About Us  :  Online Enquiry


Peasant Revolts During British Time

Peasant Revolts During British Time


  • Peasant Movements are a part of social movements against British atrocities in the 18th and 19th centuries of the British Colonial Period. These movements had the sole purpose of restoring the earlier forms of rule and social relations.
  • Initial decades of the East India Company rule saw outright plunder of the wealth and ruinous taxation of the peasantry. In some areas, the taxation in British rule was up to twice of that imposed by Mughals. The oppressive tax contributed to the 1770 Bengal Famine which wiped out 1/3rd population. The permanent settlement of Bengal further deteriorated the condition of the peasantry.
  • In the later decades, the land revenue declined to a much small proportion of the crops, but by that time, the surplus was being removed from peasants by other kind of agents such as money-lenders, intermediary tenants, absentee landlords, merchants, lawyers etc.
  • The permanent land settlement made the land a private property of capitalist kind. The new landlords included not only the old Zamindars {who had previously been revenue collectors under the Mughals} but also a variety of village headmen, religious or secular functionaries, moneylenders etc. who purchased the land rights along with right to collect revenue in government auctions when old Zamindars proved unable to bring in the tax. While these persons gained landownership, the worst affected were the lower ranks of the cultivating tenants who lost their hereditary rights, who could be evicted if their landlords found them unnecessary, recalcitrant or unable to pay their rents.
  • Further, there was increased encroachment of the tribal hill territories and oppression of the tribal people by European and Indian planters; government usurpation of the forest areas; unequal terms of trade; usury; slave labour etc.

Condition of Peasantry under Colonialism

The impoverishment of the Indian peasantry was a direct result of the transformation of the agrarian structure due to:

  • Colonial economic policies,
  • Ruin of the handicrafts leading to overcrowding of land,
  • The new land revenue system,
  • Colonial administrative and judicial system.
  • The peasants suffered from high rents, illegal levies, arbitrary evictions and unpaid labour in Zamindari areas.
  • In Ryotwari areas, the Government itself levied heavy land revenue.

Nature of Peasant Movements in the Early Phase  | Peasant Revolts During British Time

  • Peasants were the main force in agrarian movements, fighting directly for their own demands.
  • The demands were centered almost wholly on economic issues.
  • The movements were directed against the immediate enemies of the peasant—foreign planters and indigenous zamindars and moneylenders.
  • The struggles were directed towards specific and limited objectives and redressal of particular grievances.
  • Colonialism was not the target of these movements.
  • It was not the objective of these movements to end the system of subordination or exploitation of the peasants.
  • Territorial reach was limited.
  • There was no continuity of struggle or long-term organisation.
  • The peasants developed a strong awareness of their legal rights and asserted them in and outside the courts.
  • Rebels during that period get support from all religion but mostly by one section of people. Ex. only peasant or peasant plus worker section and other affluent section normally opposed it
  • Rebels used to be against raised rent, inappropriate taxes etc with no desire to make it at national level
  • Rebels used to be short term and most of the times rebels were not successful due to use of power by British or Zamindars

What caused the peasants revolt?

There were various reasons related to agrarian restructuring for peasants to revolt. The reasons are given below:

  • Peasants were evicted from their lands
  • The rent that the peasants had to pay for their lands was increased
  • Atrocities by the Moneylenders
  • Peasants’ traditional handicrafts were ruined
  • The ownership of land was taken away from peasants during Zamindari rule
  • Massive Debt
  • Colonial Economic Policies
  • Land Revenue System was not favouring the peasants

List of Early Peasants Revolt  | Peasant Revolts During British Time

Indigo Revolt (1859-60)  

  • Indigo was recognized as a chief cash crop for the East India Company’s investments.
  • It is also known as ‘Nil Bidroho’
  • All categories of the rural population, missionaries, the Bengal intelligentsia and Muslims.
  • This indigo revolt gave birth to a political movement and stimulated national sentiment against the British rulers among Indian masses.

