Chapter : 1. Forest Society and Colonialism
The Bastar Rebellion Of 1910
The 150 years history of protests and rebellion in Bastar culminated in the Bhumkal rebellion of 1910 meaning the great people’s upsurge.
Several other 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. A 1905 proposal by the government to reserve two third of the forests and ban tribal activities in the reserved area led bitterness amongst them. The situation grew worse with the famines of 1899–1900 and again in 1907–08. 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 was also a cause for unrest. The tribals considered liquor as prasad of Gods, and the order banning liquor brewing amounted to interference in their religious affairs to them.
People began to gather and discuss these issues in their village councils, in bazaars and at festivals or wherever the headmen and priests of several villages were assembled. The initiative was taken by the Dhurwas of the Kanger forest, where reservation first took place. Although there was no single leader, many people speak of Gunda Dhur, from village Nethanar, as an important figure in the movement. In 1910, mango boughs, a lump of earth, chilies and arrows, began circulating between villages. These were actually messages inviting villagers to rebel against the British. Every village contributed something to the rebellion expenses. Bazaars were looted, the houses of officials and traders, schools and police stations were burnt and robbed, and grain redistributed. Most of those who were attacked were in some way associated with the colonial state and its oppressive laws.
The British sent troops to suppress the rebellion. The advise leaders tried to negotiate, but the British surrounded their camps and fired upon them. After that they marched through the villages flogging and punishing those who had taken part in the rebellion. Most villages were deserted as people fled into the jungles. It took three months (February - May) for the British to regain control. However, they never managed to capture Gunda Dhur. In a major victory for the rebels, work on reservation was temporarily suspended, and the area to be reserved was reduced to roughly half of that planned before 1910.
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