With Indian celebrating its 75th year of independence this year on August 15, we take a trip down the memory late to remember one of the less talked about personalities who inspired many during the country’s uphill battle for freedom. Tantia was a Bhil tribe member of the indigenous tribal community, born in village Badada, tehsil Pandhana of state Madhya Pradesh in 1842. He embarked on a revolutionary path after the harsh measures the British took following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Tantia was first arrested around 1874 for theft and kidnapping, then arrested for the second time in 1878 by Haji Nasrullah Khan Yousufzai. After being jailed in Khandwa, he escaped after only three days and took up his life as a dacoit who robbed the British and distributed the plundered wealth among the poor and needy, earning him the title “The Robin hood Of India”. Tantia was a rebel and a messiah who spoke out against the British policy of exploitation of the poor and tribals, as per Wikipedia.
Since childhood, he lived in dense forests, valleys, ravines and mountains all his life, fighting with the British and Holkar State’s armies. He wanted to teach the British a lesson and realize Bhils’ dream of a socialist society. Fired with a passion for freeing India from British subjugation, he broke the jail many times.
He inflicted reverses on the police of the mighty British Empire, eluding them for many years. Tatya Tope, another rebel, is reported to have mastered the ‘guerrilla battle’ after being influenced by Tantia Bhil, who was skilled in guerrilla techniques. Apart from being a great shooter and a proficient archery player, Tantia was experienced in handling a gun.
Role In Freedom Struggle
Revolutionaries like Tantia Bhil revolted against British rule before the political parties, and the educated class launched a forceful movement to end the British government. Tantia Bhil symbolized the feelings of tribals and general masses with his indomitable courage and passion for uprooting British rule.
Described negatively as a criminal by the British, he was one of the greatest revolutionaries of the Indian Freedom struggle who waged an armed war against the British government for twelve years. He was popularly called “Mama” by people of all age groups. This address of Tantia became so popular that the Bhils still feel proud of being addressed as “Mama”.
Caught And Tortured By Britishers
Tantia Bhil was ultimately arrested and taken to Jabalpur jail, where the Britishers tortured him inhumanely, perpetrating all kinds of atrocities upon him. The New York Times 1889 edition published the news of Tantia’s arrest and described him as the “Robin Hood of India”. The British sentenced him to be hanged till death on 19 October 1889.
It is generally believed that after hanging him, his body was thrown near Patalpani railway station on the Khandwa rail route near Indore as the British government was scared about the breaking out of a Bhil rebellion. The spot where his wooden effigies were placed is considered to be the Samadhi of Tantia Mama. Even today, all the train drivers stop the train for a moment as a mark of respect to Tantia Mama.