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Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

In 1855, Thakur led Santhal uprising against British in eastern India. Some historians refuse to acknowledge Thakur's involvement in this incident because three years of prejudice prevents us from writing history. Sometimes supernatural beings are given proxies.

In The Provincialization of Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarti argues that historians should "humanize" these beliefs rather than taking them seriously by learning from them. call supernatural beings "unbelief", and their explicit or implicit denial - "dogmatic secularism".

The author argues that objective historians should not preemptively dismiss evidence pointing to presence or involvement of unbelievers throughout history, but rather should cultivate skepticism towards all sources. In middle of 1855, Santals, a tribal people in eastern India, rebelled against practice of taxation by officials and British administration of justice. The rebellion was provoked by Thakur and other Bangas representing brothers Santhal Sido and Kan Humumu. to spread uprising.

With help of Santal and under leadership of Bangas, many of villagers of Jharkhand took up arms and joined Thakur rebellion. The uprising lasted a year before it was crushed. Executed, Thakur was never taken prisoner.

Consistently and clearly in primary sources about rebels, agents assigned to Thakur and Bangas, and also in primary decree authorizing rebellion, Sido and Kanhu clarified chain of command: “Thakur order me to say that this country is not a Sahib. Therefore, you, Sahib, and soldiers will fight against Thakur yourself, this is order of Thakur. This sentence is taken from a document in State Archives of West Bengal. The document documents trial after rebellion, including a description of Parvana himself. .

In his own litigation, there was little reason to doubt these sources, and in fact outside observers of period were surprised by honesty of Santals. Surprisingly, in his book The Provincialization of Europe, historian Dipesh Chakrabarti refuted extremely restrained voices of these sources by denying Thakur's involvement.

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

Furthermore, he insists that even most radical historians of today cannot accept this, and that at least a generation of historians have struggled to rely on indigenous sources and voices. So why did Chakrabarti deny activities of Thakur, ignoring or even rejecting indigenous voices in source documents?

What is even more surprising is that he is not alone in this regard, as what Chakrabarti describes is blind spot of entire discipline. A review of literature shows that historians of uprising have interpreted it in many ways, from invasion of Santal forest by zamindar officials (nobles with land rights and taxation of peasants) to Nigerian, exploitation of Santars by usurers, or sexual abuse of women santars from European railway employees.

However, they continue to ignore Thakur's relatively well-documented involvement, and at this point we doubt that historians will ignore Thakur even though he gave them a confession signed by Thakur. What should I do to get our professional attention? We were aware of this issue before we even read The Provincialization of Europe, and we really appreciate part that Chakrabarti's boldness of assertions plays in our motivation.

Most historians today, even "radical" ones, indeed continue to refuse to extend freedom of action of Thakur and those like him, indeed, they indeed refuse to acknowledge his existence. A Thakur is a supernatural being, and as Chakrabarti explains, modern historians “would give supernatural a place in one’s belief system or ritual practice, but would leave any real influence on historical events. past dispute resolution procedures.

He concludes that "an elusive past can never enter scholarly history as a position belonging to historian himself" because "the historian as historian, unlike Santal, cannot refer to supernatural when describing events of Phenomenon." Why is this happening? Thakur and his ilk became persona non grata in historical science when, around 1700, they found themselves on wrong side of modernity in Western European cafes.

Beyond this location, and for as long as humans are generally open to existence of different beings, there may be disagreement about existence of a particular being or, more commonly, about how to classify or treat interaction with another being. concrete being, but pre-modern mind was open to possibilities.

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

Reasonable, self-reflective thinkers known as skeptics, found in ancient sources from several cultures, doubted possibility of having any knowledge, just as these skeptics before Enlightenment doubted all knowledge. certain everyday beliefs and they don't have much hatred for Thakur and Banga.

The idea that beings that are difficult to observe cannot exist is supported, but rarely, such as by harassers of ancient Ganges valley, and is often ridiculed as obscure. In 17th century writer Nilakantha Dikshita satirically praised dogmatic secularist, here presented as a "liberated frog" in a puddle.

Doubts are old and rational, and insistence on impossible is new and unfounded. Around 1700, a handful of European intellectuals re-adopted Bocraticism, calling it rationalism and skepticism, and laugh at less intellectual but more truly rational and skeptical minds that all still open to possibilities.

