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Survey of Rural Turbulence


S. Gopal

PEASANT STRUGGLES IN INDIA
Edited by A.R. Desai
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 765 index, Rs. 140.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 2 September/October 1979

A volume such as this has been needed for a long time. It is true that the peasan­try did not play such a crucial and spec­tacular role in modern Indian history as it has done in other parts of the world, and it is not surprising that India finds no mention in a book like Eric Wolf's Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century. On the other hand, given the size and spread of the Indian peasantry it would be surprising if that sector of society was of hardly any relevance. It has been known, of course, for some time that the ocean of the kisan masses was not without turbulence in various parts of India at some period or other of British rule and that such restlessness and disturbances had had social, economic and political conse­quences. Indeed, the great achievement of Gandhi had been to harness peasant acti­vity to the national movement. But the assessments of these various struggles in the Indian countryside had been scattered in odd books and articles. An effort has now been made to bring these together, thereby enabling both a continuous survey and an overall view; and to round off the picture a few articles have been written specially for this book. The selection and arrangement have been done by a scholar who is the obvious person for this pur­pose. Professor Desai has spent many years in the study of the sociology of Indian nationalism and is clearly unsur­passed in his knowledge of the work that has been, and is being, done in this field of peasant movements in modern India. There are two articles by him in the book, which reflect on the general problems raised by the role of the peasantry in social change. Many of the other articles in the volume are also worth having. The editor has done well to include the pieces by Kathleen Gough and Mauza Abir on peasants and revolution with special reference to India and to secure from K.N. Panikkar a comprehensive survey of peasant agitation in Malabar during the last two hundred years. If Professor Desai tends to rely rather heavily on a few books like Natarajan, Sunil Sen and Suadarayya this can be justified by the paucity of literature on the subject, though it must be said that Natarajan is no longer the last word on the Deccan ...


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