The 20th century peasant movements were different from the ones of the 19th century. These movements were deeply influenced by, and in turn influenced the national movement.
Kisan Sabha Movement:
With the end of 1857 revolt, the taluqdars of Awadh were given their lands back. This led to a strengthening of the hold of their hold over the agrarian society of the region. As a consequence, many cultivators were subjected to illegal levies, high rents, summary evictions (bedakhali), renewal fees (nazrana). Due to the First World War, there was a hike in the prices of food and other necessities. All these factors had worsened the conditions of the peasants in the United Provinces.
Kisan Sabhas came up in the United Provinces mainly due to the efforts of the Home Rule activists. The UP Kisan Sabha was formed in February 1918 under the leadership of Gauri Shankar Mishra and Indra Narayan Dwivedi and was supported by Madan Mohan Malaviya. Soon, the UP Kisan Sabha expanded and set up 450 branches by June 1919. Some important leaders associated with the kisan sabha were Jhinguri Singh, Durgapal Singh, and Baba Ramchandra. On the insistence of Baba Ramchandra, Jawaharlal Nehru visited the villages of the province in June 1920 which resulted in Nehru developing close contacts with the villagers.
Awadh Kisan Sabha was formed in October 1920 as a result of the differences among the nationalists. The Awadh Kisan Sabha inspired the kisans to refuse to till bedakhali land, refuse to offer other forms of unpaid such as hari and begar, those who refuse to accept these conditions were to be boycotted and to resolve their disputes by approaching the panchayats. The nature of their activity soon changed, since January 1921, from mass meetings, mobilizations, and demonstrations to the looting of houses, granaries, bazaars, and clashes with the police. Rai Bareilly, Faizabad, and Sultanpur districts were the centers of their activity. The movement began to weaken, partly due to the repression unleashed by the government and partly because of the passage of the Awadh Rent (Amendment) Act.
Peasant discontent began to resurface in the United Province by the end of 1921, mainly in the northern districts of Hardoi, Bahraich, Sitapur. The issues they raised included:
- excessive rents which were 50 percent higher than the recorded rates.
- the oppression by thikadars who were in charge of revenue collection.
- the practice of share-rents.
Eka or the Unity Movement and its meetings symbolized a religious ritual in which the peasants who had assembled took the following vows:
- they would pay the rent on time but only the recorded rent.
- refuse to leave when they get evicted.
- not submitting to forced labour
- refusing help to criminal elements.
- conform to the decisions taken by the panchayat.
The leadership for the movement came from Madari Pasi and other grassroot low-caste leaders, including small zamindars. However, the movement came to end by March 1922 due to severe repression by the colonial government.
The Mappilas were inhabitants of the Malabar region. They were Muslim tenants where most of the landlords were Hindus. Against the oppression of the landlords, the Mappilas had expressed their resentment earlier in the 19th century. Most of their grievances were centered around the issues such as lack of security of tenure. excessive rents, renewal fees, and other oppressive exactions.
The Congress leadership in the region demanded the government to bring a legislation which regulated the tenant-landlord relations. The Mappila tenants were encouraged by these demands as soon their movement got merged with the ongoing Khilafat agitation. Important leaders of the Khilafat-Non-Cooperation Movement like Gandhi, Shaukat Ali, and Maulana Azad used to address Mappila meetings. With the arrest of important national leaders, the leadership of the movement came in the hands of local Mappila leaders.
In August 1921, things to a turn for the worse with the arrest of a respected priest leader, Ali Musaliar, leading to large-scale riots. During the initial days, the symbols of British authority such as courts, police stations, treasuries, and officers were attacked. But soon, the unpopular landlords, locally known as jenmies became the targets. The character of the rebellion underwent a major change after the Britsh government declared martial law and unleashed their repression. Mappila tenants saw the Hindu landlords cooperating with the government. The movement, which began as an anti-government, anti-landlord struggle, turned into a communal riot. Because of this, the movement got isolated from the Khilafat agitation and by December 1921 all resistance had come to an end.
The Bardoli taluqa in Surat district of Gujarat became intensely politicized after the rise of Gandhi as a nationalist leader. The movement began in January 1926 when the government decided to hike the land revenue by 30 percent. The decision was soon protested by the Congress and a Bardoli Inquiry Committee was formed to look into the issue. The Committee found the revenue hike to be unjustified. The Congress leaders invited Vallabhbhai Patel to lead the agitation in February 1926.
Patel was given the title of "Sardar" by the women of Bardoli for his leadership of the movement. Patel advised the peasants not to pay the enhanced revenue demands until the Government appointed an independent committee or tribunal to assess the situation or accepted the present amount as full payment. Patel set up 13 chhavanis or workers' camps in the taluqa to organize the movement. To mobilize public opinion, the Bardoli Satyagraha Patrika was brought out. Patel had also created an intelligence wing to make sure that all the peasants followed the instructions adopted by the movement and those who opposed the movement had to face social boycott. Lalji Naranji and K.M.Munshi resigned from the Bombay Legislative Council, expressing their solidarity with the movement.
The movement resulted in the building up massive tension in the area by August 1928. Railway strike became imminent in Bombay and Gandhi went to Bardoli to calm down the situation in case of any emergency. The government wanted to pacify the situation. It was decided by the government that first the enhanced rent be paid by all the occupants. Later a committee was set up to inquire into the issue which found the revenue hike to be unjustified. The committee had recommended a hike of just around 6 percent only. The Great Depression in the industrialized countries and the Civil Disobedience Movement which took the form of no-rent, no-revenue campaigns in many areas had influenced the peasant awakening during the 1930s. After the decline of the active phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1932, many new leaders who had entered active politics started looking for suitable outlets to channelize their energies. They too were responsible for organizing the peasantry.
All India Kisan Sabha:
It was founded in Lucknow in 1936 with Swami Sahjanand as its President and Acharya N.G.Ranga as its general secretary. The Sabha issued a kisan manifesto. A periodical was also started under the guidance of Indulal Yagnik. The Indian National Congress and the All India Kisan Sabha held their sessions in 1936 at Faizpur. The agrarian policies of the Congress, which were spelled out in its manifesto for 1937 provincial elections, were strongly influenced by the agenda of the All India Kisan Sabha.
Under Congress Ministries:
The Congress provincial rule during 1937-39 represented a high watermark of the peasant movements and activity. The main mode of mobilization was through the meetings and conferences of the kisan sabhas where the peasants' demands were aired and resolutions were passed. Villages were the important places for carrying out mobilization campaigns.