In the beginning of 19th century, princely states of Rajasthan started signing treaties with the British (1818). These treaties relieved princely states from external attacks of Marathas, Pindaris as well as other princely states. All these security came at cost of additional taxes, which the rulers passed on to peasantry classes as they continued to live a life of luxury and comfort.
Example: In case of the state of Udaipur the tribute paid to the British was l/4th of the total revenue of the state for the first five years of the treaty; it was fixed 3/8th of the total revenue after five years. The enhancement in land revenue was enhancement in the income of the Britishers that came at cost of increase in taxes on peasants.
Hence, the peasantry in the princely states of Rajasthan started suffering under the weight of double exploitation of British imperialism and native feudalism. Over the period of time, this caused significant dissatisfaction among the public which results in numerous peasant movement across Rajasthan. The peasantry in Rajasthan had to pay a large number of lag-bags (cesses), custom duties and also perform begar (forced labour) in addition to paying heavy land-revenue which was half of the gross produce.
After 1878, new land revenue settlements were made on the British lines to institutionalise the loot by the states. These settlements were not aimed at improving the agriculture and working conditions of the peasantry but their sole object was to collect more money. These resulted in the decline of agriculture on the one hand, and increase in poverty and indebtedness of the peasantry on the other (Source).
General Features of Peasant Movements in Rajasthan
- In the initial stages most of the peasant movements were spontaneous and were the outcome of social reform movements. In fact, the peasant movements in Rajasthan initially arose under the banner of social reforms and culminated into an economic struggle.
- The caste panchayats played an important role in the early stage of these movements. The caste organisations developed into class organisations during the peasant struggles.
- Between 1938-1949 the peasant movements and the Praja Mandal movement for responsible governments remained in close co-operation with each other irrespective of their class characters.
Peasant Movements of Rajasthan
Bheel Peasant Movements (1818)
Bijoliya Peasant Movements (1897-1941) – 3 phases
Bhagat Peasant Movement (1911)
Begun Peasant Movement (1921)
- Leader Ramnarayan Choudhary
Marwar Peasant Movement (1923)
- Leader Jaynarayan Vyas
Eki Peasant Movement (1920)
- Leader Motilal Tejawat
Neemcuhana Movement (1925)
- Founders: Mev Farmers
Bundi Peasant Movement (1926)
- Leader Nathuram Sharma
Alwar-Bharatpur Peasant Movements (1932-1935)
Zakat Movement (1939)
- Leader Narottam Lal Joshi
Meena Movement (1945)
- Leader Thakkar Bappa
Bikaner Movement (1946)
- Leader Kumbharam Arya