Growing Polarisation in the Countryside
Quite unmistakably, it is the extension of the capitalist mode of production in agriculture that has been the single most dominant motive behind all land reforms and rural development measures adopted by the government in post-independence India. And to accomplish this aim, ‘betting on the strong’ has been the consistent approach of the government right from the days of the celebrated “zamindari abolition” to the ongoing application of the strategy of so-called “green revolution”. Consequently, under the cumulative impact of all these measures, the rural ‘society’ has been going through a process of growing internal differentiation.
To understand this process in the specific conditions of Bihar, let us start with the famous “zamindari abolition”. The declared aim, in this case, was to encourage the resumption of land by proprietors for the purpose of ‘personal cultivation’. The whole thing culminated in the consolidation of the position of the majority of erstwhile zamindars, moneylenders and other ex-intermediaries as well as ex-occupancy raiyats, a sizeable section of whom had already turned into de facto zamindars, while the vast majority of the working peasantry, who were non-occupancy raiyats or under-raiyats, suffered eviction on a gigantic scale or continued as tenants-at-will under still more onerous conditions. Detail informations regarding such evictions or ‘transfers’ are naturally not available. However, different organisations and scholars have tried to estimate the incidence of this well-known and widespread phenomenon. The Fourteenth State Conference of the All-India Kisan Sabha, held in Muzaffarpur in August 1954, reported that in the six years following the introduction of the Zamindari Abolition Bill, evictions occurred from no less than 1 million acres of land throughout the State, affecting 7 million people.
The following case-study of a Muzaffarpur village, made by F Tomasson Jannuzi in 1956, provides a typical illustration of how ‘zamindari abolition’ promoted the landlord path of capitalist development in Indian agriculture.
- Prior to the act “abolishing” intermediary interests in Bihar, a single zamindar held an exclusive intermediary right over all land (six hundred acres approximately) in village A. This zamindar, though a nonresident, had exercised full authority through his agents over the people who lived in the village and tilled his lands. Apparently because he was numbered among the leading zamindars of Bihar (having gross annual income from his several estates, in this case his holdings in village A as well as elsewhere in North Bihar, in excess of Rs. 50,000), he was among those whose interests were first vested in the state in September 1952. … In December 1956, more than four years after the zamindar’s interests were said to have been vested in the state, the situation in village A was as follows.
First, the ex-intermediary had lost roughly 100 acres of his pre-abolition holding when some of his “tenants” were able to retain at least temporary possession (subject to the outcome of pending litigation) of lands they had tilled. These former tenants, representing sixty-one households, considered themselves to be “occupancy raiyats”, and had begun to pay rent directly to the state. Their self-classification as occupancy raiyats did not eliminate the harsh reality that few among them were in possession of viable holdings; the size of an average holding per household was 1.65 acres.
Second, in accordance with the “saving provisions” of the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, as amended, the ex-zamindar retained (either “rent-free” or under nominal rents not exceeding Rs. 7.00 per acre) 500 acres of land together with his “village residence” (in fact the home of his estate manager).
Third, whereas the villagers’ total holding of 100 acres was divided into 361 separate units for cultivation, the ex-zamindar’s homestead holding of 500 acres was unitary — comprised of contiguous plots.
Fourth, twelve households, formerly tenants of the zamindar, had been evicted from his “homestead lands” and had become landless labourers with no option but to till the zamindar’s lands for wages.
Fifth, neither the sixty-one landed nor the twelve landless households in the village had managed to achieve economic independence of the zamindar. It remained necessary for both groups to work for some portion of their incomes as wage labourers on the homestead lands of the
ex-zamindar. Moreover, daily wages for men had been lowered from 1 rupee, 2 annas (the rate prior to zamindari abolition), to 10 annas since the enactment of the reform legislation. Where daily wages for wowan had been 12 annas in 1952, they were 8 annas in 1956, And wages for child labour had been reduced from 6 annas to 3 annas.
