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Insights Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 24

QUESTIONS ASKED: DAY – 24 (12/08/2013)

1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

2)“The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.


  1. Prashant S
    2 Votes

    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine
    Ans – The peasant movements of the second half of the 19th century was an outcome of the economic and political lacunae due to the imposition of an alien rule over the indian peasants. It emerged as an expression of resentment against the arbitrary & unjust taxes which was excessive in character and led to increasing land alienation and indebtedness. It was further compounded by the role of moneylenders. Thus the movement was aimed at addressing the immediate local grievances and lacked a pan india character.
    The introduction of permanent settlement deprived the tillers of land the customary rights that they held on their lands. A new class of zamindars with proprietary rights emerged who aimed at collecting maximum rent. This proved to be a great source of resentment for the peasants.
    The british imposed arbitrary and unjust taxes which was very high. This led to impoverishment of the masses. The problem was further accentuated by the usurious money lenders who played hand in hand with the colonial officers. Thus the 2nd half of 19th century witnessed large scale peasant distress. This found expression in many popular protests and movements against the perceived injustice. But these movements tried to address only the immediate causes and never aimed at overthrowing the imperial yoke.
    They were in a nascent phase of awakening and lacked a broader vision for a pan – india movement. Most of these movements were organized by local leaders who were satisfied once their immediate grievances were addressed. They lacked the conception of a modern age and was regressive which failed to see the imperial motives of a colonial government.Many of the peasant movements turned out to be violent, hence facing severe repression and turning out to be short lived both in its impact and extent.
    Thus we can say that the peasant movements of the 19th century could not develop in to long term political movements, was limited in its reach and lacked a positive conception. But these weaknesses could be the attributes of the age as we were in a very nascent stage of nationalism.

    2)“The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine
    Ans – The railways were introduced in India solely to serve the british economic and military interests. Unlike serving as a catalyst for industrial evolution in india it served as a catalyst for complete colonisation.

    The various processes involved with the establishment of a railway network like transfer of technology, capital, forward and backward linkages etc could have helped give birth to modernisation on a limited scale in india. But the british aim of limiting the modernisation of India was a crucial factor in restricting the benefits of a railway network. The british imported from England most of the items required for the railway networks, thus the benefits of a forward and backward linkage was hampered. Only lower end technology like tunnelling and plate laying was developed. Even the capital for the development of railway network was british and that too on guaranteed returns. Thus the railway network proved to be a big setback to the interests of Indians.

    The mercantile interests in London and Manchester were the initial advocates for developing railways in india. The railways provided greater access to the rural hinterlands and threw open vast markets. British merchants could now source raw materials from places far away. The cheap factory made products now found deeper markets inside the countryside, thus harming the local manufacturers. Thus leading to economic colonisation.

    With the railways India got more geographically united and the railways facilitated faster movement of military and personnel. This ensured faster conquest of indian provinces. The railways had played a key role in putting down the great revolt of 1857.

    Thus we can see the contribution of railways in colonising India rather than acting as a harbinger of industrial revolution.

    • Firefly
      1 Vote

      Your first answer has scope for improvement in terms of richness of content. Your style of writing engages the reader. Would pay you high dividends.

      Liked the different dimensions you brought to your second answer. The military angle, backward and forward linkages, mercantile interest, geographical unification. Very comprehensively done.

    • Firefly
      1 Vote

      Also, the first railway link was from Bombay to Thane which came up in 1853. The centre for 1857 revolt was Delhi. I think railways could not have had “a key role” in putting down the revolt. Please let me know if I am wrong.

  2. Nikku
    1 Vote

    Q) “The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    Ans) Railways considered as the hallmark of development during the 19th century helped many countries in their quest for development. By providing a fast, cheap and effective means of communication, it helped in the facilitation of trade and commerce. It expanded the market and diversified the sources of raw materials. Thus it became the first step towards industrialization in Western Europe and the US.
    However, the colonial motive was different in regards to the expansion of railway network in India. It was done to realize the following:
    1) Provide an area to absorb British investment. Infact a separate budget was started for railway to ensure that the investor’s interest were being served as intended.
    2) Provide a means of communication to facilitate the exploitation of raw materials. A careful inspection reveals that the network was developed fully in areas of interest and was completely undeveloped in areas that did not yielded returns on the exploitative criteria.
    3) Provide a fast means of communication for the Army to help crush any rebel that could arise.
    With these primary motives, the railways proved to be a great catalyst in deepening the roots of colonization of India.

    But there were some positives too. Railways helped in building of national unity and narrowing the social cleavages after an institutional national struggle started under congress. It became a means for greater interaction and integration between communities that were hitherto separated. It also helped in giving an impetus to the indigenous industries and they benefited greatly from it.
    But despite the few positive contributions, India never was able to utilize railways as an asset for industrialization as the western nations did. Railways turned out to be an instrument in the hands of the British masters to harvest India and perpetuate it’s colonization and exploitation.

  3. Nirmal Singh
    3 Votes

    The widespread discontent with British economic policies led to a number of small scale revolts in various parts of the country which inspite of its fragmented nature influenced Indian Nationalist Movement in a subtle way.
    The economic policies like introduction of intermediaries for e.g. Zamindari System coupled with high Rent system and seizure of land in case of inability to pay the same laid the ground for peasant revolts. These are characterized by their limited scale and lack of vision. The purpose is to restore the old order. These are not targeted against British Government at any stage but against new intermediary system. Government as a result found it easy to curb these by offering incentives or in extreme case by brutal repression. As soon as their demands were met revolts were withdrawn.
    The cause for their failure is widespread. There was a very loose notion of unified nation i.e. India at that time which is still divided into a number of independent provinces. The absence of any nationalistic leadership with a long term future vision further crippled the same. There were no means of communication. The newly created class of zamindars side with Government .The revolts were highly unsynchronised with temporal and spatial variations.
    Inspite of its inherent weakness, its legacy has inspired the future generation leaders still at their infancy to deeply analyze the hegemonic character of colonial government. The peasants became an inseparable part of freedom struggle through kisan sabhas and satyagraha . Its failure revealed the weaknesses which acted as lessons for latter struggles
    Therefore to say that it has failed completely to unite nation for common struggle against Colonial government would be a half baked truth and against acknowledging its contribution.

