Remembering the Kharsawan Massacre: A Parallel to Jallianwala Bagh

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January 2, 2024

Remembering the Kharsawan Massacre: A Parallel to Jallianwala Bagh


  • The echoes of the tragic Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 resonated in the lesser-known yet equally sorrowful events that unfolded in Kharsawan on January 1, 1948. While the world welcomed New Year’s Day with joy, the Adivasis from Jharkhand’s Kolhan region observed it as a day of mourning and remembrance. This day marked a gruesome incident akin to the infamous massacre, where police fired upon a crowd gathered for a protest and the weekly haat, claiming the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of Adivasis.

The Struggle for an Adivasi State

Historical Context:

  • The roots of discontent and demand for a separate Adivasi state trace back to the partition of the Bengal Presidency in 1912, resulting in the creation of the Bihar and Orissa Province. Despite distinct cultural identities and grievances, the Adivasi population’s plea for autonomy gained momentum. The Simon Commission in 1930 acknowledged the province’s artificial unity, yet the Adivasis’ demands remained largely unheard.

Kharsawan’s Predicament

Issue of Merger:

  • At the cusp of Independence, Kharsawan, a small princely state, faced the dilemma of joining Orissa, due to its linguistic alignment, or Bihar, as an alternative. However, most Adivasis opposed this merger, advocating fervently for a separate Adivasi state. The pivotal moment came on January 1, 1948, when a massive gathering in Kharsawan protested against the impending merger, coinciding with the town’s weekly haat.

Tragedy Unfolds

Tense Atmosphere:

  • The sizable and impassioned assembly unnerved the Orissa military police tasked with maintaining order. This period marked the integration of princely states into the Union of India, leading to a volatile situation. As the crowd awaited Jaipal Munda’s presence, the absence of the prominent leader escalated tension. The police, surrounded by restless protestors, resorted to firing, resulting in a catastrophic loss of life.

Aftermath and Unanswered Questions

Uncertain Toll:

  • The aftermath remains clouded in uncertainty regarding the actual casualty count. While the official confirmation stated 35 deaths, accounts suggest a much higher toll, possibly reaching thousands. The absence of a clear perpetrator responsible for ordering the massacre remains a haunting mystery to this day.

Legacy and Commemoration


  • Today, a memorial stands at the marketplace in Kharsawan, serving as a poignant testament to the tragedy. Politicians, including state leaders, pay homage at this site on New Year’s Day, acknowledging the solemnity attached to this historical event.


  • The Kharsawan massacre, reminiscent of the chilling echoes of Jallianwala Bagh, remains a poignant chapter in the struggle for Adivasi rights and autonomy, etched in the collective memory of Jharkhand’s history.

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Remembering the Kharsawan Massacre: A Parallel to Jallianwala Bagh | Vaid ICS Institute