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Tipu Shah

Tipu Shah (?-1852) a leader of the leader of the pagal panthi movement. Son of Karim Shah and Chandi Bibi, he succeeded to the leadership of the pagal panthi movement after the death of his father in 1813. Under Tipu Shah the movement turned into a peasant rebellion against local zamindars directly and the English east india company indirectly. He and his followers fought some pitched battles against the authority. He even succeeded in the establishment of an independent administration in Sherpur area.

The foremost cause of Tipu's revolt had been the indiscriminate oppression of the zamindars on the raiyats of northern Mymensingh. A chain of events and the imposition of new taxes multiplied the sufferings of the people. In 1820 the Sherpur zamindari was split up among the claimants. It was followed by long-drawn litigation involving huge expenditure. Moreover, the Anglo-Burmese war incurred heavy losses on the company's exchequer. It planned to recover from the zamindars. The zamindars in turn shifted the burden, rather in a heavier way, on the raiyats. They imposed additional taxes and started collection forcibly. People started in movements.

Tipu Shah gave leadership to this movement. He univocally proclaimed that there could be no unilateral ownership over land. All human beings, as the creation of God, have equal claim to land. He intensely felt the necessity of a religious and just ruler who might ensure the happiness, peace, security and prosperity of the people. According to him one who oppressed people forfeited the right to be a ruler. Since the zamindars of Sherpur oppressed and repressed the raiyats and the company gave them support, none of them, therefore, had the moral claim to be the ruler. In the given condition Tipu Shah decided to play the role of a just and religious ruler.

Tipu's proclamation induced people to group themselves under his banner in thousands and they stopped paying taxes to the zamindars. Naturally there ensued skirmishes between Tipu's followers and the paiks and barkandazes of the zamindars who were at times supported by the police and the regular army of the company. Initially the Pagal Panthis succeeded under the joint leadership of Tipu and his mother (Pir-Mata). They even established independent administration in the region and it continued for over two years.

Gar-jaripa, a mud-fort to the north of Sherpur, was selected as the capital of Tipu Shah. He appointed his people to the various important administrative posts. Bakshu Sarkar was made a judge, Gumanu a collector, Jarip Pagal and some others faujdars. His principles of administration were liberal, philanthropic and theocratic in nature. He assumed the rein of government in the name of Allah and by popular consent. He forbade theft, robbery, murder, usury, bribery, deceit, fraud and the like in his domain. He reduced the land tax to the minimum (four annas per kani, which is 120 decimals). People stopped paying taxes to the zamindars and, instead, revenues and Sultani were being collected in the name of Tipu Shah.

However, the combined efforts of police, local administration and army led to the defeat of Tipu's people and his arrest. He was first arrested on 7 December 1824 and released on bail two days later. Soon he was again arrested and again he was accorded bail on 17 December. He was arrested for the third time in early January 1825, put on trial and sentenced to imprisonment. There are several stories relating to his spiritual power and depicting him to be a man of extraordinary caliber.

Janku Pathor and Dubraj Pathor gave leadership to the Pagal Panthis even after the arrest of Tipu Shah. They continued the struggle for sometime. Meanwhile some of the grievances of the people were met and by 1833-34 the movement subsided.

Tipu Shah died in jail in 1852 after suffering imprisonment for more than 25 years. [M Delwar Hussain]