    • Anjali Motghare
      1 Vote

      Nirmal don’t you think you moved away from question.
      Santhal rebellion at later stage directed against govt.
      after 1920 they appeared on political scene.

      • Nirmal Singh
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        Hey Anjali
        Thanks for feedback !.Can you rephrase what you have said i did’nt get you completly,so that I can Improve.

        • Nirmal Singh
          Rate This Response!

          @INSIGHT Sir,can you explain what was expected of this questions? and what should be the approach.Do we have to give positive and negative points of both or to defend the statement.How can I improve my answer?

          • Rate This Response!

            You have misread the question. It specifically mentions latter half of the 19th century – so examples of Indigo, Mappila, Kuka and Pabna revolts must be given. And the nature of these revolts should be examined.

            Your answer is not wrong – the points you have mentioned are valid but are generalized and apply to whole span of the national movement. Kisan Sabha, Satyagraha were alien to national movement during the 19th century. look a at the answer in the light of post-1857 revolt and how peasant uprisings were not against colonialism.

            Read chapter 3 of Bipan Chandra’s Struggle for India’s independence.

  4. Nikku
    3 Votes

    Q)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    Ans) The peasant movement of the second half of the 19th century were directed against the immediate economic grievances and characterized by being local, having a parochial view on the issues, and a lack of long term strategy. The movements were in no way radical or aimed at creating an alternative societal order.

    For example, the indigo revolt in Bengal was concerned mainly with the fraudulent contracts that were imposed on the planters. The pabna agrarian league was directed against the undue taxation imposed by the Zamindars and the land alienation that was done under the guise of Act X. The Deccan revolts, in turn, were organised against the money lenders who were seen as outsiders charging huge interest that was leading to penury.

    Thus we can observe, that there was no common enemy or an ideological base for these various revolts. The movements were disjointed and each had a very local character.
    Besides, once the immediate concerns were addressed, the movement ceased to exist. They were devoid of any long term strategy and there was no desire to overcome perpetual subordination. Neither did the movement tried to get rid of the exploitative society marked by torturous practices of casteism, untouchability etc. Infact, the movements were undertaken in the existing societal framework, which remained undisturbed during or after the movement.

    It was only after an organised national struggle against coloniolism started, that these movements too got influenced and subsumed under the greater struggle and devised a more unitary character touching multiple dimension of economic, social and political exploitation.

    • phani
      Rate This Response!

      nikku good.but i think they had a common enemy , british and common ideology , good living but they lack common character. it woud have been much better if small citation of zamindari , mahalwari and ryotwari systems.

      • Nikku
        Rate This Response!

        Thanks for the feedback Phani. I beg to differ on the common enemy aspect. As I mentioned in the answer, the indigo revolt, pabna leagues or deccan revolt each was fighting a different enemy .. Similarly, the revolt lacked an ideological base .. they were just addressing the immediate grievances that entailed on them.

    • Rate This Response!

      good answer nikku

    • Firefly
      Rate This Response!

      Ticks all the boxes! Rich in content, well organised and relevant.

    • Prashant S
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      very well written. two more points could have been leadership from below which restricted the extent of the movement and the concept of nationalism on a nascent stage which further restricted the spread of the movements only to the immediate community and not on a pan india level.

    • Rate This Response!

      Beautiful answer. You have given excellent introduction, arguments and a conclusion. Keep it up!

  5. 1 Vote

    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    Ans- The motivation behind peasant movements were different in the beginning. These movements began in a segregated fashion & had local reach & implications. Santhal rebellions arose against moneylenders & then turned against government only because it was supporting moneylenders. Similarly during the Deccan riots of 1875, revolution was against the marwari & gujarati moneylenders. Similar was the case of Bengal indigo cultivators who just wanted freedom to grow anything they want. Even Congress was not much interested in grievance redressal of peasants , keeping them away from the common national struggle.

    But it would be wrong to assume that they lacked the positive conception of an alternative society. The change came after emergence of Gandhiji. He sought to involve the peasants in the nationalist struggle.Feeling of a common struggle came alive in them after he involved peasants in the movement of champaran & Kheda satyagrah. After that, in support of Khilafat movement, many Moplah rebellion arose in revolt. It was involving the feeling of common struggle against the harsh treatment given to sultan of turkey. Formation of Kisan sabhas in 1920s paved a long way in consolidating the peasant power for agitation against the injustice happening to them.

    So, the peasant movements even if started as small uprisings against local exploitation, gradually it took the shape of a class struggle. In fact, in later periods, reflection of communism was easily visible in them.

    • phani
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      sagar , the first para was good.but after that , its not part of the qustion where it specifucally mentions about the nature of peasant movements in mid 19th centuary.

    • Rate This Response!

      The Gandhian politics itself developed in the 20th century. Your are giving information on the peasants movement in british colonialism rather than on a specific period. Thhough u did not provide any wrong fact and right in ur approach try to write it in the specific context of late nineteenth century

  6. Keerthi Narayan
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    1. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is our country’s pioneer organisation involving in space research. From being dependent on Russia for launch vehicles, to launching foreign satellites like SARAL through its own satellites, it has grown consistently from its inception in 1972. However, whether it has made India a space power is a matter of debate.

