Day 2 – Q 2.The British rule in India witnessed several peasant movements. Why did peasants rebel against the British? What were the most common underlying factors? How did peasants mobilize against the rule? Discuss.
2. The British rule in India witnessed several peasant movements. Why did peasants rebel against the British? What were the most common underlying factors? How did peasants mobilize against the rule? Discuss.
भारत में ब्रिटिश शासन में कई किसान आंदोलन हुए। किसानों ने अंग्रेजों के खिलाफ विद्रोह क्यों किया? सबसे आम अंतर्निहित कारक क्या थे? किसान शासन के खिलाफ कैसे लामबंद हुए? चर्चा करें।
Agriculture being a very important source of revenue during the British Raj, peasants were the most exploited class in the Indian economy as a direct result of the transformation of the agrarian structure. The peasant movements proved to be a very important phase of Indian struggle against the oppressive British rule.
Indian peasantry was impoverished as a result of:
- Regressive taxation policies: Permanent settlement, Ryotwari systems etc.
- Ruin of traditional handicrafts leading to overcrowding of land
- Dominating interference in the forest acts, forest rights and traditional social fabric
- Distorted measures of land revenue collections etc.
Common underlying factors to the peasant movements include:
- Unreasonably high rents and protection to the landlords and moneylenders.
- Arbitrary evictions and unpaid labour.
- Exploitation of the already overburdened farmers by the Zamindars and moneylenders.
- Harsh systems of the British. E.g: Forced cultivations of Indigo crop, Sunset clause, seizure of cattle and crops due to non-payment of loans etc.,
- Transferability of land which deprived the traditional occupancy rights.
- Lack of awareness of clauses leading to sudden loss of land and work, leading to collective uprisings.
Mobilization of the peasants can be explained in 4 phases:
Peasant movements before 1857:
- The peasants during this phase organized themselves and elected their own leader.
- They collectively raised a huge army equipping themselves with primitive weapons.
- Peasants attacked courts and looted stores.
- Prominent places became the centres of mobilization.
- Examples of this phase are: The Rangpur Rebellion ( 1783)
Peasant movements after 1857:
- Mobilization of peasants in protests continued in some earlier forms but acquired new features in this phase.
- Greater awareness of colonial policies, laws and institutions helped the peasants protest in a prepared manner to some extent.
- There was growing involvement of educated middle class intelligentsia such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, RC Dutt etc., as spokespersons for the movements.
- The Deccan riots of 1875 were characterized with burning of deeds, bonds and looting the zamindar offices.
Movements in the 1920s:
- This phase saw the development of class consciousness, influenced by the Gandhian movement, Russian Movements etc.,
- Local issues integrated with the national cause of Swaraj
- Creation of Sabhas, Conferences and Co-operative movements to ensure fair systems of land revenue and tenancy.
- Example: creation of UP/Awadh Kisan Sabha (1918)
Peasant Movements after the WW2:
- Earlier movements were mostly non-violent with small fractions of violent surges, but this phase had increasingly violent uprisings.
- Examples: Telangana Movement (1946-51), Tebhaga Movement where the peasants revolted using mass struggle with the support of Bengal Province Kisan Sabha.
The Peasant movements created an atmosphere and led to many immediate and post-independence agrarian reforms. Though in diverse areas, the revolts indulged on the broad ideology of nationalism.