India is a vibrant democracy with a big fat constitution and the tag of one of the fastest growing economies of the world which is overtaking its next-door giant neighbour China in terms of economic growth. American multinational information technology company IBM refers the age as an ‘Indian century’. But its simply an ‘Indian nightmare’ for more than 50 million of our population engaged in agriculture, and my article is devoted to the farmers who have built this nation with their sweat and blood.
Many of us are aware of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s padayatra on 2nd October from Haridwar to New Delhi – protesting the non-payment of around 12,000 crore sugarcane dues from mills, and repeated crop failures. The farmers are making their bid for survival in the ‘war of Bharat against the forces of India’. This reminds me of the march of 500 kisans over 200 miles from Manmad to Faizpur in 1937 – led by N.G Ranga.
There are numerous incidences where the ordinary farmers pitted against the ruling, corrupt political and social establishments. It is indeed a necessity to throw light on these agrarian struggles of the post-independent era. The Tebhaga movement from 1946-1947, was a struggle by sharecroppers to retain two-thirds of agricultural products for themselves refusing to pay half of their crop share to Jotedars and demanding that only one-third of their crops be stored in the godowns, and not by the Jotedars.
The Telangana Peasant’s Movement started in mid-1946 and continued till the October 1951. It engulfed the whole Telangana region and the Hyderabad state. Robert. L. Hardgrave in his book ‘India-Government and Politics in a Developing Nation, writes “the demands raised were broad ones, and the nature of the struggle itself makes this movement one of the revolutionary struggle unmatched in the Indian history”. The objective was concerned with the whole of the peasantry against illegal and excessive extraction by the rural feudal aristocracy. It was a struggle in which the army of the landed gentry killed many peasants, and later, the mass murder was advanced by the Indian army, after the takeover of the Hyderabad state.
The Naxalbari peasant uprising was the last significant uprisings in India. It occurred in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in West Bengal – in a place called Naxalbari within the subdivision of Siliguri in Darjeeling district. The landless peasants have long claimed that their land was encroached by tea-estates, and also by the rich peasants. The agrarian revolt rose in April 1962 and continued till June in the whole Siliguri subdivision. The peasants burned all the legal documents, unequal agreements between the moneylenders, and confiscated hoarded rice and distributed it among themselves. The movement came to a halt when the West Bengal police, under the pressure of the central government, entered the region and swept the area.
You may think why I am concentrating on the past by ignoring the present. Man cannot become entirely oblivious of the past; past, present and future constitute an unbroken continuum. And the past is sought to be modified with the emergence of new socio-economic and cultural categories. The deplorable constriction of the farmer is not a 21st-century affair but has a deep history and events which make our present more prone to strikes and protests. From Indigo peasant uprising in 1859 to Kisan Padayatra in 2018 the plight of our farmers remains same.
During colonialism, when India was a ‘roasted beef of old England’ – agriculture in India was an appendage of British colonialism. In the post-independence era, the wealth of rural India was drained to enhance the economic power of metropolises – as argued by Sharad Joshi, the spokesperson of Shetkari Sangathana. This is an example of internal colonialism. These incidences echo in Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Africa’ – where the barbaric greed of the civilised and their shameless inhumanity is put on naked display.
The enemy of the farmers is not only the government but also bourgeois multi-national organisations like World Trade Organization (WTO), with its villainous trading provisions like tariff reductions and elimination of domestic support subsidies which gave the farmers a deadly blow.
When someone says India is growing as a global power in the waiting or the recent decade are an ‘Indian age’, I quote this famous saying by Camoes’s Lusiad to them,
“Delusions are possessing you when already brute forces and strength (against the farmers) are labelled as strength and valour.”