“Awadh ka kisan vidroh”- Subhash Kuhwaha’s second book on peasant revolts in Awadh

अवध का किसान विद्रोह, सुभाष चन्द्र कुशवाहा ,२०१८, राजकमल प्रकाशन दिल्ली, प्रष्ठ 328, मूल्य 299/ रुपए

awadh ka kisan vidroh pbThis is Subhash Kuhwaha’s second book “Awadh ka kisan vidroh” on history of people’s movements, he earned laurels with his first book on Chauri Chaura and now he has come up with peasant revolts in Awadh region during 20th century in British colonial period. In the beginning author has spoken about common understanding about peasants that ‘good peasants are of docile nature’! Poor peasants also lack unity. Awadh peasant revolts also made Jawaharlal Nehru realise the reality of poor peasantry. There was spontaneous revolt of peasants in all districts of Awadh region during 1920-22. The leaders of revolt were Baba Ramchander, Chhote Ramchander, Dev Narain Dwidey, Rehmat Ali, Madari Pasi and others. Subhash Kushwaha opines that revaluation of Awadh peasant revolt is necessary so he undertook this task. He thinks that though Baba Ramchandder led the revolt, the role of Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchnder and Madari Pasi has been neglected. He has referred to few other studies of peasant struggles-D N Dhangere, Kapil Kumar and Sushil Srivastva’s works in English and Mahender Pratap work-Peasant movement in UP- in Hindi are referred. Book contains nine appendices which include the details of sale of eight girls between 5 to 12 years by their father or brothers in 200 to five hundred rupees to landlords in first appendix. In second appendix details of war fund given to British for world war by landlords is noted. Third appendix carries the 22 pledges of Baba Ramchander for peasants. Fourth appendix has noted the rules of Pratapgrah Kisan Sabha. Fifth appendix carries list of 65 people who gave evidence in favour of Pratap editor Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, which included Nehrus and Malviya. Sixth appendix is depiction of firing at Munshiganj Bridge. Appendix seven carries the list of 21 persons listed killed in firing at Munshiganj memorial. Appendix eight carries the official list of wounded people in Munshiganj firing and appendix nine carries the list of six dead in firing. The last six appendices are related to one incident of firing in Munshiganj. Bibliography is provided by the author.

The book is well organised into eleven chapters. The first chapter focusses upon British land revenue system evolved from 22nd March 1793 after East India company had occupied most of India after 1757 Plassey war. There is reference to Jat revolts in Agra and Dhaulpur area in 1669 and 1672. Second chapter focusses upon peasant and workers revolts during British Indian period. This is a general survey of revolts at all India level like Chuad revolt during 1767-1777 of lower classes, 1770-77 Chero revolt, 1772 Sanyasi-fakir revolt led by Manju Shah. Mostly these revolts were against higher rate of land tax, which continued continuously in 1817-25, 1831, 1843, 1846 and had bigger revolt during 1855-56 of Santhals. There was forced sowing of Neel, which led to revolt during 1859-60. By 1920 end, British had laid down 35000 miles Rail lines, fourth largest in the whole world. 1917 was the year of Champarn peasant movement, which gave Gandhi a boost in Indian politics. Around 1920 there were peasant, worker revolts and alongside communal riots. With the impact of 1917 Soviet Bolshevik revolution, there were 110 strikes, participated by 25 lakh workers. By 1921, 48 labour unions had come up in Bombay. In 1921 there was Moplah revolt in south India, which took hundreds of lives. There was Bardoli peasant satygrah in Gujarat in 1927 led by Vallabh Bhai Patel. With Swami Sehjanand Saraswati appearing on scene there were number of peasant organisations coming up after 1930. In 1932, there was revolt led by Titu Mir in Barasat, there was Tebhaga and Telangana massive peasant revolts before and after partition in 1947.

In this general context, author has planned to study Awadh peasant revolt of 1920-22 which include Madari Pasi led Eka movement, which became news even for London newspapers.

