Worker, Peasant and Tribal Movement in Andhra Pradesh

Worker, Peasant and Tribal Movement in Andhra Pradesh:-

The role of the Andhras in the Freedom Struggle is next to that of none and they had always been in the forefront along with the rest of the countrymen. The first War of Independence in A.D.1857 did in no way affect the state of affairs in the south, though ripples were felt in the State of Hyderabad, in the shape of a raid by Rohilla and Arab soldiers against the Residency and a rebellion by the Gonds in the Adilabad district under the leadership of Ramji Gond. However, in A.D.1860, the English suppressed all these rebellions.

The rest of the 19th century passed away without any event of major importance, though occasional rebellions of the peasants here and there brought out their dissatisfaction to the forefront. The introduction of English education helped the formation of a strong educated middle class, which found security of life in the Government jobs. Agriculture became the mainstay of the people, as the cottage industries, especially the cloth industry, dwindled due to the deliberate policy of the Government to encourage British industries and trade at the expense of the indigenous ones. However, construction of dams across the Godavari and the Krishna by A.D.1852 and 1855 respectively, resulted in increasing agricultural production and helped, for a time, to cloud the real issues.

Rampa Revolt

Alluri Seetharama Raju, a legendary hero of Andhra Pradesh, virtually declared a war against the British. He carried out his campaign against the British in the agency areas of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam district. The grievances of the tribal assumed least significance for the Congress that claimed to be an all India party fighting against the British imperialism. As soon as the British took over Eastern India tribal revolts broke out to challenge the alien rule. In the early years of colonisation,no other community of India offered such heroic resistance to British rule or faced such tragic consequences as did the numerous tribal communities of now Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Bengal and Andhra pradesh. The forest laws imposed by the British had infringed the rights of the tribal from time to time and they had to fight their grievances on their own with little or no help from outside. Most of the tribal uprising were armed uprising against the British The Rampa Rebellion(1922-23) under  Alluri Sita Rama Raju of Andra pradesh was fought by the tribal as a protest to the oppressive Madras Forest Act of 1882. The Act placed restrictions on the free movement of tribal in the forest areas and prevented them from engaging in their traditional lifestyle of Podu (shifting) cultivation, and use of the forest for firewood and toddy Period from 1917-1923 ,there was lot of unrest in the tribal areas spreading from east Godavari to Vizianagaram. One of Andras early revolutionaries, Alluri Sita Rama Raj  (1897-1923) was able to successfully mobilize the local tribal for an armed rebellion against the British. He made them give up alcohol and gave them military training first with bows and arrows and later with weapons . Inspired by the revolutionaries of Bengal, Raju decided to raided police stations in and around Chintapalli, Krishna-devi-peta and Raja-vommangi, in search of ammunition’s . The repressive measures and the unjust policies of the British, coupled with the misdeeds of British contractors who exploited and oppressed the workers of the hill tribes of the Visakhapatnam and East Godavari district, provoked him.He carried out a campaign in the region which brought him into conflict with the police . This eventually culminated in the Rampa Rebellion. Despite having fewer manpower and weapons, Alluri and his men exacted tremendous damage on British interest, as they were much more familiar with the hilly terrain and adept in  guerrilla tactics.The Malabar special Force was brought in to crush the rebellion . A reward of Rs. 10,000 was declared on Alluri .Like all revolutionaries he was gunned down on May 7 ,1924 at the age of 28.The brave patriot declared ‘’shoot me,kill my body a thousand times .But remember I will be born again and again on this land to liberate people and To see the end of you’’.


Koya revolt ?


It occurred in 1879-80 in the eastern godavari track of AP and also affected some portions of Malkangiri district in Orissa, as they are bordered areas. Its heart lay in the Rampa country of Chodavaram where tribal koya and konda Sara hil chefs had risen against their overlord in 1803, 1840, 1845, 1858, 1861 and 1862. The 1879-80 rebellion was led by Tomma Sora and reflected problems faced by tribals, like erosion of customary rights over forests, police exactions, exploitation by money lenders, and new excise regulations restricting domestic production of toddy. Toma sora was hailed as the king of Malkajgiri. It affected nearly 5000 sq miles. Sora was shot dead by the police. In 1886 another revolt took place under Raja Ananta Ayyar.

Resistance of Poligars

The poligars of Rayalaseema backed by people of the region were a terror to the British. According to the data available, there were 80 poligars in Rayalaseema in 1800, who had refused to accept the authority of the Englishman. The then principal collector of the region, Thomas Munroe, ordered the poligars to lay down their arms and pay cess to the East India Company. They refused to budge and Munroe had to slog for 18 months before they could be brought under control.  A patriot poligar, Narasimha Reddy of Kurnool district, rebelled and attacked the treasury at Koilakuntla and marched towards Cumbam. Capt. Holt tried to nab him but Reddy managed to give him a slip and moved over to the then Nizam State. After six weeks, he was caught and hanged in the full view of the people at Koilakuntla. Munroe then ordered the take-over of properties of all the poligars and introduced a scheme of permanent land settlement in the region.

