(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "Peasant & Trade Union Movements"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: Peasant & Trade Union Movements

Easy Containment of New Areas of Conflict: In the Revolt of 1857, a major driving force had been popular resistance to the system of rule imposed on India by the British. Once British power had been destroyed in northern India by the army revolt, many popular grievances coalesced with explosive power. The defeat of the revolt left most of these grievances unresolved. As the imperial power consolidated its hold during the course of the next half a century, new areas of conflict emerged. These conflicts were, however, more easily contained by the state. Improvements in communications, the development of the machine gun and the expansion of the police and military, all these made it easier to crush popular insurgency before it could spread beyond a fairly local area. Conflicts therefore tended to remain localized and confined to particular grievances.

Types of Peasant Resistance: Some scholars have attempted to divide popular resistance into five types: (1) restorative rebellions to drive out the British and restore earlier rulers and social relations; (2) religious movements for the liberation of a region or an ethnic group so as to establish a new form of government; (3) social banditry; (4) terrorist vengeance, with ideas of meting out collective justice; (5) mass insurrections for the redress of particular grievances. Others see the chief areas of resistance as follows: (1) anti-European planter; (2) anti-landlord; (3) anti ­money lender; (4) anti-land tax bureaucracy; and (5) anti-forest officials.

Indigo Agitation of Bengal (1859-60)

It was the result of the oppression and exploitation of the peasants of Bengal by the European monopolistic indigo planters. This was vividly portrayed by Dina Bandhu Mitra in his play Nil Darpan, enacted in 1869. Following this oppression the peasants refused to cultivate indigo and took to armed resistance against the planters. Bishnucharan Biswas and Digambar Biswas played a prominent role in this resistance.

Further, the intelligentsia of Bengal organised a powerful campaign in support of the rebellious peasants. This led to the appointment of the Indigo Commission of 1869 by the government and removal of some of the abuses of indigo cultivation. This led to the appointment of the Indigo Commission of 1869 by the government and removal of some of the abuses of indigo cultivation.

Pabna Movement or Peasant Unrest in East Bengal (1872-76)

In east Bengal the peasantry was oppressed by zamindars through frequent recourse to ejection, harassment, illegal seizure of property, arbitrary enhancement of rent and use of force. Consequently, the peasants organised no­rent unions and launched armed attacks on the zamindars and their agents. Pabna district was the storm-centre of this movement, and hence the movement is known as the Pabna movement. The movement was suppressed only after armed intervention by the government. Later an enquiry committee was appointed to look into the complaints of the peasantry which led to the enactment of an act, known as the Bengal Tenancy Act (1885).

Deccan Riots (1875)

Excessive land revenue demand of the British facilitating exploitation of peasants by moneylenders was responsible for the uprising in the Deccan. Social boycott of moneylenders by the peasants was later transformed into armed peasant revolt in the Poona and Ahmadnagar districts of Maharashtra.The peasants forcibly seized from the moneylenders debt bonds, decrees and other documents, and set them on fire. When the police failed to suppress the riots army help was sought to put down the riots. It led to the appointment of a commission and the enactment of the Deccan Agriculturists’ Relief Act of 1879 which prohibited the imprisonment of the peasants of the Maharashtra Deccan for failure to repay debts to the moneylenders.

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Champaran Satyagraha (1917)

The main reason behind this movement was the oppression of the peasants of Champaran (a district in Bihar) by the European indigo planters through the system of tinkathia. In this system the European planters holding thikadari leases from the big local zamindars made peasants cultivate indigo on part of their land at unremunerative prices and also charged sharahbeshi (rent­enhancement) or tawan (lump sum compensation) if the peasants wanted to be exempted from the obligation to grow indigo. This led to refusal of the peasants either to grow indigo or to pay the illegal taxes; arrival of Gandhi along with Rajendra Prasad, J. B. Kripalani, A. N. Sinha, Mazhar-ul-Haq, Mahadev Desai etc., in order to conduct a detailed enquiry into the condition of the peasantry and o get their grievances redressed. Initially the government attempted to suppress the movement, but Gandhi succeeded in forcing the government to appoint an enquiry committee with himself as one of its members; acceptance of the recommendations of the committee by the Government and the abolition of the tinkathia system.

Khaira Satyagraha (1918)

Failure of crops due to drought in the Khaira district of Gujarat; Refusal of the government to exempt the peasants from the payment of land­revenue; Launching of a no-revenue campaign by the Khaira peasants under the leadership of Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel; Suspension of the land-revenue collection for the time being by the government.

Moplah Rebellion (1921)

Oppression and exploitation of the Muslim Moplah peasants of Malabar (Kerala) by the Hindu zamindars (Jenmis) and British government was the main cause of this revolt. Outbreak of the rebellion in August 1921 (after a police raid on Tirurangadi masque in search of arms) and widespread attacks on police stations, public offices, communications, and houses of oppressive landlords and moneylenders. Total loss of control by the British over Ernad and Walluvanad taluks for several months; establishment of ‘Republics’ at several places by the Moplahs under leaders like Kunhammad Haji, Kalathingal Mammad, Ali Musaliar, Sithi Koya Thangal, etc. Bloody suppression of the rebellion by the British, leaving 2337 rebels killed, 1650 wounded, and more than 45,000 as prisoners. At Podnur 66 Moplah prisoners were shut in a railway wagon and died of suffocation on 20th November 1921.

It was anti-British as well as anti­zamindar, and to some extent anti-Hindu also because most of the local zamindars were Hindus.

Bardoli Satyagraha (1928)

Enhancement of land revenue (by 22%) in the Bardoli district of Gujarat by the British government (1927) led to the organisation of a ‘No Revenue campaign’ by the Bardoli peasants under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and their refusal to pay the land revenue at the newly enhanced rates. Unsuccessful attempts of the British to suppress the movement by large scale attachment of cattle and land resulted in the appointment of an enquiry committee to look into the land-revenue assessment, and reduction of the land revenue on the basis of the committee’s recommendations.

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