Sixth, whereas, prior to 1952, some portions of the zamindar’s holding had been used for the production of rice and wheat, in 1956 the
ex-zamindar’s entire holding was cropped in tobacco and sugarcane —favoured cash crop in that period.
( Agrarian Crisis in India : The Case of Bihar, pp 51-2).
In majority of the cases, however, land continued to be leased out to tenants with the only difference that their status was universally degraded to that of “tenants-at-will”. Cashing in on the built-in safeguards, ex-intermediaries not only retained tight control over their holdings, but further consolidated them through large-scale eviction of tenants, including occupancy tenants, and then went on to acquire modern implements like tubewells, tractors etc. The whole process was greatly facilitated by the power of money, caste solidarity at government level, and of course, guns which were freely used.
The process of eviction was further stepped up in the wake of ceiling legislation in the early ’60s. According to G Ojha, in a single year, in 1962, the year in which the Ceiling Act was effected, over 0.7 million transfers of raiyatwari holdings were recorded all over the State.
Since early 1950s, the government also undertook many rural development projects, initiating development blocks, launching co-operative institutions, introducing village self-government and so on. Apparently, the idea was to foster decentralisation of administration and decision-making, but in real life all these steps only served to centralise more power in the hands of those who were already powerful in the countryside. In addition, the peasants also came to face the pressure of a huge army of thoroughly corrupt and bureaucratic government officials working hand in glove with the landlords and the kulaks. And finally there came the strategy of green revolution in the mid-60s. The government wanted everybody to believe that the results of this development would trickle down to the rural poor as well, but as government sources themselves had to admit later, landlords with a holding of 24 acres or more had turned out to be the major beneficiary of green revolution in Bihar while raiyats with holdings of five acres or less, raiyats with insecure rights in land, under-raiyats, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers could simply derive no benefits worth the name.
Urban ex-intermediaries in Bihar are increasingly engaging in commercial farming, though in comparison to their counterparts in Punjab, Haryana and Western UP they are still numerically insignificant. In the districts of Patna, Gaya, Bhojpur and Rohtas the rate of agricultural development has proved to be a little faster and production for the market appears somewhat widespread. In these areas junker-type capitalist landlords as well as kulak-type capitalist farmers have emerged as two powerful rural strata. In short, the entire process of land reforms and rural development has culminated in the emergence of a new section of landlords comprising erstwhile zamindars, naibs, rent-receiving farmers, moneylenders, traders, and sections of better-off occupancy raiyats at one pole and huge expansion of bataidars—poor and lower-middle peasants—and agricultural labourers on the other. Sizeable sections of occupancy raiyats have consolidated themselves as middle and rich peasants, sections that once constituted the leading core of the old Kisan Sabha movements. However, in today’s Bihar a considerable number of these rich peasants are found to behave like a veritable kulak lobby in politics as well as in the structure of state-power.
In caste terms, landlords generally come from upper castes and in some pockets one also comes across landlords belonging to the upper layers of certain backward castes like the Kurmis and the Yadavas. Certain sections of Awadhia Kurmis, who have gone up on the social ladder, are a new entrant in the category of landlords. Rich peasants belong to both upper castes and upper layers of certain backward castes, while middle peasants are made up of upper castes, upper layers of backward castes and in some cases, scheduled castes and tribes as well. And as far as the poor and lower-middle peasants and agricultural labourers are concerned, they have in their ranks the great majority of the backward castes and almost the entire harijan and adivasi population.
Landlords and the Kulak Lobby
The landlords today comprise two sections. On the one hand, there are the feudal landlords who resort to old methods of cultivation through tenants and on the other hand, there are the junker-type capitalist landlords who generally divide their land into two parts with one part being leased out or cultivated by domestic farm servants and the other part being cultivated by hired labourers using modern means. The Mahants in Bihar are usually big landlords of the feudal-type, commanding armed private gangs of their own and often leading landlords of their respective areas in attacks on poor peasants. In place of the old administrative machinery of earliear zamindars, today’s landlords have at their disposal the well-knit administrative machinery of the modern state manned by thoroughly corrupt and bureaucratic government officials.
