The question is quite straightforward and expects students to have conceptual knowledge of peasant movements in India during British rule and their methods. The first phase to be discussed is prior to 1920s (i.e. before the start of gandhian era) and second phase will be after 1920 (when national movement acquired its mass base)
In the introduction, briefly, mention the reasons for the impoverishment of peasants under colonial rule and mention the names of some of the important peasant rebellions of both phases like Indigo Revolt (1859-60), Pabna Agrarian Leagues, Deccan Riots, The Kisan Sabha Movement, Eka Movement, Mappila Revolt, Bardoli Satyagraha etc.
In the main body, discuss the differences in the nature and character of agrarian revolts of both phases and explain how the peasant movements of 1920’s were different from earlier peasant Movements.The focus primarily should be on later phase discussion.
(The major difference was that earlier movements were based on immediate local economic issues, while later ones combined the local issues with the national ones. So base your answer on these types of differences.)
In the last part, you have to mention how later peasant movements (from 1920s onwards) fed on their predecessor’s nature and improved upon them and gave a way forward for an independent India to look after its farmers in a better way. These rebellions brought the peasants to the forefront of the national movement and gave freedom struggle its national color.
Condition of Peasantry under Colonialism:
The impoverishment of the Indian peasantry was a direct result of the transformation of the agrarian structure due to:
- Colonial economic policies,
- Ruin of the handicrafts leading to overcrowding of land,
- The new land revenue system,
- Colonial administrative and judicial system.
- The peasants suffered from high rents, illegal levies, arbitrary evictions and unpaid labour in Zamindari areas.
- In Ryotwari areas, the Government itself levied heavy land revenue.
Nature of Peasant Movements in the Early Phase:
- Peasants were the main force in agrarian movements, fighting directly for their own demands.
- The demands were centered almost wholly on economic issues.
- The movements were directed against the immediate enemies of the peasant—foreign planters and indigenous zamindars and moneylenders.
- The struggles were directed towards specific and limited objectives and redressal of particular grievances.
- Colonialism was not the target of these movements.
- It was not the objective of these movements to end the system of subordination or exploitation of the peasants.
- Territorial reach was limited.
- There was no continuity of struggle or long-term organisation.
- The peasants developed a strong awareness of their legal rights and asserted them in and outside the courts.
- Rebels during that period get support from all religion but mostly by one section of people. Ex. only peasant or peasant plus worker section and other affluent section normally opposed it
- Rebels used to be against raised rent, inappropriate taxes etc with no desire to make it at national level
- Rebels used to be short term and most of the times rebels were not successful due to use of power by British or Zamindars
Nature of Peasant Movements since 1920s
- The peasant movements of the 20th century were deeply influenced by and had a marked impact on the national freedom struggle.
- With the advent of INC, there was a change in peasant rebellion, and it came on national level with national leaders like Gandhi, Vallabh Bhai Patel etc supporting them.
- It became more organised and with the intention of getting support of all section of people
- Use of newspaper to propagate views, frequent meeting, planning on how to better manage the protest were more often which was lacking previously
- National feeling, constructive work like education etc were major characteristics of later phase rebellions
- These movements were based on the ideology of nationalism and the nature of these movements was similar in diverse areas.
- Looting of bazaars, houses, granaries and clashes with the police became widespread.
- During the 1930s, the peasant awakening was influenced by the Great Depression in the industrialized countries and the Civil Disobedience Movement which took the form of no-rent, no-revenue movement in many areas.
- After the decline of the active phase movement (1932) many new entrants to active politics started looking for suitable outlets for release of their energies and took to organisation of peasants.
Peasant movements post 1920 became more organised and diverse in their participation. Gandhi amalgamated these movements with national movement and got wider reach. These movements created an atmosphere for post- independence agrarian reforms, for instance, abolition of Zamindari and paved way for an agriculture based Independent India.