Tebhaga Movement



  • 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 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.