Storm over Malkangiri : A Note on Laxman Naikos Revolt (1942)^
THE SUBJECT of this paper is a revolt in August 1942, in Malkangiri, the western most subdivision of the present-day Koraput district of Orissa.1 The region is inhabited by Khonds, Bhumiyas, Koyas, Parojas and Bondas and also non-tribals,2 and lies to the north of the Gudem-Rampa area, scene of the fairly well-known fituri tradition.3 I am trying to analyse here the social structure of Malkangiri, the nature of the contradictions between the people4 of Malkangiri, and the Jeypore estate as well as colonialism, the process of mobilisation and forms of protest which culminated in the revolt, headed by Laxman Naiko.
In 1802 the permanent settlement was introduced throughout Vishakapatnam under Regulation XXV of 1802, and the Jeypore estate was conferred upon Ramachandra Deo mth 3i peshkush of Rs. 16,000. In 1872 Malkangiri, which had been leased out to Bangara Devi by the Maharaja of Jeypore for Rs. 3,500, was taken over by the Raja and came to be directly administered.5 The peshkush stood at Rs. 16,000 in 1941. Interestingly, the income of the estate was Rs. 12 lakh, forests yielding Rs. 4 lakh more.6
Malkangiri was under the mustajari system. The mustajars were the people, usually village headmen, who were in possession of hereditary rights. They were required to collect taxes from the tenants and make payments to the estate, neither of which was fixed. They held hetha-bhumi (i.e., rent-free tenures) and enjoyed some privileges over the forests. Although we do not have any accurate data, it seems that sometimes they recruited gotis and bethias. On certain occasions they entered into profitable contracts with the Public Works Department to supply labourers. Moreover, the mustajars could be removed by the estate. Although their
*Dcpt. of History, Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University.
**I am thankful to the late Sri R.C. Satpathy and Shri L.D. Sahu for assisting me in my field-work, and to Prof. Sumit Sarkar, Dr. Gyanendra Pandey and Ms. Nalini Taneja for suggesting certain modifications ; however, only I am responsible for the views expressed in this paper.