Social Scientist. v 10, no. 104 (Jan 1982) p. 44.


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NOTE

The Fakir and Sannyasi Rebellion

THIS note intends to raise a set of questions which may generate intensive research on a rebellion which took the character of a protracted popular resistance against the early phase of colonial exploitation in Bengal during the second half of the 18th century.

This movement, which -is generally known as the Fakir and Sannyasi rebellion, has so far been dealt with in a manner which is either subjective or fragmentary. Leaving aside the contemporary or near-contemporary writings of the colonial administrators or similar English chroniclers who, even in their benevolent mood, cannot be expected to have considered the rebellion as anything beyond a disturbing law-and-order problem, even the publications by scholars— both Indian and non-Indian—are not such as would satisfy a young researcher. The books of Jamini M Ghosh,1 perhaps the first attempt to reconstruct the rebellion on the basis of official source materials, can be easily seen through as a scholarly effort to draw subjective conclusions by a loyal "Rai Sahib" of the British Raj. A recent book by A N Chandra,2 on the other hand, represents another extreme outlook which is anxious to condier the rebellion as a nationalist outburst in an elementary form. The papers ofJN Farquhar, B S Cohn, N B Roy and D H A Kolff,3 though they deal with certain specific aspects of the rebellion, provide only tentative suggestions without considering the problem in a comprehensive way. D N Lorenzen's article,4 though ambitious in its scope, does not settle down to any pointed conclusion.

It may, however, be relevant to remember that the popular imagination on the theme of Sannyasi rebellion has been stimulated among the educated middle class in Bengal, during the last one hundred years, not by the above scholarly publications but primarily by Anandamath, a historical novel written on the rebellion by Bankim Chandra Chatter jee in 1882. Published almsot a century after the rebellion, the novel with its song "Bandemataram" is generally known to have inspired certain trends of freedom struggle in India to a considerable extent. In spite of its significance and literary excellence, the novel has an overtone of Hindu revivalism and an attitude of coexistence with the British rule which indicate serious



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