Peasant Movements in Independent India

India is famous for its colorful and delicious cuisines and delicacies. It is a land of varied types of crops and spices. The farmers who do agriculture in India stand the highest place with the majority of the occupation that is seen in the country. Still, the condition of the farmers is becoming adverse day by day. There’s a news every day about the suicides that are committed by the peasants due to the crop failure and debts.

farmer or peasant movement

Agrarian Struggles Since Independence

Earlier, there were few peasant movements which begun in British period but the movements got identified and spread across the country through the formation of All India Kisan Sena (AIKS) in the year 1936. The movements ranged from the Telangana Peasants movement and the PEPSU tenants’ movement which continued right before the independence and the Naxalite or Maoist movement which began in the 1960’s and ‘new’ Farmer’s movement in 1980’s. There were few movements which were unpopular and they were the Kharwar tribal’s movement in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar in 1957-1958 and the Bhils’ Movement in Dhulia from 1967-1975. The movements were begun to shut down the harsh treatment of the landlords and their unfair pay to the farmers. Though the Independence was achieved in 1947, still the condition of the farmers remained the same.

The peasants in Telangana faced oppression from the landlords who owned thousands of acres of land and were known to be jagirdars and deshmukhs. The Nizam of Hyderabad set up few gangs of Muslim military gangs known as Razakars, across the borders of Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Coastal Andhra to suppress the Hindu population who were revolting against. The Communists participated in anti-Nizam and pro-integration movement and were successful in establishing a base in Warangal, Khammam and Nalgonda districts. Landlords and officials ran away leaving the fields free for the Communists.  Communists organized the peasants into gram sabhas and protected the villages from Razakars. Lands that were taken in lieu of a claim of debts were given back to the farmers and the uncultivated land under the government was given to the small and landless peasants. Under the Jagirdari Abolition Regulations that was claimed in 1949, around 6 lakh tenants were declared as protected tenants and had a right to purchase the land in easy terms.

The Patiala Muzara movement took place in Punjab to revolt against the Biswedars who initially was a mafia claim and were collecting revenues from the peasants. In West Bengal, Harekrishna Konar a land revenue minister announced a programme of quick distribution of surplus land among the landless. He also called for an initiative from peasants to assist in the implementation of the programme. There were many problems with distribution of land, as much of it was under litigation.

In Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, the tribal revolted against the nontribal landlords and moneylenders. They restored their lands which were snatched illegally from them, wages were increased, the reduction of debts and free access to the timber were the few changes which the revolutions brought into the district.

Later in the 1980’s, the government started to impose new charges for the agricultural lands that were irrigated. A new Farmer’s Movement begun in 1980 with road and rail roko in Nasik of Maharashtra so as to oppose the government. There were different demands from the peasants almost through all the states of India. The peasants stopped traffic on highways and train routes, sat on many dharnas at government offices, prevented political leaders and officials from entering villages, till they agreed to support their demands. They even refused to pay electricity charges, and interest on loans and cost of irrigation schemes. This ‘new’ farmers movement attracted media and many, which focused only on increase in the price of the agricultural produce and to reduce or eliminate the taxes that are levied on lands of poor and marginal farmers.

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