    ISRO has made significant contributions to the country’s growth through its various satellite systems and launch vehicles. Its major projects are
    1.Placing Earth Observation Satellites
    2. Placing Communication Satellites
    3. Space Observation Missions
    4. Launch Vehicle Developments

    In these areas, ISRO has achieved significant milestones. India has the largest set of remote sensing satellites. In Communication satellites, it has been successful in putting GSLV mark 1 & 2 type of satellites in geo stationary orbits. However it has failed so far in attaining similar success in .heavier communication satellites. It is still dependent on France’s Arianne launch vehicle for placing such satellites.Recently IRNSS, a navigation satellite was launched successfully through themore consistent workhorse PSLV. Regarding space missions, Chandrayaan 1 was a successful venture which raised the prestige of ISRO among world nations.

    Future Projects:

    ISRO is involved in developing GSLV mark 3 since last few years. It is set to take a GSAT satellite in August 2013. It is trying to repeat the success it attained in PSLV missions. Besides ISRO is also planning for a MARS orbiter mission in 2013. There are plans for manned missions to space as well but at a rudimentary stage.

    Though the achievements of ISRO are remarkable, it cannot be said to have made India as a space superpower. Nations have attained far higher milestones like placing space stations operating for years, development of more robust, reliable space shuttles, manned missions to moon and space, development of advanced navigation and communication satellites on their own etc. Considering all these facts, ISRO has a long way to go.

    2. The India China border issues are yet to be resolved and a clear both countries agreed, demarcated border has not yet been established. However, the emergence of China as India’s largest trading partner is not the cause behind this.

    China’s trade with India has reached around $60 billion and both the countries want to take it upto $100 billion. This makes China India’s largest trading partner. However, this emergence is a recent phenomena largely arising out of the remarkable growth of India and China post 1990s. Whereas, India’s border issues with China have a history of about 50 years.

    The major reason behind the border issues being unsettled is the attitude of China and the complicated nature of the issue itself. China has repeatedly mentioned that border issues with India are a ‘complex’ issue and not to be settled in a quick manner. Moreover, there is no agreed border between the two nations. China accuses India of unilaterally changing its map in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir. India claims that the Himalayas are its natural boundaries and the regions under dispute has been traditionally and historically part of India.

    Though bilateral trade is mutually benefitting and both India and China are not ready to let the trade volume go down because of diplomatic issues, this is not the major reason for the unresolved lingering border issues.

  7. Nirmal Singh
    2 Votes

    The railway had played a pivotal role in both making and eroding the influence of colonization unlike USA and Western Europe where it give rise to industrial revolution.
    To British delight it enlarged their geographical and strategic influence through unprecedented access and timey deployment of forces in case of any insurgency and rebellion. It ensured widespread loot of tribal and forest lands as it require large quantity of woods and iron. It firmly established colonial hold over Indian economy by linking resource areas with ports and industrial regions. The raw resources when processed into cheap finished products like clothes, machines found its way back to India further damaging local industries. The status of railway as a colonial symbol can be gauged from the fact that these were at the receiving end of public fury during Gandhian struggles.
    Contrary to widespread perceptions the same had become a tool against colonial tragedy. The previously unconnected areas got new life strengthening freedom struggle by spreading ideas of nationalistic movement across people.Mahatama Gandhi especially used railway to visit countryside. The nationalistic leaders began to interact and congress sessions at different parts were held owing to easy connectivity. The railways gave pan Indian struggle to struggles like Quit India Movement, non-cooperation Movements, Civil Disobedience. Further revolutionaries activities owed their growth railways.
    The role of railway in western nations as a tool for Industrialization is due to absence of any colonial rule but the absence of same bred ground for colonism and against it.

  8. 2 Votes

    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.
    Peasants movements in India was mainly the result of exploitative economic land policies and revenue system like zamindari, ryotwari and mahalwari introduced by east India company. The excessive state revenue demand and introduction of new classes such as zamindars, moneylenders impoverished the peasants forcing them to protest, revolt and rebel. The commercialization of agriculture leading to loss of land for the peasants coupled famines created a furore in the peasantry class.
    The protests took the shape of movements at various regional levels in the second half of 19th century. However, these mobilizations were mainly parochial in character and were aimed at zamindars, moneylenders. They have no vision for an all India movement and lack political understanding about the developments in the country. Further they were not against the imperial political power but against their way of extracting the revenue.
    The Santhal rebellion, Indigo revolt of 1860, Deccan riots were some of the revolts which do not challenged the authority of imperial system but instead challenged the local level petty zamindars and sub feudal landlords. The movements were short lived and lost their importance once the immediate concerns of the peasants were resolved. In addition to that, due to lack of communication between different regions and quick transport facility, lacks of educational and political awareness were the main reasons for the growth of peasants movements on a national front.
    Therefore it can be said that though imperial rule have been instrumental in bringing the change in structure of agricultural class through its various land revenue policy, most of the peasants mobilizations never challenged the authority of British rule and instead ravaged the zamindars and moneylenders in order to relieve themselves from the immediate bondage of debt.

  9. 2 Votes

    2)“The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.
    Railways as a modern means of transport has been used extensively by the western nations for the acceleration of their industrialization process in the home country and for the consolidation of their political, economic and militaristic dominance in the colonies. This is the reason why most of the western countries gained from the introduction of railways while colonies like India lost due to augmented exploitation of resources and quick suppression of their voices by imperial rule.
    In western countries like Europe and America, railway was introduced as means of economic expansion and civilian purpose. It helped in ferrying resources like coal, steel to the industries which helped in increasing the productivity of these economies. However in case of India, railway was a deliberate introduction of imperial government for the acceleration of British interest and exploiting the hitherto unexplored market of Indian economy. It was not used for the civilian purposes in the initial period. It was also used by the British government for the deployment of its troops in case of any rebellion.
    Therefore any rebellion or revolt in the mainland was met with severe confrontation and suppression from British. This can be gauged from the quick suppression of revolt of 1857 by the east India company in which railway was used. This consolidated the British rule and substantiated colonization of India.
    Hence, introduction of railway was an industrial prerogative for acceleration of wealth in the western countries while it was having a political and economic exploitation dimension in the India for the consolidation of colonization.

