Telangana Peasants Armed Struggle

Telangana Peasants Armed Struggle

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.

The region of Telangana was characterised by a feudal economy. The main commercial crops, viz., groundnut, tobacco and castor seed, were the monopoly of the landowning brahmins. The rise of Reddis and peasant proprietors further strengthened the high castes and prop­ertied class. The non-cultivating urban groups, mostly Brahmins, Marwaris, Komtis and Muslims, began to take interest in acquiring land. Consequently, the peasant proprietors slided down to the status of tenants-at-will, share-croppers and landless labourers.

Causes of movement

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.

 

  • Yet another cause of peasant movement in Telangana was the ex­ploitation of the big peasants. D.N. Dhanagare informs that 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Telangana region 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.
  • 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. As a result of growing land alienation many actual occupants or culti­vators were being reduced to tenants-at-will, sharecroppers or landless labourers … in fact, where rich Pattadars held holdings too large to manage, they tended to keep a certain amount of irrigated land to be cultivated with the help of hired labour and turned over most of their dry lands either to Bhagela serfs or to tenant cultivators on very high produce rents.

The Telangana 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 in Telangana.

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.

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 Telangana local peasants partici­pated.

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

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.

The peasant movement in Telangana had to be withdrawn. Actu­ally the police action gave a death blow to the Communist-led Telangana peasant movement. In this struggle, the movement had to suffer a lot. Fighting with the Indian army over 2,000 peasants and party workers were killed. By August 1949, nearly 25,000 Commu­nists and active participants were arrested; by July 1950 the total number of detainees had reached 10,000. This should suffice as an in­dex of the intensity of Telangana peasants struggle.

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