Peasant movements and tribal uprisings in the 18th and 19th centuries: Rangpur Dhing (1783)
- The acquisition of the right to collect Bengal’s territorial revenues in 1765 presented the British East India Company with access to a potentially vast source of wealth. In attempting to exploit fully this revenue-bearing territory, Company officials were brought into violent conflict with the overburdened population, an example of which may be seen in the Dhing, or peasant rebellion, which occurred in the northern district of Rangpur in 1783.
- After the acquisition of the diwani, the first object of the Company was to raise as large sum from the country as could be collected. Henry Verelst who became the Governor of bengal in Jan 1767 observed that in the period following the acquisition of diwani there had been oppressions and intrigues unknown at the other period.
- During years of the diwani, the Rangpur district was overburdened with very large demands. When five years settlement was introduced in 1772, it was already in a languishing condition. Yet the rate assessment was further increased. The Collector of the district admitted that it was beyond the capacity of the district to bear the increased burden.
- By the year 1777 the five year settlement proved to be failure. So the company insisted on annual settlements, a system which they had condemned earlier. So there followed another period of indecisive experiments till the permanent settlement was introduced.
- European collector operated in tandem with an Indian revenue farmer (ijardar), who had been contracted to pay a set amount of tax to the Company, and whose profit lay in any surplus he could extort from his cultivators. Likewise, for the collector a district posting provided considerable opportunity to benefit from illicit private trade and the misappropriation of government funds.
- In 1783 Rangpur became the scene of a formidable peasant revolt. It was caused by gross act of provocation from land revenue farmer or ijardar. All sorts of compulsion were employed against the zamindars to enforce payment of the heavy demand of the farmer. As the demands and exactions of the farmer increased, the zamindars passed on their burden to the ryots. In a mass petition, the ryots stated: “We raiyats are ruined. In our house we have nothing left, our grain, our cattle, and other effects we have sold.”
- Debi Singh who had been appointed ijardar of Rangpur and Dinajpur in 1780, practised untold severity to realise the revenue.
- The immediate cause of rising was the large scale disposal of the agricultural holdings of the defaulting ryots at nominal price. As the petition sent to Goodland, the chief of the district, failed to produce any relief, the ryots took law into their own hands.
Rebellion of Ryots
- On Jan 18, 1783, the uprising took place. For full five weeks the rebels were virtually in control of the parganas of Tepa, Kazirhat and Kakina in the district of Rangpur. It was the revolt of the entire people. The mass character of the revolt is reflected in the huge assemblage of peasant irrespective of their caste and community. Kena Sarkar of Gotamari in the pargana of Kakina was the main leader of the uprising.
- The rebels formed a government of their own. They appointed the officers like the Nawab, the dewan, the bakshi to run a regular government. The rebel government issued proclamations forbidding all payments of revenue to the existing government. It levied tax to defray the expenses of the uprising. The trouble spread to Dinajpur.
- The Collector of Rangpur, Goodland, took measures to put down the insurrection. On Feb 22, the rebels made a desperate attempt at Pattong. In the battle that ensued, a great many were killed and many taken prisoner. It was an unequal fight. A reign of terror unleashed throughout the district of Rangpur.
Q. What were the Causes and Significance of Rangpur Dhing?
- Rangpur uprising is called the first formidable peasant uprising against the rule of the East India Company. Several factors may be assigned to the Rangpur uprising of 1783.
- First, the period of Warren Hasting was marked by several experiments in land settlement. Under the Ijaradari system, land was farmed out for, say, one or five years. Naturally the Ijaradar wanted to squeeze out as much money as possible during the period for which the land was taken by him. Thus Ijaradar was basically a speculator in land. The Rangpur uprising took place because the burden of revenue was placed at the highest on the zamindars.
- Second, failure to pay revenue would deprive the zamindar of his estate.
- Third, alongside the revenue other illegal demands made the total demand so high that the ryots were unable to pay even after selling their wives and children.
- Fourth, as remedial measures the ryots and the zamindars combined to rebel against the Ijaradar, in this case Devi Singh, the ijaradar of Rangpur and Dinajpur.
- The Rangpur Dhing of 1783 was significant on many accounts:
- The rebellion of 1783 clearly exposed the evils associated with the system of colonial exploitation.
- All the native agents of the East India Company were linked with the Company’s high officials in the same chain in oppressing the people of the country.
- Rangpur rebellion made clear the evils of the Ijaradari system. Devi Singh, an ijaradar of Rangpur showed the way how people could be exploited beyond their endurance.
- The peasant uprising of 1783 exposed the weakness of the farming (Ijaradari) system. Farmer having no certainty of holding lands beyond the year, made no improvements. Pressed with the uncertainty of their situation, they raised the rents, to the last farthing, on the wretched tenants.
- Rangpur uprising paved the way for devising a land settlement that would be permanent in nature.
- This rebellion was precursor of a long series of peasant rising in Bengal. Among these, the Wahabi and farazi rising (1830-70), the Santhal rebellion (1855), the Indigo revolt (1860), the peasant rising in Pabna were main rebellions.