- Tribal Movements
- The name of the Bhil tribe owes its origin to the word “bhillu” which means bow. Hunter-gatherer by profession, the natives of the tribe had expertise in archery integrated with practical experience in the art of bow making.
- They used these self-produced means of art, for war and trade purposes
- Eklavya, the prominent archer prodigy, was known to be born to a Bhil couple.
Bhil uprising against the British
- The Bhil uprising of 1818 was one of the first British resistance movement taken up by any group or tribe in the country.
- The rebellion was against the British feudalism and imperialism in Rajputana.
- The tribe had had a long history of a peaceful living, but the changes brought about by the British administration and the feudal order made them tumultuous against the government.
- The causes of uprisings include:
- The coming of the British rule in India brought about certain administrative changes in the country.
- Before these changes, the Bhil tribesmen fully enjoyed the undiversified forest rights.
- In the year 1818, all the Bhil tribal states joined hands with British Administration to conclude a treaty.
- Now, the British became the real master as they were now handed over the right of intervention and policy formation for both the external and internal affairs of the state.
- Further, the Bhils were deprived of the rights to consume and use of various products that were produced abundantly in the forest.
- A ban was imposed on the domestic consumption and trade of certain products in the nearby villages and tribes.
- For instance, the cutting of Mango and Malwa trees was prohibited
- The natives of the tribe were prohibited to distil liquor openly in their homes. The states gave the contract of distilling liquor to the traders and earned income out of it.
- The price of abundant articles like opium was increased for the Bhils. The British were given exclusive rights over the article and they consequently established a new system altogether for weighing it.
- This led to the tribe’s resentment against the British as they were being deprived of various basic amenities.
- Also, the money-lenders exploited the Bhils economically.
- They would seize their lands, in reply to their inability to pay back the loans taken on a high rate of interest, from the money-lenders.
- In 1879, annoyed by their activities, the Bhils revolted by killing some of these money-lenders.
- Further, the British government in the country was keen to ensure a smooth passage of trade to the Bombay and Surat ports and also for speedy movement of the troops from the areas inhabited by the Bhil tribesmen.
- For this purpose, contracts were given to people outside the tribe to cut down the trees for construction of roads. This hurt the sentiments of the tribe.
- On the whole, their refusal to surrender their rights and the zeal to stand against the British administration became the immediate cause of the Bhil rebellion from 1818-1900.
Consequences of the uprising
- To counter the Bhil rebellion from 1818, the British government sent in forces to crush the uprising by suppressing the dissents.
- The forces compelled the Bhil warriors to surrender immediately, but it backfired as it created all the more bitterness and resentment against the British
- The forces were not able to move deep in the forest to crush the revolt completely owing to the ever-increasing difficulties in the dense forest.
- Also, the subordinates of the ruler of Mewar tried to bring the Bhils to the negotiation table but to no success.
- Finally, Col Walter, a British representative, concluded a peace settlement with the tribesmen.
- The natives were given concession in their rights to various taxes and their forest rights.
- Even though the British could claim to have suppressed the uprising, yet they were never able to achieve permanent peace in the areas inhabited by the Bhils.
Thus, the Bhil revolt is significant in Indian history, as it exposed the exploitation of the tribesmen and the efforts by external forces to control the natives. The political consciousness of the Bhil community against the British, brought in an awareness among other common citizens in India, during the colonial Rule.
- The Kol uprising was a revolt of the Adivasi Kol people of Chhota Nagpur region, during 1829-1839 as a reaction to British Policies.
- These people have their own cultures, customs and traditions which is very different from the mainstream. They learn to survive in most hostile environment but stay united.
- The Kol uprising of 1831- 32 was born out of frustration and anger of Tribal people, against the new system of British Government and laws.
Reasons for Uprising
- The uprising was a reaction to the appointment of a Political Agent to the Government in South Bihar, and ceded districts nearby around 1819.
- This resulted in many people moving into these areas which were the lands of numerous Adivasi tribes.
- Until the British arrived, these tribes had no rulers and their lands were divided according to families that were bound by “parhas” or conferences.
- With the application of new land laws, the Kols were exploited by outsiders moving into the area and taking up agriculture and commercial activities that were alien to tribal culture.
- Also, many of the lands of the locals were taken away as securities for un-returned loans.
- Another irritation was the taxation on the movement of products, such as salt that were formerly freely moved. Corrupt official practices and lawlessness followed.
As a result of above reasons, in 1831, the Kol tribesmen of Chhota Nagpur, who were upset over exploitation by agents of the East India Company (EIC), rose in revolt against the EIC.
- The rebel kols were under the leadership of Buddhu Bhagat, Joa Bhagat, Jhindrai Manki, Madara Mahato and others.
- The Kol insurrection started in 1831, when the farm of two Sikh thikadar (contractors) was plundered and burnt. In 1832, there were clashes between the armed forces and the tribals Kols rebels.
- The characteristic feature of the Kol rebellion was that the Kol tribesmen did not fight alone. Other tribesmen like the Hos, Oraons, and Mundas joined forces with them.
- British historiography described the Kol uprising as banditry.
- Despite putting up a very brave fight, the Kols were defeated in the end.
- Thousands of tribal men, women and children were killed and rebellion was suppressed. But the sacrifice of Buddhu Bhagat and other tribesman didn`t go in vain. However, this rebellion inspired many other followers.
- The 19th century witnessed innumerable movements, but the ones like the Santhal revolt hold a significant position, in India’s struggle for freedom.
- The Santhal rebellion was a rebellion in present day Jharkhand, Eastern India against both the British East India Company (BEIC) and zamindari system by the Santhal.
Background to the Rebellion
- In order to control the vast territory of India, East India Company began to implement revenue policies, law and order rules to be followed by the countrymen, from the time they began consolidating, after Battle of Plassey in 1757.
- In 1793, Lord Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement in some parts of the country like Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.
- Under the permanent revenue system, landlords had perpetual and hereditary rights over the land as long as they paid a fixed revenue to the British government. If the peasants were not able to pay their rent, the British auctioned away large tracts of land belonging to the Santhals, to anyone who would pay them fixed revenue and so in this process, several tribal lands were sold.
- In this process, the Santhal lost control over the land, and their old tribal systems and political structures that had continued for generations came to an end.
- The Santhals were the tribal people inhabiting the forest of Rajmahal hills. In 1832, East India Company demarcated the Damin-i-Koh from the region of Jharkhand and gave it to Santhals, to settle with a promise of non-interference in their land.
- But with changing times and the rising demand of the Britishers, the rent to the Santhals raised to an exorbitant rate.
- Ultimately, the Santhals were trapped in a situation where they had the only option to revolt against the Britishers and the Zamindars.
- Another reason cited for the Santhal rebellion was that the Santhals followed the barter system and they faced trouble paying the zamindars in cash, and as a result, they had to borrow money from the moneylenders at an exorbitant rate, which ultimately trapped them into a vicious cycle.
- To come out of this cycle and save the identity of the Santhals, the only solution was to revolt against the British policies.
- The Santhal revolt (also known as the Hul revolt ) started on 30th June 1855, with the help of prominent leaders like Sidhu, Kanhu, Chand, and Bhairav, and also their two sisters Phulo and Jhano.
- The depressed and anguished Santhals engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Britishers and formed their own troops which included the farmers, villagers, and the women.
- In this quest, they were able to capture large parts of land including Rajmahal Hills, Bhagalpur district, and Birbhum.
- They militarized over 10000 Santhal people. The villagers put to fire the storehouses and the warehouses and all forms of communication lines were disrupted.
- The government applied all possible means to suppress the movement. In order to curb the rebellion, Britishers used heavy loaded weapons against bows and arrows used by the Santhals.
- The landlords were in the support of the government whereas the local people supported the Santhals in full vigour.
- Unfortunately, the duo brother Sidhu and Kanhu were arrested and the revolt had a brutal end.
- The Santhals were repressed and the movement came to an end in 1856.
How Was the revolt, different From the Other Revolts?
- Organized movement
- The Santhal uprising was an organized movement with good leadership qualities. In a short period of time, it was successful in uniting about 60,000 people.
- If we look at the other spontaneous movement of that time, we find that none of the movements was that well-arranged as the Santhal revolt. The unity of the Santhals shook the nerve of the Britishers.
- Use of weapons & Tactics
- Despite the Santhal using bows and arrows against the weapons and artillery used by the Britishers, the guerrilla tactics, which was a new occurrence for Bihar to fight against the Britishers, gave Santhals an upper hand.
- Trained leadership
- The prominent leaders of the war, Sidhu, and Kanhu in a short span of time, were successful in mobilizing a huge number of people to fight against the cause.