Rangpur Dhing (1783)    

  • Rangpur uprising took place in Bengal
  • It is called the first tough peasant rebellion against the rule of the East India Company.
  • It evidently uncovered the evils like Ijaradari scheme related to the system of colonial exploitation.
  • It paved the way for formulating a land settlement that would be permanent in nature
  • The rebellion spread over a significant area, including Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamau and Manbhum.
  • After two years of strong confrontation, they lost to modern weapons of the British.

Kol Rebellion (1832)        

  • The Kols and other tribes enjoyed independence underneath their chiefs but the British entry threatened their independence.
  • The handover of tribal lands and the encroachment of moneylenders, merchants and British laws generated a lot of pressure.
  • The Kol tribal planned an insurgency in 1831-32 which was engaged primarily against Government officers and private money-lenders.

Mappila Rebellion in Malabar (1841-1920)              

  • Mappila uprising was sequences of rebellions by the Mappila Muslims of Malabar region of Kerala.
  • The main causes were, increase in land tax, the security of tenure and exploitation of the poor peasantry by the landlords.
  • The revolt goes fell into the trap of Hindu-Muslim riot.
  • During this period there was Khilafat movement was raised for the fulfilment of freedom for Muslims.
  • The 1921 uprising was a manifestation of long-lasting agrarian dissatisfaction, which was only strengthened by the religious and ethnic uniqueness and by their political alienation.

Santhal Rebellion (1855)

  • It was a native rebellion in present-day Jharkhand against both the British colonial authority and zamindari system by the Santhal people
  • It was planned by four Murmu brothers -Sidhu, Kahnu, Chand and Bhairav
  • The rebellion was suppressed thoroughly and largely shadowed by that of the other rebellions.

Deccan Uprising (1875)  

  • Along with the Permanent Settlement, the British extended their presence beyond Bengal.
  • Ryotwari Settlement was the revenue system that was introduced in the Bombay Deccan region
  • The revolt started in Poona and henceforth it spread to Ahmednagar.
  • This uprising also involved a social boycott of the moneylender.

Munda Ulgulan (1899- 1900)        

  • Birsa Munda-led this movement in the region south of Ranchi
  • The Mundas conventionally enjoyed a special rent rate as the original clearer (Khuntkatti) of the forest. But this was eroded by the jagirdars and thikadars arrived as traders and moneylenders.
  • As a result of this rebellion, the government enacted the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908, recognized Khunt Katti rights, banned Beth Begari (forced labour)

Narkelberia Uprising (1782-1831)               

  • Led by Titu Mir/ Mir Nithar Ali
  • In West Bengal
  • against landlords, mainly Hindu, who imposed a beard-tax on the Faraizis, and British indigo planters
  • merged into the Wahhabi movement

The Pagal Panthis             

  • Led by Karam Shah
  • To fight the oppression of the zamindars.

Faraizi Revolt     

  • Led by Shariat-Allah and his son Dadu Mian
  • to expel the English intruders from Bengal

Nature of Peasant Movements since 1920s   | Peasant Revolts During British Time

  • The peasant movements of the 20th century were deeply influenced by and had a marked impact on the national freedom struggle.
  • With the advent of INC, there was a change in peasant rebellion, and it came on national level with national leaders like Gandhi, Vallabh Bhai Patel etc supporting them.
  • It became more organised and with the intention of getting support of all section of people
  • Use of newspaper to propagate views, frequent meeting, planning on how to better manage the protest were more often which was lacking previously
  • National feeling, constructive work like education etc were major characteristics of later phase rebellions
  • These movements were based on the ideology of nationalism and the nature of these movements was similar in diverse areas.
  • Looting of bazaars, houses, granaries and clashes with the police became widespread.
  • During the 1930s, the peasant awakening was influenced by the Great Depression in the industrialized countries and the Civil Disobedience Movement which took the form of no-rent, no-revenue movement in many areas.
  • After the decline of the active phase movement (1932) many new entrants to active politics started looking for suitable outlets for release of their energies and took to organisation of peasants.


Send this to a friend