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Cause and Impact of Peasant Movements on the Nationalist Phase

  • Last Updated : 24 Nov, 2021

Every section of Indian society was suffering under the British Government just because of their policies. British made their policies to exploit their colonies. Farmers in the Zamindari areas suffered from high rents, illegal taxes, arbitrary evictions, and unpaid labor. The ruin of the Indian handicrafts led to the congestion of land. The overwhelmed farmer due to fears of the loss of his most effective supply of livelihood frequently approached the neighborhood moneylenders who extract excessive prices of interest. Many farmers become landless and realized that their main enemy was the colonial state and many movements took place against the British between 1857 and 1947.

Some of the Main Common Causes of Such Movements

1. Colonial Economic Policies

Economic policies favored the landlords and money lenders and exploited the peasants. The peasants were exploited under Zamindari, Ryotwari, Mahalwari, and the Permanent Settlement. The British administration sought more profit and the peasants were deserted to the tender benevolences of the zamindars who racked rented them and coerced them to remunerate the illegal dues. In 1935 at Bihar, The Provincial Kisan sabha developed and adopted the anti-zamindari slogan.

2. Overpopulated Agricultural Land

The decline of many cities and a process of ruralization of India started due to deindustrialization. Unemployed people moved to villages and took to agriculture. This resulted in increased pressure on land. The cultivators often had to take loans to pay the rent, on failing to pay the rent, they were evicted from the land. Sometimes the overcrowded peasants took to crime to get out of unbearable conditions.

3. Impoverishment of Peasantry

The government was only interested in the maximization of rents and in securing its share of the revenue. The government made little effort to increase the land’s productivity. The zamindars resorted to summary evictions, demanding illegal pretexts and insisting on maximizing their share of production, leaving nothing to invest in improving agriculture. Generally, peasants approached money lenders to be able to pay their dues to the zamindars. The money lenders forced the peasants to sell the produce at low prices to clear their dues. It turned out that the farmer was the last to suffer the triple burden of the government, the zamindar, and the moneylender that impoverished them.

4. Famines

The repeated outbreak of droughts became a common feature of daily existence in India. These droughts were an immediate consequence of poverty uncorked by colonial personnel in India. Also, the government did not pay attention to the famine and no major reforms were introduced to increase food productivity. The government was busy with the commercialization of Indian agriculture. The main focus was on commercialized crops like indigo, tobacco, tea, etc instead of edible crops like rice, wheat, etc. 

Effects of Such Movements on the Nationalist Phase

1. Growth Of Non-Violence

When Gandhi came back to India from South Africa in 1915 and noticed that the farmers of northern India were being forced to grow indigo by the indigo planters, he wanted to use the same strategies that he had used in South Africa to gain mass human support against injustice. Gandhi decided to tour the country and see for himself the condition of the masses. In 1917 he found that in Champaran (Bihar) peasants were oppressed under the Tinkathiya System (peasants to grow indigo on 3/20 part of the total land). Here he organized his first civil disobedience with the idea of non-violent satyagraha, which was the novel method of that time. Thus the growth of non-violence and satyagraha came into existence in India for the first time.

2. Awareness Among Peasants

Though the peasants’ movements weren’t pinpointed at extracting British rule from India, they created consciousness among the Indians. The peasants evolved strong mindfulness of their lawful rights and declared them in and outside the courts. Peasants came up as the main labor force in agricultural movements, clashing directly for their ultimatums. Peasants were also supported by the modern nationalist intelligentsia. In Bengal, some of the prominent personalities like Dwarkanath Ganguli, Surendra Nath Banerjee, and Anand Mohan Bose campaigned for the rights of tenants, helped shape ryot unions, and prepared big conferences of as many as 20000 peasants withinside the district in aid of the Rent Bill. In Poona, Justice Ranade had arranged a prosperous campaign among the peasants against the land revenue settlement of 1867. In the nationalist phase of the movement, peasants’ movements were supported by congress and they recognized that only the Britishers were responsible for their poverty and conditions. 

3. Rise Of Nationalism

The testament of non-violence had given meaningful energy to the peasants who participated in the movement. All these movements were based on the ideology of nationalism as peasants now understand who exploit them most. In the nationalist phase, the peasant’s moments were supported and led by Congress that made an impact on pan India and not restricted only to territorial areas. The movement correspondingly chipped into the excrescence of Nationalism.

4. Improvement In Conditions

In 1855, the first peasants’ angered came out in the form of the Santhal rebellion. Santhals were using shifting cultivation. After the British conquested the Santhal areas in Jharkhand (Rajgir hills) and their dependence on the forest was ruined due to permanent settlement. In the permanent settlement, zamindars and moneylenders were appointed as middlemen, and exploitation of Santhals was started. Against exploitation, peasants revolted against middlemen. The government passed the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act in 1876 to protect tribes. When in 1859 peasants’ anger was exploded again because of the forceful plantation of indigo then in 1860, the government issued a notification that the ryots couldn’t be compelled to grow indigo. The Bengal Tenancy Act 1885 protected the tenants from the worst aspects of zamindari oppression and many peasants were able to acquire occupancy rights. In the south, the Telangana movement had numerous admiring accomplishments like agrarian stipend were raised, immorally picked up land was restored, steps were taken to fix limitations and redistribute lands, measures were taken to ameliorate irrigation, and an enhancement in the condition of females was also witnessed.

5. Rise of Various Kisan Organisations

In the 20th century, India admitted the rise of many Kisan organizations that led the peasants. The Utter Pradesh Kisan Sabha was founded in February 1918 by Gauri Shankar Mishra and Indra Narayan Dwivedi with the support of Madan Mohan Malviya. In 1920, the Awadh Kisan Sabha came into existence, in 1925 workers and peasants party was found as a political party that took part in the 1929 Bombay municipal elections and gathered about 12000 votes. In 1929 party was dissolved because of the arrest of its main leaders.  In April 1936 with Swami Satyanand Saraswati as the president and N.G. Ranga as the general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the first all India peasant organization, was founded in Lucknow. The Congress manifesto of the 1937 provincial election was influenced by the AIKS agenda.

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