- Blow on British powers
- The Santhal rebellion was a blow on the British powers. It was such a fierce movement that Britishers had to implement martial law to quell the powers of Santhals
- Growth of Revolutionary Nationalism
- The Santhal revolt fostered a sense of unity among the Santhal tribes.
- It was seen as the beginning of larger wars to free the people from the oppressive British rule.
- This movement resulted in a feeling of nationalism which helped to mobilize people for further wars, like the Revolt of 1857.
- Identity of the tribal people
- The Santhal rebellion gave birth to the modern Santhal identity.
- It also promoted the tribal people to protect their culture and tradition from any kind of destruction and interference.
- Successful movement
- It was seen that the Britishers did acknowledge their follies, despite the Santhals being defeated
- Further, after the end of the war, the Santhal Paraganas Tenancy Act was enacted which provided the tribes some protection against the oppressive British Rule.
- This was successful in inculcating nationalist feelings among the people.
Thus, the Santhal uprising is not only a movement of great Historical importance. It rather, is the root cause behind it, the rights to tribal lands that finds mention, which becomes relevant in present context. Thus, History truly is a continuum and it is important to understand the past, to make sense of the present, in order to deal with current Tribal related issues in India.
- After the First Anglo Burmese War(1824-26), the British planned the construction of a road connecting Brahmaputra Valley (present day Assam) with Sylhet (present day Bangladesh).
- The Jaintias and the Garos in the North-Eastern part of India (present day Meghalaya), opposed the construction of this road which was of strategic importance to the British for the movement of troops.
- In 1827, the Jaintias tried to stop work and soon the unrest spread to the neighbouring Garo hills.
- Alarmed, the British burnt several Jaintias and Garo villages. The hostilities increased with the introduction of House Tax and Income Tax by the British in 1860’s.
- However, the Jaintias leader U Kiang Nongbah was captured and publicly hanged and the Garo leader Pa Togan Sangma was defeated by the British.
- The Government of India has honored U Kiang Nangbah not just by declaring a holiday on the day that he was martyred, but also by opening a government college in the town of Jowai in his honor in 1967.
- Also, a postage stamp was also issued in his name in 2001.
- The Rampa Rebellion of 1922, also known as the Manyam Rebellion, was a tribal uprising led by Alluri Sitarama Raju in Godavari Agency of Madras Presidency, British India.
- It began in August 1922 and lasted until the capture and killing of Raju in May 1924.
- This Rebellion had no connection with the Rampa Rebellion of 1879.
- The Rampa administrative area, situated in the hills of the present Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, comprised around 700 square miles, and comprised mostly of Tribal population.
- They had traditionally supported their food requirements, through the use, in particular, of the Podu system, whereby each year some areas of jungle forest were burned to clear land for cultivation.
- The British wanted to take control of the forest land for building railways and ships.
- Also, the British authorities wanted to improve the economic usefulness of lands in Godavari Agency, an area that was noted for the prevalence of malaria and blackwater fever.
- This commercial exploitation had a great impact on the local tribal people, as they lost their land to traditional cultivation activities.
- Thus, the revolt was mainly against the passing of Madras Forest Act, 1882 which put restrictions on the free movement of tribal communities in the forest land and prevented them from engaging in their traditional Podu agricultural system.
- Further, the tribal people of the forested hills, who now faced starvation, had long felt that the legal system favoured the zamindars and merchants of the plains areas, which had also resulted in the earlier Rampa Rebellion of 1879.
- As a result, the tribal people objected the British laws.
- Simultaneously, there was discontent among the muttadars, who had been hereditary tax collectors and de facto rulers in the hills prior to the arrival of the British.
- They had acted on behalf of the rajas, the actual rulers who lived on the plains.
- Later, the British subsumed them into the colonial administration, leaving them as bureaucrats with no substantive power
- Hence, the tribal and Muttadars had a common foe.
- Alluri Sitarama Raju, a sanyasi, a person of justice and strong will power, raised his voice against the unlawful British Policy.
- He harnessed the discontent of the tribal people to support his anti-colonial zeal, whilst also accommodating the grievances of those Muttadars who were sympathetic to his aim.
- Tribal people were the victims of the colonial rulers’ greed and Raju wanted justice for them.
- So, Raju headed the Rampa Rebellion along with the band of tribal people and other followers.
- Alluri Raju also used guerrilla warfare to fight against the British. He raided many police stations like Dammanapalli, Krishna Devi Petra and Annavaram.
- The revolt started in August 1922 and ended in May 1924 after the capturing and killing of Raju.
- However, there was no commission of enquiry placed on the problems faced by the tribes and the reason for rebellion.
- According to the British, “It was the prevalent diseases through which the tribal people had acquired tolerance, which hindered the British suppression of the rebellion”.
Topic in news
- In 2022, two special postal covers were released, celebrating the centenary of the Rampa rebellion, led by Alluri Sitarama Raju.
- The Munda Ulgulan (rebellion) is one of the most prominent tribal revolts in the history of Indian Independence.
- Even though the end was not favourable, it sent a message across the borders that the tribal people know how to raise their voice and to what extent.
- The Munda was a tribe based in Chhota Nagpur of Jharkhand whose means of living was agriculture.
- The cause of this uprising was similar to that of other rebellions – the British Colonizers, Zamindars and Missionaries.
- The Mundas practiced Khuntkatti System, where the whole clan jointly owned the land fit for cultivation.
- However, over the course of 19th century, the non-tribal people started to settle in the land of Munda and became Jagirdars and zamindars.
- The land owned by Mundas were seized or forfeited and they were forced to work as landless labourers in the fields of these Jagirdars and zamindars.
- They exploited these meek tribal people by charging them high rate of interest and withholding their receipts. Such practices brought the indigenous people in conflict with Dikus (outsiders).
- Further, large forest areas was constituted as the protected forest and took away their rights from these lands.
- The landlords and Dikus (outsiders) strengthened their hold over the properties of the Mundas and demanded begari (wageless labour).
- The holders of lands were reduced to holders of plough.
- As a result, their condition got worse and they lost their grip over ancestral land.
- Thus, the people of Munda tribe were desperately in need of a person, who could show them the way and lead them to fight back for their land.
- It was at this time, Birsa Munda, spearheaded the tribal movement.
- Born in 1875, he began to understand the nature of exploitation met out against his tribal villagers.
- He had knowledge about the Golden Age of Munda tribe, which existed before the advent of dikus and had seen its transformation into an impoverished tribe.
- He strived for a positive political programme, his object being the attainment of independence, both religious and political.
- The movement sought the assertion of the rights of the Mundas, as the real proprietors of the soil.
- This ideal agrarian order, according to Birsa, would be possible in a world free from the influence of European official
- As a result, he called upon the Mundas to fight against superstition, give up animal sacrifice, stop taking intoxicants, to wear the sacred thread and retain the tribal tradition of worship in the sarna or the sacred grove.
- The rebellion, was essentially a revivalist movement, which sought to purge Munda society of all foreign elements and restore its pristine character.
- Further, by 1890s, he was mobilizing people and enraging the tribal in the region.
- In 1894, he declared a revolt against the British and the dikus and declared to create a ‘Munda Raj’.
- Under his leadership, the villagers attacked the police stations, churches and government properties in 1899.
- However, on 9 January, 1900, the rebels were defeated. Birsa was captured and died in jail. Nearly 350 Mundas were put on trial and of them three were hanged and 44 transported for life.
Significance of the Movement
- Although the rebellion could not reach the desired end, it left a significant impact on the tribal movement of India.
- It showed that the tribal people had the capacity to protest against injustice and express their anger against colonial rule.
- The British enacted the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 which restricted the transfer of tribal land to non-tribal people.
- The “Khuntkatti” rights were recognised and ”Beth begari” was banned.
- Consequently, tribals won a degree of legal protection for their land rights.
- Most importantly, Birsa Munda, in just 25 years of age, left a legacy behind him, and he is named among the exceptional freedom fighters of India.
Thus, the sacrifices, devotion and hope poured in the revolt by Munda tribe have its own legacy followed by the people of India.
- Every year, Birth anniversary of Birsa Munda is observed on November 15th.
- In recognition of his impact on the national movement, the state of Jharkhand was created on his birth anniversary in 2000.
- The Khond is a native clan of India dominatingly living in Orissa and the Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam regions of Andhra Pradesh.
- The clan extended from Bengal to Tamil Nadu covering focal regions. They are the biggest ancestral gatherings of Orissa.
Events leading to the disturbances
- Kalahandi, where majority of Khonds had settled, was ruled by Hindu Raja Udit Partab Deo.
