Social Scientist. v 16, no. 178 (March 1988) p. 47.

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Congress, Peasants and the Civil Disobedience Movement in Bihar (1930-1932)

The radicalisation of the nationalist movement in India after the First World War began to draw the rural masses. The peasants were brought into the national movement with a view to strengthening it and making it more broad-based. However, owing to the limitations imposed on the movement by the narrow class interests of its leadership the movement launched by the peasants did not outgrow its nationalist framework for a long time. Since the overriding concern of the national movement was political, the basic social and economic issues which agitated the minds of the peasantry were pushed to the background. The leadership of the Congress tried to reconcile the irreconcilable interests in its attempt to keep intact the national character of the movement.

While not taking up the causes of the peasantry in right earnestness the Congress did try to utilise the peasant 'canon-fodder, for the furtherance of the nationalist cause. The present paper tries to show how the Bihar Congress leaders made capital out of the grievances of the peasants for the furtherance of the nationalist cause without doing anything concrete for them during the first two years of the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-1932). Our choice of the region seems proper as Bihar occupied a high place in this phase of the national struggle and it was also a storm-centre where the Kisan Sabha movement had its greatest strength from 1933 to 1947.

Civil Disobedience and Peasants' Actions

In fact the Civil Disobedience Movement in Bihar was 'practically in the hands of the village people'.1 They took it up in right earnest and worked with great enthusiasm and success. Without caring for results they gladly worked for the programme with ample resourcefulness.2 The Congress had realised that 'the so-called educated and town people are fond of demonstrations. Only a few lawyers here and there and a few students have joined the movement and are working for it'.3

In the beginning there was no elemental outburst and the government thought that things were better than during non-cooperation. But as soon as emphasis shifted from an effective salt campaign to non-payment of choukidari tax, the movement, according to officials, took a menacing turn. The administration virtually collapsed in pockets like the Barhi (Barahiya) region of the district of Munger.4 Bihpur Ashram's sustained defiance caused alarm in government circles since they saw the apparition of Midnapur in it.5 In some

*Depanment of History, L.S. College, Muzaffarpur.

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