Uttar Pradesh and Punjab (1926-27); organisation of the Andhra Provincial
Ryots Association by N.G. Ranga and B.V. Ratnam (1928). Then came the
foundation of the South Indian Federation of Peasants and Agricultural
Labour in 1935 with N.G. Ranga as General Secretary and EMS
Namboodripad as a Joint Secretary, followed by the holding of the first All
India Kisan Congress at Lucknow and the formation of the All India Kisan
Sabha (1936). Its first session was presided over by Swami Sahajanand, the
peasant leader from Bihar. From 1936 onwards, All-India Kisan Day was
celebrated on 1st September, every year. The Kisan Manifesto of 1936
demanded abolition of zamindari, a graduated tax on agricultural incomes in
excess of Rs. 500 in place of the present land-revenue, and cancellation of
debts. It included also a minimum charter of demands: 50% cut in revenue
and rent, full occupancy rights to all tenants, abolition of begar (forced
labour), scaling-down of debts and interest rates, and restoration of
customary forest rights. It launched some heroic struggles in different parts of
India, for instance the anti-settlement movement against zamindari zulum in
Andhra Pradesh, the movement for the abolition of zamindari system in
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh; the movement against the oppressive forest laws in
south India, etc.
Nature and Limitations of Peasant Organisations
Some tentative generalisations about the peasant organisations that developed
and declined in India between 1925 and 1947 may be attempted.
Transitory Character The way peasant organisations emerged in different
parts of India strongly indicates their agitational character. They were
basically agrarian agitations rather than ‘parties’ or ‘organisations’ in the
strict sense. Their activities gathered or lost momentum as the pressure of
genuine peasant grievances increased or decreased. Therefore, the peasant
parties were essentially transitory in character.
Lack of Identity Peasant organisations almost always suffered from an
identity crisis. They searched for recognition from or affiliations to one or the
other national political party—whether the Congress, socialist or Communist
parties. The inability of peasant parties to sustain themselves as independent
and genuinely peasant political