Sunday, July 24, 2011

Movements of Peasants and Workers

The peasants and workers actively involved in the freedom movement after 1917. The emergence of socialist ideas created a deep impact on the peasants and the working class. They linked their social and economic grievances with the struggle for freedom.

Peasant Movements

The agrarian relations varied in different parts of the country. The high land revenue demand, exorbitant rents, forced labour, low wages for agricultural labour and indebtedness were the grievances faced by the peasants all over India. Some important peasant movements emerged in Champaran, Awadh, Malabar, Andhra and Bardoli.

Champaran: The peasants in Champaran were forced to cultivate indigo by the European planters as per the Thinkathia system. Rajkumar Sukul, ruined peasant took up the cause of indigo peasants. In 1916, he participated in the Lucknow session of the Congress and spoke about the sad plight of indigo peasants. He brought Gandhiji to Champaran. A movement was launched and ultimately the government had to yield to certain demands of the peasants.

Awadh: In Awadh peasants had to pay Nazarana[extra premium] to get and retain their holdings. Forced labour and various forms of illegal cesses were extorted by the landlords. Baba Ram Chandra started organizing the peasants and built up a strong movement. In 1921 massive peasant uprising took place in Awadh. The government crushed the movement. But, the government was forced to pass the Awadh Rent [Amendment] Act in 1922 which gave some relief to the peasants.

Malabar: In 1921 peasant uprising broke out in Malabar. The peasants were complained of high rents and illegal dues. The peasant movement developed in a massive fashion as a result of its becoming a part of the non co-operation and Khilafat movements. The peasants attacked government offices, looted treasuries and attacked unpopular landlords. The government was successful in giving the uprising a communal turn and succeeded in suppressing it.

Andhra: As a result of forest laws introduced by the British government there was considerable resentment among the tribals all over the country. Alluri Sitarama Raju, inspired by the non co-operation movement started organizing the tribals in the Rampa region in Andhra. The movement took a violent turn. Ultimately Raju was captured by the British and shot dead.

Bardoli: In 1928 under the leadership of Vallabhbhai Patel the peasants of Bardoli taluk of Gujarat organized a no tax campaign against the official effort to enhance land tax by nearly 30%. The peasants refused to pay the enhanced tax. In the end the enhancement was reduced to 6%.

There were also tribal and peasant uprising in Udipur, Mewar, Darbhanga and Bihar. In 1936 the All India Kisan Sabha was established. The main demands of the Sabha were reduction in rent and land tax, abolition of illegal levies, reduction of debt, ending of oppression by landlords and money lenders and security of tenure and tenants. After 1945 large scale peasant movements broke out in Telengana in Andhra and in Bengal[Tebhaga struggle].

Trade Union Movement

The workers were subjected to inhuman exploitation in the form of low wages, long hours of work and horrible working conditions. It took a long time for the workers to organize themselves into trade unions. To co-ordinate working class struggle the All India Trade Union Congress was founded in 1920. Lala Lajpat Rai was the president. During 1928-29 workers went on strike in different parts of the country. The government was unnerved by these strike waves. In 1921 they arrested 31 labour leaders and put them on trial for conspiring against the government. The trial came to be known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case.

During the Civil Disobedience movement the working class in Sholapur played a heroic role in opposing the British. During 1935-36 strikes occurred at Calcutta, Ahmedabad, and Kanpur.

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