It was the most intense peasant revolution in Indian history. On the eve of Bengal’s division and India’s independence, there was a violent peasant rebellion.
Literally, Tebhaga means “three shares of the crop.”
The Tebhaga movement was the movement of sharecroppers (tenants).
Two-thirds of the produce from the land was demanded by tenants, with the remaining third going to the landlords. Basically, the term “Tebhaga” movement derives from this principle demand.
Also read: Land Reforms in India – History and Status
Background of the movement
- Bargadar was a person who, in accordance with the adhi, barga, or bhag system, cultivated another person’s land in exchange for that person giving up a portion of the land’s harvest.
- The zamindars’ relationship with the British government was based on the size and quality of the lands they held, which determined the amount of yearly tax the zamindars had to pay.
- The class of jotedars, to whom the zamindars gave lands under the Pattani system, was below them.
- The lands and agriculture were directly related to the jotedars class.
- The total production from the land was set by jotedars to be split equally between the farmer and the jotedar, the landowner. Adhiary Pratha, or the “half-half system,” was the name given to this method of land cultivation, which was most popular in north Bengal.
- A cultivator’s labour was previously exploited by jotedars in a variety of ways, thus turning the poor bargadar into the landowner’s slave.
- He was always under threat from the jotedar that if he did not obey, he would take away the land and the bargadar would have to go hungry. This was an oppressive system.
- In the early aftermath of a devastating famine in Bengal (1942), peasants’ complaints rose as the nation’s economic situation deteriorated.
- The movement afterwards known as Tebhaga Andolan was sparked by the poor economic conditions, political turmoil, and intolerable social conditions of the peasants (Movement).
The leaders of the Communist Party and the Krishak Samity profited greatly from the disturbance and gained the support of the destitute peasants and landless agricultural labourers.
In the Dinajpur district, the movement began in a region governed by PS Chirirbandar.
When the farmers were all together, they declined to grant 50% and instead offered 33% of the total crop.
Armed jotedars men and the adamant peasants got into a major altercation that left both sides hurt.
However, after arresting the leaders and followers, the police seized control of the area.
Additionally, following the Bengal famine of 1943, the Communist-led Bengal Provincial Kishan Sabha called for a widespread movement among sharecroppers in September 1946 to retain Tebhaga (two-thirds) of the harvested crops.
This demand had been included in Kishan Sabha programmes since the 1930s, and the Floud Commission, which examined the awful situation of Bengal’s agriculture in 1939–1940, had also deemed it to be just.
The Floud Commission, a land revenue commission established by the Bengali government in 1938, had shown the flaws in the then-current system that required sharecroppers to give up half of their produce as rent and, on top of that, to pay dozens of illegal cesses.
“Adhi noy, tebhaga chai” (we want two-thirds to share, not half) echoed around the room.
They began transporting harvested crops to their yards.
They only gave the jotedars a third of the crop share.
Numerous fights followed by arrests, lathi charges, and gunfire resulted from this.
Additionally, by the end of 1946, Bengal’s sharecroppers (bargadars, bhagchasis, or adhiar) started to assert that they would only give the jotedars a third of their crop instead of a half share, and that the crop would be stored in their khamars (godowns) rather than those of the jotedars before division.
The Floud Commission’s recommendation of tebhaga should be put into effect via widespread resistance, the Bengal Provincial Kishan Sabha urged in September 1946.
Communist cadres travelled into the countryside to organise bargadars, who had grown to be a significant and expanding segment of the rural population, including many students from urban regions.
Later, when the Muslim League Ministry under Suhrawarddi released the Bengal Bargadars Temporary Legislation Bill in the Calcutta Gazette on January 22, 1947, the agitation gained momentum.
The police made an effort to repress the peasants while the jotedars appealed to the government.
However, other political developments made it more difficult for the administration to pass the Barga Bill into law.
The campaign persisted even after the Bargadari Act was passed in 1950.
The Act recognised the sharecropper’s entitlement to two-thirds of the produce in exchange for his contribution of inputs.
The Bargadari Act of 1950 recognised bargadars’ entitlement to a larger part of the crops produced on the land they tilled, but it was never put into practice.
Large expanses of land that were over the permitted land ceiling remained in the hands of wealthy landowners.
A peasant rebellion protesting the lack of implementation of land reform legislation occurred in West Bengal in 1967.
Major land reforms were implemented in West Bengal starting in 1977 under the leadership of the Left Front government.
Peasants were given access to land that was obtained over the land ceiling.
“Operation Barga” was then launched with the intention of securing the peasants’ tenancy rights.
Overall, it can be said that the movement represented a turning point in India’s history of agricultural movements since it showed the emergence of the poor peasants’ and tribal sharecroppers’ political consciousness. As a result, the Tebhaga movement is arguably the biggest peasant movement in India’s history.
Article Written By: Aryadevi E S