Themes like peasant politics and gender in colonial India have attracted the attention of various scholars. We have also tried to focus on these issues in the Social Scientist in order to generate debates and encourage contributions related to their manifestations in the different regions of India.
The current number has four essays. Biswamoy Pati, Lata Singh and Radhakanta Barik examine aspects of peasant politics in Orissa and Bihar in the 1930s. Pati explores the various interactions which precipitated the birth of the Kisan Sangha in Orissa, the 1937 election and the installation of the first popular ministry. This process coincided with a major anti-colonial/feudal movement. He shows the shifts and changes after the election, with the Congress toning down its anti-feudal position and becoming more accommodating to the landlords. He emphasises how this had some effect on the peasant movement—though the process was not marked by a clear uniformity.
Lata Singh's article focuses on the Bihar Kisan Sabha. She delineates the process through which the Kisan Sabha created a rural base for the Congress and contributed significantly to the latter* s electoral victory in 1937. Singh locates the basic structure of peasant politics which was dominated by an effort to arrest the erosion of customary rights, and associates the post-1936 militancy with the struggles over the bakasht lands. Although the abolition of landlordism emerged as a component of peasant politics, she emphasises how it failed to become an integral part of peasant consciousness. Nevertheless, as pointed out, these struggles undermined the hegemony of the zamindars and altered the basis of their exploitation.
Radhakanta Bank's is a companion piece, also on Bihar, examining the Tenancy Reform Acts under the first Congress government. Barik shows how the government made considerable changes in the Act introduced in 1937 under pressure from the landlords, so that while the legislation introduced had been a radical one, what was actually passed evoked grateful thanks from landlords' leaders. The paper highlights the eagerness of the Congress government not to antagonise either of the contending class, the landlords and the tenants, and to
Social Scientist Vol. 20, Nos. 5-6, May-June 1992