Hul : Freedom struggle
Hul is a Santali term. It means a movement for liberation. Santals in Santal Paraganas (presently in the State of Jharkhand) belongs to Santali tribe. Two Murmu brothers, Sido and Kanhu.
Master minded the famous Santal Hul (liberation movement) of 1855-57; a heroic episode in India's prolonged struggle for freedom. It was, in all probablity, the fiercest liberation movement in India next to Great Sepoy Mutiny in 1857.
With the capture of political power of India by the East India Company, the natural habitats of the indigenous people including the Santals began to shatter by the intruders like money lenders. Traders and revenue farmers, who descended upon them in large numbers under the patronage of the Company.
Believe it or not, the rate of interest on loan to the poor and illiterate Santals varied from 50% to 500%. These intruders were, needless to mention the crucial links in the chain of ruthless exploitation under colonial rule. They were the instruments through which the indigenous groups and tribes were brought within the influence and control of the colonial economy.
Discontent had been simmering in the Santal Paraganas from the early decades of the nineteenth century owing to most naked exploitation of the indigenous Santals by both the British authorities and their collaborators, native immigrants.
Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu, hailing from the village Bhognadih in Sahibganj district, had long been brooding over the injustices perpetrated by the oppressors like hundreds and hundreds of their tribe's men. The situation finally reached a flash point and, not surprisingly, a small episode that took place in July 1855 triggered one of the fiercest uprisings that the British administration ever faced in India.
The emergence of Sido and Kanhu, youthful, dynamic and charismatic, provided a rallying point for the Santals to revolt against the oppressors .On 30th June 1855, a large number of Santals assembled in a field in Bhagnadihi village of Santal Paragana, They declared themselves as free and took oath under the leadership of Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu to fight unto the last against the British rulers as well as their agents.
Militant mood of the Santals frightened the authority. A Police agent confronted them on the 7th July and tried to place the Murmu brothers under arrest. The angry crowd reacted violently and killed the Police agent and his companions. The event sparked off a series of confrontations with the Company's Army and subsequently reached the scale of a full-fledged war.
At the outset, Santal rebels, led by Sido and Kanhu, made tremendous gains and captured control over a large tract of the country extending from Rajmahal hills in Bhagalpur district to Sainthia in Birbhum district. For the time being, British rule in this vast area became completely paralysed.
Many moneylenders and native agents of the Company were killed. Local British administrators took shelter in the Pakur Fort to save their life. However, they rebel could not hold on to their gains due to the superior fire power of the East India Company came down heavily on them.
The courage, chivalry and sacrifice of the Santals were countered by the rulers with veritable butchery. Out of 50,000 Santal rebels, 15,000 20,000 were killed by the British lndian Army. The Company was finally able to suppress the rebellion in 1856, though some outbreaks continued till1857.
It is believed that Sido was captured by the British forces through treachery and Kanhu through an encounter at Uparbanda. And was subsequently killed in captivity. The Santal Hul, however, did not come to an end in vain. It had a long-lasting impact. Santal Parganas Tenancy Act was the outcome of this struggle, which dished out some sort of protection to the indigenous people from the ruthless colonial exploitation.
The Department of Post, Government of India can claim accolade from the country-loving Indians for its commendable action by releasing a beautiful commemorative postage stamp on the valiant martyrs Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu on 6th April 2002. It's a right and timely move by the Department of Post indeed. No doubt about it.