Resistance to British rule-Peasant Movements

Moplah Uprising (Malabar in 1836-54, 1882-85, 1896, I921): Led by Sayyid Alawi and Sayyid Fazl, the movement arose against the vastly enhanced rights of Hindu Namboodri and Nair Jemins which had worsened the condition of Muslim lease-holders and cultivators. the Moplahs. The Moplahs attacked the Jemins property and temples but was purely agrarian in nature.

Romsi Movement (Maharashtra in 1879): It was led by Vasudev Balwant Phadke against the hardships caused to the peasants by the Deccan famine of 1876-77. Phadke organised the Romsi peasants and revolted against the British and thought of establishing a Hindu Raj. 

Bijolia Movement (Rajasthan in 1905, 1913, 1916, 1927): Led by Sadhu Sitaram Das. Vijay Pathak Singh, Manik Lal Verma and Haribabu Upadhyaya, the movement arose due to the imposition of 86 different types of cesses on the peasants. The peasants refused to pay cesses, and cultivate their land and tried to migrate to neighbouring areas. In 1927. peasants adopted satyagraha methods to fight fresh cesses and begar

Champaran Satyagraha (Bihar in 1917): Tinkathia System was prevalent in this region whereby peasants were forced to cultivate indigo at unremunerative prices in 3/20 of their land holdings by European planters. It was the movement of indigo peasants against the oppression of the planters. Gandhiji asked the peasants to resort to Satyagraha.

Kaira (Kheda) Movement (Gujarat in 1918): Led by Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai Patel, the peasants rose against the demand of land revenue in spite of crop failure. The peasants collectively refused to pay land revenue. Government was forced to offer terms acceptable to the peasants.

Eka Movement (Awadh in 1921): Founded by Madari Pasi, the main demand of the movement was conversion of produce (betal) into cash.

Borsad Siityagraha (Gujarat in I923-24): Led by Vallabhbhai Patel, the movement was directed against the ‘new poll tax' imposed on every adult In Borsad to pay for, the police required to suppress wave of dacoities. The movement took the form of non-payment of the new levy. Borsad Satyagraha was led by Sardar Patel, which was directed against the Poll tax imposed on every adult. The tax was cancelled in 1924.

The Bardoli Satyagraha: The Palidar Yuvak Mandal had been founded in 1908 by Kunvarji Mehta and Kalyanji Mehta, who did social work among the dominant social peasant castes of Kanbipatidar. The Mehta brothers got Sardar Patel to organise a no-revenue movement when Bombay Government hiked the revenue demand by 22% in Bardoli. The Maxwell Bloom filed Enquiry Committee was instituted. Led by Vallabhbhai Patel against the Bombay government's decision to hike the revenue on cotton by 22 per cent while its prices declined In the international market. Ultimately the government gave up their plans to revise the rate.

All India Kisan Sabha: Founded at Lucknow in 1936 with Sahaianand Saraswali as its first ClIaiIman, its main demands included 50% cut in revenue rents, full occupancy right to tenants, abolition of begar and restoration of customary forest rights.

Tebhaga Movement (Bengal In 1946-47): To implement the Floud Commission recommendations of ‘Tebhaga’ that is 2/3 of crop to the bragadars working on the land rented from the jotedars. Repressed by the Muslim League government.

Telengana Movement (former Hyderabad State in 1946-48): Biggest peasant guerilla war in Indian history. It rose against the exploitation of its peasants by deshmukhs and jagirdars. The movement retained dimensions of national liberation struggle against the Nizams. The insurrection in Telengana during 1946-51 was launched in the Nizam’s state of Hyderabad against intense exploitation and oppression of landlords, moneylenders and Nizam’s officials. The movement was linked with the State’s people movement under the leadership of the Praja Mandal and had the sympathy of the congress, the Arya Samaj and the linguistic demand for a vishal Andhra State. The movement was withdrawn in 1951.

Reasons for Peasant Uprisings

K. Gough has classified violent peasant uprisings into five categories-restorative, religious, social banditry, terrorist vengeance and armed insurrection. The revolt of 1857 was a restorative movement led by the dispossessed chiefs. The excessive State land revenue demand and exactions of the Zamindars drove the peasants into the clutches of the money lender and trader. Absentee landlordism, parasitical intermediaries, the avaricious money lender all combined to push the peasant deeper into the depth of poverty. During the second half of the 19th century, 24 famines affected various parts of the country.

     In the 19th century peasant mobilisations were in the nature of protests, revolts, rebellions primarily aimed at loosening the bonds of feudal exploitation. They protested against enhancement of rent. evictions, usurious practice of money lenders. Their demands included occupancy rights, commutation of the produce, rent to money, etc. In the 20th century, however we witness the emergence of class consciousness and formation of peasant organisations like Kisan Sabhas.

