List of Important Peasant Movements: Part-I

Indigo Revolt (1859-60)

  • In Bengal, European indigo planters forced local peasants to grow indigo instead of high-yielding crops.
  • Peasants joined together and raised funds to fight court cases filed against them, and they initiated legal action on their own against the planters.
  • Peasants used social boycotts to force a planter’s servants to leave him.
  • Government appointed an indigo commission to inquire into problems of indigo cultivation.
  • In 1860, government issued a notification that ryots could not be compelled to grow indigo and its cultivation was wiped out by 1860 from Bengal.
  • Major reason for the success of Indigo Revolt was initiative, cooperation, organization and discipline of the ryots and unity among Hindu and Muslim peasants.
  • Leadership for the movement was provided by the more well-off ryots and in some cases by petty zamindars, moneylenders and ex-employees of the planters.
  • Led by Digambar Biswas and Bishnu Biswas of Nadia district, West Bengal. Under them, ryots went on a rent strike against the enhanced rents.
  • Also supported by Bengali intelligentsia. Outstanding in this respect was the role of Harish Chandra Mukherji, editor of the Hindoo Patriot.
  • Din Bandhu Mitra’s play, Neel Darpan, was to gain great fame for vividly portraying oppression by the planters. 
  • Intelligentsia’s role in Indigo Revolt was to have an abiding impact on the emerging nationalist intellectuals.
  • Missionaries also extended active support to indigo ryots.

Narkelberia Uprising (1782-1831)

  • Led by Mir Nathir Ali/Titu Mir
  • Against landlords, mainly Hindus who imposed beard-tax on Muslim tenants and British Planters.
  • Considered the first armed peasant uprising against the British.
  • Took a religious hue and later got merged with the Wahabi Movement.

Pagal Panthis (1825-1835)

  • By a semi-religious group mainly, Garo and Hajong tribes of Mymensingh region of Bengal.
  • It is an order founded by Karam Shah.
  • The movement was led by Karam Shah’s son Tipu.
  • Against the oppression of Zamindars.

Faraizi Revolt (1838-1857)

  • Followers of a Muslim Sect founded by Haji Shariatullah in Eastern Bengal.
  • Stood for radical religious, social and political changes.
  • Dudu Miyan organised the followers.
  • Aimed to expel English Intruders from Bengal and fought for the cause of tenants against the zamindar, later joined Wahabi ranks.

Peasant during 1857 Revolt

  • Active mainly in western Uttar Pradesh. United with local feudal leaders to fight against the foreign rule.
  • After the revolt, the peasant grievances were ignored, especially, occupancy peasants suffered more.
  • In Awadh, land was restored to Talukdars and the peasants now could not avail of the provisions of the 1859 Bengal Rent Act and in some regions were imposed with additional cesses.

Bijolia Movement: 1st phase (1897-1915), 2nd phase (1915-1923) & 3rd phase (1923-1941)

  • Peasant movement in the Bijolia jagir of the former Mewar State.
  • Against excessive land revenue exactions.
  • Leadership was provided to the movement at different times- Fateh Karan Charan, Sadhu Sitaram Das, Vijay Singh Pathik and Manikyalal Verma.

Pabna Agrarian Leagues (1870s-1880s)

  • Unrest was caused due to oppressive practices of zamindars in Eastern Bengal (Bangladesh).  Zamindars resorted to enhanced rents beyond legal limits and obstructed the implementation of Act X of 1859.
  • Led by Ishan Chandra Roy also known as Bidrohi Raja (Rebel King).
  • Pabna Agrarian league organized rent strikes but their main form of struggle was that of legal resistance. The resistance saw very little violence.
  • As a result, Bengal Tenancy act was passed in 1885. Many peasants were able to acquire occupancy rights.
  • Young intellectuals like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, R C Dutt and the Indian Association under Surendra Nath Banerjee supported it.

Deccan Riots (1870’s)

  • The ryots here suffered due to the heavy taxation under the Ryotwari system.
  • Condition in the Deccan region: Cotton prices crashed after the end of the American Civil war in 1864; government raised land revenue by 50% in 1867 and the failure of crops led to a debt trap for peasants.
  • The money lenders were mostly outsiders- the Marwaris and Gujaratis were seen as instruments of exploitation. The peasants reacted against them through a social boycott.
  • Movement spread to other parts such as Poona, Ahmednagar, Sholapur and Satara.
  • The movement also saw the element of agrarian riots with organised attacks on Moneylenders’ houses and shops. Debt bonds and deeds were burnt.
  • As a conciliatory measure, Deccan Agriculturists Relief Act was passed in 1879.
  • Vasudev Balwant Phadke (Known as Father of Indian Armed Rebellion).
  • Modern nationalist intelligentsia of Maharashtra supported the peasants’ cause
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