Social Scientist. v 16, no. 184 (Sept 1988) p. 35.


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K.K.N. KURUP *

Peasantry and The Anti-Imperialist Struggles in Kerala

Kerala, the southern-most region on the western coast of India, is one of the states where land monopoly and absentee landlordism had been abolished under the statutory provisions of land reform acts and other legislations since 1970. Behind this development is a long history of protest movements, agrarian struggles and peasant revolts. Since the establishment of the British Raj in Malabar and its political hegemony over Travancore and Cochin, there were armed revolts and rebellions against the alien government in which the peasantry and the feudal class participated. The revenue regulation of the British, a mixture of Zamindari and Ryotwari systems, adversely affected pre-colonial agrarian relations in this region.

The large-scale extraction of surplus-produce in the form of revenue and cash payment directly and indirectly by the British from the peasantry contributed to the growth of rural poverty and pauperization among all classes related to production. The major revolts in the early decades of the nineteenth century against the colonial system, led by Pazhassi, Veluthampi, Paliyat Achan and the Kurichiyas, had taken place in this background.1 The spontaneous and sporadic revolts by the Mappila peasantry continued throughout the last century in south Malabar.2 Even colonial administrators like William Logan were compelled to highlight the agrarian origins of such disturbances.3 The British efforts to ameliorate the grievances of the peasantry by statutory intervention in the existing landlord-tenant relations failed miserably, as the colonial jurists and administrators did not want to abrogate the rights and privileges of the landowning class or the Janmis^ They believed that any step in that direction would weaken ultimately the colonial government.

However in Travancore and Cochin, the native feudalistic governments introduced certain agrarian legislations in the second half of the nineteenth century to fulfil the requirements of fixity of tenure, fair rent and free transfer and thereby facilitate capital investments in coffee and tea plantations by the European capitalists and joint stock

* Professor of History, University of Calicut



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