The Bihar Kisan Sabha Movementó1933-1939
In the 1930s the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha launched a number of movements. It organized many satyagraha struggles, demonstrations and meetings. The Kisan Sabha was largely responsible for building a rural base for the Congress in Bihar and contributed significantly to the Congress* overwhelming victory in the 1937 elections. The increasing radicalisation of the Kisan Sabha forced the Congress to adopt a populist posture. However, despite the crucial role played by the Kisan Sabha it could not fundamentally alter the feudal agrarian structure. Though the peasant struggles involved a wide spectrum of the peasantry, they remained 'partial struggles'. This implied that although the Kisan Sabha could launch movements around issues like rent reduction, debt moratorium, Bakasht lands, etc. certain basic demands, like the abolition of the zamindari, could not be sustained as the basis of a popular movement. Moreover, despite the participation of some of the low caste, 'poor' peasants, it remained a 'middle' and 'rich' peasant movement, with the agricultural labourers remaining peripheral to it. These are some of the issues taken up in this paper.
The Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha was formally established in 1929 November at Sonepur. Although there existed some local Kisan Sabha in 1920s they were not stable organisations and mainly functioned for securing the voter's support during the elections. The immediate impetus to form the Kisan Sabha came from the government's decision to introduce a Tenancy (Kashtkari) Bill in 1929 which would have strengthened the zamindar's power vis-a-vis tenants. The founders of the Sabha, united in their opposition to the proposed Bill, met at Sonepur in November 1929. As a result, the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha was finally established.1 It was decided that the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha would not oppose Congress on political matters. The activities of the Kisan Sabha had to be postponed soon after due to the on going Civil Disobedience Movement. During 1933-1939 the Kisan Sabha was very active. It launched a number of agrarian movements. This, in turn, was due to the existing socio-economic
Department of History, Maitreyi College, Delhi University.
Social Scientist Vol. 20, Nos. 5-6, May-June 1992