British colonial rule had a tremendous impact on all sections of Indian society. When the British conquered India and colonised its economy they faced stiff resistance from the people. There were a series of civil rebellions. These rebellions were led by rulers who were deposed by the Britishers, ex-officials of the conquered Indian states, impoverished zamindars and poligars.
It brought together people having different ethnic, religious and class background against the British rule.
Causes of Popular Resistance Movements
People resist when they feel that their rights are being taken away. That means all resistance movements started against some form of exploitation. British rule whose policies had undermined rights, status and economic position of Indians symbolised this exploitation.
The protest and resistance was mainly offered by the displaced ruling classes, peasantry and tribals. For example, when Warren Hastings attacked Banaras and imprisoned King Chet Singh to fulfill his unjustified demand of money and army, the people of Banaras rebelled. In Madras Presidency, Poligars rebelled, when the British tried to snatch away their military and land rights.
Interference in religious practices was another cause of these popular rebellions. Often these revolts were anti-Christian. This was due to the socio-religious reforms introduced by the British which were unacceptable to the people.
In some other rebellions, difference between the religion of the ruler and exploited classes became the immediate cause for the rebellion. This happened in Mappila Rebellion of Malabar region. Here the Muslim peasantry fought against the Hindu landlords and moneylenders.
Nature of Popular Resistance Movements
Violence and plunder were the two most popular tools used by the rebels to express their resistance against their oppressors. Lower and exploited classes often attacked their exploiters. They were the Britishers or the zamindars or the revenue collecting officials, wealthy groups and individuals. Santhal Rebellion saw mass scale violence where account books of moneylenders and government buildings were burnt and their exploiters punished.
The purpose of land systems was to extract as much money as possible from the peasants and tribal people. This caused so much unrest among the peasants and the tribals that they started expressing their resentment against the British.
These popular resistance movements aimed at restoration of old structures and relations which had been done away with by the British. Each social group had its own reasons to raise its voice against the colonial powers. For example, displaced zamindars and rulers wanted to regain their land and estates. Similarly, the tribal groups rebelled because they did not want the traders and moneylenders to interfere in their lives.