Skepticism, a term that has had many meanings throughout its history, has undergone most dramatic change: once uncertain about all knowledge, skepticism has become certain that some knowledge is patently false. And so French Enlightenment destroyed what we consider to be old, true skepticism, took its corpse in and out, and carried it to universities of world.

Over course of a century, university elite has locked old skepticism into a category called "folklore", which is now both alien and amusing to them. Hard false skepticism around 1750 still dominated academia, although we are increasingly aware of extent to which this was a minority view, and world became, in Weber's words, "disillusioned" and "disenfranchised gods", at least least in eyes of university.

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

Scholars generally do not allow themselves to believe in existence or activities of Thakur and his ilk, which we may call neopocharataism or academic folk belief, although we do not want to imply "indigenous" beliefs. same unsupported dogmatism.

What, authors argue, do we know about these creatures that transcend subspecies so far that few historians see them? We call them collectively "non-believers." This category of vacancies includes those who are known as gods, demons, angels, gods, fairies, monsters, elves, ghosts, banga, ramwai, zein, dande, mogwai, aziza, aluksob and other creatures.

This is a group of great diversity, global scope, and despite this heterogeneity, our historical scholarship has often treated them consistently and strangely. The documents that Thakur used to authorize rebellion remain defying decipherment by both modern colonial authorities and historians then and now. Why would a Thakur use Christian scriptures to communicate with an illiterate Santal peasant?

This discrepancy forces historians to explore possibilities, and while definitive answers may be beyond our reach, perhaps we will get closer when we remember permeable differences between religions, or remember ability to treat documents as matter rather than objects, language, which turns a blank page from nothingness into something.

We can also think about use of codes, carrier pigeons, misunderstandings and other non-standard media in wars throughout European history. However, moving from inconsistency to denying existence of actor is an extreme solution. If we followed evidence, we would only write that Thakur and Bangas ordered brothers to revolt, however, many historians did not, and they agree that Thakur's participation was supposed to "prove" that brothers' rebellion was "legitimate".

To be clear: we advocate skepticism of sources, but these "claims" are disproportionately centered around Thakur, and in 1965 Stephen Fuchs told us that "By Name" Thakur brothers were in contact with them. Twenty years later, Edward Duik could not have been better at explaining that brothers "claimed" Thakura commission. Thakur cites a 1905 report by Francis Bradley-Bilt, Assistant Magistrate in Indian Civil Service, to support idea that these are "claims".

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

But Bradley-Birtt's own language was simple: Thakur "appeared and spoke" and "gave brothers sacred book without words." Thakur added doubts to his sources, and as recently as 2013, an article by Atis Dasgupta followed language of another assistant magistrate, W. W. Hunter's Rural Bengali Almanac, who wrote that brothers "declared a divine mission".

Another longstanding approach is to functionally interpret role of Thakur, as subtly seen in Kalijinkar Datta's mention of "stories of miraculous divine intervention" and comments that "religion often plays a huge stimulating role among common masses", and more often decompose religion into functionalism pragmatism.

Elizabeth Roeg-Hogan reduces Thakur's leadership to an idea in minds of brothers, "their justification for violence, their psychological support for confrontation with external authorities." In particular, Thakur gave Guha brothers statements that they were "used by rebels to justify turning world upside down in name of Thakur" and thus "simply to legitimize their attempts to cure world's ills with their own weapons." '.


He went on to explain that Brethren only called Bongs because their society was in crisis and chaos caused by some form of cultural contact, and typical logic of modern historians is perfectly reflected here. The 19th century Norwegian missionary Lars Skrevesrud explained Santal Uprising in 1871. He believed that it was "fanatical, socialist and political agitation, and religion was only a means to an end."

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

The issue of activity and causality goes back to trial of brothers. Ashley Eden, Assistant Special Commissioner for Rebel Affairs, testified: "Shodo and Kanu must be held accountable for all atrocities committed, not finding sufficient reasons to rebel, and propensity to plunder and kill is inherent in savage hill tribes for several reasons that I have no need to here indicate.

The ideas of missionaries and imperialists of more than a century ago are echoed in sources and in studies of some historians today. Some historians have approached Thakur, but mostly as an idea rather than a reality, instead they assume that he does not exist and psychologically analyze Santal's belief in him.

