Before the advent of the East India Company, the rural life in India was simple and self-sufficient. The British brought many changes in the field of land revenue system, agriculture, trade, industry and administration to guard their own interest. Therefore, the East India Company devised various methods to ensure the collection of revenue from Indian territories, annexed by them. As the British empire expanded, the amount of revenue was also increased. So much so that land revenue became the biggest source of income for the Company. At this stage Land Revenue Settlements were introduced with an aim to legitimize the practice of economic exploitation. Therefore, the Zamindari System under the Permanent Settlement, was introduced in Bengal in 1793 by Cord Cornwallis. Large parts of South and West India were put under the Ryotwari System, whereas Punjab, North-West Provinces and Awadh came under Mahalwari System.


The Permanent Settlement — also known as the Permanent Settlement of Bengal (Bangla : Chirosthayi Bandobasto) was an agreement between the East India Company and Bengali landlords to fix revenues to be raised from land, with far-reaching consequences for both agricultural methods and productivity in the entire Empire and the political realities of the Indian countryside. It was concluded in 1793, by the Company administration headed by Charles, Earl Cornwallis. It formed one part of a larger body of legislation enacted known as the Cornwallis Code. This system gave birth to a new class of landlords called zamindars who had the power to evict any cultivator of the soil due to non-payment of revenue. As such, they used oppressive methods to collect the taxes. The position of cultivators became miserable. On the other hand, maximum

The Ryotwari System, instituted in some parts of British India, was one of the two main systems used to collect revenues from the cultivators of agricultural land. These revenues included undifferentiated land taxes and rents, collected simultaneously. Where the land revenue was imposed directly on the ryots -- the individual cultivators who actually worked the land—the system of assessment was known as ryotwari. Where the land revenue was imposed indirectly—through agreements made with Zamindars -- the system of assessment was known as zamindari. In Bombay, Madras, Assam and Burma the Zamindar usually did not have a position as a middleman between the government and the farmer. The ryots were forced to pay revenue even when there were no crops due to floods, droughts or any other natural calamity.

In Mahalwari System, a settlement was made collectively, with a group of villages called mahal. In 1833, the Mahalwari Settlement was introduced in the Punjab, the central provinces and parts of north western provinces (Present UP). Under this system the basic unit of revenue settlement was the village or the mahal. As the village land belonged jointly to the village community the responsibility of paying the revenue rested with the entire mahal or the village community. So the entire land of the village was measured at the time of fixing the revenue. The demand of Land revenue under the Mahalwari system was also maximum. Prior to British rule, land revenue collected from North India was 135 lakh rupees. But the demand fixed in 1st, 2nd & 3rd year of company rule in this area stood at 156 lakh & 168 lakh, respectively. During 1807 – 1818 despite opposition it was increased to 45%. In 1822, it was increased to a whopping 80 percent of actual produce of land. Though the Mahalwari system eliminated the middlemen between the govt. and the village community & brought about improvement in irrigation facility yet its benefit was largely appropriated by the govt.

With strong footholds in South India, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the East India Company wanted to collect maximum taxes to meet their military and administrative expenses. They also wanted to gain maximum profit. So, the company started using coercive methods to procure goods which were in great demand in Europe. The agricultural raw material was purchased at very low rates and sent to England. The finished goods were brought back to India and sold at high price to earn more profits. The Company forced the farmers to grow crops like indigo, cotton, raw silk, opium, pepper, tea, sugarcane, etc. The Britishers wanted to smuggle and sell opium in China so that they could earn huge profits. Similarly, indigo, called neel in Hindi, was in great demand in the textile industries of Britain. The peasants, were forced to cultivate indigo plants to extract blue dye. The planters led miserable life due to very low prices. The farmers who produced gur (jaggery) for local requirement, sell their produce at a very low price. The British industries flourished

Whenever atrocities, repression and exploitation reach beyond a certain limit, there is a mass outburst in the form of revolt or rebellion. There is along list of injustice meted out to the farmers at various times during British rule. Some of these are: • Land Revenue Settlements and their administration. • Economic exploitation, especially of the rural masses. • Long standing loans and indebtedness. • Eviction of peasants from agricultural land and misery of landless labourers. These causes resulted in revolts, outbreaks and rebellions even before the First War of Independence in 1857. It was only in 1930 that the organisation Kisan Sabhas supported the cause of the peasants.

According to Oxford Dictionary "A tribe is a group of people in a primitive or barbarious stage of development acknowledging the authority of a chief and usually regarding themselves as having a common ancestor. D.N Majumdar defines tribe as a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous with no specialization of functions ruled by tribal officers hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect recognizing social distance with other tribes or castes. According to Ralph Linton tribe is a group of bands occupying a contiguous territory or territories and having a feeling of unity deriving from numerous similarities in a culture, frequent contacts and a certain community of interests.

Revolt by Khasis, who lived in the Khasi hills of north-west Assam, took place in 1829. Construction of a road through their land, united many Khasi chiefs against the Britishers under the leadership of Bar Manik and Tirut Singh. But the British suppressed it brutally. The Kukas of hilly regions of Manipur and Tripura kept on attacking the Britishers territories from 1829. But were forced to surrender in 1850. The Khonds of Khondmals (near Orissa) revolted against in 1846 due to the fear of being annexed. But they could not stand before the might of Britishers. The Santhals found themselves quite helpless against the ruthless exploitation and oppression of the traders and the middlemen. They were expecting the British Government to safeguard their interests. When nothing was done, they revolted against the Britishers in 1855 to 1856 under the leadership of Siddim and Kahnu.

Mundas of Chotanagpur joined by the Kolarian tribe of the same region revolted in 1831. The struggle was suppressed by the British forces. But the exploitation by the merchants and moneylenders went on. Birsa Munda (1875–1900) was a tribal leader and a folk hero, belonging to the Munda tribe who was behind the Millenarian movement that rose in the tribal belt of modern day Bihar, and Jharkhand during the British Raj, in the late 19th century making him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement. The British colonial system intensified the transformation of the tribal agrarian system into feudal state. As the tribals with their primitive technology could not generate a surplus, non-tribal peasantry were invited by the chiefs in Chotanagpur to settle on and cultivate the land. This led to the alienation of the lands held by the tribals. The new class of Thikadars were of a more rapacious kind and eager to make most of their