In the existing socio-economic conditions of Bihar, the new landlords and kulaks enjoy consolidated economic, social and political power at Panchayat and block levels, openly in league with corrupt government officials and darogas, and caste-based mobilisations have become their new watchword in their war against the rural poor as well as in their factional infightings. Under universal suffrage and parliamentary democracy the whole complexion of politics and political parties in Bihar has undergone a thorough change and assumed the worst casteist form. It is these classes which provide leadership to the recently emerging private gangs of landlords which operate as politico-military formations. Ironically, the very sections of the better-off backward caste tenants which once provided the backbone of the erstwhile Kisan Sabha movement, have now transformed themselves into kulaks and are often found to be more aggressive than others against agricultural labourers demanding increased wages. The two Senas, viz., the Bhoomi Sena and the Lorik Sena, which have shot into the limelight in Bihar in recent years are led by backward caste elements from the Kurmis and Yadavas respectively.
Middle peasants, in the true sense of the term, are found mainly among the backward castes of Koiris, Yadavas and major sections of Kurmis. The lands operated by them are either fully owned or partly owned and partly leased in from upper-caste landholders. Only occasionally do they employ hired labour. It is rare for upper-caste middle peasants to lease in land, the overwhelming majority of them either lease out their land or get it cultivated through banihars or hired labourers. However, except operating the plough, considered to be a customary taboo, a good majority of them do put in self-labour in their fields. Particularly, Bhumihar middle peasants put in hard labour, in some cases nowadays they operate the plough as well. Among the backward castes, sections of Awadhia Kurmis, having moved up on the social ladder and encouraged by the abundant supply of cheap agrarian labour, have given up direct cultivation.
Middle peasants are linked with the landlords and kulaks through numerous economic ties such as trade, money-lending, land acquisition interests of the landlords, supply of credit and other input facilities from block offices and so on and so forth. And to top it all, there is the aspect of caste solidarity. Mobilised by the landlords on the basis of castes, middle peasants often serve as cannon-fodder in the former’s factional infightings as well as in their battle with agricultural labourers and poor peasants who are struggling for minimum wages and pieces of land.
However, as middle peasants mainly belong to the lower castes, they face the wrath of upper-caste landlords. There are also serious contradictions concerning the share of various facilities provided by government institutions, tenancy rates, control over communal and grazing lands etc. The question of building solid unity with middle peasants, who make up nearly twenty per cent of the rural population, is a question of decisive importance in tilting the balance in favour of agrarian revolution. Recent changes in the agrarian scene and caste-baked rigid social divisions in the countryside of Bihar have rendered the task much more complicated.
Solid unity with middle and even rich peasants belonging to the Koiris and other backward castes down the social ladder develops rather easily due to the peculiar position of these castes. Hardworking by nature and oppressed by upper-caste landlords and harassed by widespread theft and dacoity, they quickly come over to the fold of revolutionary organisations. The most complicated is the question of unity with the Yadava middle peasantry, as they often obstruct the rural poor’s struggle against the zamindars by coming in between the two conflicting sides. For instance, often when a wage or land struggle against a zamindar reaches the verge of victory, he suddenly switches over from cultivation through hired labour to that through tenants, and in effecting this switch he finds readymade takers in the Yadavas. Thus the zamindar retreats into the background while the Yadavas come to the fore and the struggle naturally loses its edge. Then there are the questions of use of communal land, tanks etc. and struggle against theft and dacoity. All this leads to the contradiction with them taking a serious and sharp turn. But fortunately enough, such frictions prevail only in certain pockets and are not widespread. In fact, in many other cases they are quite good allies. Regarding relations with middle peasants belonging to the Awadhia Kurmis as well as various upper castes, the main questions are those of wages, vested land and social oppression.
Tenancy in Bihar is generally not of the type of “entrepreneur renting”. Big farmers leasing in land with a view to enlarging their operational holdings to undertake large-scale capitalist farming is a rare phenomenon in Bihar where land is primarily leased in by marginal and small farmers for sheer subsistence.