- To achieve high revenue collection, the Raja drastically curtailed the powers of the Umraos or chief headmen, and ousted the Khonds from their villages and gave these villages to the Kultas, who were an industrial caste of cultivators.
- This reduced the Khonds to the level of hopeless drudges, and they brewed in deep discontent by 1881.
- The Ghumsar wars of 1835-37 and the wars of 1846-48 fought between the Khonds and the British were wars of conquest aimed at expansion and consolidation of colonial rule.
- This process resulted in the suppression of practice of Meriah or Human Sacrifice from the mid of 19th Century.
- Further, there was a transformation in the mode of Political legitimisation.
- On one hand, the traditional tribal organisation had been based on mutual cooperation between the ruling Hindu elite and the Khonds from whom they derived legitimacy.
- Colonial rule not only breached the relations between the Khonds and Hindu elite, it also subjugated the Khonds to the British.
- Also, the inroads made by colonial conquest in the Khond tracts, further exposed the vulnerable tribal population to ‘outside’ forces that significantly altered the Khond tribal organisation.
- As a result, the Khond disturbances of 1882, which went on for over half a year, occurred in two phases:
- In first phase, there was large-scale plundering of Kulta Villages and property.
- The second phase saw intensive bloodshed and cruelty.
Thus, the Khond revolt, which started as a result of Colonial policies, contested the sovereignty of the British. However, nothing much came out of the unrest, other than bolstering of colonial structures in the state.
- Thus, the disturbance went down in the history of tribal unrest, as a distinctly ‘Agrarian’ unrest.
- During the colonial time period, tribal uprisings were taking place in different parts of India due to the local reasons and Tana Bhagat movement is one of them.
- This movement was religious in its initial stage, but gradually targeted the political objectives.
- This movement is considered as an extended part of the Birsa movement.
- Tana Bhagat movement was started in April 1914, under the leadership of Jatra Bhagat.
- Basically Tana Bhagat movement was started to stop the evil practices which were taking place in the Oraon community of Chotanagpur and to oppose the Jamindars policies which were exploiting the Oraon people directly.
- People adopted non-violence as their strategy to make this movement successful as the followers of this movement were influenced by Mahatma Gandhi.
Reasons of the movement
- In April 1914 Jatra Bhagat announced, that he had a direct message from God Dharmesh (God of Oraon community) to revive the Oraon religion, because some bad practices like- exorcism, ghost hunter, animal sacrifices for God and alcoholism etc. have entered in their religion and somehow these practices should be abandoned. So these all religious issues provided the platform for movement in the initial stage.
- Jamindars were exploiting the Oraon community people by taking extra rent of lands. This kind of rebel behaviour of Jamindars agitated the Oraon community.
- The role of pahan (priests) and mahto (village representative) in the village gave way to the Jatra followers, to raise voice against these people as they believed in ghosts and other evil practices.
- The Oraon people were also forced for unpaid labour by their landlords.
- Further, the people of the community, faced land alienation from the Government.
- Animal sacrifices were stopped
- Drinking alcohol was prohibited
- Superstitious belief did not get importance
- People were exempted from imposed taxes
- The followers decided that they will not provide services as coolies or labourers
- Demand of self-governance
- Later this movement joined the national movement of Mahatma Gandhi and adopted his principles of truth and non-violence.
- Also, the followers of this movement participated in congress sessions of Calcutta, Gaya and Lahore.
- In this way the followers of the Tana Bhagat movement took part in national movements against the British rule. In present also Oraon community people follow the Gandhian thought.
- This movement was very unique in its nature, because it tried to associate with the national movement and played a significant role in Indian independence.
- The name of the Bhil tribe owes its origin to the word “bhillu” which means bow. Hunter-gatherer by profession, the natives of the tribe had expertise in archery integrated with practical experience in the art of bow making.
- Peasants Movement
- The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi in India and is considered a historically important revolt in the Indian Independence Movement.
- It was a farmer’s uprising that took place in Champaran district of Bihar, India, during the British colonial period.
- Champaran is a district in North Western Bihar. It formed part of the Tirhut division in the province of Bihar and Orissa in British India.
- Indigo cultivation in Champaran goes back to the late 18th century. By 1850, indigo had become the predominantly produced crop in Champaran.
- The predominant system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran was the tinkathia system.
- In this, the Ryot was under an obligation to cultivate three kathas per beegha of his land with indigo i.e. 3/20th of his landholding.
- There were no legal grounds for this.
- Moreover, post 1900, because of competition from the European synthetic indigo, the indigo factories in Bihar started facing decline.
- To escape losses, the planters began cancelling their agreements with the ryots to grow indigo. To release them from this obligation, they charged a tawane. damages as high as Rs. 100 per beegha.
- If the ryots could not make a cash payment, then handnotes and mortgage bonds were made at an interest rate of 12 percent per annum.
- Hence, there was a general discontent among the ryots around indigo cultivation in Bihar.
- The core reason for this was the low remuneration they received for the crop.
- They also suffered harassment and oppression at the hands of factory servants.
- All this resulted in demonstrations against indigo cultivation in Champaran twice; first in 1867 and second demonstration emerged in 1907-08.
- Gandhi returned to India, at a time of Socio-Politically surcharged situation, after a successful Satyagraha against the Apartheid system.
- The resentment surrounding indigo cultivation compelled Raj Kumar Shukla, a well-off agriculturist to persuade Mahatma Gandhi to visit Champaran and work for the oppressed peasants, in 1916.
- Brajkishore Prasad moved a resolution in the Congress meeting about the distress of peasants in Champaran, and it was unanimously passed.
- Later, Gandhi finally agreed to visit Champaran.
- Gandhi first arrived in Muzaffarpur.
- Being sensible to the situation, he immediately wrote to the Commissioner of the Tirhut Division informing him that he wanted to work with the cognizance and co-operation of the governmen
- In a meeting with Commissioner of Tirhut division, Gandhi stated that owing to public demand, he wished to enquire about the condition of indigo cultivation in Champaran and the grievances of the tenants associated with it. He also said that he did not have any desire to instigate turbulence.
- After arrival of Gandhi in Champaran district, the British imposed an order under Section 144, and when Gandhi refused, he was charged under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and summoned for a trial on 18th April, 1917.
- In meantime, Lieutenant Governor intervened and on the grounds of insufficient evidence against Gandhi and the doubtful legality of invoking Section 144 against him, ordered the local administration to withdraw the case.
- Moreover, he also gave Gandhi the permission to conduct the inquiry.
- Thus, the ideals of Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha which later became a characteristic feature of the Indian National Movement, began from Champaran.
- Later, the Lieutenant Governor in Council decided to appoint a Committee of Inquiry to examine and report on the agrarian conditions in Champaran. Gandhiji was appointed as one of its members.
- The Committee submitted its report on 4th October 1917 and made the following recommendations:
- The tinkathia system should be abolished.
- If someone enters into an agreement to grow indigo then it should be voluntary, its term should not extend more than a period of three years and the decision to select the field in which indigo is to be grown should rest with the ryots.
- The ryots who paid tawan to the factories would get back one fourth of it from them. Fourth, the realization of abwab (illegal cesses) should be stopped.
- The Government accepted almost all the recommendations of the Inquiry Committee, and issued a resolution.
- Later in 1918, Champaran Agrarian Act was passed.
- The series of celebration were held on 10 April 2017 with a National Conclave (Rashtritya Vimarsh) where eminent Gandhian thinkers, philosophers, and scholars participated, in remembrance of the Satyagraha.
- On 13 May 2017, Indian Postal Department Issued three commemorative postage stamps and a miniature sheet on Champaran Satyagraha Centenary.
- The Bardoli satyagraha, launched 90 years ago in February 1928, is one such episode in India’s national movement which not just elevated Sardar Vallabhai Patel to a new pinnacle of glory and greatness, but also revived the morale of Mahatma Gandhi, undeniably still in ‘recovery mode’ after the setback of withdrawing the non-cooperation movement after the Chauri Chaura violence.
- The Bombay Government (through its Revenue Department) had, in 1927, enhanced the land revenue assessment in the Bardoli taluka (county) by a nominal 22%, which, when applied, amounted in some cases to as much as 60% enhancement. This translated in increased land taxes
- The Bardoli peasants had immediately made several claims regarding this modification, the most important of which were that the rate of enhancement was unjust and that it had been established without full and appropriate investigation.
- In addition, they claimed that the tax official’s report was inaccurate and thus an increase in the tax was unwarranted.
- The local Congress Party organization published a critical report to show that peasants could not sustain the enhanced assessments and a committee organized by the Congress drafted a petition and waited upon the Revenue Member of the State government early in 1927.
