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32nd Conference of the AIKS

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Brief History of the AIKS

The formation of the AIKS was a response to the highly exploitative methods adopted by the British Imperialists to squeeze the peasantry.  All the agrarian systems developed by the colonial masters viz., Jamindari, mahalwari etc., solidified unbearable absentee landlordism and deprived the actual tillers of their rights on land.  Within no time they developed into extremely oppressive systems of exploitation.  Arbitrary laws were made to grab age old rights of tribals on forest land and produce. 

 

Legal and illegal exactions, rack-renting, subinfeudation, fragmentation of holdings, indebtedness, increasing taxation, increasingly unfavorable market manipulation, decreasing real wage of agricultural laborers, and gradual impoverishment and pauperization of the peasantry – all this created a very serious and untenable social situation in India when their very survival was threatened, the peasants revolted.          Some of these upheavals were the Mopla revolts of Malabar, the Deccan riots, and the Santhal rebellion and the Indigo revolt of Bengal.  The Wahabi movement of upper India, and the Sannayasi revolt and the Faraizi movement of Bengal, though of dubious political character, were nevertheless largely influenced by peasant interests. 

 

            The first world war adversely affected the economy in general and the agriculture in particular.    Bolshevik Revolution supplied necessary anti colonial spirit and provided an alternative political and social goal.    That change in thinking ignited a massive protest in the form of non-cooperation movement on an all India Scale.  The peasants and agricultural labor remained as back bone of this massive movement.  Though short lived and withdrawn abruptly, this movement gave confidence to peasants for collective action.

 

            Middle and late 1920s witnessed the birth and growth of present organizations in all states.  Andhra, Madras, Malabar, United Provinces, Bihar, Bengal buzzed with activity.  An all India peasants and workers party was formed in 1928.  Though short lived this party tried to co-ordinate hitherto sporadic and localized peasant movements.

 

            The world economic depression which began in 1929 (and intensified in only thirties) hit Indian peasants very hard.  The price of the crops dropped to very low.  As there was no corresponding drop in rates of rent, taxes and moneylenders interest, the pauperization of the peasantry was complete.  The peasants participated in Civil Disobedience movement with vengeance.  The sudden withdrawal of the movement forced them to look for an alternative organization, to serve their interest.  The result was the birth of All India Kisan Congress (latter All India Kisan Sabha).

 

Preparatory meeting to form AIKS :

 

            The National Conference of the congress socialist party was held in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) in January 1936.  During this conference left minded and pro peasant leaders informally held a meeting on 15th January 1936 to discuss the problems faced by the peasantry.  At the end of the discussion they felt that the time is rip to form an organization exclusively to defend the kisans of the country.  In that same meeting N.G. Ranga and Jayprakash Narayan were selected as joint conveners to make preparations to hold an All India Conference.

 

            All India Conference of Kisans was held on 11th April, 1936 at Lucknow.  The “All India Kisasn Sabha” was thus formed in Lucknow.       The organization was at first officially called the All India Kisan Congress.  Some people also called it the All India Kisan Sangh.  The name was changed as All India Kisan Sabha in 1937.

 

           

Jawaharlal Nehru, president of the National Congress greeted the conference in person.  He said he welcomed the formation of the Kisan Congress and expressed his sense of solidarity with the kisan movement.  The kisans were the most exploited of India’s population, he added.      The conference elected the All India Kisan Committee (AIKC).  Swami Sahajananda Saraswati was elected president and Ranga general secretary.

 

            The AIKS launched major struggles in a number of states.  In fact the history of the AIKS was the history of struggles to protect the rights and interests of Kisans.  Struggles launched by AIKS in zamindari and princely states need a particular mention, because majority of the congress leadership was not willing to launch any agitation in princely and zamindari parts of the country.  One of those historic struggles was the Bakashat Satyagraha of Bihar.  The lands cultivated by kisans for 12 continuous years without any legal rights were called Bakashat lands.  The Bihar Tenancy Act conferred under tenant states to kisans who are cultivating these lands.  But the zamindars who had been claiming rights over these lands tried to drive the kisans from these lands.  The Congress Government which was ruling the Bihar State did not protect the kisans.  This issue taken up by the AIKS. 

 

            Struggles were launched in West Bengal (on the issues of Khas lands and taxes), in Punjab (against the exploitation of tenant – holders), in North-West Province (against the exploitation of fuudal Nawabs), in Central Provinces (against Malguzari (landlord) system, in Andhra Pradesh (against the atrocities of Munagala zamindar) in malabar (against the oppressive Malabar Tenancy Act) and in other states.  Tens of thousands of peasants participated in these struggles braving land lord and police atrocities.  Though the AIKS launched innumerable struggles the following remained as the most glorious in its history.

 

Telangana Struggle :

 

            The Telangana struggle was the armed revolt of the peasants and people started in September 1946 under the leadership of the AIKS           and Communist Party of India and withdrawn on 21 October 1951.             As many as 4,000 communist and peasant militants were killed and  more than 10,000  activists  were thrown into detention camps and jails for a period of 3-4 years.  50,000 people were dragged into police and military camps. They were beaten, tortured and terrorized for weeks and months. Several lakhs of people in the thousands of villages were subjected to police and military raids and suffered cruel lathi charges.

