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The Indian Robinhood who made British beg: Tantya Bhil ‘Mama’

~Shubhank Singh

 Tantya Bhil Known as the Robin Hood of India , he was close to a mythical figure in the conscious of the tribal populations of MP. Popularly called Mama by the people due to the love they possessed for him. In gratitude of the help that he provided in simple maintenance of families, marriage of a daughter, helping people fight against the atrocities,it is no doubt that he was loved so much by the people.

Born in a poor tribal family in the year 1840, Tantya lost his mother at a young age. It is said that the Patel of his village killed his mother.Tantya’s father never married again to take care of his son. They sustained on a small piece of land which was either affected by drought or excess rainfall in continued succession. This made it impossible for them to pay revenue and the land was confiscated by the Patel. This fueled his anger and motivated him to fight against it. This angered the dominant people and the colonial police of the area. The police in collaboration with the traders brought false charges of theft against him, Tantya fought against the police but was ultimately arrested and taken to Khandwa jail. This pushed him to resist the oppressive foreign master and its agents.

Tantya Bhil : The Robin Hood of India

As was expected the jail could not hold this eager beaver for long and he escaped from the jail to his playground the forest.  After escaping the jail, Tantya fought against the conspirators and took revenge one by one. After the act of revenge was complete Tantya started collecting the villagers for a revolution and away from slavery of the foreign rule and became the leader of hundreds of freedom fighters who fled to forests after the failed revolution attempt of 1857.

He started looting the zamindars and sahukars and redistributing it to the poor.Tantya was a protector of people and a fighter for the rights of the poor, giving the title ROBIN HOOD.The title itself was coined by the British media while referring to Tantya.

Tantya was not just a dacoit who wanted to loot but a great patriot who wanted foreigners out of his land. He was told by Tatya Tope the importance of Guerilla warfare and therefore keeping a doppelganger which, he duly followed by keeping doppelgangers in his group. One of the tactics he employed was simultaneously looting 5-6 places to confuse the authorities. After looting he used to enter Holkar territory. Some of his prominent associates were Mahadev Shaili, Kaal Baba, Bheema Nayak. All his associates had large groups of their own.

He had the status of head of the BHILS in Banswara, Bhilwara, Dungerpur, Betul and Dhar. So impressesd was Tatya Tope that he trained Tantya in guerilla warfare.  He was the first rebel Bhil from Nimar. Many stories are attached to Tantya Bhilgiving him superpowers like a mythical hero such that he could disappear and even if he would stand in front of the British and they would not recognize him. This clearly indicates that he was a great guerrilla fighter that if he enters the forest his knowledge of forest was such that it was impossible to catch him. Also, a new police brigade was formed to catch him,it was called Tantya Police Brigade.

Mama: inscribed in the pages of history with the gold letters.

On November 21, 1858 the freedom fighters took over the Khargone fort with the help of Tantya and team Tantya fighting distinctly with the great Tatya Tope and rescued the freedom fighters from Jabalpur Jail along with Raghunath Mandoli. He was deceived and told that all accusations against him were withdrawn and he would be pardoned but he was arrested at the house of his Rakhi (not blood) sister on the day Rakshabandhan due to the conspiracy of the husband of the woman, who was a trusted lieutenant of Tantya- GANPAT RAJPUT.

On 26th of September 1889 he was brought before the deputy commissioner of Jabalpur and the cases were charged and run against him in the court. On December 4th, 1889 he was secretly hanged but there is belief that it was not Tantya but his doppelganger.

Tantya Bhil was a great patriot overlooked by pages of history but not by the people for whom he fought,  there is a just demand to install his statue in the corridors of the Parliament which will remind us of him and countless others who sacrificed their lives for the motherland. It is our duty to remember all such heroes not only in our conscious but also our conscience when we exercise our freedom.

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