- Given that the authorities refused to recognize these claims as legitimate and change the law, the Bardoli peasants decided to organize a campaign aimed at pressuring the Bombay government to launch an impartial inquiry into the enhancement of land revenue assessment in Bardoli.
- In September 1927, the peasants held a conference in Bardoli, where participants unanimously resolved to withhold payment of the enhanced portion of the assessment. On January 5, 1928. Peasants invited Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a political and social leader, to lead them in their struggle.
- Patel accepted presidency of the conference of peasants and initiated correspondence with the government, and upon the reply that the government was “not prepared to make any concession”, the peasants adopted a resolution (12 February 1928) setting forth the demand for an inquiry and the refusal to pay the assessment until the government either accepted the amount of the old assessment as full payment or until an impartial tribunal was appointed to investigate the situation.
- Gandhi, although not directly involved in the campaign, supported the struggle through his writings in Young India (a weekly journal published in English by Mahatma Gandhi from 1919 to 1932) and through his visit in Bardoli two months after the Satyagraha had been launched.
- The Struggle
- Patel first wrote to the Governor of Bombay, asking him to reduce the taxes for the year in phase of the calamities. But the Governor ignored the letter, and reciprocated by announcing the date of collection.
- Patel then instructed all the farmers of Bardoli taluka to refuse payment of their taxes.
- Above all, Patel instructed the farmers to remain completely nonviolent and not to respond physically to any incitements or aggressive actions from officials.
- The main action phase of the campaign included non-cooperation, trespass, submission to arrest, and resignation of offices. Peasants met revenue collectors with closed doors or, receiving them, read aloud extracts from Patel’s speeches and tried to persuade the enforcement agents that they could not collect the revenue.
- However, the government declared that it would crush the revolt. Along with tax inspectors, bands of Pathans were gathered from northwest India to seize the property of the villagers and terrorize them.
- The government began to auction the houses and the lands, but not a single person from Gujarat or anywhere else in India came forward to buy them.
- Members of the legislative councils of Bombay and across India were angered by the terrible treatment of the protesting farmers.
- Indian members resigned their offices and expressed open support of the farmers
- The government was heavily criticised, even by many in the British Raj’s offices.
- Finally, in 1928, an agreement was finally brokered by a Parsi member of the Bombay government.
- It agreed to restore the confiscated lands and properties, to cancel revenue payment for the year and to cancel the 22% raise until after the succeeding year.
- The government appointed the Maxwell-Broomfield Commission to look in to the matter.
- After a rigorous survey, the raise in taxes was decided to be just 03%.
- However, the basic problems of the peasants were left unsolved, and bonded labour continued
Patel credited Gandhi’s teachings and the farmers’ undying resolve. And people across the nation recognised his vital leadership. It was women of bardoli who bestowed the title Sardar for the first time.
- On the whole, the effect of the campaign extended beyond Bardoli. As Nehru observed, “the real success of their campaign lay in the effect it produced among the peasantry all over India. Bardoli became a sign and a symbol of hope and strength and victory to the Indian peasant.”
- Widely hailed as one of the first nationalist uprisings in southern India, the Malabar Rebellion of 1921 started off as a peasant movement against the British and the upper-caste Hindu landlords, owing mainly to the new land laws introduced by the British government in the early 19th century.
- August 2021, marks the centenary of events known as ‘Mappila Lahala’ in Malayalam and Moplah Rebellion in British Colonial records, which took place in Malabar in 1921.
- Some celebrate it as an “agrarian movement”, even an “anti-imperialistic rebellion”, and the Kerala government in 1971 had recognised the rebels of 1921 as “freedom fighters”, but others have termed it a “communal riot”.
What led to the Malabar Riots?
- Land ownership in Malabar
- Malabar’s agricultural system was historically based on a hierarchy of privileges, rights and obligations for all principal social groups.
- The Jenmi, consisting mainly of the Namboothiri Brahmins and Nair chieftains, were the highest level of the hierarchy, and a class of people given hereditary land grants by the Naduvazhis or rulers.
- Owing to their ritual status as priests (Nambudris), the jenmis could neither cultivate nor supervise the land but would instead provide a grant of kanam to a kanakkaran in return for a fixed share of the crops produced.
- However, during the 19th century, conversions to Islam increased dramatically from lower caste, and they freed themselves from traditional disabilities of caste.
- Other reforms introduced
- Tipu Sultan’s Kingdom of Mysore, drove the Jenmi out of Malabar, and reached accord with the Muslim Kanakkars.
- A new system of land revenue was introduced for the first time in the region’s history, with the government share fixed on the basis of actual produce from the land.
- However, within five years, the East India Company took over Malabar, defeating Tipu Sultan and ending his reign over the region.
- This allowed the Jenmi to return to their homes and regain the lands lost during the Mysorean invasion, with the help of the Company administration and its duly-constituted courts.
- The Company introduced several Western juridical concepts, such as that of absolute property rights, into the existing legal system of Malabar.
- As a result all land became the private property of the Jenmi.
- This legal recognition gave them the right to evict tenants, which was in turn enforced through the colonial civil courts.
- Also, as conditions worsened, rents rose to as high as 75–80% of net produce.
- This caused great resentment among the Mappilas, who were the indigenous Muslim community in Kerala’s Malabar region, who trace their origin to the coming of the Arab traders in the 9th century, credited with having brought Islam to the west coast of India.
- The Mappilas were mostly agricultural labourers on land owned by the upper-caste Hindus under the British.
- Thus, as a result of British policies, the Moplah community, lost their formal or customary rights, which they had enjoyed for a long time.
- Tipu Sultan’s Kingdom of Mysore, drove the Jenmi out of Malabar, and reached accord with the Muslim Kanakkars.
Areas in red show Taluks affected by Massacre
- The uprising, which started on 20 August 1921, carried on for several months, forcing the British authorities to impose martial law to end the rebellion.
- Without economic resources, pushed to the corners, and radicalized by an extremist minority, the men who sparked the outrages exemplified a combination of factors that birthed violence.
- To this was added the trigger of the Khilafat Movement in 1921, with protests against the post-World War I unseating of the Ottoman Caliph.
- Initially, the rebels robbed and looted government establishments to stockpile arms and other necessities with the intent to create a Khilafat state.
- They did not attack Hindus or rob landlords
- Nevertheless, they killed police officers and collaborators and destroyed property
- The Malabar Rebellion witnessed many attacks on British officers in the region.
- During the early phase of the rebellion, the targets were primarily the Jenmi and the colonial government.
- By October 1921, the rebels and their leaders were making an impact, and unrestrained violence on the general populace was unbearable.
- The uprising reportedly led to the death of around 10,000 people, including 2,339 of the rebels.
- Also, Many Hindus were forced to convert to Islam.
Reaction and Aftermath
- In the aftermath of the uprising, the Suddhi Movement was created by the Arya Samaj.
- They converted over 2,000 Hindus who had been forcibly converted to Islam by the Mappilas.
- Various leaders of the movement, were sentenced to death following the Malabar Rebellion.
- By the end of 1921, the situation was brought under control.
- The colonial government raised a special quasi-military (or Armed Police) battalion, the Malabar Special Police, initially consisting of non-Muslims and trained by the colonial army.
- The Special Police then engaged the rioters and eventually put an end to the riot.
- On 19 November 1921 when the uprising was near its end, almost 100 people were sent by train from Tirur to the Central Prison, Bellary in the Madras Presidency.
- But, after opening the wagon in Podanur, it was found that, 64 of them had died.
- This is known as the Wagon Massacre or Bellary Train Tragedy.
- Also, their deaths through apparent negligence discredited the British Raj and generated sympathy for the Indian independence movement.
- The 1921 rebellion is back in the eye of a storm in its centenary year, with the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) deciding to remove the names of 387 participants who lost their lives from The Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle (1857-1947), including prominent leaders such as Variamkunnath Ahmad Haji, who was shot dead on January 20, 1922, and Musliyar, who was hanged in Coimbatore on February 17, 1922.
- Tebhaga movement (1946–1947) was significant peasant agitation, initiated in Bengal by the All India Kisan Sabha of peasant front, of the Communist Party of India.
- It was an intense peasant movement in the history of India. It was a fierce peasant uprising on the eve of India’s independence and the partition of Bengal.
- Tebhaga, simply put, meant that two-thirds of the crops, tilled by the bargadars and adhiars would have to go to them.
- Bargadar was a person, who under the system generally known as adhi, barga or bhag cultivated the land of another person, on condition of delivering a share of the produce of such land to that person.
