The Tebhaga Movement: Politics of Peasant Protest in Bengal 1946-1950

 

The Tebhaga movement is probably the greatest peasant movement in the history of India. The Tebhaga movement was a movement of the sharecroppers of Bengal demanding two-thirds instead of half as their produce. Basically from this principle demand the name ‘Tebhaga’ movement comes. The small peasants also joined hand with the sharecroppers as the gambit of the demands increased. Gradually with the intensification of the movement the charter of demands even touched the revolutionary idea of ‘land to tiller’ concept.

The movement reflected the development of the political consciousness of the poor peasants and tribal sharecroppers and it may safely be opined that it marked a turning point in the history of agrarian movements in India. Prof. Sunil Kumar Sen, a distinguished historian and peasant leader, opines that the author has broken “new ground in focusing on the role of the major political parties during the Tebhaga struggle as well as the enduring success of this struggle in stemming the tide of communal killings on the eve of Independence”. Though the struggle did not achieve immediate success so long as success is measured by the actual implementation of tebhaga of the gross produce as rent but what looks like a failure in the eyes of one spectator may well take on appearance of the redeeming sacrifice of pioneers who laid the foundation for a better tomorrow. The author in his scheme of seven chapters has discussed the Tebhaga movement in the role and perspective of various political parties in the chapters third, fourth and the fifth and in sixth and seventh chapter he has studied this movement in relation to Dinajpur and Kakdwip respectively. The role of women, students, workers and middle class is also examined by the author and this transformation of various sections of society reflected in his political environment of West Bengal today. He rightly puts a question “can it be said that the Tebhaga struggle made its own contribution to the perception of left front parties, the two communist parties in particular, in which the peasantry and the countryside have occupied a position of great importance”?

Asok Majumdar is an Associate Professor of Political Science in Zakir Husain Post Graduate College, University of Delhi.

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