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Violence In Agrarian Areas And Its Reform

India is an agricultural land and majortity are employed in agriculture only. The cultivation includes rice, wheat, cereals, fruits and many other food items for consumption only. The yield was generally shared within the group or they exchange the things (barter system) in earlier day. The people are very healthy because no pesticide or preservatives were used. At present India holds second place in the world’s agriculture production. In 2011 census shows 61.5% of rural population depend on agriculture. But now days everyone is running for more money and the nation is running behind technology by ignoring agriculture. In earlier period many politicians are come in agriculture. But during the British era, the policies were not favor to the farmers which leads to agrarian unrest. Leaders are participated in the struggle. This research paper will deal with the history of agrarian unrest, its cause, struggle, government policy relating to agrarian, legislation, agrarian reform, position in India and other country, drawbacks, suggestion for improvement.

Agrarian means cultivated land or cultivation of land[2], unrest means disagreements or fighting between different group of people[3]

Prof. H.V. Nagesh pointed out that agrarian unrest includes various type of struggle, in that struggle farmer agitation is more fundamental. “Peasant revolutions are normally full- fledge struggles and they are intended to bring about changes which are not just agriculture but more fundamental”[4].

Agrarian reform means rectification of the whole agriculture system. Government redistribute the agriculture land among the farmer. This measure focus on securing the right of the farmer[5].

Agrarian Structure:

Agrarian structure refers to the class structure of agriculture society. Many scholars such as S. Bhargava, D.R. Gadgil and other stated in their study, that agrarian class exist in pre-independent India. The agrarian class structure is classified by many authors, some are:
Kotovsky 1964 classified agrarian class into four class. They are, land owners, rich peasants, landless peasants, agriculture labor. Ram Krishna Mukherjee classified into three classes landowners they are supervisory farmer, self-sufficient peasants they are share coppers, and agriculture labor. And some of them classified by land holding and work bases they are agrarian proletarians, uneconomic holder of land in large, and few artisans and self-employed. But throne rejected this classification, because one man belongs to all classes simultaneously.

Daniel Thorners classified this class into three social categories namely Malik’s, Kisans, Mazdoors. Malik’s are called as landlords, kisans are working peasants and mazdoors are laborers.


Malik’s are big landlords who are affluent class in the village set up based on the agriculture income from property rights in the land. Malik’s cultivate land sometimes personally on the use of hired laborer’s and appoint manger to supervise the cultivation of land. Malik’s group are divided into two absentee landlords; they are far away from village Absentee landlords will not have personal interest in their land they appoint supervisor through there supervisor mange the cultivated land the money is sent to the owner who have right in the land. They are big landlords because they have right on the land is spread over in several village. Second one is rich resident land owners this type of Malik’s stayed in the village where they have land, but they do not work personally in that land only they get cultivated thing or cash in sometime both.


Kisans are working peasants they play middle role or intermediator position in three tier agrarian structure. Kisans are small land owner and tenants. They have own land but in small quantity only. Kisans are work in the agriculture land with their family members and relative. They will not appoint labor, if necessary on exchange basis labor work.


Mazdoors are landless villager they work as a labor in the land of others for wages they are poor tenants share crops and landless labors. They get wages in cash in sometime kinds. If the Mazdoors don’t have work in their own villages they are forced to transfer and work in the other villages, some of them work in the construction or industrial workers Prof. D.N. Dhanagare criticized Thorner's classification and suggested another model for agrarian class. It is classified into five landlords, rich peasants, middle peasants, poor peasants, landless labor. The other quoted that agrarian class is divided based on size of land holding.

It is five fold classification:
i) big framer hold more than four hectares,
ii) medium framer hold 2 to 4 hectares,
iii) small farmers hold 1 to 2 hectares,
iv) marginal farmer hold less than 1 hectares and
v) laborer they hold small piece of land and they work for wages in the others land [6].

In ancient time, the land system is different, and the land was the property of king. In Rig Vedic period are epic period there is a gramani. Gramani is head of the village to develop the agriculture and it is his duty to collect due and maintain record. After that based on size of village the gramani was appointed and called by different name.[7] In Arthashastra , during Mauryan period there was well defined self-govering village system existed and they are independent. There was a unit-based separation of village and the head is adhyaksha. Till this time farmer independently grow crops[8]. A.R. Desai said that the village community are little, and they have all they want there is no need of independence of foreign relation. Dynasty after dynasty revolution happened is Hindu, Pathan, Moghul, Maratha, Sikh. The peasant family enjoyed a right to cultivate and possess land within its jurisdiction.