- The link between the zamindars and the British government was that zamindars would pay a yearly tax fixed by the government depending on the quantity and quality of the lands owned by the zamindars.
- Below them was the class of jotedars to whom the zamindars distributed lands through a system called Pattani.
- The jotedars class was directly connected with lands and cultivation.
- Jotedars fixed the total yield from land, to be shared equally between the cultivator and the owner of the land i.e. jotedar. This system of cultivation of land was commonly known as Adhiary Pratha (half-half system), mostly prevalent in north Bengal.
- Jotedars used to exploit the labour of a cultivator in various forms, the poor bargadar becoming almost a slave of the landowner.
- There was always a constant threat that, if he did not obey the jotedar he would take away the land and the bargadar would have to starve. This was a system of exploitation
- The grievances of peasants grew as the economic situation in the country worsened in the post War period that immediately followed a terrible famine (1942) throughout Bengal.
- The economic situation, political unrest, and unbearable social conditions of the peasants led to the movement later known as Tebhaga Andolan (Movement).
- The Communist leaders and Krishak Samity leaders took full advantage of the unrest, prevailing among the poor peasants and landless agricultural laborers.
- The movement sparked off in an area under PS Chirirbandar in the district of Dinajpur.
- The assembled farmers refused to give fifty per cent; instead, they offered thirty-three per cent out of the total yield.
- A serious quarrel flared up between the jotedars’ armed men and the adamant peasants causing injuries to both parties
- However, Police took control of the region, by arresting the supporters and leaders.
- Further, after the Bengal famine in 1943, the Bengal Provincial Kishan Sabha, which was guided by the Communist Party, called for a mass movement among sharecroppers in September 1946 to keep Tebhaga (twothirds) of the harvested crops.
- This demand had figured since the thirties in the programmes of the Kishan Sabha, and had also been recognized as just by the Floud Commission, which in 1939-1940 had reviewed the miserable state of Bengal’s agriculture.
- The Floud Commission, a land revenue commission established by the Govt. of Bengal in 1938, had exposed the maladies in the prevailing system which obliged sharecroppers to relinquish half of their harvest as rent, and on top of that, they had to pay scores of illegal cesses.
- Communists went out to the countryside to organize peasants to take the harvested crop to their own threshing floor and make the two-thirds’ share a reality.
- The slogan, ‘’adhi noy, tebhaga chai’’ (we want two-thirds to share not 1/2) reverberated.
- They started taking harvested crops to their own yards.
- They offered only 1/3 crop share to jotedars.
- This led to innumerable clashes and subsequent arrest, lathi charges and firing.
- Further, in late 1946, the sharecroppers (bargadars, bhagchasis or adhiar) of Bengal began to assert, that they would pay not a half share of their crop to the jotedars, but only one-third and that before the division of the crop, it would be stored in their own khamars (godowns) and not that of the jotedars.
- In September 1946, Bengal Provincial Kishan Sabha gave a call to implement through mass struggle the Floud Commission recommendation of tebhaga.
- Communist cadres, including many students from the urban areas, went out into the countryside to organize bargadars, who had become a major and growing section of the rural population.
- Later, the movement received a boost in January 1947, when the Muslim League Ministry led by Suhrawarddi published the Bengal Bargadars Temporary Legislation Bill, in the Calcutta Gazette on 22 January 1947.
- The jotedars appealed to the Government, and the police attempted to suppress the peasants.
- But other political developments handicapped the government to get the Barga Bill enacted into a law.
- The Partition of Bengal and the promises of the new government led to the suspension of the movement.
- Further, the movement continued till 1950, when the Bargadari Act was enacted.
- The Act recognised the right of the sharecropper to two-thirds of the produce when he provided the inputs.
- Although the Bargadari Act of 1950 recognised the rights of bargadars to a higher share of crops from the land that they tilled, it was not implemented.
- Large tracts, beyond the prescribed limit of land ceiling, remained with the rich landlords.
- In 1967, West Bengal witnessed peasant uprising, against non-implementation of land reforms legislation.
- From 1977 onwards major land reforms took place in West Bengal under the Left Front government.
- Land in excess of land ceiling was acquired and distributed amongst the peasants.
- Subsequently, “Operation Barga” began that was aimed at securing tenancy rights for the peasants.
On the whole, the movement reflected the development of the political consciousness of the poor peasants and tribal sharecroppers, and it may safely be opined that it marked a turning point in the history of agrarian movements in India. Hence, the Tebhaga movement is probably the greatest peasant movement in the history of India.
- The Telangana movement (1946-51) was an armed revolt of peasants, under the leadership of the Communist Party of India against oppressive landlordism patronized by the autocratic rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
- It was a pivotal moment in Indian history because of its impact on the future of the communist movement in India, and its highlighting of the condition of the Indian peasantry.
- Before Indian independence, Hyderabad state was a princely state within the territory of British India, comprised of three linguistic regions: the Telugu-speaking Telangana area (including the capital city, Hyderabad), the Marathi-speaking Marathwada area, and a small Kannada-speaking area.
- The ruling elites, including the Nizam, were Muslims, while the majority were Hindus.
- The nature of land ownership in the region was extremely exploitative.
- 40% of the land was either directly owned by the Nizam or given by the Nizam to elites in the form of jagirs (special tenures).
- The remaining 60% was under the government’s land revenue system, which relied on powerful landlords and gave no legal rights or security from eviction to the people actually cultivating the land.
- Other exploitative practices were widespread.
- The vetti (forced labour) system consisted of work performed by lower castes at the will of the landlord.
- For example, each so-called “untouchable” family was required to send one man everyday to do household labour and other jobs for the landlord.
- The large landowners had taken over significant tracts of land, either through forced occupation or debt-sales.
- Before Indian independence, Hyderabad state was a princely state within the territory of British India, comprised of three linguistic regions: the Telugu-speaking Telangana area (including the capital city, Hyderabad), the Marathi-speaking Marathwada area, and a small Kannada-speaking area.
- In the 1920s, the suppression of languages and cultures provoked resistance, which eventually led to more wide-ranging agitations.
- In 1928, the Andhra Mahasabha (AMS) was organised, which later in 1934 conference demanded:
- reduced land revenue rates
- abolition of vetti, and
- the introduction of Telugu into the local courts
- The advent of the Second World War saw the beginning of communist influence on the AMS, and in 1942, with the removal of the ban on the Communist Party of India (CPI), the communists began to grow in Hyderabad.
- Further, after 1944, the communists, along with AMS, began gaining ground in several districts, especially among the agricultural labourers, poor tenants and small landholders, and started forming Sanghams (village-level committees).
- The Spark
- Tensions mounted when a hereditary tax collector, attempted to forcibly take land belonging to a member of a village sangham.
- He sent a group of 100 goons and 100 servants to forcibly gather the harvest.
- They were resisted by the local village sangham leaders and volunteers.
- On July 4, 1946, a procession was organised by the villagers protesting the violence and terrorism of the landlord’s goons.
- As they approached the landlord’s house, some of the goons opened fire on the procession, leading to the death of Doddi Komarayya, the sangham leader.
- The death of Komarayya enraged the people, sparking a massive revolt amongst the Telangana peasantry, with people from neighbouring villages marching, holding meetings in front of the landlord’s house, and declaring: “Sangham is organised here. No more vetti, no more illegal exactions, no evictions”.
- By the end of July, the movement had spread to about 300-400 villages across three districts.
- In response, the police, with the help of landlords, conducted a series of search operations, leading villagers to arm themselves.
- In October 1946, the Nizam’s government banned the AMS, and a spurt of arrests and military raids took place. Under these conditions of martial rule, some landlords began returning.
- Thus, during this first phase of the movement, the people were able, in several area, to “put an end to vetti, illegal exactions, compulsory grain levies, and reoccupy the lands seized earlier by the landlords”, while also “resisting the landlords’ armed goondas” and facing “the armed police and the military forces of the Nizam”
- Tensions mounted when a hereditary tax collector, attempted to forcibly take land belonging to a member of a village sangham.
- Razzakar Terror
- In August 1947, when India became independent, Hyderabad state exercised the option of remaining autonomous.
- The bulk of the ruling majority, including the Nizam, the nobility and the Majlis-I-Ittehad (MII), a fundamentalist Islamic organisation within Hyderabad, supported the call for Azad (“Free”) Hyderabad.
- At this point, the MII started growing in militancy.
- Its paramilitary force, the Razakars, were sent in hordes to suppress the peasant insurrection.
- They raided and plundered the troubled villages, arrested or killed suspected and potential agitators, terrorized the innocent, and also abducted women as part of the campaign of punitive measures against the turbulent villages all over Hyderabad, but particularly in Telangana.
