Indigo revolt and its causes

Indigo revolt and its causes

Indigo revolt turned out to be a widespread event. Evaluate the causes.

1839-1860 witnessed a widespread peasant uprising against the aggressive planters of indigo. With growth in textile industry post Industrial Revolution, dyeing of clothes became an important part of apparel manufacturing. As India emerged as the largest exporter of Indigo, the planters started taking a keen interest in indigo.

Forceful cultivation of Indigo: Cultivation of Indigo was introduced by British in Bengal in the late 18th century which eventually spread to Bihar. Indigo was used in England for dyeing cloth and was of no use to the farmers in India. Peasants from Bengal were compelled to reserve a part of their land to grow indigo. No stone was left unturned in order to make money. The peasants were mercilessly forced to cultivate indigo. They were offered small payments to be adjusted against final payment at the time of delivery. Once the peasant accepted the offer, it was more like a trap. The peasants were cheated with the weight of the produce and the value of the produce was calculated at rates way below market price.

Plight of farmers- Excessive labor and unfavorable returns : The planters of Indigo formed political association to establish their authority. This resulted in the emergence of a new factor in the agrarian economy which scoured the privileges of the Zamindars. An intense confrontation grew between landlords and planters on one hand, and the planters and peasants on the other. There were a few planters who chose to have rotation of crops, alternating indigo with rice and other crops. Although once a peasant had grown rice on his land he was reluctant to change to indigo. Excessive labor and unfavorable returns from the indigo produce were the main reasons for the reluctance.

Impact of the Indigo event- Indigo Commission : When this reaction was seen almost in all places, the planters’ association in Calcutta compelled the government to enact a law which made breach of contract on the part of the peasants a criminal offense. The planters took complete advantage of this law and their oppression became severe in Nadia and Jessore districts of Bengal. The planters had the support of the district officials but the peasants were firm with their decision of not cultivating indigo.

The peasants had the backing of the Indian press in Calcutta as well as some lawyers. Thus the movement entered the political scenario and had a far reaching impact in the later movements of Bengal.

The Government thereby was forced to appoint a committee 'Indigo Commission' which was to look into the corrupt practices related with this system. Even after this, the oppression of landowners and the agitation of farmers against them continued. In 1866-68 Darbhanga and Champaran in Bihar also witnessed rising by Indigo farmers.
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  • RE: Indigo revolt and its causes -Poushali Majumder (04/30/17)
  • Thank you very much for this helpful information.