M.N. Roy

The Colonies

The Peasant Movement in India

(20 June 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 51, 20 June 1922, p. 379.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The most powerful factor in the Indian movement is the spirit of revolt that has affected the peasantry throughout the country. While the Moplah outbreak is not yet fully liquidated in spite of the free use of machine-guns and bombing planes, the Akali movement in the Punjab, the Aikva Sabhas in the United Provinces and the Bheef revolt in the Native States of Central India are assuming alarming proportions. The Akali movement is very well-knit with the political movement, although it is decidedly an agrarian question aiming at the “reform” of the large temples holding vast estates, on which millions of poor peasants toil and starve. The intended reform is nothing less than expropriation. The Akali Dal has a good organization with a registered membership of approximately 50,000. The government has turned it attention towards this movement and in course of two months no less than 2,500 members of the Akali Dal have been put into jail. But the movement is still showing signs of growth. Armed bands of peasants are moving over the entire province terrorizing the landholders and agitating for a revolt which will overthrow the British government and establish a government of the Sikhs. This movement has affected the army as well. The Sikh soldiers are recruited from the peasantry, therefore they are also involved in a movement fundamentally agrarian. Of late, cases of refractoriness in the Sikh regiments are frequent; and some of these instances were so serious that entire regiments had to be disarmed and disbanded.

The Ajkya movement, which originated among the peasantry of Oudh, the stronghold of the worst type of landlordism, is a very significant development of the agrarian agitation. Its object, as the very name signifies, is to create a unified movement of the peasants. It grew out of the Kishan Sabhas which had a very stormy history during 1920 and 1921 and whose revolutionary energy was dissipated by the non-cooperation propaganda for an undefined Swaraj, and whose acute outbursts at Kai Berelli, Gorakhpur and Chauri Chaura terrified the pacifist leadership of the Congress. The betrayal by the Nationalist leaders and the activities of the officially inspired Moderates to organize the rival bodies called Aman Sabhas (peaceful associations) led to the recrudescence of the movement in the form of the Aikya movement, which expresses the growth of class consciousness among the peasantry. This unity movement has transgressed the boundaries of the United Provinces. Its influence was to be found in the Bheel uprising in Central India several hundred miles away. Even after they were beaten by overwhelming military forces, the Bheel peasants refused to accept the terms dictated to them because they would not break the vow of unity.

If any single slogan can involve a large number of the Indian population it is undoubtedly that of “Non-Payment of Rents”. The temporary proclamation of Civil Disobedience has caught the imagination of the poor peasantry. They have found a weapon which they are not going to abandon at the bidding of any man or any national organization. Therefore we find the agrarian disturbances spreading like wildfire all over the country. This outstanding phenomenon is even having its repercussion on the Congress. Of late there have been signs of the crystallization of a tendency advocating the renewal of mass Civil Disobedience. Resolutions to this effect have been passed in several informal meetings of Congress workers. But the faction which is putting forth this point of view seeks to use the masses for revolution. They have still to go farther on the road of revolutionary understanding before they will advocate revolution for the masses.

Last updated on 2 January 2020