Apparently unable to accept fact that Thakur could look white or sit on ground, Guha believes that Thakur Kanhu's description is clearly a fabrication: "In that which is clearly overdetermined, colonizer Sa. pen is here enlarged to complex vision and elevated to divine power."

While Pratama Banerjee seeks to use postmodern theorists to model Santal's unique understanding of time and causality, her work is not directly related to reality of Thakura, but when She describes him in passing, although she insists that details are "not arbitrary and not simply "symbolic".

The author argues that Banerjee's language suggests a highly psychological interpretation: Thakur "dreamed of Sidhu and Kanhu", his white color symbolized "the invincibility of colonial power". The large number of fingers symbolizes "increased power transmitted through waving of written words". Burton Stein explained that Santals simply mixed Hinduism and Christianity with "pre-existing beliefs in magic and mythology" "as a mobilizing ideology".

For Jacques Pochepadas, Thakur was only a "symbolic factor" with no real leadership, and Santal was "a poor guerrilla, a primitive man doomed to early defeat", other historiography Instead of pointing cynically at non-believers or reducing them to delusions of Santal or propaganda, scientists simply ignore them.

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

Sugata Bose and Aisha Jalal's own account places leadership of Santal family on Sidor and Kanhu, thus ignoring three sentences in which brothers themselves place leadership on Thakur. C. A. Bailey astutely defined economic context of rebellion in "the fragile expansion of cash crops" and encroachment of Santal lands by "pioneer farmers and lumberjacks", but he left aside underlying causes of rebellion.

Similarly,Guha sheds light on context of legal inequality, but elevates this context to "one of most important causes of rebellion." Guha relies most on primary sources and is aware of selective interpretation of them by some historians, our "mixture of myopia and outright refusal to consider available evidence".

Guha criticized depiction of uprising, accusing historians of "attributing deliberate lies to their historical themes" that "are guided by a logic they don't understand" when confronted with religious phenomena. Although Guha regards man Kanhu, and not unbelieving Thakur, as "supreme commander" of Santal, his 1983 book "Essential Aspects of Peasant Revolts in Colonial India" comes perhaps closest to breaking with dogmatic limitations of doctrine of secularism.

On two occasions Guha seems to be writing from outside modern secularism: on one occasion he mentions content of main Pervana: “Thakur apparently supported Zamindar for Sarkar. The Mahajans and Mahajans fought against Santals, he very clearly ordered Sahibs to leave territory of Santals and retreat to other side of Ganges, otherwise they would face fire of Thakur.

It is true that Guha may have artificially adopted Pervan point of view for rhetorical effect, but on surface he takes Thakur seriously. In second paragraph, Guha relays report: "Oil and cinnabar in a bowl of leaves were sent to Sido and Kanhu and carried from village to village to appease Bangas so that they could help in fight."

Non-believers and historians argue about history: did Thakur participate in uprising against British

Guha continued dryly: "Given outcome of battle, it's impossible to be certain that Bongas was adequately pacified". Again, while humor may imply that we cannot accept his offer, on face of it this is indeed a serious attitude towards disbelief. Twenty years after rebellion, and even to this day, Santals still attribute failure of rebellion not to British superiority, but to their own failure to properly follow their traditions and Thakur's instructions.

The Santals did not see failure of Hula and did not consider that Thakur failed them, and Santals failed Thakur. Our historicization of Thakur's involvement with Khur does not end in 1856, he remains an active agent of history, and Santals still explain course of history by actions and inactions of Thakur.

In an article published in Friends of India in 1849, history written by Indians was described as "a simple account of events without reasoning about cause and effect." Bailey cites this passage as an example of "subjugation and reworking of Indian knowledge" carried out by some 19th-century European historians.

Many historians today continue this transcendent habit of a priori subjugating, reworking, and denying stories of Santal and other Indians told by Santal and other Indians.


Anderson (2007) Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a New Colonial Native

Russell McCutcheon's refutation of postmodernism and religious theory

Banaji P. (1999) Historical Behavior? The temporality of rebellion and practices of Santars.

Banaji P. (2002) Representing Past: Santal in Nineteenth-Century Bengal.

Barnett (2004) Enlightenment and Religion: The Myth of Modernity: Manchester.

Bailey (2000) Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India

Chakrabarti, The Regionalization of Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Differences

Boyer, P. (2001) Religious Interpretation: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought

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