Sunday, 12 April 2015

Paper 2 - History of India, National Movement, Society and Culture

Popular Movements of Uttarakhand

Coolie Begar and Forest Dissent:
According to the Regulations of Fort William, whenever the British officials toured the hills, it was regarded as the duty of the local people to arrange coolies for their luggage. This was known a Coolie Utar; it was compulsory and the status and the condition of the individual concerned were not kept in view. Not only for the officials but also for their vast entourage of servants and the British tourists, coolies had to be arranged without payment.. Then there was Coolie Burdayash and in this system, free ration had to be provided to the officials on tour, and the people were penalized if they failed to do so. According to Coolie Begar the hill people had to work for the British officials on tour without payment. For public works too, bonded labour was enforced during British times. There was a lot of resentment against these social maladies and ultimately the people succeeded in eradicating them through a mass movement in Bageshwar on 13th January 1921.

Coolie Begar : Under this system the hill people had to work for the British officials on tour without payment. According to the regulations of the Govt. of Fort Williams, Coolie Begar was the practice of pressing certain classes of the inhabitants of the towns and villages
under the denomination of begarees or of coolies for the purpose of carrying baggage or other loads from stage to stage or village to village.

Coolie Utar: When British Officials toured the hills, it was regarded as a duty of the local people to provide coolies for their luggage. This was known as Coolie Utar. Coolie Utar was compulsory, and the status and condition of the individual concerned was not kept in view (Almora Akhbar, 4th Aug. 1913).

Coolie Burdayash: According to this practice, free ration had to be supplied to the officials on tour, and the people were penalized if they failed to do so. 

Another important aspect where the British did not act with prudence was the forest policy. The administration of forests in British Kumaon was beset with many complications from the very beginning of the inception of the so-called scientific or organized control and management. The local people felt that their rights were being encroached upon since the authorities clamped restrictions on the promiscuous felling of trees and grazing of animals. The inhabitants of the hills relied mostly on forests and forest produce. Before the British took up the management of the forests, the people had absolute rights over them. The British administration on the one hand promoted extension of agriculture and the consequent growth of population and on the other access to most of the forests was restricted to ensure commercial production especially after 1920. This must have resulted in a drastic reduction in the forest support base for agriculture on unit area basis. It was thus obvious that inroads on indefeasible and immemorial rights through the forest policy created a general sense of insecurity and resentment amongst the people. Further no information was sought into the requirements of different villages before launching the forest policy. It was only on papers that the authorities were determining the nature and extent of rights alleged to exist in favour of any person or any forest produce of the same.

Later, the British introduced a type of fire protection that involved prescribed burning to reduce drastically the danger of accidental or incendiary fires. The unrestricted burning of pastures and ground vegetation was traditional in the hills, for it promoted the growth of grass and also removed the accumulated chir pine needles which made cattle movement hazardous. Bharat Ratna Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant, who later became Home Minister of India in January 1955, commented on the restrictions to burning as early as 1921, “ This is a source of widespread hardship and the opinion of all classes of people seem to be unanimous on this point.”

Together with this, the people considered the possession and ownership by the government of barren and `benap', unmeasured land, not only as improper and unlawful, but also as usurpation of their forest rights. In 1907, a mass meeting was held in this connection at Almora under the president ship of Major General Wheeler, but nothing fruitful could be achieved. Thus when the resentment reached a critical level, the people stooped down to burning of forests. Incendiary fires in Kumaon affected about 840,000 hectares of forest in British Kumaon. Owing to incendiarism, 24,300 ha of forest were burnt around Naini Tal in 1916. Five years later another outburst caused no less than 317 incendiary fires in Kumaon Division, affecting more than 82,880 ha of forest. It ruined 11, 50,000 of resin channels and 24, 37,500 kg. of resin. It also destroyed over 1, 00,000 flourishing young trees and young crops resulting from 25 years of patient tending.