  10. lakshmi prasanna
    2 Votes

    1. In 19th century peasants uprising were seen against the inhuman exploitation with an objective to end the extent of exploitation. The peasant’s movements during this period were not well organized and were free from political color.
    British revenue policies kept the agrarian structure away from modern scientific changes. Old structure was collapsed under new administrative policies. New land tenure systems like permanent settlement, mahalvary and ryotwari system helped in exploiting peasants by zamindars, moneylenders and government itself. All this drove peasants into deeper poverty. The causes for movements include high revenue beyond the capacity of peasant, commercialization of agriculture, no measures to improve peasant conditions and new legal system helped zamindaris and money lenders to exploit further.
    The main peasant movements include indigo revolt, pabna revolt and Deccan revolt. In 1859 under thinkathia system peasants were forced to grow indigo and paid low prices to their produce. Peasant’s condition was vividly portrayed by Dinbandhu mitra in Nildarpan. Peasant’s revolt paved way for formation of indigo commission by government. Pabna revolt against increase of revenue by zamindars above legal limits and it ended on passing Bengal tenancy act. Deccan revolt raised as ryotwari system demanded high revenue from peasants and forced them to borrow from moneylenders at high interest rates. On failing to pay, they occupied their lands. This caused peasants to attack moneylenders home and burn bonded papers. To protect peasants Deccan agriculturist relief act was passed.
    The weakness of peasant movements were short term goals, lack of specific plan or strategy or ideology for the formation of new social order and failed to form an organization .The support of intelligentsia and media was not sufficient and was not active support like it gave to the peasant movements in the 20th century.

  11. Rate This Response!

    2)“The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    Ans- Britishers took the task of development of railways in India not for the development of India or Indians but for their own good. If we talk of the industrial revolution, railways served the purpose of transfer of goods & raw materials from one part of country to the other. No foreign power was present there & so all the developmental activities led to their common good. On the contrary, in India, railways meant the development of foreign trade in our country leading to further decay of traders & craftsmen. Not only goods, railways helped british government in crushing the revolts that cropped up by transport of army men. It increased the reach of britishers to many parts of country, leading to the spread of their colonies further in India. Moreover, the industries that were being setup in India ended up helping the finances of britain only & turned into the machines for draining the wealth of India. It can’t be denied that railways has helped in increasing colonization in India but it was responsible for many social benefits too which was the result of the rise of Industries in India.

    • Amudhan
      Rate This Response!

      hey Itsmesagar
      your point about the Investments in the railways (were guaranteed by the GoI with a stable return) being a another form of the drain of wealth is an excellent point.

    • tushar
      Rate This Response!

      The conclusion feels incomplete. You have nicely described how railways led to subjugation of Indian economy to British interests, but in the end you tried to bring the counter view also. I think you should have supported it by some evidence/examples.Also it would have been nice if it was in a different paragraph.

  12. tushar
    1 Vote

    2) “The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA,
    acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    Invention of railways was a turning point in the industrial revolution taking
    place in Europe and America. It revolutionized the transportation and gave a huge boost to the industrial revolution. However, while on one hand this development led to rapid spread of industrial revolution in developed countries, it paved the way
    for further impoverishment and destruction of Indian economy.

    The Indian colonization essentially began from the coastal areas. The Portuguese,Dutch, French and the English traders initially set up their trading posts and factories in coastal cities of Madras, Surat, Calcutta and Mumbai. Their markets were mostly confined to
    nearby areas due to limitation of effective transportation. The mainland ares were largely untouched by the economic exploitation by the colonists.

    But the spread of railways removed this shortcoming. With growing demand for raw materials in there home countries and efforts to search new markets to sell the finished goods led the colonists to put the railways to there best use. India was a home for both- cheap raw materials and a huge market for the finished goods. The spread of railways quickened the process of colonization.

    Railways had a huge impact in changing the face of the Western Europe and USA by enhancing the pace of Industrial revolution.But the benefits were reaped by the countries in Western Europe and USA. In the colonies like India, this served as a tool in the hands of colonial forces to bring the entire economy under their control.

  13. Anjali Motghare
    1 Vote

    During colonial rule, excessive state land revenue combined with harsh
    collection methods pushed the peasants into depth of poverty. Peasant
    had to face oppression at the hands of not only foreign but indigenous
    exploiters and capitalists also. Theie grievances led them to revolt
    to make themselves free from bonds of feudal exploitation.

    Santhal of Rajmahal hills in Bengal revolted against moneylenders,
    zamindars against extortions, oppressive exactions and forcible disposition
    of their property and land. This revolt was limited to Santhals area.
    Bengal Indigo cultivators revolt directed against British planters
    confined to only indigo growing area as their grievances was about forced
    indigo cultivation.

    The Deccan Riots was directed mainly against the excesses of the Marwari
    and Gujrati moneylenders and spread over a some districts of Maharashtra.

    They protested against enhancement of rent, evictions,, usurious practice of
    money lenders; their demands included occupancy rights, commutation of
    produce rent into money rent etc.

    These revolts were in the nature of protest, revolts and rebellions with
    the aim of ending exploitations and were confined to local or regional level.These revolts had a explosive character as peasants suddenly rose in revolt over certain issue without proper planning and strategy.

    Though in all parts of countries peasants were facing same oppression they
    never tried to unite at pan India level to raise their demand as their demands were also related to local cause.

    Their revolt primarily aimed at loosening the bond of feudal exploitation.
    In the absence of class consciousness or proper organization the
    peasant movement did not develop a political matrix.