Various forms of tenancy are in vogue in Bihar, e.g.,
(a) Nagdi or Manibatai: Under this system the tenant has to pay a fixed amount of rent, whether in cash or grains, regardless of the total production. The landlord plays no role in the process of cultivation. In parts of Bhojpur, the prevailing rate is 16 maunds or Rs. 700 per bigha, going up to 22 maunds in case of better irrigation facilities.
(b) Tehai : Here the landlord and the tenant equally share the land revenue, irrigation charges as well as cost of fertilisers and seeds, but the latter gets only one-third of the produce.
(c) Chauthai : The landlord provides the total capital and the tenant gets one-fourth of the produce. In certain areas like south Gaya, the tenant gets only one-fourth of the produce even though he provides half of the capital.
In the irrigated areas of Bhojpur the yield of paddy reaches nearly 30 maunds per bigha, out of which 22 maunds have to be paid back as rent. The greater part of the 8 maunds left with the tenant is then spent on seeds and other investments for the next season. So in the kharif season the tenant is hardly able to save anything. However, in the ravi season the tenant is entitled to the entire produce.
A case-study of tenancy practices in Musahari block of Muzaffarpur district, conducted by B N Verma and B R Mishra of Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa, Bihar (Social Scientist, No. 135, August 1984), is worth mentioning in this connection. The study covered three villages and had the following major findings to offer.
1. Share in produce : The entire cost of cultivation is borne by the tenant, but the produce, of both main as well as by-products and in both HYV and local varieties, is shared equally between the landlord and the tenant. Any sharing of cost by the landlord during a bad crop year or during some crisis is considered as a loan to be repaid immediately after the harvest. The cost of cultivation comes to 45 to 50 per cent of the total produce and the tenant, therefore, is left with as meagre a margin as 0 to 5 per cent which naturally keeps him in a perpetual bondage of debt.
2. Labour service associated with tenancy : 85.50 per cent of pure tenants and 71.43 per cent of combined tenants (those with some land of their own) have to perform compulsory labour service in the landlords’ fields for an average of 118 and 96 days a year respectively. True, they are paid wages for that, but the fact remains that to protect their tenancy they must render service in the lessors’ fields and in some cases also in their houses. To some extent, their status may be compared to that of attached or bonded labourers.
3. Security and duration of lease : Land was found to be leased out for short periods and tenants were reported to be changed frequently.
4. Status of terms and conditions : Oral.
The landlords were generally found to prefer leasing out land to tenants who belonged to the lower castes, had small pieces of land of their own and large families. Moreover, they were also found to prefer leasing out their land to as many tenants as possible. This, they felt, enabled them to exercise greater control over the tenants and made the latter put in extensive labour.
The case of Musahari is by no means an isolated one, rather it represents the typical phenomenon in tenancy in Bihar, which, in its turn, constitutes a major plank of the State’s agrarian structure.
As tenancy is generally oral and renewed annually, landlords try to raise the amount of rent every year. In the absence of solid organisational unity, this generates sharp competition among the bataidars themselves. Thousands of cases related to tenancy are pending in the courts of Bihar, but seldom does the judgement go in favour of the bataidars.
A great majority of bataidars have to resort to the sale of their labour-power as well, and as such, they fall in the category of poor peasants. Hardly one-third of the bataidars may be classified as lower-middle or middle peasants.
The Working Group on Land Reforms, set up by the Government of India, had the following advice to the bataidars of Bihar :
- Landowners … are organised and aggressive … with an obliging administration on their side, they are definitely not going to give up an iota of their rights, privileges and economic dominance without a stiff fight… No law, however good it may be, in conferring, on paper, rights, title and interest to the bataidars will have the slightest chance of success unless the bataidars have a strong and militant mass organisation of their own, capable of not only defending their own rights given by the law but also capable of mounting counter-action to prevent and
forestall any direct attack on them.
(Mainstream. Vol. 11, No. 40)
Well, when this advice is put into practice it results in Arwal-type massacres, and the Indian Parliament, the so-called representative body of the people, has no time to discuss such massacres.
