Indigo Movement 1959-60
The exploitation and economic policies of the colonial government in India broke the back of the Indian rural economy, which had been self-sufficient since ancient times. The new prices of land revenue, rising inflation and declining agricultural production had broken the back of the rural community of this country, especially the farmers.
|indigo factory- photo credit- wikipedia|
Peasants and laborers made several unsuccessful attempts to break this sequence of exploitation. Many villagers were compelled to turn to crime.
Indigo Movement 1959-60
The farmers of Bengal, troubled by their economic condition, started the Indigo movement against the British government. It was a direct fight of the farmers against exploitation, against the British government.
What was the reason for the Nile movement
The main reason for this movement was that British indigo growing contractors had been forcing farmers to cultivate indigo for years. In contrast, the farmers wanted to grow rice crops only on their fertile land, which fetched them a good price. Most of the indigo-producers (contractors) were Europeans and had factories in rural (mufsils) areas, where they refined indigo. From the very beginning, the indigo cultivators were heavily exploited. Indigo growers used to get the farmers to write agreements by paying a small advance amount.
In this agreement, a very low price of indigo was written fraudulently which was much less than the market value.
The Governor of Bengal himself had remarked about this fraud.
“The root of all the conflict is that the indigo-growers force the ‘ryots’ (farmers) to cultivate indigo without paying them.”
The farmers could not break this agreement even if they wanted to. The servants of the indigo growers also regularly took bribes from the farmers.
In order to avoid the increasing court rigging, indigo growers now instead of making agreements, kidnapped and beat up farmers with their sticks, thrashed their children and women, robbed their houses and set fire to them. The farmers were forced to cultivate indigo.
European judges in the judiciary often ruled in favor of indigo growers. Such was the condition of the judiciary that in 1857 29 indigo growers (British citizens) and one zamindar were appointed ‘honourary magistrates’. Since then people started saying that ‘the protector, the same eater’.
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Indigo Movement 1959
In the middle of 1959, when the indigo-farmers of Bengal felt that the government was probably going to support them in this matter, their dissatisfaction boiled over. What happened was that there was a slight lapse in reading a government order from Hem Chandrakar, the deputy magistrate of Klarova, and on 17 August 1859, he issued a decree in the name of the police that —-
“The indigo growers ‘ryots’ will continue to be in possession and they will be able to grow crops of their choice. It is the responsibility of the police that no indigo grower or any other person should interfere in the case of ‘ryots’.”
This announcement of Chandrakar spread like fire in the whole of Bengal. The farmers felt that the time had come to end the long-standing exploitation. He initially waged the struggle through peaceful means.
Beginning of the Nile Movement
Several applications were sent to the British authorities and demonstrations were held. But when this had no effect, his anger flared up in September 1959.
It started from Govindpur village of Nadia district. Under the leadership of two former employees of an indigo-grower – Digambar Vishwas and Vishnu Biswas, the farmers there united and stopped the cultivation of indigo. On September 13, the indigo-grower sent about a hundred lathes to Govindpur. These laths attacked the village. Farmers armed with sticks and spears thwarted the attack.
The fire of the movement soon spread to other areas as well; the farmers at many places refused to enter into agreement with advance money and refused to grow indigo. By the spring of 1860, this movement spread to all the areas of Bengal where agriculture was done.
The united organizations of farmers put an end to the terror of Lathaits (armed men of indigo growers) from village to village. Apart from this, indigo factories were also attacked. Even at times there was direct encounter between the police and the agitators. The farmers destroyed several police posts.
Panicked by the growing protest movement of the farmers, the indigo growers threatened the farmers that they would take away their land by exercising their ‘zamindari’ rights. The farmers answered this by not paying the rent. By now the ryots (peasants) had learned to fight for their rights in a legal way as well.
Farmers and indigo growers filed cases against each other. The farmers and the people of the village along with them started the social boycott of those who used to work with the indigo growers.
Result of the Nile Movement
The united protest of the peasants resulted in the closure of all indigo factories in Bengal by 1860. Indigo cultivation was completely stopped.
The reason for the success of the Nile movement
The biggest reason for the success of the indigo movement was that the farmers fought this battle with full discipline, solidarity and cooperation. Hindus and Muslims supported each other shoulder to shoulder. The farmers who led the movement were economically well-off farmers. At some places, small landlords, moneylenders and producers also supported the agitators.
Support of the intelligentsia and newspapers
The intellectuals and newspapers of Bengal played an important role in the success of the ‘Indigo Movement’. The editor of ‘Hindu Patriot‘ Harishchandra Mukherjee did a great job. He published daily in the newspaper the problems of farmers from his personal experience. Underlining the historical and political significance of the Nile movement, in 1860 he wrote:
“Bengal should be proud of its peasants. The peasants of Bengal, despite their lack of power, money, political education and even leadership, have led the movement, which is by far the least of any movement in the social history of the world. No. The government is against the farmers, the law is against them, the tribunal is against them, the press is against them and yet this has been their achievement. The future generations of our country will benefit from it at every level.”
It would also be appropriate to mention Dinabandhu Mitra’s play ‘Nil Darpan’, in which the exploitation of the farmers was highlighted in detail.
The success of this movement gave birth to a new intelligentsia, which later played an important role in the national movement.
Role of Christian Missionaries
Christian missionaries supported the peasants in this movement. The attitude of the government was quite balanced. The government did not take a very strong stand. The intellectuals and missionaries appointed a commission to investigate the problem of indigo farmers. After the report of this commission came, it was proved that behind the cultivation of indigo, a whole system of corruption and oppression is working.
After this, in 1860, by issuing a notification, forcibly forcing the cultivation of indigo was banned. All were asked to adopt the legal method for disposal of cases. After this, the indigo growers themselves started closing their factories. Thus this movement became successful.