Agrarian struggles in the 20th century – 3

Changed nature of peasant movements after 1857 :

  • Peasants emerged main force in agrarian movementd, fighting directly for their own demands.
  • The main demands were centered almost wholly on economic issues.
  • The movements were directed the immediate enemies of the peasant-foreign planters and indigenous zamindars and money lenders.
  • 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 moment 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.
  • Weakness:
  • There was a lack of an adequate understanding of colonialism.
  • The 19th century peasants did not process a new ideology and a new social, economic and political programme.

These struggles, however  militant it occurred within the framework of the old societal order lacking a positive conception of an alternative society.

Last movement:

The peasant moments of 20th century were deeply influenced by and had an impact on the national freedom struggle.


After the 1857 revolt, Awadh taluqdars had got back their lands. This strengthened the hold of the taluqdars or big landlords over the agrarian society of the province. The majority of cultivator were subjected to high rents, summary evictions (bedakhali), illegal levies, renewal fees or nazrana. The First World War had hiked the prices of the food and other necessities. This worsened the conditions of UP peasants.

Mainly due to the efforts of the Home Rule activists,  kisan sabhas were organised in UP. The UP Kisan Sabha was set up in February 1918 by Gauri Shankar Mishra and Indra Narayan Dwivedi. Madan Mohan Malviya supported their efforts. By June 1919, the UP Kisan Sabha had 450 branches. Other prominent leaders included Jhinguri Singh, Durgapal Singh and Baba Ramachandra. In June 1920, Baba Ramachandra urged Nehru to visit these villages. During these visits, Nehru developed close contacts with the villagers.

In October 1920, the Awadh Kisan Sabha asked the kisans to refuse to till *bedakhali land*, not to offer *hari* and *begar* (forms of unpaid labour), to boycott those who did not accept these conditions and to solve their disputes through panchayats.

From the earlier forms of mass meeting and mobilisation, the patterns of activity changed rapidly in January 1921 to the looting of the bazaars, houses, granaries and clashes with the police. The centre of activity were primarily the districts of Rae Bareilly, Sultanpur and Faizabad.

The movement declined soon, partly due to government repression and partly because of repression and partly because of the passing of the Award Rent (Amendment) act.

Eka movement  ;

Towards the end of 1921 present discontent resurfaced in some Northern district of United provinces-hardoi, bahraich, Sitapur. The issues involved were:

1. High rents- 50 percent higher than the recorded rates;

2. Oppression of thikadars in charge of revenue collections;

3. Practices of share-rents.

The meetings of the Eka or the unity movement a symbolic religious ritual in which the assembled peasants vowed that they would

1. Pay only the recorded friend but would pay it on time;

2. Not leave when evicted

3.  Refuse to do forced labour

4. Give no help to criminals

5. Abide by the panchayat decisions.

The grassroots leadership of the Eka movement came from Madari Pasi and other low-caste leaders and many small reminders.

By March 1992, severe repression by authorities brought the movement to an end.