Pagal Panthis - Peasant Rebellions

Peasant Rebellions

The patron-saint of the Pagal Panthis, Majnu Shah, had been famous for encouraging revolts against the British East India Company, which had gained control over Bengal and later much of India. Under Tipu Shah, the order focused on organising peasants in rebellions against oppressive taxes and laws imposed by the zamindars (landlords) and the British.

The region had been devastated by war between British forces and Burma. To meet the costs of war, severe taxation was imposed on the region's peasants by the Company and the landlords. Forcible collections and usurption of property increased peasant discontent and disorder. The Pagal Panthis sought to protect and defend peasants from the militias of the landlords and the Company's armed forces. Basing his forces in a mud-fort near Sherpur, Tipu Shah proclaimed his rule in the name of Allah and assumed the religious and political leadership of the community. The people of the region stopped paying taxes to the British and followed Tipu Shah's rulings. Although Tipu Shah and his aides were arrested in 1833 and tried, the government subsequently met many of the peasant demands, including lowering the rent rate and other taxes. Compromises and agreements between the landlords, the Company and the peasants helped restore peace and order in the northern Mymensingh region.

After Tipu Shah's death in 1852, the order came under the leadership of Janku and Dobraj Pathor, who organised another peasant resistance movement against the landlords and British authorities. An armed group of Pagal Panthis under the leadership of the Pathors stormed into Sherpur town, looted government offices and overpowered the officials, landlords and police, forcing them to flee to Mymensingh. Declaring themselves rulers of the town and surrounding areas, the rebels held control for almost two years. Negotiations and compromises between the rebels and the British helped forge peace and further concessions to the cause of the peasants.

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