No Tax Campaign

Chirala and Perala, the two tiny villages, then in Guntur district and noted for production of handloom sarees carved out a niche for themselves in the history of freedom struggle.The two villages had a population of 15,000 with a revenue of Rs. 4000. The then Madras Government decided to elevate them to the status of municipalities in 1919 with the intention of collecting Rs. 40,000 as tax. The middle class segment of the villages revolted against the proposal and launched a no-tax campaign under the leadership of Duggirala Gopalakrishnaiah. He formed a group of volunteers under the banner of  ‘Rama Dandu’. Mahatma Gandhi, who visited the area, directed people to leave the villages and settle down elsewhere so that the Government will not be able to collect the taxes. About 13,000 people left the villages and lived at a camp, Ramnagar, for eleven months. The Government cut the revolt to size by arresting Gopalakrishnaiah. The campaign literally shook the legislature but fizzled out once Gopalakrishnaiah was arrested.

Forest Satyagraha:-

`Forest Satyagraha’ of the ryots of Palnad in Guntur district in 1921. The peasants of this place had to pay heavy tax for permission to graze their cattle in forests. When the crops failed that year, they decided to send their cattle into the forests without paying the fee and suffer the penalties. They resorted to social boycott of all government officials and refused supply of even the bare necessaries of life to them. It did not produce the desired change in the attitude of the officials. They took the cattle forcibly, confined them in cattle-pounds and refused to free them unless the fee was paid. There was, therefore, clash between the cattle owners and the armed police that was brought on the scene. In the firing that took place one Kannuganti Hanumanthu was killed. Meanwhile, Gandhiji called off the Non-Co-operation Movement due to some untoward incidents at Chowri Chowra and with this the Palnad Satyagraha also came to an end.


Peasant Movements: Telangana Peasant Struggle (1947-51):-


This movement was launched in the state of Andhra Pradesh against the former Nizam of Hyderabad. The agrarian social structure in the Nizam’s Hyderabad was of a feudal order. It had two kinds of land tenure systems, namely, raiyatwari and jagirdari. Under the raiyatwari system, the peasants owned patta and were proprietors of the land; they were registered occupants. The actual cultivators of the land were known as shikmidars. Khalsa lands were chieftain’s land and out of revenue collected from these lands, personal expenses of the royalty were met out. The Deshmukhs and Desbpandes were the hereditary collectors of revenue for khalsa villages. In jagir villages, the tax was collected through jagirdars and their agents. Both the jagirdars and the Deshmukhs wielded immense power at the local level.

Following were the main causes of the movement:

(1) The Nizam’s former Hyderabad state had a feudal structure of ad­ministration. In the jagir area, the agents of the jagirdar who were the middlemen collected the land taxes. There was much of op­pression by the jagirdar and his agents. They were free to extort from the actual cultivators a variety of taxes. This condition of ex­ploitation remained in practice till the jagirdari system was abolished in 1949. On the other hand the khalsa land or the raiyatwari system was also exploitative though the severity of exploitation in the khalsa system was a little lesser. In the khalsa villages, the Deshmukhs and Deshpandes worked as intermediaries. They were not in the pay­roll of the jagir administration; they were only given a percentage or the total land collection made by them. The Deshmukhs and Deshpandes then developed a habit to cheat the peasants by creat­ing fraud in the land records. This, in countless instances they reduced the actual cultivator to the status of tenant-at-will or a landless labourer. In both the systems of administration, i.e., jagir and khalsa, the peasants were exploited by the intermediaries appointed by Ni­zam. High taxes, fraud with the record and exploitation resulted in creating discontent among the poor peasants.

(2) Yet another cause of peasant movement was the ex­ploitation of the big peasants. The jagirdars and the Deshmukhs had thousands of acres of land in their possession. The families of these big peasants and their heads were called Durra or Dora. It means, the master or lord of the vil­lage.The Dora exploited the small peasants and agricultural labourers. This exploitation, in course of time, became legitimised with the big farmers. It was considered to be the privilege of the Dora to exploit the masses of peasants.

(3) In the whole former state of Nizam a system of slavery, quite like that of Hali of south Gujarat, was prevalent. This system was known as Bhagela. The Bhagela were drawn mostly from aborigi­nal tribes who were tied to the master by debt. According to Bhagela system, the tenant who had taken loan from the landlord was obliged to serve him till the debt is repaid. In most of the cases, the Bhagela was required to serve the landlord for genera­tions.