In Mughal period there was change of town, city like that more of the Mughal are stayed in city. In Mughal period they were not interested in the development of village and agriculture. But system of Hindu and Mohammedan jurist agree that the king had no proprietary right in land. After British rule came, the Hindu rulers were disappeared, and new system of practice came into force. The three intermediates areZamindar, Mahalwari, Ryotwariappointed to collect dues from framer.

Zamindari were coming in Mughal period, but it gets definite shape in British period. Lord Cornwallis introduce this system in 1793. They are non-cultivating landlord, duty assign by government to collect tax from the individual and they get commission. They are not owner, but the Bengal permanent revenue settlement made there as an owner. In this system collecting of tax is of two type permanent and temporary.

Mahalwari this system was introduced in British rule by Lord William Bentinck. The system was established in Agra and later it expended to Punjab. Collect tax and deposited in the treasury. The village headman called Lumberdar and he get panchortra 5% commission. Ryotwari another system plays intermediate role on collecting tax on Tamil Nadu it extends to Jammu and Kashmir. It was introduced by Sir Thomas Munro in 1792. British rule and this system, high tax, no independent in growing crop and torture by British government led to agrarian unrest.

Peasant Movements:

Year Place Peasants movements Leaders
1763 Bengal Sanyasi rebellion
1792 Tirunelveli Revolt of Kattamnomman Veerapandya kattabomman
1804 Orissa Rebellion of the Pakis Raja of the Khurda
1805 Tavancore Revolt of Velu Thambi Velu Thambi
1820 North India & Deccan Wahabi Movement Saiyad Ahmad
1822 Poona Revolt of Ramosis Chittue Singh and Umaji
1825 Sherpur Movement of Pagal Panthis Karam Shah and Tipu
1829 Parlakimedi Parlakimedi Outbreak Jagannath Gajapti
1842 Sagar Bundela Revolt Mahukar Shah
1855 Rajmahal Hills Santhal insurrection Sidhu and Kanhu
1859 Bengal Indigo revolt Digambar Biswas
1873 Bengal Pabna movement
1874 Poona & Ahmadnagar Deccan riots
1901 Punjab Peasant unrest
1917 Champaran Bengal Champaran Movement Gandhiji
1918 Kheda Kheda Movement Sadar Vallabhbhai Pattel
1920 Gujarat Bardoli Satyagraha Sadar Vallabhbhai Pattel
1921 Malabar Mappila Rebellion
1921 Harrdoi Eka Movement  Madari Pasi
1930 Punjab Peasants Revolt in Punjab 
1936 Lucknow All India kisan congress Swami Shaianand
1938 Bihar Bakasht Land Struggle Karyanand Sharma, Yadunanda
1946 Bengal Tebhaga Movement Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha


1. Santhal insurrection [1855-56]:

Santhal agriculture people belong to Manbum, Barabhum, Hazaribagh, Midnapur, Bankur and Bribhum areas. The excessive rent demanded by zamindari forcibly make the peace lovers on that areas to transfer their homes in the Rajmahal hills. They made the hill track suitable for cultivation. The zamindari didn’t leave the people came for proprietorship of the soil. On 30 June 1855 the Santhal rebel leaders sidhu and kanhu murmur mobilized ten thousand Santhal declared rebellion against British and they gained success in guerilla war tactics. British want to Santhal people separates from the forest and then attack them with modern firearms and war elephants. The battle began with the order of firing without bullets. The hapless Santhals were cutter into pieces and then they attack the village people with real bullets, plundered them, raped the women and castrated their teenagers till last drop of revolutionary sprit was annihilated. The day was celebrated by the Santhal community people[9].

2.Champaran Movement [1917-18]

Many peasants in champaran district of Bihar were forced to grow indigo in their land on British rule. One of the poor farmer name Rajkumar Shukla reach Gandhiji and request him to help them. On the requesting he came on April 10, 1917 to champaran with band of lawyers to fight with British government. This was the first satyagraha of Gandhiji, the day is being celebrate by everyone today also[10]. And it is also part of struggle to independence. The cahmparan farmers suffered lot in the hands of European planters, British government and the local zamindari. They increase land rent, inhumanly treated the people to force them to plant indigo no other crops there is no freedom for cultivator, if the famer wants to grow other type of crop they should pay more money. The wages for the labor also to meager it is not enough to live the livelihood. In this struggle Gandhiji was tortured by the policemen. And at last the outcome of this non-violence struggle was Champaran Agrarian Act enacted by governor General of India on 1stMay 1918[11].