In 1916, the Kumaon Parishad was formed to deal with the forest problems of Kumaon. Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant, who was appointed the Home Minister of India, worked as its General Secretary. He was later elected to preside over the last annual session of this association, which was held in December in Almora in 1921. It was he who first published a report voicing the popular demands of the inhabitants of Kumaon and Garhwal regarding their rights and concessions in the forests. The government put up posters in public places, stating, “ Kumaonis the forests are yours.” Telegrams were sent to newspapers like the Pioneer, the Leader and the Indian Telegraph regarding the damage done to forests as well as animals and birds owing to incendiarism in Kumaon Circle. Arrests were also made and the government held the leaders of the Kumaon Parishad responsible for this act of incendiarism in Kumaon Circle. The government then appointed a committee in 1921 to enquire into the grievances of the people of Kumaon and Garhwal regarding their rights and concessions in the forests. The committee was known as The Kumaon Grievance's Committee. The members of the committee toured the region extensively and in all some 5040 witnesses were examined either in person or by representatives from all sections of the society. The report of the committee was submitted in 1926 and was known as the `Forest Grievances Committee's 'Report'. It recommended the formation of Van Pachayats and concomitantly they were established in British Kumaon. These Van Panchayats played a significant role in the freedom struggle.
The next wave of forest unrest coincided with Civil Disobedience Movement. Again there were incendiary fires and during 1931, Kumaon was the centre of self destructive incendiarism, the Reserved Forest being burnt 157 times. In 1938 the government asked the Grievances Committee to reconsider the rights and concessions of the village people in the forests. The report submitted by them is known as An Investigation into the Villagers Rights in the Reserved Forests of Kumaon. Since the promulgation of these orders, there was no change in the British Forest Policy up to 1947. But a legacy of suspicion and resistance was created between the people and the authorities, which even Indpendence in 1947 could not entirely cure.

Coolie Begar and the forest policy were the most important causes of resentment against the British. But gradually the people associated themselves with the main stream of national consciousness. Nan Saheb Pehwas sojourn in Uttarkashi in anonymity is a well known fact. Gandhiji, Swami Vivekanand, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Annie Besant, Madan Mohan Malviya, Purshottam Das Tandon and Dr. Bhagwan Das etc visits to Uttarakhand, the vernacular press and the exposure of local Congress leaders like Badri Dutt Pande, Mohan Singh Mehta, Har Govind Pant, Indra Singh Nayal, Man Mohan Singh Mehta, Khushi Ram, Mohan Lal Sah etc in the Congress meetings facilitated in disseminating consciousness amidst the masses and the leaders. Further the people from this region were also influenced by the revolutionary movements during 1929 to 1933. Bhawani Singh, Indra Singh and Bachhu Lal all three from Garhwal took active part in all the revolutionary activities of Chandra Shekhar Azad and his associates. He spent some time in Dogadda to impart pistol training to young revolutionaries. The famous revolutionary Ras Bihari Bose stayed incognito in Uttarakhand and worked in the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun to disseminate his philosophy.

Another incident, which deserves mention is when Chandra Singh Garhwali and his companions from 2/18 Royal Garhwal Rifles refused to fire on the followers of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan in Peshwar on 23rd April 1930. At the court martial proceedings the Garhwalis said, “We will not shoot our unarmed brethren…. You may blow us from the guns if you like.” Frank Moraes, in the book Witness to an Era has mentioned that the incident shook the British. General Mohan Singh of the India National Army (INA) fame has observed that the heroic example of Chandra Singh Garhwali inspired the Garhwalis to join the INA. On September 1942 two battalions of the Royal Garhwal Rifles, 2/18 and 5/ 18 joined the INA. There were 2,500 Garhwalis in these two battalions out of which 600 were killed in action. Philip Mason, the British Defence Secretary was of the view that the Garhwali soldiers were infused with a spirit of nationalism and they were intrepid soldiers.
The Garhwalis held some very important positions in the INA. Lt. Colonel. Chandra Singh Negi was appointed as the Commander of the Officers Training School in Singapore. Major Deb Singh Danu was deployed as Commander of the personal guards' battalion of Subhash Chandra Bose. Lt. Col.Budhi Singh Rawat held the esteemed position as personal adjutant of Subhash Chandra Bose. Major Padam Singh Negi was commanding the third battalion and Lt. Colonel Pitri Saran Raturi the first battalion of the Subhash Regiment. For his gallantry and outstanding qualities of leadership, Raturi was decorated with the Sardar-e-Jung Award by Netaji Subhash himself. An intrepid soldier from Jaunsar Babar who showed exemplary courage in the INA was Kesari Chand. He was arrested by the British and as prisoner of war was hanged in Delhi on 3rd May 1945 at the age of 24 years and 6 months. To commemorate his sacrifice and intrepidity, Shaheed Veer Kesari Chand Mela is celebrated in Ramtal in Chakrata Tahsil every year during April-May in Navratra.

Unrest against Tehri State

Whatever happened in British Kumaon its repercussions were felt in Tehri Garhwal State and there too the kings not unlike their counterparts in British Kumaon failed in redressing the problems of forestry and Coolie Begar. The resentment towards forest management was manifested in the Rawain incident of 30th May, 1930 in which according to the Information Department more than 200 people died. The Rawain Massacre had a deep effect on the people of British Kumaon. A meeting was held there to protest against the brutalities and Diwan Chakra Dhar Jayal of Tehri Garhwal State who was responsible for this bloodshed was nicknamed as 'Khuni'. The incident shocked the people so much that even today songs are sung in Garhwal to commemorate this tragedy.