Third chapter of book is focussed on peasant revolts in United Province (UP) prior to 1947. It gives background of Awadh which became part of UP in 1856. Awadh feudal lords were so dehumanised that in seven droughts, 15 lakh people were killed, these happened n 1877, 1878, 1889, 1892, 1897 and 1900. All kinds of oppression was there on peasants, they were subjected to Begaar, Nazrul

Fourth chapter draws attention to awakening among Awadh peasants and formation of peasant bodies. In 1917, initiative was taken by Jhinguri Singh and Mahadev Singh in Pratapgarh district to form Kisan Sabha. Baba Ramchander whose real name was Shridhar Balwant Jodhpurkar was born on 28th March 1863 in Maharashtra, he was a Dakshini Brahmin and left home in childhood and came to Ujjain. He went to Fiji in 1905 at the age of 42 years as Girmitia and returned in 1916. He was in touch with CF Andrews, close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1917 there was peasant association formed in Allahabad also which led to formation of UP peasant association under the leadership of P D Tandon. In Kanpur also Kisan Sabha was led by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi in 1919. Baba Ramchander reached these areas in 1920 and got organised more kisan sabhas leading to formation of centralised Awadh Kisan Sabha in October 1920. There was a massive convention of peasants on 20-21 December 1920 at Faizabad with 80 thousand to one lakh peasants participating, where Ramchander put forward 14 point demand charter. Baba Ramchander was taken to Anand Bhavan at Allahabad and Motilal Nehru was made President of UP Kisan Sabha.

The next five chapters focus upon peasant revolts in five major districts of Awadh-Pratapgarh, Rai Braille, Faizabad, Sultanpur and Hardoi.

In fifth chapter-Peasant revolt of Pratapgarh, author gives the socio-economic data of 1901 census as out of 9 lakh population, largest population of one lakh were Kurmis, Brahmins and Rajputs were at no. two and three respectively. Awadh peasant revolt began from Pratapgarh where a mass of people got even Baba Ramchander freed from jail. Largest number of peasant organisations 20-25, here were made of lower castes by Jhinguri Singh. The impact of Baba Ramchnader returned from Fiji was at its peak during 1920-21, who was Ramkatha sayer. By June 1920, there were fifty branches of Kisan Sabhas. There were eight anti-feudal pledges which included -No to land tax, No to free labour, No to mutual clashes, Help others, no fear from police to stop oppression and trust in God. As per author’s interpretation these were very weak pledges. Pandit Nehru and Gauri Shankar visited this place in September 1920, when there was 38 hour revolt on 10-11th September. There was massive gathering of sixty thousand peasants of lower castes. Here the displacement was most cruel, agitation was against this. There was Mehta committee formed to enquire. V N Mehta was liberal Deputy Commissioner of Pratapgarh.

Sixth chapter focusses upon peasant revolt in Rai Braille, Out of 10 lakh population of district, 90% were Hindus and Rai Braille city had population of 18 thousands. Here there was extreme exploitation of lower class peasants and it led to spontaneous revolt in 1921. First violent incident occurred on 2nd February 1921. Peasants attacked Fursatganj and Munshiganj bazar. There was crowd of 8-10 thousand people. Six peasants were killed and 24 were arrested. On Munshiganj Bridge, crowed swelled from three to ten thousand, Pandit Nehru reached there despite notice to return. He addressed 3-4 thousand peasants. A feudal Veerpal Singh incited the people by firing. There was fifteen rounds of firing. Even British papers carried the news of firing. 600 peasants were arrested, situation could be controlled by 11-12th January only. Pratap edited by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was subjected to trial, which was defended by Hindi novelist Vrindavan Lal Verma. Moti Lal/Jawaharlal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malviya appeared as witnesses in favour of Vidyarthi ji. There were revolts in more areas as well.

Seventh chapter is focussed on Faizabad peasant revolt. Faizabad remained capital of Awadh during 1760-80. In 1921, city population was as high as eighty thousands. As per US newspaper report army was sent to quell ten thousand revolting peasants here in February 1921. It was mainly lower and untouchable castes revolt against Brahmin landlords. Revolt was led by young revolutionaries-Devnarain Pandey, Kedarnath and Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchander. Chhota Ramchander wished to set up parallel government. The leaders did not like each other and Congress party did not like all the leaders, who were trying to follow Bolshevik principles to organise landless hungry peasants. Abu Zafar, a cruel landlord was getting forcible poppy cultivation from peasants. London newspapers published revolts in 37 villages of the area during January 1921. There was revolt in Baskhari, 77 kilometres from Faizabad. Alopi Brahmin was a cruel landlord, on 27th January 1921, 30-40 thousand peasants gathered in Gohanna to protest. Nehru addressed the gathering in five hour long meeting. There was spirit of Hindu-Muslim unity during protest. Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchander was landless peasant of revolutionary nature. On his arrest there was revolt in Gosainganj railway station. There was firing on five thousand peasant gathering, no report of death but number of wounded was very high. Ahmad Khaleel was peasant leader in Akbarpur area in 1922 peasant revolt

