Social Scientist. v 12, no. 134 (July 1984) p. 57.


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Dynamics of Agrarian Relations in Sultanpur East Uttar Pradesh

The Eastern region of Uttar Pradesh remains economically backward even after three decades of planning (1951-1981). Various social scientists have emphasised on one factor or the other to trace the historical as well as contemporary causes of its backwardness. For instance, Gilbert Etienne writes: "In the West, when they talk of a Purbi (literally some one from the east U P, an inhabitant of the middle or lower Ganges) they automatically add the adjective dhila (sic) meaning rather unenterprising. One cannot but agree with the epithet. We are a long way from the robust northern castes.^'1 Thus authors like G Etienne, Radhakamal Mukerjee and M L Darling recognised the passivity and idleness of the Rajputs and Brahmans of eastern Uttar Pradesh in contrast with the entrepreneurial spirit ofjat peasants in the western region of U P.

But, on the other hand, the British administrator, John Lawrence concluded in 1838 that it was the nature of the land rather than innate caste characteristics that appeared to determine the character of agriculture and the mental make-up of the people.2 This latter fact seems to be more convincing and logical, for in western districts of U P ^(Meerut, Bulandshahar, etc) the Gujars were in no way less industrious peasants than thejats. Even in the Azamgarh district of east Utter Pradesh (previously in the Banaras region), the caste prohibition against the Brahmans handling the plough had been relaxed so far as to apply only to the actual operation of ploughing itself. The Brahmans carried out every other agricultural tasks—spading, hoeing and even yoking the bullocks to the plough.3 Similarly, in Sultanpur district (of Oudh) the settlement officer noted in 1873 that, though the Sarwaria Brahmans in the eastern part considered the touching of plough a taboo, in the western part of the same district they did not hesitate to compete with the peasant castes like Ahirs and Muraris, in growing commercial crops like poppy, opium, tobacco, etc.4 And this fact influenced the religious structure, for the Sarwaria Brahmans of eastern Sultanpur enjoyed religious land-grants known as sankalp while the Kanaujia Brahmans of the western part did not prefer this grant at all. Therefore, we make an attempt to falsify the myth of passivity and idleness by showing the existing unfavourable material conditions of production.

The Independence of India in 1947 marked several changes in ^ the socio-economic and political structures. As we know, during the



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