Class work Blog 1: NM: Peasants’ Revolts

Welcome to the Class. We start our Prelims classes on Saturday May 4th 2013. Materials for study are already given to you. On Saturday and Sunday classes begin at 9AM sharp. Please answer the following questions and come prepared. All students should blog. A test will be given at the end of the class. A few questions will also be asked on current affairs. Read any or all of the following newspapers: the Hindu, Times of India, The Indian Express etc., Make it a habit to read the Front Line. You can read all these on line.

Listen to the lecture and read the notes given to you. These questions will be discussed in an interactive manner in the class.

The Great Revolt was followed by many peasant Revolts. The Indigo Revolt1859-60 , the Pabna Riots, Innumerble revolts in Maharashtra, the Moplah Revolts, the revolt led by Basudeo Balwant Phadke,  were some of these.

Answer  the following  questions on the Peasants Revolts

How were the peasants affected by it?

2.Who was Hemachandra Kar and how did he unwittingly become responsible for the Indigo revolt?

3.Explain  the reaction  of the Zamindars to the Indigo revolt.

4. The Indigo revolt had far reaching success and impact on the National Movement than the Tribal Revolts. Account for this.

5. What was the impact of the Indigo revolt on the Moderates.

6. How did Mahatma Gandhi involve himself in the Indigo Revolt?

7. Apart from the Indigo Revolt, how else did the Peasants Revolts take place? What were the reasons?

8. How far do you think the Maoists are expressing Peasant grievances?

9. What were the Pabna revolts?

10. What was the British response to these revolts?

11. What were the Deccan riots?

12. Can you enumerate a few peasant problems that persist even today.

4 thoughts on “Class work Blog 1: NM: Peasants’ Revolts

  1. 1. The inexorbitant land revenue was a burden on the ryots. They were also subjected to the tyranny of the Zamindars. The outcome was the revolt, which affected the peasants in a number of ways. The Act of 1859 provided Occupancy laws which relieved the farmers from the clutches of Zamindars. A slew of tenancy acts were also passed by the British, which provided the basis for filing cases in courts seeking justice.

    2. Hemachandra Kar was a Deputy Magistrate who misunderstood the rules and passed an order proclaiming that the European planters cannot use force on the farmers. This led the farmers to believe that the government was on their side and what the planters were doing was unlawful. Revolts broke out on this premise seeking justice and thus, Hemachandra Kar unwittingly became responsible for the Indigo Revolt.

    3. The Zamindars tried to quell the revolt by sending the Khatiyals (goondas). But when the peasants defended themselves against the Khatiyals, they resorted to using the rights granted to them and drove the ryots out. This infuriated the ryots and the British introduced reforms to secure the tenure. This resulted in curbing of the Zamindars’ powers.

    4. The Indigo Revolts were more successful than the tribal revolts due to the following reasons:
    • The British had experienced the fury of the people in the Great Revolt of 1857 and wanted to prevent the Indigo Revolts, which happened only a few years later, from escalating to that scale.
    • The peasants did not challenge the Imperialism of the British. They were loyal to the Sarkar.
    • The peasants’ demands were not much. They pertained to providing protection of their lands, preventing unfair evictions, ending the tyranny of Zamindars and planters and the high rates of interest charged by the money lenders.
    • These revolts were mostly non-violent except when the peasants acted in self-defence.
    • They had no Messianic objective of creating a Satyayug or Dharmayug like the tribal revolts had had.
    • Some intellectuals lent support to these revolts by helping the farmers draft petitions.
    • Some Indian newspapers and authors publicized the sufferings of the peasants at the hands of tyrant Zamindars.
    • Since some of the peasants were Christians, the Christian missionaries supported the revolts.
    • There was unity between the Hindus and Muslims participating in the revolt.

    5. The Indigo Revolts made the moderates realize the importance of non-violence. The advantages of mass mobilization and petitions were realized by Gandhi, Tilak and other moderates. Infact, many moderates cut their teeth at the Indigo Revolts.