Eighth chapter focusses upon Sultanpur. On 14th November 1920 was Kisan Sabha of Sultanpur, which got peasants from Lucknow and Gonda. There were far reaching consequences of Awadh peasant revolt which erupted due to feudal oppression patronised by colonial power.

Ninth chapter focusses upon an important Eka movement led by Madari Pasi in Hardoi district. There were Eka meetings in villages through distribution of supari. Quran Sharif and Gita-both Muslim and Hindu scriptures were kept together. Daily Mail of London described this movement in March 1922 as ‘dangerous’. There are fewer facts available about Madari Pasi, who had turned into legend. Madari was born around 1860 in village Mohankheda, tehsil Sandila. He died at the age of 70 years in 1930, there are stories of Madari meeting Bhagat Singh, but not supported by facts. There is no arrest or trial shown in British records, though Kamtanath has depicted his popularity in his epic novel Kalkatha There were more heroes of peasant revolt which was crushed by army by 1922.

Tenth chapter has focussed on creation of Gandhi myth, which was created after 1917 Champaran peasant movement. Gandhi joined 25th November 1920 ten thousand peasant meeting with Baba Ramchander. Baba Ramchander arrest on 10th February 1921 was in Gandhi presence. Swami Sehjanand Saraswati the undisputed peasant leader was disillusioned by Gandhi approach towards peasant issues.

Author highlights the fact that 70 Moplah prisoners were choked to death in goods train compartment, in this movement 3266 peasants died.

Author also refers to Dr. Manilal, who played important role in Fiji and Mauritius Indians and who was close to CF Andrews.

In the last chapter-In conclusion, author refers to Baba Ramchander’s release from jail in 1923 and his love for Congress. He faced charges of misappropriation f funds in 1924. He tried to get involved with peasant issues in 1929 again. In 1930, Jawaharlal Nehru became Congress President, but Congress avoided taking up peasant issues. Finally All India Kisan Sabha came into existence on 11th April 1936 in Sehjanand Saraswati leadership with CPI patronisation. Around same time came into existence PWA and AISF. Baba Ramchander again went to jail during 1930, 1941 and 1942. He died in 1950.

Subhash Chander Kushwaha has organised his research in chronological order using research methodology without being himself an academician or professional researcher. This book is continuation of his earlier work-Chauri Chaura which was based on 1922 incidents, this book focusses more on 1920-21 incidents, but he time span is more or less same. This study again underlines the fact that peasant movements and issues have been neglected by academicians as well as left activists. Peasantry which is the core of social change remains a periphery of left jargon despite the fact that since the ushering of British colonial regime, peasants had suffered maximum oppression and they had revolted, but in a scattered form, there had been no well organised all India level peasant revolt or movements. In west Bengal CPM could rule for 34 years just on the strength of Operation Burga, a major land reform, as was done earlier in Kerala, which still pays the left parties there. Suppressing peasant revolt in Singur and Nandigram caused the nemesis of left movement in West Bengal, which has by now slipped so much that they are losing all mass base in the state and even in adjoining Tripura.

Author has underlined the specific aspect of Faizabad’s landless peasant struggle. Awadh peasant struggle should be studied in link with Tebhaga, Telangana and Pepsu’s Mujara-landless peasant movement of 1948 led by Red Party, which was also crushed by army.

It is worthwhile study of peasant movement of Awadh.

Chaman Lal,
Professor(Retired), JNU, New Delhi
Former President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA)
Fellow(Senator), Panjab University Chandigarh
Former Visiting Professor in Hindi-The University of the West Indies, Trinidad&Tobago
Other mail [email protected]/[email protected]


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