Page 28 - Science India August 2022
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Swatantrata ka Amrut Mahotsava
cultivation of indigo. Women along with children were also standing in groups to strengthen the cause of the revolt.
The government was thus forced by the Indian farmers to announce the ap- pointment of the Indigo Commission on 31 March 1860. The revolt was docu- mented by force into the notings of the Indigo Commission and the Landlords and Commercial Association (a body of indigo manufacturers). The Commis- sion put the blame on planters whereas the association tried to show that ev- erything was good between them and
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Image Courtesy: Old Indian Photos
    it was just a trivial issue. A witness at the Indigo Commission shared the fact that a small ryot who earlier cultivated around one bigha with indigo was now being forced to plough six bighas of land for the dye industry owners. The commission gave recommendations in favour of the farmers, thereby leading to the gradual shutting down of all indigo manufacturing industries.
The entire episode of indigo cultivation and oppression deserves an apology by
the British for the abuses, killings and suppressions it had heralded in India
Above: Workers in an indigo factory in Allahabad, 1877; Left: Indigo House in Mongalganj, North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, built around 1777 for indigo trade and management by the East India Company
than the imported indigo from India. The following decades saw a decline in indigo cultivation and production with the market price of naturally obtained
indigo reduced to half. The closure of factories was disastrous for thousands of workers, managers, and assistants who were left jobless and searched for new positions.
This complete episode of indigo cultiva- tion and oppression deserves an apology by the British as the abuses, killings, and suppressions ceased to exist once the modern synthetic system of artificial indigo dye manufacturing took over. Many ryots and their families lost their lives for a reason that vanished after a few years. The struggle of these un- armed ryots wrote a golden chapter in Indian history. Despite their poverty and oppression, the farmers raised their voic- es against injustice. Their resolve not to sow indigo again was so strong that the British were not able to force them again. The testimony of Panjee Mulla, in front of the Indigo Commission, ex- presses his courage, “I would rather be killed by bullets than sow indigo”.
*The writer is Professor of Chemistry, ARSD College, University of Delhi
The echoes of the farmers’ revolt
the cultivation of indigo in Bengal and reverberated throughout Bengal and
most of the businesses moved out to the many eminent leaders and academics
state of Bihar. The final nail in the coffin came forward to highlight the issue.
came from the synthesis of artificial in- Dinabandhu Maitra in 1860 wrote a
digo, named “indigotin”, by the German critically acclaimed Bengali play Nil
scientist, Professor Adolf von Baeyer, in Darpan (The Indigo Planting Mirror),
1865. Initially, the process devised was which portrayed the social agitation
not commercially and financially suc- and treatment being meted out to in-
cessful but the German scientists kept digo ryots.
on working on the improvements and perfecting the process. In 1897, German THE END
synthetic indigo flooded the markets and was immediately adopted, being cheaper The rebellion had already weakened

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