Peasant movements in India during Indian freedom struggle

With the beginning of the colonial rule, the peasant movements and uprisings remained a common feature in Indian history. Because of the exploitation of the colonial rule that started through land revenue collection created discontent among the peasant communities in India. Initially, these movements were spontaneous responses by the peasants which were not very organized, not based on any ideology and violent in nature, that is why the movements in the first half of 19th are called a pre-political peasant movement.

But over the period transformations could be noticed in such peasant movements. In 2nd half of 19th. century the peasants were better organised, they started using the colonial system / administrative system to show their discontent; such as the court. But most importantly the peasants got support from the middle-class intelligentsia through newspapers and other writing. The Agrarian leagues established in Bengal are very good examples of this, but it does not mean that they became completely political as the previous forms of resistance were still carried out by them.

From the 2nd decade of 20th Century again a drastic change was noticed in the peasant movements. Now, these movements could be called political movements. Such peasant organisations were first noticed in UP which was initiated by the active members of home rule league. The UP Kiran Sabha (1918) with the efforts of Gauri Shanker Misra, Madan Mohan Malviya, Indra Narayana Diwedi came into existence and started establishing branches in various tehsils, apart from other methods of mobilization (social boycott).

The nayi-dhobi band was a very popular method to bring those people into the movement who were not actively participating. The sabha was better organised by Baba Ramachandra in a later stage. Baba Ramachandra brought the movement to the national platform by coordinating with national leaders like Nehru.

This movement got good support from the District Commissioner Pratapgarh Mehta as he got ready to inquire into the peasant complaints regarding Bedakhil & Nazrana. In 20 UP Kisan
Sabha got involved in any strikes and finally, with the declaration of NCM, they decided to club their movement with NCM.

But all the leaders of Kisansabha were not willing to participate in the movement and stuck to agitation which resulted in a new organisation called Awadh Kisan Sabha, more radical compared to the previous one. It included people from both high caste & low caste. The centres of the activity of the movement were Raibareilly & Faizabad. Some new trends could also be noticed in the new organisation such as looting of bazaars, granaries, & houses, and clashes with police. Some non-political people & local figures such as sadhu holy men and disinherited exproperietors were leading such activities. Under the pressure of the movement, the Govt. had to pass Seditious
Meeting Act and Awadh Rent Amendment Act towards the end of the year another movement started called Eka movement. The centre of the movement shifted to the North. This movement
was used to mobilise people.

This movement is known for its rent leaders such as Madari pasi and caste leaders. This the movement was initially towards NCM and Gandhian Ecology.

There are two more movements known as Kisan / peasant movements very popular in Indian History these were popular movement & Bardoli movement. In the first one, the issue was local and was started by local people, but later on, clubbed with NCM.

Note: This was a feature common to most of the peasant movements: that the issues were regional, but they linked it to the Non-cooperation movement and made it a national concern,
which became an important reason for the success of the Non-cooperation Movement.

Over the period this movement became communal as the poor and illiterate peasant could not draw a line between a political movement and communal violence, and finally, Congress
stopped supporting the Moplah movement. In 1928 a no tax movement was started in Bardoli under Sardar Patel. The people are these areas were already mobilised and trained by Kalyanji
and Kurwarmenta. This movement was run under the Gandhian method and finally, the govt had to surrender and the reduced the hike from 21.97% to 6%.

Most of the Peasant movements were supported by the Congress in this stage as long as it remained non-violent. Once it became violent, Congress stopped supporting such movements.

This is a matter of debate among historians, as per some historians the violence was beyond the Congress method so they did like that whereas some argue that Congress wanted to save such movements from colonial suppression.