In Tehri Garhwal State, in the initial stages the uprisings were against feudalism and the forest policy, but soon the echoes of the movement in Kumaon resonated through the State and the energies of the people were channelized in the right direction. By 1945 they started demanding liberation not only from the fetters of feudalism but also from the shackles of alien yoke. Thus with the Independence of the country, an interim government was established in Tehri Garhwal State in February 1948. This government did not function for more than one year and on August 1, 1949 a proclamation was made by the India Government to integrate Tehri Garhwal State with Uttar Pradesh.

Tehri Garhwal or Garhwal Kingdom, was a princely state, ruled by the Parmar (Shah) dynasty. Later, it became a part of the Punjab Hill States Agency of British India, which consists of the present day Tehri Garhwal District and most of the Uttarkashi district. In 1901, it had an area of about 4,180 square miles (10,800 km2) and a population of 268,885. The ruler was given the title of raja, but after 1913, he was honoured with the title of maharaja. The ruler was entitled to salutes of 11 guns and had a privy purse of rupees 300,000. The princely state acceded to India on 1 August 1949.

King Sudarshan Shah established his capital at Tehri town and afterwards his successors Pratap Shah, Kirti Shah and Narendra Shah established their capital at Pratap Nagar, Kirtinagar and Narendra Nagar, respectively. Their dynasty ruled over this region from 1815 to 1949. During the Quit India Movement people of this region actively worked for the independence of the country. Ultimately, when the country was declared independent in 1947, the inhabitants of Tehri Riyasat (Tehri State) started their movement to free themselves from the clutches of the maharaja.

Dola-Palki Movement
Census was one way of securing status. Various other practices were
adopted to ensure mobility. Adopting the customs and the way of life of a higher
caste was a common practice. Sanwal argues that the Kumaun Rajput Parishad
which was dominated by the Khasas exhorted members to emulate higher castes.
They were asked to follow the orthodox rituals to justify claims to higher status.
Turner found that Khasas were putting onjaneo and were raising themselves to
the rank of Rajputs. Walton wrote: 
The Khasiyas ought to be distinguished from the pure Rajputs by his not wearing Janeo: but now that there is no danger of punishment for its unjustified assumption most Khasiyas have adopted the thread.
Through education, changed social practices, many Khasas intermarried
among themselves and developed a closed social group. In the course of time they
merged with Rajputs. The number ofK.hasasjoining Rajput rank increased over

the decades.
Doms also struggled to improve their status. Artisan Doms who could
improve their economic condition claimed a higher status among Doms. They
joined the Arya Samaj and became Arya, adopted janeo and got purified. Lala
Lajpat Rai in 1913 visited Almora and in Sunkiyan village gave Janeo and dvij
status to 600 untouchables. A temple was opened for untouchables in
Almora. There was a Dola-palki movement by the Doms. During the marriage
of Doms the bridegrooms and brides were not allowed by the higher castes to use
dola and palki (palki was used to carry the bridegroom and dola the bride. Both
dola and palki were carried by 2 to 4 persons on their shoulders) and were instead
to walk on foot. When Doms asserted their right to use dola-palki there was often violence. The Arya Samaj played an important role in the movement. Doms
also asserted that they should be called Shilpkar.Tamtas (copper smiths) who
became rich took to priestly function amongst shilpkars.The Kumaun Shilpkar
Sabha and the Garhwal Shilpkar Sabha spearheaded the movement for status
While Khasas could merge with Rajputs, Doms could not do so. They were
considered impure, and there were no middle caste groups in the hills with whom
they could identity. Thus their struggle did not result in mobility in caste
hierarchy. An internal structure of hierarchy emerged within the Doms. When
Tamtas emerged as leaders of the Kumaun Shilpkar Sabha, Sanwal argues, many
did not accept their leadership. Only a few Doms could benefit in terms of
their improved position. For many the situation remained the same.

