The Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha, 1929-1942: A Study of an Indian Peasant Movement

Hauser, Walter

     This dissertation is an attempt to understand the mechanics of Indian politics, by looking specifically at one of the mass organizations . . . in a regional context, where its operations are more apparent. Specifically, it will look at a peasant movement (the Kisan Sabha) in the state of Bihar.
     A descriptive analysis of the peasant movement in Bihar -- its formation, growth and decline -- form the substance of this study. While it is not the object here to determine why mass peasant organizations did not prosper in other regions, an understanding of developments in Bihar may permit some tentative generalizations as to the nature of peasant organization in India. . . .
     In order to provide a clear understanding of the distinctive features of the agrarian systems in Bihar, it [is] necessary in the first chapter to consider in some detail the system of tenure and rent, especially with reference to the South Bihar districts, where peasant agitation was centered. The unique character of the land system, with what a conservative observer has called a 'rapacious' social and economic relationship, was indeed an extremely important consideration in determining the course of peasant politics in the thirties.
     The main body of the dissertation comprises four chapters which consider in chronological order the several phases of Kisan Sabha development, namely its formation in the years of non-co-operation, its organizational period through the mid-thirties, the period of most active agitation to the beginning of World War II, and finally its demise in the war years. A major consideration throughout is how the movement operated and what relationships it established with peasants, politicians, and administrators.
     The year 1942 is taken as the terminal point, both for the reason that the war introduced new and significant changes into the political life of the country, and because in that year Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, who was the dominant figure in the Bihar peasant movement, came out of prison as an exponent of a political view that was incompatible with his role as a peasant leader in India and Bihar.

Stephen Hay, Bernard S. Cohn