croppers and landless labourers. The peasants often resisted the exploitation, and soon they realised that their real enemy was the colonial state. Sometimes, the desperate peasants took to crime to come out of intolerable conditions. These
crimes included robbery, dacoity and what has been called social banditry. A SURVEY OF EARLY PEASANT MOVEMENTS Indigo Revolt (1859-60), In Bengal, the indigo planters, rly all Europeans, exploited the local peasants by forcing them to grow indigo on their lands instead of the more paying crops like rice. The planters forced the peasants to take advance sums and enter into fraudulent contracts which were 332 Peasant Movements 1857-1947 333 then used against the peasants. The planters intimidated the peasants through kidnappings, illegal confinements, flogging, attacks on women and children, seizure of cattle, burning and demolition of houses and destruction of crops. The anger of the peasants exploded in 1859 when, led by Digambar Biswas and Bishnu Biswas of Nadia district, they decided not to grow indigo under duress and resisted the physical pressure of the planters and their lathiyals (retainers) backed by police and the courts. They also organised a counter force against the planters' attacks. The planters also tried methods like evictions and enhanced rents. The ryots replied by going on a rent strike by refusing to pay the enhanced rents and by physically resisting the attempts to evict them. Gradually, they learned to use the legal machinery and initiated legal action supported by fund collection. The Bengali intelligentsia played a significant role by supporting the peasants' cause through newspaper campaigns, organisation of mass meetings, preparing memoranda on peasants' Brieaces and supporting them in legal battles. The Government appointed an indigo commission to inquire into the problem of indigo cultivation. Based on its recommendations, the Government issued a notification in November 1860 that the ryots could not be compelled to grow indigo and that it would ensure that all disputes were settled by legal means. But, the planters were already closing down factories and indigo cultivation was virtually wiped out from Bengal by the end of 1860. tabna Agrarian Leagues, During the 1870s and 1880s, large parts of Eastern Bengal witnessed agrarian unrest caused by oppressive practices of the zamindars. The zamindars resorted to enhanced rents beyond legal limits and prevented the tenants from acquiring occupancy rights under Act of 1859. To achieve their ends, the zamindars resorted to forcible evictions, seizure of cattle and crops and prolonged, costly litigation in courts where the poor peasant found himself at a disadvantage. 334 A Brief History of Modern India
Having had enough of the oppressive regime, the peasants of Yusufshahi Pargana in Patna district formed an agrarian league or combination to resist the demands of the zamindars. The league organised a rent stro the ryots refused to pay the enhanced rents. challenging the zamindars in the courts. Funds were raised by ryots to fight the court cases. The struggles spread throughout Patna and to other districts of East Bengal.
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