OUDH PEASANTRY 29
and chattels, his they truely are,the adscripti glebae.994 The rapacious feudal lords arrogated to themselves such powers as to make themselves an "imperium within imperio." The ossification of feudalism by the British laid the foundation, albeit unconsciously,of a class war which was to erupt in the early twenties of the twentieth century not only in Oudh but in many other parts of the country. But the rural mass upsurge was confined to isolated pockets and did not embrace the vast peasantry in one mighty wave of resistance to imperio-colonial and feudal oppression.
Why did this happen? Antonio Gramsci perceptively analysed it when he noted: "The history of subaltern social groups is necessarily fragmented and episodic...Subaltern groups are always subject to the activity of ruling groups, even when they rebel and rise up, only 'permanent5 victory breaks their subordination, and that not immediately/55
Mao Zedong proposed three alternatives to the Chinese people in the case of a peasant revolution: To march at their head and lead them; to follow at their rear, gesticulating at them and criticizing them; to face them as opponents.6 While he went for the first alternative, the leaders of the bourgeois, democratic revolution in India followed a curious amalgam of the last two;
subdued the revolutionary potentiality of the peasant masses, demobilized them and auctioned their interests to evolve a compromising transfer of power to the bourgeoisie. Even the most radical among the bourgeois leaders, like the younger Nehru and the socialists, despite their passionate championing of the rural poor, did not go beyond attacking verbally the colonial-feudal matrix.
Background to the Struggle
Any proper understanding of the struggles of the peasantry against feudal oppression backed by the colonial administration calls for a brief description of the socio-economic conditions and the agrarian set-up preceding these struggles. The hierarchy of the agrarian set-up in Oudh comprised 1) the taluqdars\ 2) the ^amin-dars; 3) the undcrproprietors-occupancy tenants; 4) the tenants-at-will; and 5) the tenant serfs or agricultural labourers. At the bottom of the scale were the so-called "riff-raff", the tenants-at-will, the "will" in question not being, as a rule, so much their. own as their landlords'. They were condemned to lead "adim» slow moving and too often a poverty stricken and hunger-bitten life... a narrow round 'of struggle between the rent collector and the village usurer. .. .9> 7