  14. kalyani
    2 Votes

    As is the case with many small movements in India, which emerged during British rule, peasant movement in India also spring out in various parts of India. Here what made peasant movement different from other freedom struggle movements was that, their immediate concern was not India’s freedom, rather an improvement in their situation to eke out a decent living. Their life became worsen by increased tax on land, low farm production, irrigation problems and so on. But they were forced to pay taxes at any circumstances. So in the case of indigo revolt, champaran revolt, then in North Kerala, Maharashtra, they all suffered from a common problem only that is poverty. To a great extent even if British succeeded in suppressing such revolts, peasants’ attitude were so strong and they even refused to pay high taxes even under any pressure. They opposed vehemently with teeth and nail. By the mid 1930s condition of peasants improved with many reformative measures from government’s side. We cannot forget Indian National Congress’s role in gaining them their goal. But as British noted, peasants’ feelings were very instant and spontaneous. So for the same reason, they didn’t come to the forefront of freedom struggle and they shrank to their own world. But they could have contributed more if they possess a unity among themselves.

  15. Anjali Motghare
    2 Votes

    Compulsions of maintaining imperial control over India and its thorough
    economic exploitation led Britain to construct means of connectivity like roads and railways.

    Investors in railway construction were also mainly British capitalist with
    guaranteed profit in return. So it served one of colonial purose while
    construction itself.

    British rulers wanted to exploit India as much as they can by intense trade.
    They constructed railways initially between port cities to urban center only
    for speedy transportation of raw material for export and distribution of
    imported manufactured goods. First line completed was of Calcutta-Allahabad-Delhi line.By 1880 the network route was about 14,500 km (9,000 mi), mostly radiating inward from the three major port cities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta.As these port towns were used for export and import of goods.

    Later they connected mainly those cities which were important from their
    point for commerce and procurement centre of raw materials.Railways serve the purpose of faster movement of goods and with hinterland
    connectivity by other means like roads, its got easier to sent goods in every
    nook and corner of the country and so made easy shipment of procured
    raw materials for export.

    Railways in the west augmented industrial revolution because it was constructed with the aim of development while in India it was built and used as per colonial interest. So obviously it acted as ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.

    • Amudhan
      Rate This Response!

      Hey Anjali
      your answer takes the economic aspects and substantiates them however you failed to consider the military and administrative implications as well.

      • Sudha
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        The point that construction of railways itself benefitted the British is good. your answer explains how Indian railway system increased British revenue. Could have explained about how it exploited Indian wealth as well.

      • Anjali Motghare
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        Thanks Amudhan, which book exactly to use for history Sumit Sarkar or Bipin Chandra for history portion.

  16. Keerthi Narayan
    1 Vote

    Compared to the civil rebellions and tribal uprisings of the early 19th century, the peasant rebellions of the second half of the 19th century were different. The peasant rebellions were not aimed at overthrowing the colonial yoke. They were specific economic grievances which threatened the livelihood of the peasantry and the peasant movements only aimed at securing back their livelihood. Once this objective was satisfied the organising leagues withered away.

    The popular peasant movements of 1850-1900 were Indigo revolution of 1859-60, Pabna peasant uprisings of the 1870s and the Puna and Ahmadnagar riots of 1870s.

    The Indigo rebellion was due to the coercion of peasants by the European planters to plant Indigo and sell them at less than market prices. When they refused, the planters used armed men called Lathiyals who used violence.

    The Pabna uprisings were due to an unfair increase in land revenue by the zamindars. This led to impoverishment of peasantry, eviction from their lands due to non-payment of rent etc.

    The Deccan riots are a result of a series of issues. Fall in cotton prices due to end of American civil war, hike in land revenue and poor harvests. This made the peasantry fall prey to the clutches of the external moneylenders.

    In all these cases, the peasnatry rose against the zamindars, planters, moneylenders to fight back the unbearable oppression they faced. They did not realise the evils of colonialism. In fact, it was the major weakness of the movements of 19th century. They lacked a political vision or alternative that can organise the masses on a nation wide scale. The political awareness and thesubsequent mingling of peasant protests and anti-imperial protests happened only in the 20th century.

    2.The major reason for the same element, The Railways, to be a promoter of Industrialisation and growth in the West and to be a promoter of colonialism and impoverishment of Indian economy lies in the nature of Polity. Both in the USA and western Europe, the countries were already independent and no longer under an imperial power. Hence, the railways was used for the promotion of industriy, the prime mover of growth. Whereas, in India, the ruling British people started the Railways and used it for advancing their economic interests.

    In western Europe and the USA, the pioneering centres of industrial revolution, the process of growth of industries was vastly promoted by the railway network. The vast supplies of coal and iron ore across the continent were quickly transported to the production centres and the distribution of finished goods were conveniently done because of the existence and expansion of rail network during the 19th century, However, the same result was not repeated in the Indian subcontinent. The railway network expansion that started in 1853 during Lord Dalhousie’s reign, did not result in growth of industries. On the contrary, the railway network was mainly used by the British to secure their interests. It used the railways as a means of transporting the raw materials like cotton, tea, spices from across the country to the ports and exporting them to England for its home industries. The Industries would turn them into finished products like textiles and send them back to India. Again, railways was used to distribute this finished good to the markets across the country.

  17. Tejaswi
    2 Votes

    The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    The railways had revolutionized the transportation and boosted up the industrial growth in the countries of western europe and the USA by providing better and efficient transport to connect industries and markets and building railways itself led to the spur in demand of iron. But, in contrary, the same railways has led to further colonization and destruction of Indian economy.

    The railways in India were introduced during the second half of the 19th century. They were located so as to connect Indian markets to the ports to easily bring in the imported goods from british, where as the high customs duty and one-way free trade denied the same benefit for Indian goods. The inflow of cheap machine-made British manufactured goods has led to the collapse of Indian manufacturing industry, gradually turning it into the exporter of raw-materials and importer of finished goods. This led to the economic subjugation of the Indian economy further strengthening the colonial hold.