- In reaction, in February 1948, the CPI introduced a new policy aimed at encouraging guerilla offensives, largely influenced by the success of the Telangana insurrection.
- The village republics started redistributing land to landless agricultural labourers and evicted tenants, increasing the popularity of the movement.
Police Acton and the Aftermath
- On September 13, 1948, in a ‘police action’ aimed at countering the violence in Hyderabad, the Indian Army marched into the state. Within a week’s time, the Nizam, the razakar squads and the police surrendered.
- In an effort to co-opt peasant support, the military administration issued the Jagir Abolition Regulation (August 1949) and set up an Agrarian Enquiry Committee to recommend comprehensive land reform legislation.
- At this time, a debate ensued within the CPI. Certain sections felt that giving up arms was essential. Other sections were sceptical, as they felt that giving up arms could lead to loss of gains and appear as a betrayal of the people.
- However, by the end of 1950, only isolated guerilla groups existed, there was little coordination among village republics, and the severe military repression had taken its toll on the population, with a huge loss of life, and the movement weakened.
- By early 1951, Congress government made several conciliatory gestures towards the CPI, and, after several rounds of negotiations, the CPI formally declared the struggle withdrawn on October 21, 1951.
- The Telengana movement represents the culmination of efforts by communist and socialist parties in the first few decades of the communist movement.
- The untiring efforts organising and mobilising the peasantry against grave injustices represented a break away from traditionally more moderate reformist movements within the peasantry.
- Although the exact significance and value of the Telengana movement is fiercely debated, one cannot deny the role of the movement, in bringing the question of the peasantry to the fore of the communist movement; in actively organising people against caste injustices; and in radically redefining the need for strong organisational structure, which was a key factor in the growth of the movement.
- Dalit Movements
- The term Dalit was first used by Jyotirao Phule for the oppressed classes or untouchable castes of the Hindu.
- The Dalit movement began as a protest movement, to bring socio-political transformation in the status of Dalits in India.
- The Dalits were isolated, fragmented and oppressed by the hegemony of Upper Caste culture.
- With Maturity of time, the new polity, the postmodern administrative framework, the rational judicial system, the current forms of land tenure and taxation, the new patterns of trade, the liberal education system, and the network of communications emphasized the spirit of liberty, equality and social justice for Dalits.
- So, Dalit movement is basically a social revolution aimed for social change, replacing the age old hierarchical Indian society, and is based on the democratic ideals of liberty, equality and social justice.
Dalit Movements in Pre-Independence India
- Bhakti Movement
- This movement in 15th century was a popular movement which treated all sections of society equally and it developed two traditions of Saguna and Nirguna.
- The Saguna tradition advocated equality among all the castes though it subscribed to the Varnashram dharma and the caste social order.
- The followers of Nirguna believed in formless universal God. Ravidas and Kabir were the major figures of this tradition.
- It became more popular among the dalits in urban area in the early 20th century as it provided the possibility of salvation for all.
- It also promised social equality.
- Hence, the teachings of Bhakti movement inspired and motivated scheduled castes for the beginning of dalit movement.
- These provided the means to protest against orthodox Hinduism for future generations of Dalits.
- Neo-Vedantik Movements
- These movements were initiated by Hindu religious and social reformers.
- These movements attempted to remove untouchability by taking the dalits into the fold of the caste system.
- According to the pioneers of these movements, untouchability was not an essential part of Hinduism and, for that matter, of the caste system.
- Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, believed that the caste system was a political institution created by the rulers ‘for the common good of society, and not a natural or religious distinction’.
- The neo-Vedantic movements and non-Brahmin movements played an important catalytic role in developing anti-caste or anti Hinduism dalit movements in some parts of the country.
- The Satyashodhak Samaj and the self-respect movements in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the Adhi Dharma and Adi Andhra movement in Bengal and Adi-Hindu movement in Uttar Pradesh are important anti-untouchability movements which were launched in the last quarter of the 19th and the early part of 20th century
- Consequently, the Dalits began to call themselves Adi-Andhras in Andhra, Adi- Karnatakas in Karnataka, Adi-Dravidas in Tamil Nadu, Adi-Hindus in Uttar Pradesh and Adi-Dharmis in Punjab.
- Further, Dalits also followed the route of conversion with a purpose of getting rid of untouchability and to develop their social and financial conditions.
- Other prominent movements in this category include:
- Adi Dravidas movement in Tamil Nadu
- Shri Narayan Dharma Paripalan movement in Kerala
- Nair Movement in 1861
- Sanskritization is a process by which “a low or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high-born caste
- In this perspective Dalit leaders followed the process of ’Sanskritization’ to elevate themselves to the higher position in caste hierarchy.
- They adopted Upper Caste manners, including vegetarianism, putting sandalwood paste on forehead, wearing sacred thread, etc.
- This process was evident in the following movements:
- Adi-Dharm movement in the Punjab (organized 1926);
- The movement under Ambedkar in Maharastra, mainly based among Mahars which had its organizational beginnings in 1924;
- The Namashudra movement in Bengal;
- The Adi-Dravida movement in Tamilnadu;
- The Adi-Karnataka movement;
- The AdiHindu movement mainly centered around Kanpur in U.P; and
- The organizing of the Pulayas and Cherumans in Kerala.
Dalit Literary Movements
- At a time, when there was no means of communication to support the Dalits, pen was the only solution.
- Given the Upper Castes would never allow the Dalits voice to be expressed, as it would be a threat for their own survival, the Dalits began their own magazine and began to express their own experiences.
- Dalit literature, the literature produced by the Dalit consciousness, emerged initially during the Mukti movement.
- The Mukti movement was led by very poor Dalits who fought against the saint – poets of the time.
- These literature argued that Dalit Movement fights not only against the Brahmins, but all those people whoever practices exploitation, and those can be the Brahmins or even the Dalits themselves.
- New revolutionary songs, poems, stories, autobiographies were written by Dalit writers.
- These were sung in every village, poem and other writings were read by the entire community.
- Baburao Bagul (1930–2008) is considered as a pioneer of Marathi Dalit writings in Marathi.
- Women movement
- The women’s movement in India began as a social reform movement in the 19th century.
- During the colonial period, women’s movements in India were born out of the same historical circumstances and social milieu as the earlier 19th century social reform movements, which provoked a new thinking about various social institutions, practices and social reform legislations.
- The advent of the Europeans into India did not change the situation of women.
- Like other Western powers, the primary objective of the British in the earlier days was trade.
- The introduction of English education first started to train Indians for jobs under British administration. This created upper class elites who began to doubt the rationale of many of the existing practices in their society
- The establishment and expansion of the British rule also encouraged British missionaries to enter their colonies and start schools, orphanages and destitute homes especially for widows.
- They stood against sati, child marriage, purdah and polygamy.
- The new Indian elite exposed to European liberalism of the 18rh century, through Western education, felt the urgency for reform of their own society.
- These resulted in women movements, which produced tangible results in the subsequent periods.
Women Movement in Colonial Period
- The women’s movements in the colonial period are mainly of two different concerns:
- Social reform movements
- Nationalist movements
- Social Reform Movement
- The colonial intervention in the 19th century intruded into the areas of our culture and society and this affected transformation in our social fabric.
- This potential threat was sensed by the Indian intellectual reformers, exposed to western ideas and values.
- At this juncture, the Indian intellectual reformer sensitive to the power of colonial domination and responding to Western ideas of rationalism and liberalism sought ways and means of resisting this colonial hegemony.
- This cultural defense resulted in a paradoxical situation.
- Spurred by new European ideas of rationalism and progress, the reformers tried to create a new society, modern yet rooted in Indian tradition.
- They began a critical appraisal of Indian society in an attempt to create a new ethos devoid of all overt social aberrations like polytheism, polygamy, casteism, sati, child marriage, illiteracy etc. all of which they believed were impediments to progress of women.
- Also, Women were seen as passive recipients of a more humanitarian treatment to be given by Western educated elite men. There was thus an attempt to reform women rather than reform the social conditions which opposed them.
Issue/Causes that led to Women Movement Details and Developments Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s initiation of Social Reforms for cause of Women
- Roy’s attention was drawn towards the inhuman practice of sati
- From 1818 onwards he began his active propaganda through speeches and writings against sati.
- Largely because of his effort and persuasion, the East India Company declared the sati practice illegal and a punishable offence in 1829.
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy also opposed other evils like early marriage, polygamy,etc.
- He supported female education and widow and inter-caste marriage.
- He wanted that women should have the right of inheritance and property.
- Roy’s Brahmo Samaj played a significant role in the reform activities concerning women.
- Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagr worked towards propagating widow remarriage.
- The child marriage evil resulted in large numbers of young girls ending up as widows whose lives were miserable due to the severe restrictions imposed on them.
- He argued in favour of widow remarriage and published his work on “Widow Remarriage” in 1853.
- The efforts of Vidya Sagar, Keshub Chandra Sen and D. K. Karve resulted in the enactment of widow remarriage act of 1856.
- In the South Kandukuri Veeresalingam led the widow remarriage movement.
Dayanand Saraswathi and Compulsory education for Girls
- Arya Samaj was established by him in 1875.
- He emphasised compulsory education of both boys and girls.
- A series of schools for women- Arya Kanya Patasalas – were the first concerted effort of the Samaj to promote women’s education in a systematic way.
- Both Brahmo Samaj and Prarthana Samaj made forceful efforts to prove that Hindu religious tradition were not the source of legitimacy for the sorrowful condition of women in society.
- Under the influence of the liberal thought of the west the two Samajs strove to restore to women their dignified status.
Age of girls at marriage
- In the 19th century the average age of marriage for girls was 8 or 9.
- The extensive propaganda by Vidya Sagar and other reformers in this regard led the British government to legislate in order to improve the condition of minor girls and the age of consent bill was passed in 1860
- Further social reformers like Mahadev Govind Ranade, Behramji Malabari and Tej Bahadur Sapru in their attempts to raise the age of marriage cited several cases of consummation at the age of 10 or 11 which led to serious physical and psychological disturbances.
- Behramji, a Parsi journalist published his notes on infant marriage and enforced widowhood in 1884 suggesting certain reforms to be adopted in the educational institutions to discourage child marriage and also suggested some corrective measures to the Government.
- At last due to the collective efforts of the reformers in 1891, the Bill known as the Age of Consent was passed, which rose the marriageable age for girls to 12 years
- The social reformers felt that through female education the social evils that were linked to the issue of preserving and strengthening basic family structure could be eliminated and good wives and mothers could emerge from the same.
- Between 1855 and 1858 while he was inspector of schools, Vidya Sagar established 48 girls’ schools.
- M. G. Ranado along with his wife propagated female education and started a girls’ high school in 1884.
- The limited enforcement and practicability of legislations like widow remarriage act of 1856 and others in a tradition bound society was recognised by D. K. Karve, who, therefore, concentrated his efforts on promoting education among widows.
- In 1896 Karve along with 15 of his colleagues founded the Ananth Balikashram for the education of widows
- He also started Mahila Vidyalaya in 1907 and S.N. D. T. Women’s University in 1916 a separate educational institution for women so as to lessen the resistance of orthodox section with regard to women’s education.
Property rights for Hindu women
- The existing practice was particularly harsh on the Hindu widow who had no claim on her husband’s property except the right at maintenance
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy suggested that the government should enact and enforce laws to remove these disabilities and bring economic freedom and self-reliance.
- As a result of such efforts, special marriage act of 1872 with its provision for divorce and succession to property to women was passed.
- Thus the social reformers laid the foundation of the women’s movement in India.
- Social reform movement was the first attempt to remove the obstacles in the life of women.
- It created awareness among the people that women must be liberated and be made equal of men.
- Nationalist Movement
- As a result of the social reform movement of the 19th century, the social evils were eliminated and opportunities were provided to women for their education.
- The expansion of women’s education and their admission to educational institutions had produced a sizable number of English educated middle class women by the late 19th century- and they made their presence felt in political activities
- Till 1919, the national movement was limited to the urban upper class and it was later with Gandhi’s entrance into the national movement, participation of the masses began to take place.
- In this phase, political developments and women’s participation in the National movement went hand in hand.
Nationalist Events Details of Women Participation The partition of Bengal in 1905
- This resulted in the launching of Swadeshi movement by the nationalists.
- Though there was the absence of mass awakening amongst the women, but meetings were arranged and khadi spinnings were taken up by women.
- Women contributed their bangles, nose rings and bracelets to the national fund.
- In villages, women starte
- The women workers of the Arya Samaj were also responsible for arousing national spirit among the people.
- This Swadeshi period marked the formation of several women’s organisations.
- Sarala Devi took steps to organise the women’s movement and its nucleus in the form of Bharat Stri Maha Mandal in Lahore in 1910.
- Parvati Devi, the headmistress of a Hindu girls’ school at Kanchi a small town in the Madras presidency started Kanchi Mahila Parishad to equip women of Kanchi with knowledge to create public opinion over burning issues of the nation.
Setting up of Home Rule League
- The period from 1911-18 is of great significance in the history of Indian national movement because for the first time a woman Annie Besant led the national movement as president of Indian National Congress. (Calcutta Session 1917)
- It was due to women like Annie Besant that organised movement for the emancipation of women took place and the demand for political rights for women came to be firmly established on the political agenda.
Entry of Gandhiji
- The entry of Mahatma Gandhi with his experience altered the national politics dramatically.
- He realised the importance of mass base to Indian nationalism.
- Gandhian style of mass mobilisation had implications for the Indian women’s movement in as much as increasing number of women were sought to be mobilised for participation in the independent movement.
- When Gandhi launched an all India Satyagraha in 1919 against the provocative enactment of the Rowlat Act, Women took out processions, propagated the use of Khadi and even courted jail.
- Further, the non-cooperation movement awakened the women of all sections and imparted first lessons in Satyagraha.
Struggle for Suffrage
- From the beginning, the Indian women’s movement approached the suffrage campaign as a measure to achieve social reform.
- The leaders believed that enfranchisement of women would mean additional support for reform legislation. After the struggle for franchise, for the first time, Indian women exercised their vote in the elections of 1926.
Dandi March 1930
- A large number of women including Sarojini Naidu, actively took part in the Dandi March.
- Women participated by breaking salt laws, forest laws taking out processions, picketing schools, colleges, legislative councils and clubs.
- Further, In 1931 Sarojini Naidu attended the Second Round Table Conference as an official representative of the women of India.
Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930
- During this phase, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya addressed meetings and picketed foreign cloth and liquor shops.
- She was incharge of the women’s wing of the Hindustan Seva Dal
Government of India Act 1935
- The inauguration of provincial autonomy under the India Act of 1935 gave women an opportunity to be elected to the state legislatures and also become administrators.
Quit India Movement 1942
- During this phase, Men leaders were arrested in the first round up and in their absence women carried on the movement and bore the burnt of the British wrath
- The women not only led processions and held demonstrations, but also organised camps in which they were given training in civil duties and first aid and were educated on democracy.
- Women organised political prisoners’ relief fund while some women went underground and directed the movement secretly
Azad Hind Fauj
- In the Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose, Rani Jhansi Regiment was created for women.
- Women were trained in nursing, social service and to use weapons.
- Thus, it was primarily due to the efforts of women and their role in the freedom struggle that women got the right to vote and complete equality in the constitution of India.
- However a great gap arose between the theoretical status of women and their rights and what existed in reality
- Role of Press and Publications
- The developments across the world in Print Media, however came much later in 1780, when compared to developments across the world.
- Further, from the beginning of the 19th century, politically conscious Indians had been attracted to modem civil rights, especially the freedom of the Press.
- Sighting the Importance of Press, the struggle for the freedom of the Press became an integral part of the struggle for freedom.
- James Augustus Hickey is considered the father of Indian Press. He started the Bengal Gazette in the year 1780.
Importance of Press in Nationalist Struggle
- The Press was the chief instrument for carrying out this task, that is, for arousing, training, mobilizing and consolidating nationalist public opinion
- In the period from 1870 to 1918, the national movement had not yet resorted to mass agitation through thousands of small and large Maidan meetings, nor did political work consist of the active mobilization of people in mass struggles.
- The main political task then, was that of politicization, political propaganda and education and formation and propagation of nationalist ideology.
- It was at these times, Press came into useful purpose.
- To accomplish the work of National Congress
- During its inception, the Congress had no organization of its own for carrying on political work.
- Its resolutions and proceedings had to be propagated through newspapers.
- Gradually, the influence of the Press extended far beyond its literate subscribers.
- Nor was it confined to cities and large towns.
- A newspaper would reach remote villages and would then be read by a reader to tens of others.
- In fact, most members of Congress were Journalists, as a result of which Powerful newspapers emerged during these years
- These were the Hindu and Swadesamitran under the editorship of G. Subramaniya Iyer, Kesari and Mahratta under B.G. Tilak, Bengalee under Surendranath Banerjea, Amrita Bazar Patrika under Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh.
- To conduct the role of Opposition to the British Government
- Nearly all the major political controversies of the day were conducted through the Press.
