Social Scientist. v 15, no. 173 (Oct 1987) p. 25.

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The Agrarian Question in India during the National Movement, 1885-1947

AGRARIAN struggles in India in the pre-independence period were a part of the freedom struggle. They were essentially anti-feudal and anti-imperialist. They were aimed against the British encroachment of rights on land, enhancement of revenue rates, statutory landlordism, and at ensuring better wages and service conditions. The central issue of the national movement was the agrarian question and the central issue of the agrarian question was the peasants' right to land and labour.

The paper discusses the two divergent approaches of the Indian National Congress and the Communists regarding the agrarian and peasant question during the national movement. The basis and framework of the approaches of the Congress and the Communists were laid down during the national movement itself. The main question of the period was whether the agrarian problem would be solved under bourgeois leadership to a reformist and compromising way or under the leadership of the working class and peasantry by the complete abolition of feudal aild semi-feudal land relations.

The Congress, in the initial years, maintained that land revenue under the British government was becoming as oppressive as in pre-British India. It opposed any further revenue enhancement. Congress leaders pleaded for permanent rights of ownership of land and permanent settlement of the land revenue demand of the government upon the peasant. M.G. Ranade, one of the foremost leaders of the infant Congress said> ^the magic of property and of free institutions" would work "wonderful changes in agriculture, since these two assurances would make the peasant effect permanent improvements on his land by saving "nd investing money into it and using scientific methods to increase production'5.1 The Congress passed resolutions in its annual conferences urging the government to take measures to give fixity and permanency to the land revenue demand and thus permit capital and labour to combine to develop the agriculture of the country. It also pleaded for the establishment of agricultural banks. In almost all the subsequent conferences the Congress reiterated the same plea

*Departmcnt of Political Science and Public Administration, Nagarjuna University Nagarjunana^ar, A.P,

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