Agrarian struggles in the 20th century – 4

Mappila revolt where the Muslim tenants inhabiting the Malabar region where most of the landlords were Hindus. The Mappila had expressed their resentment against the operation of the landlords during the 19th century also. There grievance centred around the lack of security of tenure. High rents, renewal fees and other in oppressive exactions.

The Mappila tenants were particularly encouraged by the demand of the local Congress body for a government legislation regulating tenants-landlords relations. Soon the mappila movement merged with ongoing khilafat agitation. The leaders of khilafat-non-cooperation movement like Gandhi, Shaukat Ali and Maulana Azad addressed Mappila meetings. After the arrest of national leaders, the leadership passed into the hands of local market leaders.

Things took a turn for the worse in August 1921 when the arrest of a respect priest leader, Ali Musaliar, sparked off large-scale riots. Initially, the symbols of British authority-courts, police stations, treasuries and offices-and unpopular landlords (jenmies who were mostly Hindus) were the targets in earnest, the character of the rebellion underwent a definite change. Many Hindus were seen by the Mappilas to be helping the authorities. What began as an anti-government and anti-landlord affair acquired communal over tones. The communalisation of the rebellion completed the isolation of the Mappilas from the Khilafat-Non-Cooperation Movement. By December 1921, all resistance had come to a stop.

Bardoli Satyagraha

Quite like kheda peasant struggle, the Bardoli moement was alos a no-tax movement. It would not be wrong to say that the Bardoli satyagraha of the peasants was the child of the non-cooperation movement started by Gnadhiji. Gandhiji seleectted bardoli as a suitable place for launching civil disobedience campaign because the place had wintnessed and participated in the constructive work. People were divided into two classes,

  1. Kali Paraj (black skinned, lower castes, tribals, backward classes and untouchables)
  2. Ujla Paraj (fail-complezioned people comprising all upper and well to do castes such as Patidar, Vania, Brahmin and so on)

The patidars were well to do class of peasants. Their relations with the lower caste that is small marginal and agricultural labourers were quite unsatisfactory. The land with the poorer peasants was very meager and largely unproductive. The wages of the agricultural labourers were so small. Whatever surplus money they got from foreign countries was also invested in the purchase of new land and provision of irrigation facilities.

The Bardoli satyagraha was launched in mid-February 1928. By July all noon-agriculturists holdings were forfeited by the government. Out of the land taken over abut one tenth was sold. As regards the cultivating landowners, 50,000 acres of land were forfeited though not sold. The movement thus became serious during the months of April and May. Some of the causes of the Bardoli Movements are given below:

  1. The Kali Paraj and land lords were characterized by exploitation. The stock of Kali Paraj people mainly consisted of Dubla, also called Halpati. The Ujli Paraj peasants cornered most of the benefits in terms of ownership of land and other facilities. All this created an antagonism between the rich and big Patidar peasants and the poor and slave-like small, marginal peasants and agricultural labourers.
  2. At the initiation of Gandhijis on constructive work was started n the entire Bardoli Taluka. On the one hand schools, ashrams and hostels were started whereas on the other hand reform movements were begun. This created an awakening among the peasant masses to get mobilized for fulfilling their demands. The constructive programmes also trained the youths to prepare for non-violence and satyagraha movement.
  3. Interestingly enough, the Patidar Yuvak Mandals were constituted for the social reforms of the members of Patidar communities. There youth associations had not only created unity among the Patidars but also developed among them a sense of antagonism against the peasants of lower castes. Dhanagare argues that the status of the Kali Paraj peasants was that of a serf of medieval Europe. What is worse, the slave in America before the abolition was the legal property of his master’s permanent agricultural labourer for a life time, simple because he couldn’t ever repay the loan.
  4. As a result of the constructive work done by Gandhiji the spinning wheel Charkha had become popular among the backward castes and tribes. A swarajya Asharam was established in Surat and six similar centres were set up in Bardoli Taluka to carry out constructive activities and to diffuse new political culture. Though the Patidarsappeared to be benevolent to the lower castes, the harmonization of the latter prepared suitable ground for peasant satyagraha.
  5. The Hali System, though was prevalent in south Gujurat, was a speciality of Bardoli. This system is based on the tribal agricultural labourers and the high caste landlords that is Patidars.

The movement sparked off in January 1926 when the authorities decided to increase the land revenue by 30 percent. The Congress leaders went quick to protest and a Bardoli Inquiry Committee was set up to go into the issue. The committee found the revenue hike to be unjustified. In February 1926, Vallabhbhai Patel was called to lead the movement. The women of Bardoli gave him the title of “Sardar”. Under Patel, the Bardoli peasants resolved to refuse payments of the revised assessment until the Government appointed an independent tribunal or accepted the current amount as full payment. To organise the movement, Patel set up 13 chhavanis or workers’ camps in the taluqa. Bardoli Satyagraha Patrika was brought out to make sure who opposed the movement faced a social boycott. Special emphasis was placed on the mobilisation of women. K.M. Munshi and Laliji Naranji resigned from the Bombay Legislative Council in support of the movement.

The Bardoli By August 1928, massive tension had built up in the area. There were prospects of a railway strike in Bombay. Gandhi reached Bardoli to stand by in case of any emergency. The Government was looking for a graceful withdrawal now. It set the condition that first the enhanced rent be paid by all the occupants (not actually done). Then, a committee went into the whole affair and found the revenue hike to be unjustified and recommended a rise of 6.03 per cent only.

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. Also, 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 organization of peasants.