Santhal Hul

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July 03, 2024

Why in news?

June 30 marks the 169th anniversary of the Santhal Hul, one of the earliest peasant uprisings against the British.

 What is a Santhal Hul?


  • History of Santhals – They were not the original inhabitants of modern day Santhal Pargana which includes the six districts of Dumka, Pakur, Godda, Sahibganj, Deoghar and parts of Jamtara.
  • They had migrated from the Birbhum and Manbhum regions (present-day Bengal), starting around the late 18th century.
  • Migration – The 1770 famine in Bengal caused the Santhals to begin moving and soon, the British turned to them for help.
  • Geographical distribution – They spread across Jharkhand-Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal.
  • Population – Today, the Santhal community is the third largest tribal community in India.

Santhal pargana is the region in present-day Jharkhand, more specifically, around the Rajmahal Hills of eastern Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district. 

  • Santhul Hul – It represents the Santhal revolution that began in 1855 in the Santhal pargana region, two years before the uprising of 1857.
  • It was an organised war against colonialism and other forms of oppression they were subjected to by the British and their collaborators.
  • It is one of the first peasant uprisings against British colonial oppression.

The state of Jharkhand celebrates June 30 as ‘Hul Diwas’.

  • Leaders – It was led by four brothers, Sidho, Kanho, Chand, and Bhairav Murmu, along with sisters Phulo and Jhano.
  • Objective – It was a revolt against imperialism to safeguard the economic, cultural, and religious aspects of their lives.
  • Targets – Apart from British, they also fought against the upper castes, zamindars, darogas, and moneylenders, described by the umbrella term ‘diku’ (outsiders).

What were the major causes of the revolt?

  • Permanent Settlement Act of 1790 – It allowed the East India Company to bring an ever-increasing area in its control under settled agriculture.
  • They, thus, chose the area of Damin-i-Koh, at the time heavily forested, to be settled by the Santals, in order to collect a steady stream of revenue.
  • It comprises present-day Sahibganj, Godda, Dumka, Deoghar, Pakur, and regions of Jamtara, in present-day Jharkhand.
  • The area was allocated to the Santhals displaced from Birbhum, Murshidabad, Bhagalpur, Barabhum, Manbhum, Palamau, and Chhotanagpur, all areas the Bengal Presidency.
  • Repression by British – While the Santhals were promised settlement and agriculture in Damin-i-Koh, they indulged in repressive practice of land-grabbing and begari (bonded labour).
  • Worsened social conditions – Zamindars, the police, the revenue court alas have exercised a combined system of
    • Oppressive extractions
    • Forcible dispossession of property
    • Abuse and personal violence and a variety of  petty tyrannies upon Santhals
  • Willful and uncharitable trespass by the rich by means of their untethered cattle, tattoos, ponies or even elephants, on the growing crops of the poorer race.
  • Declining economic prosperityUsurious interest on loans of money ranging from 50 to 500%.
  • False measures at the haut and the market.
  • Loss of traditional lands – The introduction of private property rights and the encroachment of non-Santhal settlers led to the loss of traditional lands for the Santhals.
  • Their traditional ways of life and livelihoods were disrupted, creating further discontent.

Elaborate the events of the revolt?

  • Rebellion - By 1854, there was talk of rebellion in tribal councils and meetings.
  • It finally began after a massive assembly of over 6,000 Santhals representing around 400 villages that took place in 1855.
  • Course of eventsMoneylenders and zamindars were executed or forced to flee.
  • The police stations, railway construction sites and dak offices thus all symbols of colonial rule were attacked
  • Diversified participations – Apart from the Santal community it saw the participation from 32 communities (tribals and non-tribals both).
  • Participation of women – The sisters Phulo-Jhano had led an army of 1,000 women.
  • Their involved in providing food supply, gathering information and also attacked the East Indian camps during the night.
  • Repression by British – They invoked martial law and killed thousands of locals and also burned down villages.
  • The British hanged Sidhu to death in 1855, followed by Kanhu in 1856 and thus the insurrection ended, but the impact it left was everlasting. 

What are the significances of the revolt?

  • Broke the myth of British supremacyBritish army was defeated twice during the rebellion.
  • The first was in Pirpainti and the second in Birbhum, all part of lower Bengal then and the narrative that the East India Company’s army could not be defeated was exposed.  
  • Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act of 1876 – It was enacted aftermath of the revolt.
  • It prohibits the transfer of Adivasi lands (urban or rural land) to non-Adivasis, was the result of the Hul.
  • The land can only be inherited as per the Act, thus retaining the rights of Santhals to self-govern their land.
  • Inspiration to other revolts – This revolt motivated many tribals’ revolts which emerged for claiming their ownership rights and other rights.

The Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 was enacted as a result of the Birsa Movement that allowed land transfers within the same caste and certain geographical areas with the approval of the District Collector.

  • Heightened the nationalist sentiments – The revolt and the subsequent harsh measures by the British authorities fueled nationalist sentiments among Indians.
  • It highlighted the brutal nature of colonial rule and increased support for the independence movement.


  1. The Indian Express| 169th Anniversary of Santhal Hul
  2. The Indian Express| Significance of Santhal Hul
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