    Railways were also effectively used to transport the military troops quickly to the areas of uprisings and protests emerging in the country, helping the British to maintain its colonial rule in India.

    Thus railways in both the ways helped the british to further the process of colonization in India. But, railways by providing quicker transport and thus linking the people also led to the transfer of opinions from place to place and played a critical role in spreading the message of national awakening.

  18. lakshmi prasanna
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    The railway projects in India were to serve the economic political and military interests of British imperialism. The railway lines were lined to link Indian raw material producing areas with ports for export.

    In 1851 earliest suggestions for building rails was made in madras. First steam driven railways constructs was proposed in England Dalhousie undertook development of railways from 1850. All British private enterprises were invited to undertake railway construction all railway investments were given foreign guarantee interest of 5% on the capital outlay which were met from the revenues of India by the government of India. The foreign companies were given a free land with 99 year lease after which rail line will become the property of colonial government. But investor had a option to return back the line for which government will be fully compensated. Means not only 5% profit from the revenue but also what invested initially. Later day’s Sayasachi Bhattacharya describes this as AN INSTANCE OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE AT PUBLIC RISK.

    Equipment needed was imported from England so that ancillary industries will develop there. Even the higher posts in railways were reserved for British’s. . It also helped British goods penetration into India. The Indians were totally excluded from the technology. The needs of Indian industries and their markets were neglected. Further railway rates were fixed in a manner favoring their imports and exports and to discriminate against internal movement of goods. Having all this discrimination’s it is obvious that British railway project favored colonialism instead India

  19. Sudha
    1 Vote

    The peasant movements, uprisings and revolts in the second half of the 19th century were spontaneous uprisings of their social conditions to solve own demands mostly economic grievances. They were fighting against their immediate enemies, rich land lords, Zamindars and money lenders but not against Colonial rule.
    Indigo revolt in west Bengal was against the planters who forced the peasants to grow indigo and paid them less. The Pabna movement in East Bengal was against Zamindars who forced the peasants to pay excessive rent. Deccan uprisings were against the money lenders who suppressed the ignorant peasants through fraudulent means. Thus the movements lacked a common objective.
    The territorial reach of the movements was also very limited. They lacked communication linkages and objective. They also lacked continuity of struggle i.e there is no long term objective. Hence the colonial government were able to suppress the movements by simple concessions through Bengal Tenancy Act, Deccan Agriculturalists Relief Act and few others.
    The peasants lacked the understanding of social framework of their movements and also about colonization. They do not possess new ideology, vision and strategy of the struggle. The movements were not anti-imperialistic; rather they fought for the enforcement of the existing legal rights.
    Ignorance of colonial suppression and economic plunder, colonial Government neutral attitude towards these peasant movements unlike the civil rebellions and sepoy mutiny limited the extent of these movements. The Intelligentsia and missionaries supported the peasants to a great extent and ultimately spreaded the phenomenon of colonialism. However, these movements of peasant discontent along with political discontent of 20th century led to the long national movement.

  20. Amudhan
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    “The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments” Critically examine.
    The peasant movements of the latter half of the 1800’s tend to be reactionary rather than revolutionary in nature. They are articulated against the British and the zamindars but redressal was largely sought with the governance framework of the British E.g. Indigo Rebellion. Of the movements which were revolutionary in nature a majority focused on returning to the polity before the British adventures in India as they understood them not on the basis of India as a nation. Revolutions were localized and dealt with in a local manner e.g. Faraaizis revolt.
    The Idea of the Indian state is a product of the Indian national movement and a nation of ‘One people’ is its crowning achievement. Before the INM the country was united by the sword but never by the people themselves. All movements with the exception of the 1857 revolt were localized in the 1850-1900 period and fought with parochial interest. The Peasant movements as well as the majority of the Intelligentsia not only failed to unite the people but failed to recognize its importance with exception to the INC.
    Division were maintained and encouraged by the British state through attributing primary importance to caste and religion as the primary determinant for engagement with the governance structure. It was done to avoid the development of a Pan-India political force, to avoid the development and communication of an alternative society without the British. The lack of vision and unity within the peasant movements is a product of the British political strategy.

  21. Amudhan
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    “The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.
    The marriage of the British secondary sector and India’s primary sector was made possible with the advent of the railways in India. Whereas railways was an infrastructural investment that moved people, linked markets and facilitated business transactions within the nation in India it served to transport raw material to British Industry. They allowed for the vast movement of heavy raw materials in a cost effective manner. The railways facilitated the economic colonization of India.
    Railways facilitated the movement of troops so that a small highly trained unit could fight and out-maneuver its enemies as well redeploy and reinforce faster than their enemy improving the effective troop count as witnessed in 1857 revolt. The Administrative reach of the British also extended with the railways. It integrated India unlike before eradicating the need for decentralization, which was a necessity.
    The railways did not have the same effect as it did in the US or Europe since industrialization comes from a positive cycle of capital, markets and technology rationalizing the capital intensive investment which is characteristic of Industrialization. Although railways increased the size of the markets by uniting them India lacked capital and technology thus unable to capitalize on the railways. Therefore the railway was tool for the complete colonization of India.

  22. Sudha
    1 Vote

    “The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    The railways played a vital role in industrial growth for Western Europe and USA during industrial revolution whereas the same railways played a completely different and opposite rule of economic exploitation in India. This was mainly due to the difference in the nature of governance. The developed economies of USA and Europe made use of the railways efficiently and increased their growth further. The colonial Government of India laid railways and used it for their own benefits.