3.Kheda Peasant Struggle [1918]:

Kheda is a place in Gujarat. The peasants were suffered from poverty, famines, untouchability etc.., under the British government and dying out of starvation. Meanwhile the Bombay Presidency increased tax to 23%, whole Gujarat suffered and in kheda 17000 people lost their lives. When the tax is not paid then the land of peasant were seized by the government. This was the reason of revolt against the taxes. The leader for the revolt is sardar Vallabhbhai Pattel. The revolt is organized by Gujrat Sabha, Gandhiji is spiritual leader for that. Result of the struggle is the government reached an agreement the rich kheda peasants should pay the tax and the poor tax are suspended and all confiscated property was returned to the poor peasants[12].

4. Bardoli Satyagraha [1920]:

Bardoli satyagraha is same as kheda struggle on tax payment. Bardoli is divided into two group kaji paraj, ujta paraj. Kaji paraj class peasant means black skinned the other ujta paraj is white skinned peasants. Due to increase in tax revolt began Vallabhbhai Patel lead the struggle. In this struggle Vallabhbhai Patel named Sadar by bardoli peasant. Result of this struggle Maxwell-Broomfield Commission reduce the tax as 6.03%[13].

5. Moplah Rebellion in Malabar [1921]:

Malabar is a district in Kerala. In 9thcentury, Muslims came to Kerala through Arabian sea. Mopalh are the muslim peasant labor and they are poor called as Jenmis they belong to hindus mostly from the beginning itself hindu and muslim are unfriendly. The Malabar land tenure is unfavorable to the moplah community. They ejected from their land without prior and appropriate notice, renewal fee is fixed by jenmis is failure struggle[14].

6. Peasant Revolt in Punjab [1930]:

Punjab region also got the peasants unrest, this movement owned its activity due to working of all India congress committee. Peasant struggle was against British government, and part of independence. In this movement zamindari and moneylender were targeted. The problem was resettlement of land revenue, another increase in tax from of canal tax. The movement was succeeded by 1935 legislation, which is tenant to become as a land owner. In spread over other country peasants they also get reduction on tax and relief on debt.

Post Independent:

1. Telangana peasant movement:

Telangana movement is political effective in nature in the place of Hyderabad. There is also increase in debt, high rent, women slavery, if the peasants should work for free until the debt is fully paid. The communist party of India took agitation against feudalism. The object of this agitation is land grabbing and redistribution, stopping the eviction of tenants. The struggle turned into violent. The result of the struggle is tenancy and Agriculture Land Act was passed in 1950.

2. Naxalbari Movement:

The communist party of India Marxist- Leninist has started in 1967. The aim is to secure the right of marginalized agriculture community. Several communities were set up together and the and was redistributed the landlords were put into trial. Later the struggle is liquidated. This movement is so violent in nature and it is one of the widespread movements in the present time[15].

Types of Struggles:
In India for the past 225 years peasants struggle taking place. The struggle is not different in name the nature also varied form one struggle to another. Violent struggle is naxlbari and another non- violent Champaran movement. Peasants struggle was depending on their ideology, working style, purpose, organizational base. Kathleen gough's classified this agitation into five categories in her article. And after dr. dhanagare an Indian sociologist add one variety to the list.

The six classification:

Restorative Rebellions:

This type is to eradicate the British and bring earlier rule and social relation. To re-establish monarchy or kingship the agitator fight for restoration of one-time existed privileges and statuses. Eg: santal insurrection.

Religious Movement:

This type of agitation took place under the leadership of religious leaders. People joint on the belief of re-establishment of Rama Rajya which is social equality, justice, brotherhood would be assured for all. Eg: mopla movement, revolt against Hindu landlords on the leadership of Thangal he was a local Muslim religious leader.

Social Banditry:

This one is on the leadership of Narasimha Reddy of Karnool in Andhra Pradesh. It is a social oriented robbery they loot the property from rich and give that to poor. Eg: Kollar community and sanyasi-fakir banditry.

Terrorist Vengeance:

This attack is different because it took place in the frontal of the opponents who are regarded as enemies. It is based on violence and armed revolt. The agitator captures the enemies and torture them and kill them. Eg, Naxalite agitation and Marxist agitation.

Mass Insurrections:

This will take suddenly and came to an end abruptly. They arise without leadership and organizational base. Once they breakout starts the agitation if the agitation get solution temporary the struggle come to a sudden end. Eg: Deccan Revolt.

Liberal Reformist Movement:

In this type of struggle there is no use of violence and atrocities. It will not create any conflict or enmity between different community. It helps in removing some of the dangerous harmful laws or legislation. Eg, Champaran, kheda, Bardoli satyagraha.[16]

Causes For Struggle:
# Feeling of relative deprivation
# Foreign invasion, atrocities and exploitation
# Destruction of cottage industries of the farmers
# Exploitation of the tribals
# Coercion exercised to grow commercial crops
# Increasing burden of debt
# Increasing number of landless and unemployment
# organizing power of the farmers
# Illegal eviction of the tenants
# Anti-farmers measures of the government
# Increasing political awareness
# Use of modern technology

These are causes for agrarian struggle or peasant movement. Other causes are politics, government, growth of industrialization and another major cause is bank. But now the causes are increased but no one work for the agrarian people. So, the farmer suicide increased.

