History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2015: Q.4 (a)

Q.4 (a) Analyze the nature of peasant movements during the nationalist phase and bring out their shortcomings.


Nature of Peasant Movements during nationalist phase:

(1) Not radical in nature

The struggles were not clearly aimed at the overthrow of the existing agrarian structure but towards alleviating its most oppressive aspects (lilemillegal rents, forced labour, sudden increase in rents etc).
Nevertheless they eroded power of landed classes in any ways and prepared for transformation of its structure.

(2) Nature of forms and demands

Forms of struggle and mobilisation adopted by the peasant movements in diverse areas were similar in nature as well as demands.

Demands of peasants: Reduction in taxes, abolition of illegal cess or feudal levies and begar or vethi, ending oppression by Zamindar, reduction of debts, restoration of illegally seized lands, security f tenure for tenants.

Form of Struggle: The main focus was on mobilization through meetings, conferences, rallies, demonstrations, enrolment of members, formation of Kisan Sabhas and Karshaka Sanghams.
Direct action usually involved Satyagraha or civil disobedience and non-payment of rent and taxes.

(3) Had seeds lf long term impact

Even when peasant movements did not register immediate successes, they created the climate which necessitated the post-Independence agrarian reforms. Zamindari abolition, for example, did not come about as a direct culmination of any particular struggle, but the popularization of the demand by the kisan sabha certainly contributed to its achievement.

(4) Nonviolent in nature

As in the national movement, violent clashes were exception and not the norm. They were rarely sanctioned by the leadership and usually popular responses to extreme reppresaion.

(5) Related to national movement

The relationship of peasant movement with national movement continued to be one of the vital and integral nature.
National movement and peasant movement both fed each other. For one areas where the peasant movement was active were usually the ones that had been drawn into the earlier national struggles, since it was the spread of national movement that had created the initial conditions required for the emergence of peasant struggles.
The growth and development of the peasant movement was thus indissolubly linked with the national struggle for freedom.

(6) Nationalistic Ideology

In its ideology as well, the kisan movement accepted and based itself on the ideology of nationalism. Its cadres and leaders carried the message not only of organization of the peasantry on class lines but also of national freedom. Many Kisan activists were simultaneously enrolled in Congress and Kisan Sabha. Though later there was confrontation also.

(6) Confrontations were rare

True, and at times the kisan movement seemed set on a path of confrontation with the Congress, but this tended to happen only in some regions, like Bihar, serious differences emerged between sections of Congressmen and the kisan sabha when both left-wing activists and right- wing or conservative Congressmen took extreme positions and showed an unwillingness to accommodate each other. Before 1942 these differences were usually contained and the kisan movement and the national movement occupied largely common ground. With the experience of the split of 1942, the kisan movement found that if it diverged too far and too clearly from the path of the national movement, it tended to lose its mass base, as well as create a split within the ranks of its leadership.


(1) Limited demand of peasantry (as mentioned earlier).

(2) Disunity, frenquent confrontations among themselves and with Congress, split due to diverge aims of leaderships etc were shortcomings.

(3) Lack of participation of lower caste and labour class. There were very few examples of lower caste peasant leaders (like Madari Pasi in Ekka movement).
Except in a few pockets like Andhra and Gujarat, the demands of agricultural labourers did not really become part of the movement.

(4) Sometimes the movement took violent turn. For example: there was violence during Moppila peasant uprising in Malabar.
Violence happened against British as well as Zamindars.
Sometimes (like in Moppila uprising), violence also took the form of communal riots.

(5) Not all peasant movements were influenced by nationalism and many were just for local grievances.

(4) These struggles, however militant, occurred within the framework of the old societal order lacking a positive conception of an alternative society.

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