindu
    P. Kakkan (sometimes Kakkan) (Tamil: கக்கன்) (June 18, 1908 – December 23, 1981) was a Dalit leader, freedom fighter and Indian politician who served as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, Member of Parliament, President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and in various ministerial posts in Congress Governments in the erstwhile Madras state between 1957 and 1967.

     Early life

    Kakkan was born in a Scheduled caste family on June 18, 1908 in Village called Thumbaipatti In Melur Taluk, madurai district of Madras Presidency. His father Poosari Kakkan was a "Poosari" in the village shrine.

    Indian Independence Movement

    Kakkan was drawn to the independence movement from an early stage in his life. While in school, he joined the Indian National Congress. When the Rajaji Government brought forth the Temple Entry Authorization and Indemnity Act 1939 which removed restrictions on Dalits and Shanars entering temples, Kakkan led the temple entry at Madurai. He also participated in the Quit India Movement and was sent to Alipore jail.In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly..and served from 1946 to 1950.

    Politics of Free India

    Kakkan served as a member of the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957. When K. Kamaraj resigned as the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee in order to take office as the Chief Minister of Madras state, Kakkan was elected as the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. Following the 1957 elections when the Indian National Congress was re-elected to power in the Madras state, Kakkan was sworn in as the Minister for Public Works (excluding Electricity), Harijan Welfare, Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes on April 13, 1957 From March 13, 1962 to October 3, 1963, Kakkan served as the Minister of Agriculture. On April 24, 1962, he was appointed as a member of the Business Advisory Committee and as Home Minister on October 3, 1963 and served till 1967 when the Indian National Congress was defeated in the Assembly elections.

    Later life and death

    In the 1967 Assembly elections, Kakkan stood for elections from Melur (South) constituency and lost to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate O. P. Raman. Following his defeat in the 1967 elections, Kakkan retired from politics.

    Work

    Some of Kakkan's achievements as Minister have been the construction of the Mettur and Vaigai reservoirs and the formation of the Harijan Seva Sangh for the upliftment and welfare of Dalits. As Minister of Agriculture, he established two Agriculture Universities in Madras state.In 1999, the Government of India released a postage stamp commemorating Kakkan and his contributions to the nation.

    Ideology

    Being the son of a priest, Kakkan was deeply religious. He was also a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi. When Periyar, the leader of the Self-respect movement publicly declared his intention to organize a Dravidar Kazhagam procession to the Marina in order to burn pictures of the Hindu God Rama, Kakkan warned Periyar that the desecration of images would constitute an "anti-social act" that would forsake the strong faith in God by which Gandhi won independence for India When Periyar tried to ignore the warning, he was arrested and confined in prison though the Government was not able to stop Dravidar Kazhagam activists from burning pictures of Lord Rama.

    Family

    Kakkan's brother Viswanathan Kakkan, an advocate, was a former Vice-President of the Hindu Munnani and a well-known devotee of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswathi. He unsuccessfully contested the 2006 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu from Perambur as a candidate of the Janata Party.








  • Historical events

    • 15 FEB 1932 Biggest Golikand of Indian freedom struggle.
    • Mahipal Singh, Sheetal Chamar, Badri Mandal and Basant Dhanuk and their 31 associates laid down their lives in 1932, professing love for the motherland.
    • Almost 100 freedom fighters had gathered at the police station to protest against imposition of a Rs 80-lakh community fine on villages. A British superintendent of police was hit by a gunshot fired by one of the protesters. This provoked the police to open indiscriminate fire that killed 34 people and injured over two dozen.







  •  Dalit freedom fighters

  • Research and Development Collective, a non-government organisation, gave honorary awards and mementos to six freedom fighters of the Dalit community for their contribution in the Liberation War. They awardees are Shambhupaent 10,000 troops with artillery that the Satnamis fell. They put up a brave defense. According to Saqi Mustaid Khan they believed that they were re-enacting scenes from the Mahabharata war. 2,000 Satnamis were slain on the battlefield and many more were slain in pursuit. What followed was an attempt to slay every remaining member of the Satnamis, and destroy all their homes. The remnants of the Satnamis fled in all directions and for a long time were totally disorganized and leaderless.da Biswas, Kalipada Mondol, Dulal Chandra Das, Monimohan Biswas, Mahabir Robidas and Mohammad Abdul Khaleque.




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