Chipko Movement 

Anti-Liquor Movement

Alcohol abuse has been a social evil in hills and women are worst affected due
to it. They are beaten, abused and sometimes even murdered for objecting men to drink.Every now and then, heart-rending stories of death caused due to liquor directly or indirectly, keep appearing in the print media. The following slogan that women have coined clearly indicates at the ill effects of liquor on women- "Sharab ki yah kaisi shan, Aurat ki leti hai jaan" (What kind of splendour of liquor is it that takes a
woman's life?). The women realize that the liquor kills men only once but it kills
women in stages as they have to bear the brunt of this poison throughout life (Pandey,1994).
Alcohol with a potential to spoil the whole society- its present and future- has
become a matter of enormous concern for the hill women. Looking at its history in
Uttaranchal, one may only wonder that despite being traditionally associated with the
Shauka, Johari, Jaad, Marchha, Jaunsari, Tharu and Buksa tribes of the region, liquor
was not prevalent among the common masses till 1815, the year of the beginning of
British occupation of the region (Tewari, 1998). Due to the. British policies aimed at
earning maximum revenue, its production and sale could neither be stopped nor
controlled; and in the later years it took an expansive scenario. The total revenue earned from liquor, alcoholic syrups and smack in Kumaun for the year 1822-23 was rupees
534. Later it increased rapidly to rupees 1300, 18,673 and 29,013 for the year 1837,
1872 and 1882 respectively (Nainital Samachar, Pachhis saal ka safar, 2003; p.l 09-
114). Even after independence, it continued to rise. With the Congress' renouncement
of its strongly proposed policy of imposing total ban on alcohol due to its temptation to collect higher amounts of revenue, the production and sale of alcohol increased in the region. As the problem worsened, the opposing reactions of the local communities also increased. The first powerful reaction was witnessed after 1947. However, lt took an organized shape around 1960. Although the 1962 and 1965 wars slowed down the movement but it did not die out. The movement continued in an organized form in Tehri, Pauri, Almora and Pithoragarh under the leadership of the Sarvodaya activists resulting in closing down of several breweries. Relenting to the mass pressure, the government in April 1972 announced total ban on liquor in five border distncts Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Tehri and Pauri (Tewari, 1998b).
The anti-liquor campaigns received momentum only in 1984 with the initiation
of 'Nasha nahi, Rojgar do' (Not alcohol, give us employment) movement under the
leadership of Uttarakhand Sangharsh Vahini. Beginning formally on Feb. 2, 1994,
around 20,000 people participated in various demonstrations held in Chaukhutia
(Almora) till the end of the month. The movement spread rapidly to Maasi, Bhikyasain,
Syaalde, Dwarahaat, Gagaas, Someshwar, Tarikhet, Kaphara, Garuda and Baijnaathfinally
crossing the borders of Almora district. Centres of sura-alcohol were raided at
several places, alcohol worth crores was caught by interruptional checking of vehicles plying on roads, people involved in this scandalous business were punishes by painting their faces black; demonstrations, street-plays and meetings were held to create awareness among masses and to mobilize them for eradicating liquor from society. The liquor mafia was afraid by this enthusiasm of people. As a result, there was an unusual fall in the consumption of liquor in the region. Women got a new lease of life and could go out freely and fearlessly. This movement was followed by the announcement of a partial ban on liquor but the demand for complete ban continued (Nainital Samachar, Pachhis saal ka safar, 2003; p.109-114).
This movement, in 1990, transformed into the anti-reservation movement,
which commenced in the area with the announcement of 27% reservation to the OBCs
in government jobs by the V. P. Singh Government (Nainital Samachar, 30 Sep. 1990).
Along with this the people intensified their demand for a separate state that would be
completely free of alcohol. The activists started breaking down the liquor outlets in
various parts of Kumaun and Garhwal. The fact needs to be emphasized that throughout
this movement, the women had been playing an active role. With the expansion of
independent women's organizations (Mahila Sangathans, Mahila Mangal Dals), this
movement also spread. Moreover, in the contemporary context, the anti liquor issues
are being outstandingly taken up by the women's organizations.
In tune with the 'Nasha nahi, Rojgar do' movement of 1984, the women of
Bhatelia, Nainital, started a 'Sharab nahi, Pani do' (Not alcohol, give us water)
program in 1994 (Pandey, 1994 ). When most of the people supported the installation of
the liquor vends, the women carried on their 'Dharna' and demanded 'water',
'employment' and 'health' in place of liquor by raising slogans- "Sharab nahi, Pani
do", "Nasha nahi, Rojgar do" and "Sharab nahi, Swasthya chahiye ". The women of
Harsill too, raided liquor outlets and burnt 'Holi' of the liquor that they had collected