    The colonial regime faced the difficulty of bringing the raw materials from different parts of the country to the factory and finished goods to ports for shipping. Hence they laid down railways during mid 19th century for their own benefits but not for the benefits of India. With the help of increased transportation new regions are annexed under British provinces. The railways helped in the mobilisation of resources and army to different regions when there is a revolt. The railways completely suppressed the self sufficiency of Indian villages. The already established cities lost their importance and new cities are established with the significance of railways.

    The railways though have negative impact on Indian economy by commercialising agriculture it helped to overcome the geographical and cultural barriers of the country thereby bringing the people together increasing the spirit of oneness.

  23. Vipul
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    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    Answer :
    The peasant movements in the second half of the nineteenth century were an inevitable consequence of their unbearable exploitation under the British rule . The peasants being downgraded in the society from the very beginning were often satisfied in the period before the advent of Britishers . Under the reigns of various rulers whether it be the early hindu rulers or later mughals , their plight was not such disastrous that would lead to hunger and famines.
    The point here is that although they did not enjoy liberal values and were drubbed under feudalistic lords , still were much better than the colonial rulers .Thus this ancient notion of being under the ruler was still very much prevalent in the Indian Society as can be seen by the way revolters of 1857 tried to re-establish Mughal ruler as their emperor rather than setting themselves free .
    Secondly peasants were uneducated , unaware and far from liberal western ideas and to some extent lacked nationalism . This regionalism that prevailed in their minds did not unite them towards the common enemy and fight a mass struggle towards it . This can also be seen by their different timings of the revolt and unaffected by the struggle of peasants of other areas .

    On the contrary if the type of nationalist mass struggle which seen in the early decades of twentieth century , could have touched upon the minds of the peasants earlier that would have been a much broader and huge base , maybe an all india plane . The political developments which took place later in the twentieth century leading to reforms and succumbing of government , were a result of that type of revolt and mass struggle .

    These were even easily crushed by the britishers because of their limited scope . Hence we can conclude that nineteenth century peasant revolts lacked a positive conception of an alternate society and rather were waged in regional and haphazard manner without any organisation .

  24. vipul
    1 Vote

    “The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    British rulers’s colonial policies like zamindari, ryotwari system,forced Indigo plantations etc. had damaged the social framework of Indian agriculture society to a great extent. Most of the farmers were left as land less laborers and tenants at will. They were forced to survive at the mercy of land lords( Zamindars) & money lenders. European planters wanted them to grow Indigo on the best land and used to pay them a very low price.

    This deprivation & exploitation triggered several peasant movements in second half of 19th century. Several successful movements (Indigo movement, Deccan revolt,Mapiall rebellion etc) were organized in different territories of the country. Most of the time, such movement were directed against the zamindars & money lenders.

    British rulers also interfered with legislative reforms like Bengal Tenancy act etc. to pacify the agitation. Indian peasants were law abiding and never refused the rent payment. They revolted against the undue enhancement of rent. Most of the peasant movement were organized with limited & localized objective. As soon as the immediate grievances were addressed, movement slowed down.

    Peasant movements lacked the mutual communication. Despite showing the courage & spirit of sacrifice.Indian peasants could not generate a common struggle ground. Indian peasants could not understand the nature of colonialism at that point of time.

  25. lrlevin
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    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.
    The British land revenue collection system which provided for Zamindari system, Ryotwari system and Mahalwari system in different parts of India led to the subjugation of peasants and at the same time gave a fillip for Landlordism and proliferation of money lenders and intermediaries. These rich people along with the British officials demanded exorbitant land revenue payments from the peasants, who over time have become landless labourers and sharecroppers. Such taxes were unsustainable for the peasant and it pushed them towards poverty. Drought and famine played havoc in their lives now and then.
    The frustrated peasants suffering from high indebtedness, poverty and starvation rose up, rebelled and revolted against the Bristish, Zamindars, Landlords and moneylenders. These incidents were more prominent after 1858. The indigo revolt in Bengal (1859-60) and Bihar (1866-68) where British compelled the peasants to cultivate indigo instead of food grains, the revolts of peasants in Maharashtra against high land revenue collection through ryotwari system, revolts of Assam and Kerala are few examples of peasant uprising.
    However these uprisings were
    – Localized in nature
    – unplanned and unorganized
    – result of immediate impact of british rule on socio-economic-cultural life of the peasants
    – backward looking
    – lacking unity and modern ideas
    – mostly targeted towards local moneylender
    Based on these facts, it can be said that the peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society. However, these peasant movements lived in spirit of people and later inspired them to participate in mass agitations during the National freedom struggle.

  26. Firefly
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    August 12, 2013

    1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    The peasant movement in 19th century emanated from the transformation in agrarian structure due to the colonial rule. Its purpose was to bring reforms to address immediate grievances. The peasantry revolted not against the colonial rule, but the excesses of zamindars, moneylenders and European planters.

    In the Indigo Revolt of 1860, the tenants protested when they were violently coerced into growing indigo on their most fertile lands and made to enter into fraudulent contracts enforcing the same. All they seeked to gain through the protest was a relief from this burden of growing Indigo which caused them losses. The Pabna Agrarian League formed in 1870s was founded to bring an end to illegal evictions, heavy rents and arbitrary levies imposed by zamindars on peasants. The ryots in Deccan, similarly, were not against the colonial rule rather rose up against the moneylenders who charged exponential interests, grabbed their lands, co-opted them to perform begar and hari(unpaid labour).

    The peasant struggles during the 19th century lacked the vision that it was the colonial rule that was the root cause of their economic and social woes. There goals were limited to seeking superficial reforms to take care of their immediate concerns. They employed the colonial structures (administration and legal system) to press for their demands and even pledged their allegiance to the colonial rulers.

