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Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur (TMBU) today celebrating its 47 th establishing anniversary amid utter confusion about the back ground of the legendary figure Tilka Manjhi!
The varsity is completely unfazed and unware about the history of this legendary freedom fighter from primitive indigenous tribe of Rajmahal series of hills in this ancient Anga Pradesh. No historical evidences yet throw light on this legendary character too.
However, admires ( like this varsity) of the legendary worrier Tilka Manjhi, once became disappointed and frustrated. The reason : no proper reorganization is yet given to this forgotten hero like other freedom fighters. Tilka the hero of Paharia revolt at Rajmahal hills (1766-1780), Asia’s first revolt against the British colonialism however remained a forgotten chapter in history.
Despite Bhagalpur University had changed its name as Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University (TMBU) in 1992 and there is a chowk, Tilka Manjhi chowk in his name in the heart of this ancient city, no official record is available which could throw light on Tilka Manjhi.
TMBU however today celebrated the establishment day function but not a single words come for this legendary hero whose name was haired by this varsity.
Rajiv Sinha, a senior professor in the faculty of history in the varsity however revealed that during the tenure ship of Ramashray Yadav as vice chancellor (2002-03) the varsity published a booklet on Tilka Manjhi and Sinha was also a contributor in that. But today he could not give any historical references related to Tilka Manjhi.
On the otherhand, sources claimed that the contains in that booklet was very similar to the famous Bengali novel ‘ Shaal Giraher Dake’ by Mahasweta Devi. Faculty of history in the varsity has yet not any historical evidence on which it could in a position to say something on Tilka Manjhi, the sources claimed.
“The varsity spent lakhs of rupees in research and other works but it is very unfortunate that no proper research work done yet to focus on his life. More interestingly, his character is yet not included at any school or college level syllabus,” alleged Raman Sinha, another professor in the faculty of history in the varsity.
But as per the prevailing popular belief (myth!) Tilka Manjhi, hero of the famous Paharia revolt, a pioneer movement of freedom struggle in India, was arrested in 1785, flogged, tied to a horse and dragged through Bhagalpur town before being hanged from a banyan tree which was located at Tilka Manjhi chowk which was destroyed some years back in lightening. Hence site is known as Tilka Manjhi Chowk, the area is known after him where local administration built his statute after the Independence.
“Perhaps TMBU is the sole varsity in the country which has no idea about Tilka Manjhi on whose name it is functining; no research was conducted on him so far. This is why Tilka becomes a legendary myth here,” said Rashmi Kumari, a former student of the faculty of history of TMBU.
People here along with the neighbouring districts of Santhal Parganas at Jharkhand celebrate February 11 every year as the birth anniversary of this legendary hero who for the first time revolted against the British rule in India though the history does not have evidence on Tilka was no contemporary writer or any historian of his age, Tilka Manjhi disappeared form the pages of history.
Many historians found similarity of Tilka Manjhi with Jaora Paharia. The name of Jaora Paharia is might not very familiar to the people although historians are getting increasingly intrigued by his shadowy figure. What is undisputed at the moment though is the empathy that Paharias (endangered primitive tribes resides atop Rajmahal series of hills at neighbouring Santhal Parganas who earlier ruled over the
region) along with a section of historians feel today for the late hero, who, they claim, was none else but Tilka Manjhi, deified as a martyr and the first freedom fighter from this region (Santhal Parganas was a part of Bhagalpur).
The British rulers brought out a copper coin on Jaora Paharia around 1894, almost a hundred years after his death. Curiously, British records describe him as a rebel and a “dreaded bandit” ruling over Rajmahal Hills. Why would they issue the coin to commemorate a rebel?
Historical evidences claim that Jaora was actually made the commander-in-chief of the 1,300-strong Hill Archers’ Core (HAC) comprising Paharias of Rajmahal hills armed with bows and arrows. The band was meant to subjugate the Rajmahal hills. For reasons not yet clear, Jaora Paharia fell from grace and was denounced as a rebel and a bandit.
Some historians have sought to explain that the Company was forced to issue the coin in a bid to win over the Paharias. After having failed to control them, the Company tried everything to appease the tribals.
Former district collector, Bhagalpur, Augustus Cleveland in November 1779 recommended to Warren Hastings that the Paharias be allowed to promote their traditional customs and social systems. He also wanted Hastings to provide financial assistance to the Paharias. It was the same design that prompted Eyne Cool, the than in-charge of “Damin-i-koh” (a Partisan word meaning the skirt of the hills and referred on the Rajmahal series of mountains), in 1782 to constitute
the Hill Archers’ Core. And the issue of the copper coin, too, appeared part of a desperate appeasement policy, writes Rajendra Singh in his book on Tilka Manjhi.
Singh also advances the theory that the Company and later the British rulers tried to divide the Paharias and the Santhals. In his District Gazeteer of Santhal Parganas, P.C. Roy Choudhury endorses such
attempts and records how the village heads were offered allowances to the Paharias. “The chiefs of northern hills gladly accepted the allowances but they were turned down by the chiefs in hills to the
south,” mentions the Gazeteer ( page 66).
Tilka Manjhi is acknowledged by historians as well in the folks songs on the Rajamahl series of hills as a Robinhood-like figure. He is said to have sustained a guerrilla warfare, attacked Bhagalpur in 1784 and
killed the young collector, Cleveland, with a poisoned arrow. At least that is what Kumar Suresh Singh has written in his book Tribal Society of India (An Anthropology-History perspective), on page-121.
But historical records said about the sudden demise of the 29 year-year old Cleveland on January 13, 1784 after falling ill. But the history did not mention detail about the fatal disease which killed him.
Historians have been claiming that Tilka Manjhi was none else than Jaora Paharia. “The paharais made Jaora alive in the form of Tilka as the imaginary reincarnation just to keep the revolution alive. He should be given due regards like other martyrs ,” said Lallan Verma, a history scholar here.