through this move (Rawat, 1994). In spite of the numerous anti-alcohol campaigns
being taken up by the public in the entire Kumaun region, the administration
successfully conducted the auction of liquor vends in 1995-96, under heavy police
protection. Still, under the leadership of various Mahila Sangathans, the anti-alcohol
campaign persisted. In their various meetings, rallies and protest demonstrations, the
women activists prominently used 'Dhol' and 'Damau' (local musical instruments),
songs and folklores for sensitizing and mobilizing the masses. "Larna hai bhai ye to
lambi larai hai, jeetne ke waste mas hal jo jalai hai.. ..... " (Friends we have to fight, this
is a long battle; we have lit the lamp for winning this battle) And "jainta ek din to alo u
din yo duni mein ... ... .... jainta koi na koi to lyalo u din yo duni mein" (A day will
definitely come ....... someone will bring that fateful day on this earth) are two most
popular songs of the movement. The Mahila Sangathans, in a number of places
successfully used the itching grass (Sinna or Bichchhoo Ghas) also as their weapon in the anti-alcohol campaign. Recently, at several places, women groups/organizations have started imposing fines. In Piplati village of district Champawat, they imposed a fine of rupees 500/ on each person found creating disturbance in the village in a drunken state (Amar Ujala, Mar. 27, 2004). The women of Srunkot village near Munsyari (Pithoragarh) recovered rupees 52,500/ from 35 persons involved in
manufacturing illegal country liquor by imposing a fine of rupees 1500/ on each of
them (Amar Ujala, Apr. 17, 2004).
Despite myriad anti-alcohol campaigns, the government has never taken the
issue seriously and besides played double games. New outlets were constantly openedboth in the Kumaun and Garhwal Region. To one's dismay, it opened 263 country andEnglish liquor outlets in total in Kumaun during the year 1995-96 and collected a totalrevenue of rupees 45.83 crore from these outlets (Tewari, 1998a). The dreams of thepeople of Uttaranchal shattered when alcohol started reaching even to the remotevillages under the excise policy of the new government immediately after the formationof Uttaranchal State on November 9, 2000. Seeing no end to their plight, the women areprotesting against government's excise policy at many places 'in the state. Moved by thenegative effects of liquor, women collectives- Women Defence Committees, Village Defence Committees took various initiatives i.e. organized Dharna, Gherao sessions, Chakka .Jam, rallies, protest demonstrations, processions, debates and discussions, meetings, burning the effigy of ministers and contractors, social boycott of MLAs and MLCs, sticking notices agains~ sale and consumption of liquor and proposing boycott of the forthcoming election if the flow of liquor to the region did not stop (Negi, 2001 ). Throughout their struggle, the women collectively have demanded developmental
initiatives from the government with a complete ban on alcohol. They raised slogans
such as- "Nahi chahiye hamein sharab, Hamein chahiye sahi vikas" (we do not need
liquor, we need positive development) and "Pakki hum bikne nahi denge, Kachchi hum
chaine nahi denge" (neither we will allow the sale of legal wine, nor the consumption
of spurious country liquor) (Joshi, 2001 ).
This shows that the women of Uttaranchal hills have not acted as victims. They
have, instead, prepared themselves for fighting bigger battles. It is perhaps their life
circumstances that have made them fearless and expressive to a large extent. Besides being in the forefront in the nationalist Freedom Movement, they have played an activist role in several state level movements too, such as, the 'Chipko' (cling)
movement in 1973-74 to protect trees (Bhatt, 1992), 'Nasha nahi, Rojgar do' (give us
employment, not wine) movement in 1984 against liquor~ and 'Uttarakhand' movement
in 1994 to get a separate state for the hill people (Nainital Samachar: Pachhis Saal Ka
Safar, 2003), and the 'Maiti Andolan' for replenishing the woods by planting new trees
though 'Maill Sangathan' ('Maiti' is derived from a Kumauni word 'mait' which
means maternal home) formed in 1996 (Martoliya, 1997; Bisht, 1998). Thus, with the
power of an indomitable will and courage in the face of innumerable hardships, these
women have participated in almost all the mass movements in Uttaranchal with
incredible vigour and ardour (Sah, 2000).
Contrary to them, the so called male revolutionaries of Uttaranchal have always
shown double standards when it comes to banning liquor because they can not oppose it when they are not drunk. They talk of fighting against the 'system', but not the 'culture' (habit and behaviour of drinking) of liquor (Upadhhyaya, 1999). Women have demonstrated courage and guts both to fight not only against the "culture" but also the "'system" of liquor. It is the united women's power organized under Mahila Mangal Dal, Mahila Samooh, Mahila Morcha, Mahila Jagriti Manch or any other name that has succeeded in banning liquor in a number of villages in Uttaranchal hills, including Chhana and Bhurmuni- two of the four villages selected for the study. 

No comments:

Post a Comment