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Development of Kisan Movement in U.P.

Girish Mathur

By H.M. Siddiqui
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, pp. XX 246, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 2 September/October 1978

According to Dr. S. Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru's involvement with the kisan struggles in eastern U.P. in the early twenties had a greater impact on him than his ‘unformative years’ at Cambridge and in London when he was exposed to the influence of Fabianism. Another scholar, Dr. Gyanendra Pande, has suggested that the association of Congressmen with the 1918-22 kisan movement in U.P. gave the Congress a rural base even if it did not make it a kisan party. This reviewer has maintained for long that the Congress in U.P. acquired a distinctive character by articulating the unrest in the countryside and taking up issues which were agitating the peasantry in the Agra and, even more, Avadh regions in the early twenties and thirties. Siddiqi's book deals with the period when the Congress had just begun going to the villages to seek electoral support as also support for its politics. After describing the agrarian conditions in U.P. in the late nineteenth century and the first two decades of the present century and analysing the emergence of tensions and their development, Siddiqi has given an account of the rise and growth of the kisan sahhas and the ekta (unity) move­ment. The distinctiveness of the Congress in U.P. lies in the fact that it sought to draw strength from the emerging kisan move­ment while trying to contain the unrest. The Congress in the Punjab and Bengal· legislative councils voted against legisla­tive measures seeking to provide relief and some protection to the kisan from the excesses of the landlords and the money­lenders. In some other parts of the country also Congressmen were involved with kisan agitations. In Champaran, for instance, Gandhiji himself led the satya­graha against the indigo planters. But firstly Gandhiji did not allow the issues involved in the satyagraha to be mixed up with the political movement he was head­ing to the extent that he did not allow Home Rule meetings to be held in Champaran. Secondly, the local leader­ship of the Champaran movement was in the hands of rich farmers who had worked as agents of the indigo factories and were also functioning as moneylenders; their grievance against the planters was that they ‘alway stood in the way of their economic aggrandisement at the expense of the indebted raiyats’ and ‘prevented rich farmers from extending freely their money-­lending ...

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