    6. Mahatma Gnadhi was involved in the Indigo Revolt at Champaran, Bihar. At the insistence of a farmer, Gnahdi travelled to Champaran and on seeing the plight of the peasants, started a civil disobedience movement. He was arrested by the British and while in jail, he wrote letters to the Viceroy and newspapers describing the sufferings of the peasants. Alarmed by the agitation for his release from prison, the magistrate let him free. A notable feature of this agitation was that Gandhi did not involve the subject of independence or freedom of India. He restricted his demands to the problems of the farmers and did not call for a nationwide revolt.

    7. The peasant revolts all over India had a great deal of similarity. They involved huge processions of peasants. They unleashed the new weapon of ‘social boycott’, whereby they refused to have any interaction with the money lenders and zamindars. They asserted their rights granted by the Act of 1859 and went to courts.
    The causes for the revolts were:
    • The zamindars tried to increase the rents on the land and evicted the tenants who resisted
    • The peasants were forced to borrow money from moneylenders who charged a usurious rates of interest
    • When the peasants were unable to pay back the loans, they had to part with their cattle and house in accordance with the decrees obtained by the money lenders.

    8. Although the Maoist movement in India started out with the assurance of improving the lives of peasants and other sub-alterns, it seems to have lost its way. The naxalites in the Red Corridor are convinced that the democratic form of government will not benefit the sub-alterns and thus, are bent on overthrowing the state. This has led to the loss of a number of lives and has not provided anything in return. On the other hand, the CPI(M) which has participated in the democracy has tried to bring forth some measures for the lower strata of the society even though it is limited by coalition politics. But when it comes to expressing the peasant grievances, the Maoists are found lacking.

    9. Pabna Revolts were peasant revolts in the Bengal. A decline in jute production and a famine had put the farmers in distress. When the zamindars enhanced the land taxes, they had no choice but to revolt. An agrarian league was formed and it arranged precessions, filed cases in the court and collected funds. These revolts were mostly non-violent and did not challenge the zamindari system.

    10. The British did not consider the revolts as a threat to their imperial rule as the peasants time and again professed their loyalty to the crown. Thus, they interfered only when violence erupted. They passed tenancy acts and occupancy acts which benefited the ryots.

    11. Maharashtra was under the Ryotwari system in which the land revenue was fixed by the Govt. and collected from the ryots. This revenue was fixed very high and in order to pay it, the ryots borrowed heavily from money lenders. During the American civil war, the demand for cotton and consequently the prices were high and this benefitted the farmers. But soon after the civil war ended, the prices slumped. When the government increased the land revenue by 50%, the farmers were faced with hardship. This led to riots and moneylenders were attacked when they came armed with court decrees to seize cattle and houses. The farmers resorted to social boycott against the moneylenders. These riots are called the Deccan Riots.

    12. Some of the peasant problems that persist even today are :
    • The presence of money lenders and the prevalence of bonded labour
    • Heavy dependence on the monsoon which leads to immense hardship during droughts
    • Land acquisition by the government for setting up business or creating roadways leads to the loss of income for the peasants
    • Exploitation at the hands of middleman, who reap the profits of the produce, while providing very little price to the farmer

  2. Ans 1.)
    1.The peasants were cheated by the plantation owners to a large extent.
    2.The farmers were compelled to grow indigo on fertile lands, and they were paid far lesser than the market price.
    3.If the farmers refused to grow indigo, they were imprisoned, the fruit trees of the farmers were destroyed , their women were kidnapped and they were kept under a tight control.
    4.The plantation owners also hired Khatiyals ( goondas) to force the farmers to grow indigo and they also had the police on their side.

    Ans 2)
    1. HemChandra Kar was a deputy Magistrate who misunderstood the rules of the planters and issued a proclamation asking the planters not to use force.
    2. This was interpreted by the farmers that the sarkar was on their side and they organized massive protests.
    3. Now the farmers refusde to grow indigo on their fertile lands instead of food crops and when the khatiyals came the farmers resisted them exercising their right to self defence.
    4. Kar’s proclamation encouraged the farmers who were led by Digambar Biswas and Vishnu Biswas, and they presented massive petitions against the planters and attacked their factories. 5. The planters found it impossible to function and closed down their factories.