  27. Rate This Response!

    2)“The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    The railways, from its inception in early 1800s were majorly used for bulk and fast freight transport in Western Europe and USA. It gave a fillip to industrial revolution by transporting heavy raw materials like coal, iron ore, etc from the mining region to the industrial complexes over long distances and in turn transporting the finished goods to markets. Railways, in these countries played a vital role in rapidly expanding their economies.
    In India, railway was started in 1853 during the reign of Lord Dalhousie. This initiative by British, unlike in their own country and USA was not used for improving industries in India. But, they were initiated for the following reasons.
    1. British manufacturers were looking for huge amount of raw materials to feed their machines and also were searching for new and untapped markets to sell their products.
    2. British Bankers and investors were looking for safe investment of their surplus capital.
    3. British Steel manufactures regarded it as an outlet for their products like rails, engines, wagon, etc.
    4. British Government in India realized the usefulness of railways for curbing internal rebellion or external aggression by deploying troops quickly.
    From the above points, it is clearly evident that the railways were constructed only to serve British interest and not of Indians. This can be further clarified by British’s act of not involving Indians in planning, construction and management of railways, their policies of restricting internal movement of goods to provide for movement of exports and imports.
    So, it is safe to conclude that Railways were used as a catalyst of complete colonization by the British over India.

    • 1 Vote

      Good answer. Try not to use 1,2 ,3 for giving points, instead use small paragraphs. Use numbers only when you are asked to ‘enumerate’ something.

  28. Firefly
    1 Vote

    August 12, 2013

    Q2 “The railways, instead of serving as the catalyst for an Industrial revolution as in Western Europe and the USA, acted in India as – ‘the catalyst of complete colonization’.” Critically examine.

    India had a complex integration with the world economy during colonial rule. It was assigned a subservient position to British economy. The development of railways was not done for bringing industrialization to India rather it was done to further the interests of the British industrialists.
    Railway routes were developed to reach the heart of forests and exploit the natural resources which were to be used by the British companies to manufacture goods. The first network from Bombay to Thane is a case in point. Timber and other forest produce were exported in bulk to Britain. However, the income from exports accruing to India was minimal. There were no trade barriers or tariffs to prevent exploitation of domestic producers. These trade barriers were very strong in Western Europe and USA. The raw material was then converted to finished goods in Britain and brought to Indian market for sale. Here they were staged to compete with domestic produce. The rural artisans and handicraft industry were ruined due to this unfair and unjust competition. This also resulted in increased pressure on land for agriculture.
    Additionally, the tribes were also denied access to forest produce and restrained from practicing shifting agriculture. Development of railways gave an opportunity to Britain to access the natural resources of India from its remote forests. It led to the economic subjugation of India in addition to political domineering by the colonizers.

  29. Asha Goud
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    “The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

    A: The new land revenue system and change in economic structure of society ntroduced by the British led to growing dissatisfaction among the peasants and the artisians. The Zamindari and Ryotwari system of Land Revenue pushed peasants into a debt trap and eventually they were reduced to tenents at will on their own land. Peasants movements in the 2nd half of 19th century was a manifestation of this dissatisfaction.

    The Indigo revolt, The Pabna rebellion, The Deccan riots are major examples of peasant unrest developed at that time. These rebellions were mainly focused on redressal of specific grievances raised against exploitation by planters, money lenders and zamindars. These revolts were not anti-colonial in nature. Infact the peasants demanded redresal of grievances through legal methods framed by the government. The pesants also took to violent means but rarely and violence was not directed against colonial authorities.

    It should be appreciated that peasants at that time became aware of their rights, organized themselves and adopted legal methods. The colonial authorities too understood the strength of these rebellions and took measures to respond to the grievances.

    The peasants were illiterate people and they were not able to understand the nature of colonial structure and the extent of colonial exploitation. Also by that time the political concepts of nationalism and economic theory of drain of wealth was not fully conceptualized. Therefore the nature of these rebellions was limited to a region and specific to a grievance.

    1. phani
      1 Vote


      1)“The peasant movements of the second half of the nineteenth century lacked a positive conception of an alternative society – a conception which would unite the people in a common struggle on a wide regional and all-India plane and help develop a long term political developments”. Critically examine.

      British conquered india as part of their expansionary colonial policy , they never intended to make india their homeland unlike the previous order to fuel their industrial revolution ,the economic policies pursued by them has adversely effected the traditional Indian agrarian economy,handicrafts and social system.
      The zamindari , ryotwari,mahalwari systems introduced were mainly designed to extract as much tax as possible from the land holdings with out giving any surety of tenure and ownership to the peasant folk made Indian agriculture commercial and increased the rural indebtedness , power of money lenders , and eventual loss of dignity of the peasants.
      Though they agitated against the might of british to secure some concessions , the movements became largely confined to some regions. Be it , the indigo revolt against the existing tinkathia system, pabna revolt against the tax beyond the legal limits , and the Deccan riots in pune and ahmadnar etc were largely regional basis an dnever spread across their boundaries. The uprisings got subsided as and when they got some concessions and lack os support from the intelligentia and not so popular press. The mode of communication was also primitive and largely through the publication of books. The lack of central leadership , political agitation ,mass based organization severy dented the the possibility of inciting a national consciousness unlike the peasant movements of 20th century.
      The decline of mughal empire and division of india into various princely states too negatively impacted the psyche of people to think in a pan india sense. But though the peasant movements of 19th century never became big national movements , they could able to pave the way for the next generation moderate congress leadership to protest with the british taking the exploitation doctrine forward.

    2. phani
      Rate This Response!


      superb answer anjali..i liked the conclusion part.

    3. Sagar
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      Thank you sudha for your review.

    4. Anjali Motghare
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      thanks phani, and suggestions are always welcome.

    5. Vipul
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      Please give your views guys

    6. Sudha
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      The first two paragraphs could have been simplified as its not answering the question directly. And in the concluding part I don’t think that the peasant movements lacked organisation. They are organised well within the scope of their objectives. Just that they lacked a common objective of national struggle.