In November 18, 2004, National Commission on Farmers constitute a committee headed by Prof M.S. Swaminathan to submit five year to the government. Dec 2004 first report were submitted, and final report were submitted on Oct 4, 2006. He suggested faster and more inclusive growth, safeguard the interest of the small farmers.

J.C.Kumarappa Congress Agrarian Committee 1949, was the first committee after independent. He was an Indian economist and senior Congress leader appointed to report the problem of land. On his report some are implemented seriously. They are abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reform, fixing of ceilings on land holding, redistribution of land.

G.V.K. Rao committee on rural development and Bhanu Patra Singh committee on agriculture are conducted for rural and agriculture development. Based on Commission to develop agriculture agrarian reform come into existence.

Agrarian Reform:
Agrarian reform in India was started after independence. In 1958 a national survey said that quarter people will not have own land and another quarter people will have less acre land. Abolition of zamindari and excessive tax payment, increased debt, caste-based appointment, favors etc, After independence the government started to build equity in rural population, improvement in employment rate and productivity, secure proper land management, redistribution of land is more focused in agrarian reform. In agrarian reform land was declared as state government property. So agrarian reform is varying from one state to another state. Another form of reform is land reform, the Indian national congress and communist party of India is called because in many areas it depends on political support[17].

# setting proper land management
# tenancy reform
# abolition of intermediaries
# regulation of rent
# right of ownership
# preventing fragmentation of lands
# rational use of resource
# social welfare
# raising standard of living

Abolition of intermediaries, congress had committed the idea to remove the Intermediaries between the peasant and state. The first act to abolish intermediaries was passed in madras in 1948. In 1951 Orissa estate abolition was passed and in 1955 almost of all the state completed.

Tenancy reform, in these three types of tenant occupancy, non-occupancy and sub- tenant. Occupancy have right of ownership over the land, the cultivate the land from generation to generation and paid rent to the land-lord. Non-occupancy tenant doesn’t have right to cultivate permanently. Sub-tenant who cultivate land of big land owners on lease basis. This reform has three important feature security of tenure, regulation of rent and right of ownership.

Ceiling on land holdings, which is fixing of maximum amount for land that can be possess by individual and family. Land ceiling as two aspects fixation of ceiling limit, acquisition of surplus land and its distribution among the small farmers and landless workers.

Constitutional validity:

Constitution of India included land reform in state subject and concurrent list. In state list the entry of 18 relates to land and its right. In concurrent list the entry of 20 mandates the central government to fulfill is role in social and economic planning. Part IV of DPSP indirectly mandates to take measure for land reform to achieve an egalitarian society by government.

The specific articles of Constitution

# Article 23 right against exploitation under fundamental right forced unpaid labor are prohibited.
# Article 31 A, B.[18]
# Article 38 under directive principle of state policy directed the state to minimize in equality of income and elimination of inequality in status and opportunity.
# Article 39 under directive principle of state policy relates that the ownership and control of material resources equal distribute on the community for common good.
# Article 48 under DPSP says to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern scientific lines.[19]

After many struggles for agriculture by peasant to develop agriculture they formed a reform, but it is not working well and if it is also slow only. And many commissions formed but there is no solution. Government give many offers to peasant, but it is not reaching them because of inefficient politician, many of them are not knowing what is happening, were should consul about the scheme. There is a scheme known as tatkal in that free current for farmers is given if they buy motors under the scheme worth more than two lakhs. Another big for peasant is bank loan and climate change. Many farmers made a trust in weather. Failure of rain dragged the farmers to avail loan for heavy interest. Exorbitant interest leads to farmers suicide. The struggle is not ended even now the peasant are struggling to meet both the ends. Ahimsa violence is not working now, no public support, no government support they are facing many problems. Every time when we sit before plate of meal, lets think about the manufactures of food grains and move forward to empower them for the better future.

[1] C.N. Shankar Rao Sociology of Indian society Chapter 11
[2] C.N. Shankar Rao Sociology of Indian society chapter 13
[3] C.N. Shankar Rao Sociology of Indian society chapter 11
[4] A.R. Desi
[5] M.S.A. Rao Social Movement in India

Written By: L. Monisha - 2nd Year LL.M student, Dept of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Administration, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai.

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