    Ans 3)

    1. As a result of the revolt , the zamindars started exercising their powers, through which they threatened the rebellious ryots with eviction or enhancement of rent.
    2. But the ryots replied by going on rent strikes and even physically resisted attempts to evict them.
    3. At the same time the ryots gradually learnt to use legal machinery to enforce their rights. The peasants joined together and raised funds to fight court cases filed against the planters.
    4. The British had to finally introduce reforms ensuring some sort of security of tenure to the farmers.

    Ans 4)

    The indigo revolt had a far reaching success than the tribal revolts due to the following reasons :

    1.The indigo revolt occurred immediately after the great revolt where In the British had seen the fury of the people. So they did not want another massive revolt
    2.Also, the revolt did not challenge the British supremacy , it aimed only at the readdressal of grievances
    3.It was directed only at the plantation owners and the peasants had presented petitions proclaiming their loyalty but asking for justice.
    4.The peasants did not ask for too many things. They confined themselves to demanding protection of their lands, preventing unfair evictions, ending the tyranny of the zamindars.
    5.Few intellectuals helped the peasants draft their petitions against the plantation owners.
    6.The timing was favorable as it was just after the great revolt.
    7.Indigo revolt also received help from the Christian missionaries as some of the peasants were Christians.
    8.There was a remarkable unity between the hindu and muslims.

  3. The peasants of India faced a hard time being under the clutches of the Zamindars and plantation owners.This revolt came right after the great revolt , thereby creating panic among the British,who thought of it as a threat to their rule in the country.The reasons were common all over for the out break of the peasants.
    Tyranny reached heights where the revenue to be paid for the land was increased mercilessly leaving the peasants with no choice but to borrow money from the money lenders who charged them very high rates of interest.To add to the misery,the peasants were paid far less than the market price for their crops,apart from leaving them no choice in the crop to be grown.This left the peasants with no food,no money and in addition they were suffering to make the already rich money lenders and plantation owners richer.
    Deprivation of food and money infuriated the peasants and revolts broke out in various parts of the country,The Indigo revolt taking mainstage.The revolt gained importance because of the period it broke out in,right after the great revolt,which ran fear through the british regime.People resolved to drafting petitions after petitions rather than walking the path of violence.Violence appeared only as an act of self defence.The demands being genuine,the farmers proclaiming their loyalty to remain under the british rule and the unity in the people left british with no choice.Not ready to put their rule at stake,the british somewhat relieved the peasants of their problems.

