Movements for the Emancipation of Women: Peasant Movements, National Movement

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Peasant Movements, National Movement & the Indian National Congress

First peasant movement led by any Congress leader was the No Revenue Campaigns organized by Tikal in Maharashtra in 1896 – 97.

Champaran Satyagraha (1917)

The peasants in Champ ran were forced to cultivate indigo by the European planters. They faced all kinds of extortions at the hands of the planters. Raj Kumar Skull, a ruined peasant took up the cause of indigo peasants. In 1916 he went toy Lucknow Congress Session and spoke from the Congress platform about the plight of Champ ran peasants. It was Raj Kumar Skull who brought Gandhi to Champ ran (in 1917) to see for himself the plight of peasants.

Champaran Satyagraha
  • A movement was launched and ultimately the Government had to yield to certain demands of the peasants. Government had to appoint an enquiry committee (1917) with Gandhi as one of the members. The Champ ran Agrarian Act freed the tenants from the special imposts levied by indigo planters. But the Congress leaders did not follow up the matter to its logical conclusion by freeing the Champ ran peasants from the excessive rents charged by the Zamindari and exorbitant interest rates charged by the money lenders.

Khera Campaign (1918)

  • It was led by Mahatma Gandhi and was directed against the Government. There was crop failure and drought and Gandhi demanded reduction in revenue. The Government had to accept the demand.
  • The leadership of Gandhi in the Champ ran and Kher peasant movements established him as the mass leader of the Indian peasants. The possibility of mobilizing the peasant for organizing anti – British mass movements now opened up before the Congress leaders. With greater participation of the peasants in various Congress – led campaigns, the national movement was to assume the form of peasant nationalism.

Peasant Movement During 1920

Kisan Sabha were organized in Bengal, Punjab U. P. The peasant movements were now increasingly being brought within the fold of the Indian national movements. Most of the peasant movements now were led by the Congress leaders (and later even by Communists) . Congress – led peasant movements generally demanded a reduction in revenue and rent. But more radical movements wanted abolition of Zamindari and raised the demand of land being given to the peasants. By now the peasants had learnt that they should remain organized and they should protest against the taluqdars and Zamindari and form their own organizations such as the Kisan Sabha.

The major grievances of the peasants were as follows:

  • In many regions the peasants had no occupancy rights on the lands tilled by them. The landlords had the power to evict them which they used to harass their tenants.
  • Besides the regular taxes payable to the landlords, the landlords compelled the tenants to pay ‘Nazarenes’ , ‘Awas’ and other gifts on various pretexts.
  • The heavy burden of land revenue/rent made the peasantry heavily indebted to village merchants and landlords who charged heavy interests rates. It was very difficult for the peasants to get rid of the debt – trap which continued from generation to generations.
  • The outbreak of the First World War added to the miseries of the peasants. For example, in many regions they had to pay for war funds, military service, etc.
  • During this period there was a sharp rise in the prices of food grains. This rise in prices benefited the middlemen and the merchants, not the poor.

The Government was on the side of the landlords because it needed their support. This was the reason why the peasants generally choose the path of revolt and actively supported the Congress.

  • Peasant Movements in Awadhi – Peasant movements, particularly in Awadhi, got associated with the Non – Cooperation Movement. The nationalists showed a great deal of interest in the peasant problems. The peasants did not enjoy durable occupancy rights and had to pay Marana (extra premium) to get the retain their holdings. The landlords also imposed forced labour, razed (forced supplies) and various other illegal extortions. Many Kisan Sabha were organized in 1918. It was Baba Ram Chandra who took the first steps towards organizing peasants of Awadhi against the landlords. He had worked as indentured labour in Fiji and returned to Awadhi villages in 1917 – 18. He dressed like a ‘sansei’ and mobilized the peasants. He made effective use of Tulsidas՚s Ramacharitamanas for awakening the peasants. He was arrested in 1920; In 1921, a widespread peasant uprising took place in districts such as Rae Bareli, Azizabad and Sultanpur. A large number of peasants were killed. The movement faded out due to the repressive policy of the Government and the tendency of the Congress leaders to restrain it. But the government was compelled to amend the Oudh Rent Act in 1922. One of the important features of this movement was that it was in the course of this movement that Jawaharlal Nehru for the first time became aware of the plight of the peasants and took up their cause.
  • Eke Movement: This movement was integral part of the Awadhi peasant movement and it covered such districts of Awadhi as Hardoi, Barabanki and Sitar. It began in 1921. Its leader was Midair Pasic, a man of radical outlook. The Eke movement posed a serious threat to the government and the Awadhi landlords. Although the movement was ultimately crushed, Midair Pasic could not be captured.
  • Peasants Movement in Bihar: Swami Vidyananda took over the leadership of the peasant movement in Bihar in 1920s. He organized the peasants against the oppressive Darbhanga Raj. However, at this stage the peasant movement in Bihar was not as militant as in U. P.
  • The Revolt of Mappila (Mohan) peasants in Malabar (1921) : There existed a long tradition of Mullah Peasant resistance against the Namsudra Brahman landlords and the Non Jennies during the 19th century. The Mullah tenants protested against insecurity of tenure, high rents and illegal cases. The revolt started against the tested against the anti – Khilafat policies of the British Government. The mullah revolt, therefore, became part Khilafat and Non – Cooperation Movements. The Mullah peasants launched attacks on Government offices, courts and police stations. The local Congress leaders passed a resolution demanding tenancy reforms. However, despite being integrated into the framework of the national movement, the Mullah uprising of 1921 contained millenarian sentiments as the peasants were inspired after rumors of the inevitable collapse of British authority. Since the peasants were Muslims and landlords were Hindus, the Government succeeded in giving the Mullah uprising a communal color and suppress it.
  • Bardoli Peasant Movement (1928) : The movement began as a not – tax campaign by the peasants of Bardoli in Gujarat against the move of the Government to increase revenue demand by thirty percent, despite fall in cotton prices. The movement was led by Sardar Valla Bhai Patel. It was the first peasant movement successfully employing Gandhi and techniques of boycott and non – cooperation. The Bardoli campaign soon became a national issue. Ultimate the Government had to reduce enhancement to six per cent.
  • Peasant Movements in Mewari (Rajasthan) : Peasants movement in Mewari began in 1905. There was another peasant՚s movement in 1913 when peasants refused to cultivate lands at Bijoplia – a big Mewari jaguar held by Parmar Rajput՚s. The 1913 Bijjala peasant Movement was led by a monk (sadhu) , Sitaram Das. Vijay Singh Pathak along with a state official Manic Lal Velma led a no – tax campaign against the Maharani of Mewari in 1916. The peasants of Bijjala again launched a movement in 1920s. They organized a Satyagraha against beggar and fresh cusses in 1927. The Bijjala peasant movements was anti – feudal in character.

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