Class 10 History

Nationalism in Asia: Rebellion in Countryside

From the cities, the Non-Cooperation Movement spread to the countryside. It drew into its fold the struggles of peasants and tribals which were developing in different parts of India in the years after the war.


The peasants’ movement in Awadh was led by Baba Ramchandra. He was a sanyasi who had earlier worked in Fiji as an indentured labourer. The peasants were against the high rents and may other cess which were demanded by talukdars and landlords. The peasants demanded reduction of revenue, abolition of begar, and social boycott of oppressive landlords.

Nehru's tour to rural areas

Jawaharlal Nehru began touring the villages in June 1920. He tried to understand the problems of the peasants. Oudh Kisan Sabha was set up by October. It was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Ramchandra and a few others. By associating itself with the peasants’ movement, Congress was able to integrate the movement in Awadh with a wider non-cooperation movement. At many places, people stopped paying rents by invoking the name of the Mahatma.

Tribal Peasants

Tribal peasants gave their own interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi and the idea of swaraj. The tribals were prevented from entering the forests to graze cattle, or to collect fruits and firewood. The new forest laws were a threat to their livelihood because they could no longer graze their animals or nor collect fruits and firewood from forests.

The government forced them to do begaar (unpaid labour) on road construction. The tribals were not happy for being forced to work that too without payment.

Many tribals took Gandhiji's call as an open rebellion against British rules & regulations. They took it as an opportunity to press for their rights. Many rebels from the tribal areas became non-violent and often carried guerilla warfare against the British officials.

Swaraj in the Plantations

The British had introduced a draconian law in the name of Indian Emigration Act. The plantation workers were not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission; as per the Indian Emigration Act of 1859. Workers in tea plantations could not take leave to visit their villages because it was tough to get permission for that.

When the news of Non-Cooperation Movement spread to the plantations, many workers began to defy the authorities. Plantation workers saw this as an opportunity to assert their rights.

The plantation workers left plantations and headed towards their homes. But they were quite unlucky. They got stranded on the way because of a railway and steamer strike. They were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.

Many analysts are of the opinion that the vision of the movement was not properly defined by the Congress. Different people interpreted the term swaraj in their own ways. For them, swaraj meant an end to all their problems.

However, people from various strata of society began to chant the name of Gandhi and the slogan of Swatantra Bharat. In some way or the other, they were trying to relate to the wider movement which was beyond their comprehension.

Mahatma Gandhi deserves appreciation for uniting diverse people on a common agenda.