Page 27 - Science India August 2022
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           to pay the complete amount back to the planter, and this led to a vicious circle of debt in which the farmer got trapped for the rest of his life. A regulation of law (1833) was in force at that time which gave the indigo planter the right to take possession of the ryot’s land and property until the debt along with in- terest was completely paid by the ryot. These types of laws started frequent fights between the planters and farmers and since the laws favored the planters, they openly abused the farmers physi- cally. Planters used the services of agents called lathials whose function was to force the ryot into following the dictates of planters. In case they refused to fol-
The lucrative indigo trade brought riches to the British but gradually pushed Indian farmers into poverty as they were forced to cultivate indigo instead of food crops
low, lathials would loot and burn the house, snatch his draught animals and take control of the most fertile portion of the farmer’s land.
These exploitative excesses led to a revolt by the cultivating farmers in the form of a non-cooperation movement against the planters. The non-cooper- ation of farmers to sow the indigo was mercilessly suppressed. Large contin- gents of police and military ruthlessly killed hundreds of unarmed farmers.
The ryots en masse refused to cultivate indigo and pay rent to the planters.
The mercilessness of the British po- lice forced the humble farmers towards armed conflicts against the indigo man- ufacturing units in some places. Bish- nucharan Biswas and Digambar Biswas led the first revolt in March 1859, which started in the villages of Gobindpur and Chanugacha in Krishnanagar, Nadia district, Bengal; quickly it spread to Murshidabad, Burdwan, Pabna, Khul- na and Narail districts of the province. One of the rebels, Biswanath Sardar was
Image Courtesy: Old Indian Photos
 hanged in a public show of trial at As- sannagar, Nadia.
Men and women both came out against the atrocities being commit- ted against the ryots. Men were armed with swords, bows, arrows, and spears, and women brought in kitchen imple- ments to fight against the gomasthas,
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Above: Cutting of indigo into cakes at an indigo factory in Allahabad in 1877
Left: Indigofera Sylvatica from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (William Curtis, circa 1830). Indigo dye is extracted from the small, green leaves of this plant
who were sent by the planters to collect rent. In fact, in many places, the vil- lage pradhans (administrative heads) and zamindars (landlords) also joined against the planters as they had been forced to sign the contracts under physi- cal abuse by the lathials of planters. The revolt turned out to be one of the most significant farmer revolts of the world; it is known as the Neel Vidroh or the Indigo rebellion.
Ryots started protesting in an organ- ised manner and the movement spread all over Bengal. They were demanding a probe and reformation of the indigo cultivation system. The Indigo Revolt was mostly a non-violent satyagraha by the farmers of Bengal. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, JP Grant, while traveling along the rivers of Kumar and Kaliganga, witnessed nearly five mil- lion farmers all lined up along both the banks of the river in a never-ending line-up, praying for a government or- der and intervention to stop the forceful

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