(Last Updated on : 13/02/2009)
Before the the British came to India the Santhals resided peacefully in the hilly districts of Cuttack, Dhalbhum, Manbhum, Barabhum, Chhotanagpur, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Midnapur, Bankura and Birbhum.They leaded a peaceful life by clearing the forest and also engaged themselves in hunting for subsistence. But when the British claimed their rights on the lands of the Santhals, they peacefully went to reside in the hills of Rajamahal. After some few years the britishers and their counterparts started claiming as this new Santhal owned land theirs. The British were helped by the local Zamnidars, who were with them for their own selfish needs.
The simple and honest Santhals were cheated and turned into slaves by the zamindars the money lenders who first appeared to them as mere business men who gave them loans. These loans however hard a santhal tried to repay never ended in fact through corrupt measures of the money lenders it multipled to an amount for which a generation of the santhal family had to work as slaves.Furthermore the santhali women who worked under labour contractors were disgraced and used . This loss of freedom that once which they enjoyed turned them into rebels and finally they took oath to launch a Rebellion on these axis of evil, which was done on 30th June, 1855. The attacke against the British was launched by two rebel leaders, Sidhu and Kanhu Murmu. Although the Rebellion was brutally suppressed, it marked a great change in the colonial rule and policy. The day is still celebrated among the Santal community with great respect and spirit for the thousands of the Santal martyrs who sacrificed their lives along with their two celebrated leaders to win freedom from the rule of the Jamindars and the British operatives.
Today, the government is trying to preserve forests, so cultivation shifting is limited. There is also an increase in the amount of irrigated land. As a result, other sources of income have been developed. They include such jobs as working in the tea plantations of the Northeast, working in the steel industry, or working as day laborers for local Hindu landowners. Since the Chotanagpur Plateau is the richest mineral belt in India, some of the Santhals earn wages by mining. Both men and women work to bring home adequate income for their families.