The curtain has hopefully fallen for the better on the year-long protests of farmers against the three contentious laws passed by the Centre in 2020. Thousands of farmers, irrespective of their age, caste or gender, moved to the border of the National Capital to increase their proximity to the Centre and thus make the people in power hear their agonies. Finally, the government has decided to take back the three laws that had agitated the farmers across the country. The unfortunate reality of this seven-decade-old democracy is that even though the economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, the farmers often receive unfavourable changes. However, the farmer protests of 2020-21 were not the first that India had seen.
What Was The Muzara Movement?
The late 19th century and the early 20th century saw the PEPSU Muzara movement, an initiative of the farmers from Mansa against the draconian laws of the British. The farmers who worked on other's lands were tagged as the Muzaras. The Muzara movement originated in the princely state of Patiala and was aimed at getting rid of the oppression by the then Maharaja of Patiala. In the 1930s, Jagirdars were taking part in the farmers' share under the Patiala Riyasat produced. After the Jagirdars, the claim was passed on to the Maharaja of Patiala and then to the Britishers. Therefore, farmers worked as slaves for the Jagirdars, Maharajas and the British.
Biswedars or the local landlords enjoyed the fruit of the blood and sweat of the farmers. Therefore, the farmers felt that the landlords had no legitimate rights to the land. Several movements like the Akali and the Praja Mandal movements started in the 1920s but eventually lost force. In the 1930s, Congress was pushing the Britishers for a liberal attitude towards Indians.
What Happened After Independence?
When the farmers declined to give their share, the movement picked pace. After the nation earned its independence from the British, 784 villages of Punjab, fell under PEPSU. PEPSU was an acronym for Patiala and East Punjab States Union, including Shimla, Kasauli, Kandaghat and Chail. In the early months of 1948, armed groups of 30 to 40 people each used to protect the muzaras from the threats of the landlords. However, in October 1948, when the Maharaja of Patiala asked to give one-third of the land in the village to the Jagirdars, the farmers did not agree. Several farmers protested against the security forces of Maharaja of Kishangarh; four farmers, one cop and one patwari were killed.
After this incident, the government set up an Agrarian Reforms Enquiry Committee to recommend tackling the issue. Therefore, several past and present instances have repeatedly proved that a nation must look after and provide for those who provide for the country.