  4. How were the peasants affected by it?
    Peasants were forced to cultivate Indigo and Opium as they were highly in demand in British and china. The peasants were given less price for their crops and they had to reduce the food crops to accommodate above because of pressures from zamindars/land owners. So these led to famine. On top of these, peasants were forced to pay higher rent. This made them lend money from money lenders (mahajans) who in turn charged them high rates of interests. Peasants who failed to pay had to lose their crops, cattle, land and finally become indentured labourers for money lenders and zamindars.
    Who was hemachandra Kar and how did he unwittingly become responsible for the indigo revolt?
    He is a Deputy Magistrate who passed proclamation which restricted plantation owners from using force against peasants. This allowed peasants to exercise their right of self-defense against the Khatias who were ruling over the peasants till that time . This resulted in the revolt that has been started in many forms such as huge processions, massive protests to grow indigo and Opium in their farms which were led by Dhigambar Bishwas and Bishnu Bishwas
    Explain the reaction of the zamindars to the indigo revolt
    Scared from the massive resistance from the peasants, Zamindars started to throw the peasants out of their farms. Because of repetitive petitions of peasants with the help of intellectuals and of the massive protests, the british asked zamindars to stop their indigo factories and Zamindars did the same.
    The indigo revolt had far reaching success and impact on the national movement than tribal revolts. Account this
    The indigo revolts succeeded because they were mainly targeted towards the injustice to the farmers by the plantation owners but not against the colonialism of british where as the tribal revolts are mainly anti-colonial in nature. British government realized that there is no threat for their ruling due to indigo revolts, they tried to address the grievance of the farmers whereas in tribal revolt case they had to use force to suppress the tribal revolts as they were threat to their ruling.
    The success of the peasant revolts rose awareness in the country which has spread through news papers and books like NeelDharpan by Dheenabhandhu mitra and Indians felt need for more organized fight against exploitation and oppressions. Many leaders prepared grounds for various uprising during these revolts by helping uneducated farmers in leading processions and filing petitions against policies of the government.
    What was the impact of the indigo revolt on the Moderates
    Indigo revolts prepared grounds for many leaders of Moderates. The success of Peasant revolts through petitions and massive processions showed them that these kind of actions will certainly bring change in the goverance and policies. They witnessed the power of massive protests in bringing the acts that help people. This act was what adopted by them during later stage.
    How did Mahatma Gandhi involve himself in the indigo Revolt
    Peasants in champaran started a revolt in 1914 and 1916 against the indigo cultivation as it brought famine and unlivable condition to peasants. Raj kumar Shukla an indigo cultivator persuaded Gandhi to go to champaran of Bihar. This made Gandhi to participate in the peasant revolt.
    Apart from indigo revolt, how else did the peasants revolts take place? What were the reasons?
    Almost all the peasant revolts were caused by furious farmers who had been exploited in all possible ways by zamindars and landlords. Rack renting, increast of Taxes to unbearable amount, use of violence on the farmers who filed cases against the zamindars are few of the reasons for this.
    How far do you think the Maoists are expressing Peasant grievances?
    Maoists were able to create awareness among the poor farmers about the exploitations caused by the middle men and weakness of governance in effectively implementing the policies.
    What were the Pabna revolts?
    Its one of the Peasant revolt in Bengal started on May 1873. The zamindars resorted to increase the rents beyond legal limits. Those who failed to pay the rents were evicted forcefully, beseized their cattle and crops. oppressed peasants formed agrarian league which organized protests, filed cases against zamindars and collected funds to fight against zamindars in court. Zamindars got scared as the peasants were leagal. Young intellectuals like Bankim Chandra chatterjee, R.C.Dutt ,surendranath Benarjee and Anand Mohan Bose supported peasants to file cases , campaigned for tenant rights for peasants, and organize meetings upto 20000 to support Right bill. Many of the nationalist newspapers went beyond the rent bill and had asked for permanent fixation of the tenant’s rents. Due to these actions government passed Few tenancy acts to support the oppressed ryats.
    What was the British response to these revolts?
    Having experience of sepoy mutiny the British would not want any leadership to be evolved during these revolts. Since the peasant’s revolt didn’t pose any threat to british ruling, they didn’t directly reacted to the revolts unless there outbroke of violence which occurred rarely. They appointed commissions and found the planters’ actions illegal. They started attending to the grievances of peasants to the extent possible by releasing few tenancy acts. They also closed few indigo factories in view of the fury of the protestors.
    What were the Deccan riots ?
    Deccan Riots are riots by oppressed and exploited peasants happened in Maharastra. The Prevailing “raitwary” system has demanded revenue from farmers by zamindars. The Taxes has been increased to satisfy the british stakeholders and demands. This lead farmers to lend money from money lenders with high rates of interests. Failed to pay back the interests , farmers has to lose their cattle, crop and houses. Nothing was done in return to the farmers except collecting taxes from them even when there were no crops. when the taxed were increased 50% after the American civil war 1861-65, Huge riots broke out on money lenders and caused violence in which government has to intervene. Peasants were helped by intellectuals like Justice Ranade to file cases.
    Can you enumerate a few peasant Problems that persists even today?
    • Less sell value to the agricultural crops/goods loose the returns from farming and leading them to loan for subsequent crops. this is leaving farmers enslaved to debts over period of time.
    • Unavailability and poor management of resources adding to the inefficiency in farming.

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