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Peasant Movements—1857-1947 (III)


The part I of Peasant movement which was an agricultural movement dealt with peasantry under colonialism and early peasant movements. The part II was associated with later peasant movements of 20th century which affected the national freedom struggle to a great extent. The final part III discusses the peasant activity in various provinces.

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PEASANT ACTIVITY IN PROVINCES

Kerala

  • In the Malabar region, the peasants were mobilised mainly by the Congress Socialist Party activists.
  • Many  peasant organisations also known as Karshak Sanghams came into existence.
  • The most popular method was the marching of jaths or peasants groups to the landlords to get their demands accepted.
  • One significant campaign by the peasants was in 1938 for the amendment of the Malabar Tenancy Act, 1929.

Andhra

  • This region had already witnessed a decline in the prestige of zamindars after their defeat by Congressmen in election & Anti-zamindar movements were going on in some places.
  • Many provincial ryot associations were active. N.G. Ranga had set up the India Peasants’ Institute in 1933.
  • After 1936, the Congress socialists started organising the peasants.
  • At many places, the summer schools of economics and politics were held and addressed by leaders like P.C. Joshi, Ajoy Ghosh and R.D. Bhardwaj.

Bihar

  • Here, Sahjanand Saraswati was joined by Karyanand Sharma, Yadunandan Sharma, Rahul Sankritayan, Panchartan Sharma, Jamun Karjiti, etc.
  • In 1935, the Provincial Kisan Conference adopted the anti-zamindari slogan.
  • The Provincial Kisan Sabha developed a rift with the Congress over the bakasht land issue because of an unfavorable government resolution which was not acceptable to the sabha.
  • The movement ceased to exist by August 1939.

Punjab

  • The earlier peasant mobilisation here had been organised by the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the Kirti Kisan Party, the Congress and the Akalis.
  • A new direction to the movement was given by the Punjab Kisan Committee in 1937.
  • The main targets of the movement were the landlords of western Punjab who dominated the unionist ministry.
  • The immediate issues taken up were resettlement of land revenue in Amritsar and Lahore and increase in water rates in canal colonies of Multan and Montgomery where feudal levies were being demanded by the private contractors.
  • Here the peasants went on a strike and were finally able to win concessions.
  • The peasant activity in Punjab was mainly concentrated in Jullundur, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Lyallpur and Shekhupura.
  • The Muslim tenants at will of west Punjab and the Hindu peasants of south-eastern Punjab (today’s Haryana) remained largely unaffected.
  • Peasant activity was also organised in Bengal (Burdwan and 24 Parganas), Assam (Surma Valley), Orissa, Central Provinces and NWFP.

DURING THE WAR

  • Because of a pro-War line adopted by the communists, the AIKS was split on communist and non-communist lines and many veteran leaders like Sahianand, Indulal Yagnik and N.G. Ranga left the sabha.
  • But the Kisan Sabha continued to work among the people and helped outstandingly during the famine of 1943.

 

POST-WAR PHASE

Tebhaga Movement,

  • In September 1946, the Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha gave a call to implement, through mass struggle, the Flood Commission recommendations of tebhaga two-third share to the bargardars, the share croppers also known as bagehasi or adhyar, instead of the one-half share.
  • The bargardars worked on lands rented from the jotedars. The communist cadres, including many urban student militias went to the countryside to organise the bargardars.
  • The central slogan was “nij khamare dhan tolo” which means sharecroppers taking the paddy to their own threshing floor and not to the jotedar’s house, as before, so as to enforce tebhaga.
  • The storm centre of the movement was north Bengal, principally among Rajbanshis, a low caste of tribal origin.
  • Muslims also participated in large numbers.
  • The movement dissipated soon, because of the League, ministry’s sop of the Bargardari Bill, an intensified repression, the popularisation of the Hindu Mahasabha’s agitation for a separate Bengal and renewed riots in Calcutta which ended the prospects of sympathetic support from the urban sections.

Telangana Movement,

  • Biggest peasant guerrilla war of modern Indian history affecting 3000 villages and 3 million populations.
  • The princely state of Hyderabad under Asajahi Nizams was marked by a combination of religious-linguistic domination (by a mall Urdu speaking Muslim elite ruling over predominantly Hindu-Telugu, Marathi, Kannada- speaking groups), total lack of political and civil liberties, grossest forms of forced exploitation by deshmukhs, jagirdars, doras i.e. landlords in forms of forced labour i.e. vethi and illegal exactions.
  • During the war the communist-led guerrillas had built a strong base in Telangana villages through Andhra Mahasabha and had been leading local struggles on issues such as wartime exactions, abuse of rationing, excessive rent and vethi.
  • The uprising began in July 1946 when a deshmukh’s thug murdered a village militant in Jangaon taluq of Nalgonda.
  • Soon, the uprising spread to Warrangal and Kharnmam.
  • The peasants organised themselves into village sanghams, and attacked using lathis, stone slings and chilli powder. They had to face brutal repression.
  • The movement was at its greatest intensity between August 1947 and September1948.
  • The peasants brought about a rout of the Razaqars, the Nizam’s storm troopers. Once the Indian security forces took over Hyderabad, the movement fizzled out.
  • The Telangana movement had many positive achievement to its credit.
  • In the villages controlled by guerrillas, vethi and forced labour disappeared.
  • Agricultural wages were raised.
  • Illegally seized lands were restored.
  • Steps were taken to fix ceilings and redistribute lands. Measures were taken to improve irrigation and fight cholera.
  • An improvement in the condition of women was witnessed.
  • The autocratic-feudal regime of India’s biggest princely state was shaken up, clearing the way for the formation of Andhra Pradesh on linguistic lines and realising another aim of the national movement in this region.

BALANCE-SHEET OF PEASANT MOVEMENTS

  • These movements created an atmosphere for post-independence agrarian reforms, for example, abolition of zamindari.
  • They eroded the power of the landed class, thus adding to the transformation of the agrarian structure.
  • These movements were based on the ideology of nationalism
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