 

Achievements :

 

            During the course of the struggle the peasantry had succeeded in setting up gram raj in about 3,000 villages.   In these villages the hated landlords were driven away from their fortress like houses (‘gadis’) and their lands were seized by the peasantry.  One million acres of land was distributed among the peasantry under the guidance of the people’s committees.  All evictions were stopped and the forced labour service was abolished.  The plunderous and exorbitant rates of usury were either drastically cut or altogether forbidden.  The daily wages of agricultural labourers were increased and a minimum wage was enforced.  The oppressive forest officialdom was forced to abandon the entire forest belt and the tribals and the people living in the adjoining areas of these forests were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour.  For a period of 12 to 18 months the entire administration of these areas was conducted by the village peasant committees. 

 

Punnapra-Vayalar Struggle :

 

            The struggle of Punnapra and Vayalar, two places in Ambalapuzha-Shertallai taluks in Alleppey district, Travancore State, now in Kerala, was the armed resistence movement of peasants and agricultural labourers against the medieval oppression by landlords and of coir industry workers against their oppressive employers.  The movement was started in October 1946.

 

            Workers, agricultural labourers and tenants began to organize themselves in a resistance movement under the leadership of the Coir Workers Union and the Communist Party of India.    Ward committees were  formed by agricultural workers all over Shertallai taluk in 1944-45.  In July – August 1945 coir workers of Alleppey, Shertallai and Muhamma called a general strike on their demand for supply of necessities at fair prices.  The Travancore state government agreed to set up machinery for their distribution.  But this promise was proved to be false.

 

            Terror was unleashed in the two taluks.  The Regulation of 1946 for emergency powers was declared.  Police and goonda action was rampant.  Union officers were raided, burnt and destroyed.  Landlords were active.  The leaders of the movement were arrested and jailed.

 

            The workers and tenants under the leadership of AIKS and Communist Party of India decided to resist the terror rule.  The All Travancore Trade Union Congress gave a call for general strike which began on 22 October 1946. 

            When large numbers of workers began their demonstration and marched to the Reserve Police camps at Punnapra with a demand for freedom.  The officer in charge of the camp ordered to open fire on the demonstrations.  A clash ensued.  The officer and five of his men were killed while police bullets were responsible for the death of at least 100 demonstrators.

 

Within 24 hours of the Punnapra clash Ambalapuzha-Shertallai taluks were handed over to the army.  There was a regular manhunt in the villages.  The people were just caught and shot or beaten to death.  They set up a resistance camp at Vayalar.     On 27 October 1946 when the inmates of the camp were having their midday meals they were suddenly surrounded by the army which at once began firing and killed not known how many hundreds.  Firing was continued till the ammunition supply was exhausted.  Then bayonets were used to kill those who were still alive.  Not even the names of all the martyrs were known; they remained unknown heroes.

 

Tebhaga Movement

 

The tebhaga movement was the biggest, most militant and most broad-based class struggle of the kisans of Bengal  led by the Kisan Sabha.    It drew into its orbit parts of at least 15 of the 28 districts of Bengal and at least five million kisans of the poorer and more exploited strata who fought heroically against the jotdars, their goondas and the police and defied all hostile propaganda, both official and non-official, provoking communal hatred and rioting.  In order to guide and conduct the movement locally, kisans spontaneously formed local councils of action in many places.

 

            The movement covered the entire period of harvesting from November 1946 to February 1947.  In some areas it extended to March 1947.  Terrific police repression was let loose on the struggling kisans everywhere and particularly the northern districts of Dinajpur, Rangpur and Jalpaiguri, the coastal areas of 24-Parganas and Khulna, and the eastern district of Mymensingh, particularly the tribal areas of the Garo Hills on the Assam border.  Jotdars and their gangsters beat up kisans and even used guns to kill some of them.

 

            Against the extensive repressive measures kisans had to fight back in self-defence and some sort of a resistance movement was developed among them – not always on a planned basis, and mostly sporadically.  During the latter months, mainly in January and February 1947; the armed police force resorted to firing in quite a number of places.  Altogether 73 kisans – Hindu, Muslim and Tribal, men and women – had to lay down their lives in the movement. 

           

            The AIKS not only championed the course of kisans but also consistently tried to forge unites among all oppressed like kisans, agriculture labour, factory workers etc.  It also tried to infuse ideas of nationalism and socialism among its ranks.  It is one of the very few organizations  which opposed partition of the country and dividing the oppressed sections in the name of religion.

 

            Since independence the AIKS had been trying to mobilize the people to complete the unfinished tasks, viz., economic independence, self sufficiency, radical land reforms etc.  From zamindari abolition acts to land reform acts to national rural employment guarantee programmes, every progressive enactment was a direct result of the uncompromising struggles launched by the AIKS.

The 32nd Conference of the AIKS
32nd Conference of AIKS @ Guntur
32nd Conference of AIKS @ Guntur

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AK Gopalan

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Benoy Chaudri

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Godavari Parulekar

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Md Abdulla Rasul

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Nanduri Prasada Rao

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