- Almost every act and every policy of the Government was subjected to sharp criticism, in many cases with great care and vast learning backing it up.
- Press was meant to arouse Political consciousness
- At that time existed, the Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code according to Which ‘whoever attempts to excite feelings of disaffection to the Government established by law in British India’ was to be punished with transportation for life or for any term or with imprisonment up to three years.
- At such moment, Indian journalists adopted several clever strategems and evolved a distinctive style of writing to remain outside the reach of the law.
- Since Section 124A excluded writings of persons whose loyalty to the Government was undoubted, they invariably prefaced their vitriolic writing with effusive sentiments of loyalty to the Government and the Queen.
- Another strategem was to publish anti-imperialist extracts from London-based socialist and Irish newspapers or letters from radical British citizens knowing that the Indian Government could not discriminate against Indians by taking action against them without touching the offending Britishers
Reaction of the British
- The British instituted a number of Censorship measures from early 1800s, at least one of which survives today – the sedition clause.
- One of the most infamous targets of the Sedition clause was the Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was tried and convicted thrice.
- Later, they introduced the Vernacular Press Act in 1878, aimed squarely at supressing non-English papers from criticising the Raj, as the voice against the colonial rule had risen greatly after the famine in 1876.
- As Nationalist movement, started gathering steam going into the 1900s, after establishment of Indian National Congress, the British began major crackdown of the Press by passing one act after another, like the Prevention of Seditious Meeting Act of 1911, Press Act of 1910, Criminal Law amendment Act of 1908.
- The most disastrous of the act passed was the Press Act of 1910, which brought over 1000 newspapers under prosecution.
- When Civil Disobedience Movement was well underway, and Salt March was taken, the Press(Emergency Powers) Act was passed in 1931, and further strengthened during Second World War.
- The act gave provincial governments power to suppress propaganda, for the Disobedience Movement and was later used as weapon to ban all talks of Congress
- Pre-Censorship was still evident in 1943
- The Bengal Famine was reported by the Amrita Bazar Patrika. But, the British went so far as to ban the press from telling the country, that it was banned from talking about the famine, so that it could be brushed under the rug.
Despite all the opposition, the Press remained an ever-clever entity, as it continued its resistance by using underground papers, radio, art and graffiti. This continued till the British finally abdicated from India, creating the two countries – India and Pakistan.
- Role of Business groups
- The Indian National Movement was, in its initial stages during the second half of the nineteenth century, mainly confined to the educated middle classes.
- However, in course of time, it began to expand its social base and gradually other classes and sections of society began to join it.
- Eventually, the Modern Capitalist class began to emerge in India in the second half of the 19th Century.
- Till about World War I, there were few Indian capitalists and the size of their investments was also not substantial
- Moreover, they were as yet largely dependent on the colonial government’s support.
- At this stage of development, it was hardly possible for the Indian capitalists as a class to take an open confrontationist position with regard to the colonial state
- Hence, they stayed away from the Swadeshi Movement (1905-08) and largely opposed the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22).
- Subsequently, however, the Capitalists’ position changed, and there were many Indian Capitalists’ who extended their support to the freedom struggle.
Emergence and Growth of the Capitalist Class in India
- Most early Indian industrialists developed from the merchants who played the role of middlemen and collaborators for British businessmen.
- There was thus a harmonious relationship in the early period between the big Indian businessmen and the British capitalists and the latter served as models for setting up industries in India in the initial period.
- There was steady growth of Indian industries since the mid-nineteenth century.
- However, by the beginning of 20th Century, the faith in the beneficial effects of the Raj began to dwindle.
- Since the First World War, the Indian capitalists made inroads into many sectors.
- The processes of import substitution, expansion of domestic market, growth of internal trade and transfer of capital from moneylending and land to industrial investment resulted in increasing control of Indian capital.
- Thus, by 1944, about 62% of larger industrial units and 95% of smaller industrial units were controlled by Indian capital. Industries such as sugar, cement, paper, iron and steel were established almost anew by Indian capitalists
Capitalist Response to National Movement in Early Phase
- Initially, the Indian businessmen kept a political low profile and tended to be on the right side of the rulers for the smooth conduct of their business and industry.
- They maintained close relations with the British:
- Through the Bombay Association (formed in 1852), some of Bombay’s businesspeople experienced some amount of political activity and acquired some political awareness.
- Later during the Ilbert Bill controversy, some of prominent businessmen, led by Jamsetji Jejeebhoy, participated in a big public meeting called by some nationalist leaders such as Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji and Badruddin Tyabji on 28 April 1883
- Thus, despite the display of political awareness and the realisation that the colonial government gave precedence to the British cotton industry over Indian ones, the Indian industrialists were too weak and too dependent on British technology to support Swadeshi Movement
- As a result, the big capitalists generally remained opposed to the Swadeshi movement.
Mass Nationalism and the Capitalists
- The responses of the industrialists and the nationalists towards each other can be basically discussed in three phases:
- From the Rowlatt Satyagraha to the Simon Commission
- During the Civil Disobedience Movement and During the War, and
- Finally after the War
- From Rowlatt Satyagraha to Simon Commission
- The mass and agitational phase of nationalism, began in 1918.
- During this period, the large business houses did not provide any support to the Congress.
- In fact, many of them actively opposed the movement and for this received favours from the colonial government, including knighthood.
- Another factor in political inactivity of the industrialists was a series of long labour strikes, particularly in Bombay, led by the Communists.
- The fear of socialism and violent labour unrest pushed the millowners closer to the government.
- During the Rowlatt Satyagraha and the Non-cooperation movement very few capitalists made donations for the Congress, and no industrialist signed the satyagraha pledge against the Rowlatt Bills in 1919.
- On the other hand, the actual support from the business class came from small traders and shopkeepers who generally supported the movement
- Gandhi was aware that his call for boycott of foreign goods would lead to profiteering by Indian industrialists.
- But the industrialists did not pay any heed to his appeal.
- Some industrialists such as Purshottamdas Thakurdas, Jamnadas Dwarkadas, Cowasji Jahangir and C. Setalvad openly opposed the movement.
- They formed an Anti Non-cooperation Society in Bombay
- However, from 1922 onwards, the slump in the industry compelled most industrialists to side with the Congress in its demand for protection for industries.
- At this time, their strategy was to try to influence the constitutionally-minded nationalist leaders to take a pro-Indian industry stand in the legislatures and to orient the Congress to speak in favour of business interests.
- It was in this period, that the Indian business community established their central organisation called FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers Commerce and Industry) in 1927.
- Civil Disobedience Movement and Quit India Movement
- Once the depression in the industry set in, the industrialists wanted the government to take strong measures to minimise their losses.
- The demands of the industrialists included an increase in the duties on imported cotton goods, devaluation of rupee and no preferential treatment for the British cotton industries in Indian markets.
- But, the colonial government refused to concede any of these demands.
- Also Indian Industrialists began to fear, that the Colonial Government refused to concede any of their demands
- For example, the Ottawa Conference held in 1932 privileged the British industries in the colonial markets.
- Similarly, the decision of the colonial government to link the Indian rupee to the British pound and fix the rupee-sterling ratio, created suspicion in the minds of Indian Industrialists.
- The disenchantment led to pro-Congress tilt among the industrialists.
- This resulted in capitalist support for the early phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
- Further, the rise of the Congress left wing and Nehru’s left-leaning speeches further alienated the capitalists from the Congress.
- They were apprehensive of the Radical forces, and feared that it might work against Capitalism.
- Their interest in pro-Congress politics was only revived during the late 1930s when the Congress decided to work the Government of India Act of 1935.
- Later, while during the Second World War many businessmen reverted to a policy of close collaboration with the British authorities in order to benefit from the war orders.
- Hence the 1930s can be interpreted as:
- 1930-31: a phase of relative unity
- 1932-1936: a phase of open split
- 1936-1939: a new phase of greater unity
- Post-War Period
- Due to the ambivalent attitude of the Indian capitalist class, it never had a decisive influence on the nationalist politics.
- However, by early 1940s when it was clear that colonial rule would end, the capitalist class veered towards the position adopted by the Congress as was clear in its major policy document, the Bombay Plan, in 1944.
- As a result, the Indian capitalists, chalked out a plan which supported the role of a national state and planning in initiating and sustaining an independent capitalist development in the country, free from imperial control and providing protection to the national capital against the inflow of foreign capital.
- The idea of Centrally Planned Economy, as was professed since 1930s by Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru received strong backing now, from Capitalist Class.
Mainly driven by Interests and later in furtherance of Freedom, the Indian Business groups’ role kept on changing its form, nature and appearance, according to the demands of the time.