Social Scientist. v 20, no. 230-31 (July-Aug 1992) p. 29.

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Dynamics of Property Relations in Colonial Awadh: Towards Peasant Rebellion of 1920s

Increasing attention towards land reforms and agrarian movements in India led to a proliferation of socio-economic studies which analyzed the ideology behind legislative measures and their effects on agrarian social structure. Studies on changes in the agrarian structure and resultant character of various peasant movements during the colonial period in Awadh, are part of the larger bodies of such studies in various regions of the country. In general there are two main positions regarding the changes in agrarian structure and reason/character of peasant movements which occurred in Colonial Awadh:

(1) The capitalist institution of private property introduced by the colonial state, sought to change the entire frame of Awadh agrarian order. Thus was created a new middle class with a progressive character.1 It was oppressed by the combined rule of the colonial state and the feudal landlords.2 It joined hands with the urban middle class to overthrow feudal dominance and led (under the banner of Congress) the rest of the peasantry in the anti-colonial struggle before Independence.3

(2) The second position maintains that the colonial state kept intact the feudal elements upon whom was based its political power and stability. Imposition of bourgeois property, instead of creating dynamism in Awadh agriculture, led to strengthening of the position of landed aristocracy, which was parasitic. Oppressed by this colonial-feudal combination, the lowest rungs of the peasantry mobilized themselves and took to rebellion.4 On the other hand, the urban middle class, leading the nationalist movement, exploited the general discontent in all sections of the peasantry and made alliance with the middle order of the agrarian structure for transfer of colonial power to the native middle class. These studies challenge the 'middle peasant thesis', arguing that the congress-led middle class kept itself aloof from the peasant uprisings which were both anti-feudal and anti-colonial.5

Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat.

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 7-8, July-August 1992

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