History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2012: Q.3 (b)

Q.3 (b) “The Santhal hool began in July 1855. The core of the movement was economic, the basic cause of the uprising was agrarian discontent.” – Elucidate.


Historically, the Santhals were settled in Damani-Koh (forested hilly areas of Rajmahal Hills) in the present day Jharkhand in what was then known as the Bengal Presidency.

The Santals were good cultivators and possesed good piece of agricultural land. They were engaged in their agrarian way of life by clearing the forest and by hunting for subsistence.

When new colonial rule of the British East India Company claimed their rights on the lands of the Santhals, they retreated to reside in the Rajmajal hills. After a brief period, the British along with the local landlords and zamindars [outsiders (Diku)] started claiming their rights in this new land as well.

The Santhal tribes were turned into bonded labor by the zamindars and the money lenders who first appeared to them as businessmen and traders and had allured by lending them by money and goods. However hard a Santal tried to repay these loans, they never ended.

The alienation of land, oppressive land revenue extraction, extraction of other dues and prevalence of bonded labour destroyed the way of life of the Santhal and caused agrarian discontent along with the loss of freedom & respect among the Santhals.

The Santal hool or Santhal uprising started when the Santhals finally took oath to launch an attack on the the British colonial rule, zamindars and money lenders. In July 1855, two Santhal leaders, Sidhu and Kanhu, mobilized thousands of Santhals and declared a rebellion against the colonists. Many money lenders and native agents of the Company were killed with their primitive weapons. But finally, the British, equipped with modern weapons and tactics, brutally crushed the revolt with the two celebrated Santhal leaders Sidhu and Kanhu were killed. Over 20,000 Santhal tribes were killed and several villages were destroyed.

However British passed the Santal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1856 which tired to appease the Santhals by giving some sort of protection to them from the colonial exploitation. Santal Pargana was born, land alienation was checked, the regular police was abolished and the local administration was vested in the hands of locals and village headman.

Hence the Santhal hool had economic reasons at its core causing the agrarian discontent and it was attempted to be solved by British through an agrarian act i.e. Santal Parganas Tenancy Act.

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