(4) The Reddis and Kammars were notable castes who traditionally worked as traders and moneylenders. They exercised a great deal of influence in the countryside. They wanted to pull down the dominance of Brahmins as agriculturists in the state.

(5) The State was economically backward. The develop­ment of agriculture depended on the facilities of irrigation. The commercial crops could hardly be taken without irrigation facili­ties. Though, the lack of irrigation was realised by Nizam and he provided irrigation facilities to the peasants both in khalsa and jagir villages. But, these facilities were largely cornered by the big farmers.

(6) Land alienation was not new to the former Hyderabad state. Be­tween 1910 to 1940 the frequency of land dispossession increased. On the one hand, the land possessed by the non cultivating urban people, mostly Brahmins, Marwaris, and Muslims increased and on the other hand the tribal peasants got reduced to the status of marginal farmers and landless labourers. Peasant unrest did not erupt over night. It looks about three to four decades. Actually, till 1930, the poor condition of the peasants had reached its culmination. Meanwhile, there had been much transformation in agricultural economy.

The course of events that led to the peasant struggle can be described as under:

(1) The peasant movement was engineered by Commu­nist Party of India (CPI). It is said to be a revolution committed by Communists. The Communist Party started working in Telangana in 1936. Professor N.G. Ranga had laid down the regional level peasant organisation in Telangana. This regional organisation was affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha an organ of CPI. Within a period of three or four years, say by 1940, the CPI had established its roots in the for­mer Hyderabad state. During the period from 1944 to 1946, the Communist activities increased in several of the districts of Hydera­bad. A proper framework was, therefore, prepared for launching a peasant movement.

(2) The next event which took place in Hyderabad and more actu­ally in Telangana was the famine of 1946. All the crops failed and there was a crisis of the availability of fodder. The prices of food, fod­der and other necessities of life increased. This was a crisis for the tenants and the sharecroppers. Actually, the year 1946 provided all opportunities for engineering the peasant struggle. In the early July 1946, the peasants resisted the government orders. Militant action was taken by the CPI-led peasants.

(3) The CPI made an objective to mobilise the peasants. It took up a campaign to propagate the demands of the lower peasants. By the middle of 1946, the Communist propaganda was fully intensified and covered about 300 to 400 villages under its influence. The movement during this period was slow but the peasants showed enough resis­tance to the government dictates. However, it must be mentioned that in the mobilisation of peasantry, only local peasants partici­pated.

(4) The second conference of CPI was held in March 1948. It re­solved to give a revolutionary turn to the peasant movement. The peasants later on were organised into an army and in­termittently fought guerrilla wars.

(5) Besides the peasant agitation, a parallel discontent was also tak­ing place in Hyderabad. A para-military voluntary force, organised by Kasim Rizvi, was taking its roots. The members of this voluntary or­ganisation were known as Razakars. This organisation was against the peasants. The peasants consolidated their movement in the face of the oppression of Nizam, activities of Razakars and the authority crisis in Hyderabad.

(6) On September 13, 1948, the Indian army marched into Hyder­abad and within less than a week the Nizam’s army, police and the Razakars surrendered without resistance. The police action, taken by the newly framed Central Government of independent India, was very quick to suppress the peasant movement.

 Peasant movement continued for about five years. Its outcomes can be enumerated as below:

(1) The struggle had the participation of a mixed class of peas­antry. Though the rich peasants, mainly the Brahmins, had their involvement in the struggle, the major achievement was that the struggle for the first time brought together the tenants, sharecroppers and the landless labourers. This was by all means a very big achieve­ment of the struggle. The Kammar and the Reddy castes who belonged to the rich class of peasants though gained enough but the movement consolidated the strength of poor peasants, particularly the tribals, who were the victims of vetti the bonded labour.

(2) Yet another benefit of this struggle was in the favour of the Communist Party. The Communist, for a long time to come, exer­cised their hegemony over the entire state of Hyderabad.

(3) Though the Communist Party, as a whole, benefited from the peasant struggle, it had its own losses also. Ideologically, the party got split from top to bottom. One group of Communists supported the struggle while other decried. The second group argued that the struggle was in no case less than terrorism. Those who opposed this struggle had even openly come out with the press, providing grist to the mill of the enemies in maligning the struggle and the Communist Party that was leading it.

(4) So far the demands of the poor agricultural classes were con­cerned the movement was a failure. Surely, there were some gains to Kammar and Reddy—the rich peasant but the gains of the poor peas­ants such as sharecroppers were quite meagre.

Srikakulam peasant uprising

The Srikakulam peasant uprising occurred in 1967–1970, in regions of Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh, India. The Naxalbari Uprising at the beginning of Naxalite movement during 1960s inspired the upsurge.

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