Indigo Revolt, (Bengal in 1859-60)

     The revolt was directed against the British planters who behaved like feudal lords in their estates. The revolt enjoyed, the support of all categories of the rural population including the zamindars, money lenders. rich peasants and even karamcharis of indigo concerns.

     The revolt began after Hemchandra Kar, deputy magistrate published on l7 August 1859 a proclamation to policemen that they should not interfere with the rights of the peasants to sow whatever they preferred. It began in Govindpur village in Nadia and was led by Digamber Biswas and Bishnu Biswas. Din Bandhu Mitra’s novel Kfeel Darpan portrayed this struggle. An indigo commission was also appointed in 1860. Its recommendation were embodied in Act-VI of 1862.

Pabno (Bengal In 1870-80)

     Peasants revolted when zaimindars increased rent through abwabs (cesses) and tried to prevent them from acquiring the occupancy rights under Act of 1859 through fraudulent measurement, illegal coercion and forced eviction In May l874, an agrarian league was formed In Pabna. The main leader of the agrarian league was lshan Chandra Roy, Shambhu pal and K.  Mullah, Dwijendra Nath Tagore was the main zamindar who was affected.  The discontent continued till 1885 when the government by the tenancy act of 1885 enhanced occupancy rights. R.C. Dutt wrote ‘Peasantry of Bengal’ in 1874.

Deccan Riots, (Maharastra in 1875)

     Due to the excessive land revenue demands of the British, the peasants fell into the lap of moneylenders. They started social boycott of the money lenders In Poona and Ahmadnagar and forcibly seized the debt bonds and set them on fire.  The Colonial regime extended to the peasants some protection against moneylenders through the Deccan Agriculturist Relief Act of 1878.  

Punjab Peasant Discontent

      The Punjab land alienation act 1900 divided the Punjab population under three heads-agricultural classes statutory agriculturist class and the rest of the population including the money lenders. Restriction was imposed on the sale and mortgage of the land from the first category to the other two categories though members of the second and third categories could sell and mortgage land as they pleased.

Kheda Satyagraha (Gujarat (1918)  

     Kheda Satyagraha was chiefly directed against the Government. In the spring of 1918, crop failure and drought brought misery to the peasants of Kheda In Gujarat. A no-revenue campaign to press the remission of the state demand in case of poor harvest was started by Mohan Lai Pandya which was later taken up by Gandhi in 1918. Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahadev Desai joined Gandhiji in Kheda. The Govt; had to suspend the land revenue collection.

Peasant Organisations

     N.G Ranga organised the Agriculture Labour unions in Guntur district in 1923. In I918, Indra Narayan Dwivedi set up the UP. Kisan Sabha along with Gauri Shankar Mishra. In Rae. Bareilli Jhinguri Singh and Baha Ramchandra led the Peasant movement. The Panchayats organised a social boycott the Nai-Dhobi bandh. J.L. Nehru, Gauri Shankar Mishra and Baba Ram Chandra founded the Awadh Kisan Sabha in 1920. In 1928, the Andhra Provincial Ryots Association was formed. All India Kisan Sabha was formed at Lucknow on 11 April, 1936, Swami Sahajananda was its President. In I936, agitation started against Bakasht (self cultivated land) movement in Bihar, Bakasht was Zamindar‘s khas land.

     Swami Sahjananda formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha in 1929. The second session of all India Kisan Sabha was held in Faizpur and was presided by N.G. Ranga. In December I936, the Congress under J.L. Nehru‘s Presidentship in Faizpur adopted the Agrarian programmes. In Bihar, Karyananda Sharma led the Bhahariya Tal agitation in Monghyr.  Yadunandan Sharma led the Reora peasant agitation in Gaya. Jamuna Kargu led the peasants movement in Saran while Rahul Sankrityayan led them in Annawari. In Punjab, Baba Sohan Singh, Teja Singh, Baba Singh, Hari Singh, Wadhwa Ram and others led the peasant’s movement.

     Bhagwan Singh Longowalia Jagiir Singh Joga and Teja Singh led the peasant movement in Patiala. The Tebhaga movement was a protracted peasant struggle involving lower stratum of tenants against not only Zamindars, but a section of the rich peasants (Jotedars) against moneylenders, traders and British Bureaucracy. The movement was launched in 1946 in Bengal. It was regarding the Floud Commissions recommendation.

     The revolt of Varlis, tribal people in western India was a struggle against exploitation of forest contractors, money lenders, rich farmers and landlords on the tacit support of the British bureaucracy.  The Kisan Sabha took up their cause and launched a struggle in May I945. 

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