Their number has greatly increased since the 60s, parti, cularly as a result of the large-scale eviction of erstwhile tenants in the wake of the ceiling act. In 1981, they accounted for 35.50 per cent of the total population of main of workers in Bihar while for India as a whole the corresponding share was only 24.94 per cent. Regionwise, the percentage share was highest in North Bihar, followed by South Bihar and Chhotanagpur in that order. Districtwise, the percentage was highest in West Champaran (51.53), followed by Purnea (51.35) and Katihar (49.47). In Chhotanagpur, the figure was highest in Palamau (36.71 per cent), nearly double the average for the region (See accompanying table )
Low figures for agricultural labourers in the Chhotanagpur region are due to the existence of hilly tracts, prevalence of adivasi population, and the consequent special tenurial systems. However, large numbers of adivasis have migrated to the tea gardens of Assam and to North Bihar as labourers. During the cultivating seasons, one also finds them migrating to West Bengal, and nowadays to Punjab, too, in search of work as agricultural labourers.
In caste terms, the agricultural labourers of Bihar have the following percentage distribution — Upper Castes : 0.3; Middle Castes : 34.2; Scheduled Castes : 39.1; Scheduled Tribes : 12.4; Muslims : 14.0 (S. R. Bose and P P Ghosh, Agro-Economic Survey of Bihar).
Districtwise Distribution of Cultivators and Agricultural Labourers as Percentages of Total Population and Total Main Workers (1981 Census)
Cultivators as % of population —- 7.88
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 28.53
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 8.58
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 31.04
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.99
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 39.80
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 12.60
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 41.81
Cultivators as % of population —- 15.31
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 49.34
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 11.28
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 36.22
Districtwise Distribution of Cultivators and Agricultural Labourers as Percentages of Total Population and Total Main Workers (1981 Census)
Cultivators as % of population —- 13.26
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 43.04
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 11.97
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 38.84
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.83
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 46.26
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 9.96
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 35.93
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.24
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 43.95
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 10.37
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 37.23
Districtwise Distribution of Cultivators and Agricultural Labourers as Percentages of Total Population and Total Main Workers (1981 Census)
Cultivators as % of population —- 10.56
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 41.87
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 9.38
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 37.19
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.51
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 53.62
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 6.50
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 27.86
Cultivators as % of population —- 14.28
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 61.90
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 5.19
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 22.50
Cultivators as % of population —- 16.46
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 63.49
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 6.73
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 25.97
W. Champaran District
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.94
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 36.34
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 16.94
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 51.53
E. Champaran District
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.93
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 42.72
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 13.91
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 45.94
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.46
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 39.50
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 14.17
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 48.81
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.23
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 39.89
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 11.56
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 41.06
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.42
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 49.23
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 8.64
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 34.24
Cultivators as % of population —- 9.28
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 32.87
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 13.38
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 47.41
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.14
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 40.33
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 11.70
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 42.33
Cultivators as % of population —- 10.19
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 37.17
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 12.22
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 44.58
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.93
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 42.30
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 13.04
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 46.22
Cultivators as % of population —- 14.06
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 40.84
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 14.53
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 48.40
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.43
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 36.27
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 17.59
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 51.35
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.18
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 34.06
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 16.24
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 49.47
Cultivators as % of population —- 12.27
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 41.10
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 12.00
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 40.18
Cultivators as % of population —- 11.43
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 38.56
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 12.28
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 41.42
Santhal Pg. District
Cultivators as % of population —- 19.70
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 59.62
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 6.89
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 20.86
Cultivators as % of population —- 5.13
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 18.22
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 2.15
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 7.62
Cultivators as % of population —- 15.57
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 56.38
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 4.03
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 14.61
Cultivators as % of population —- 14.25
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 49.94
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 4.92
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 17.23
Cultivators as % of population —- 15.65
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 48.36
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 11.88
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 36.71
Cultivators as % of population —- 21.22
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 61.48
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 4.91
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 14.23
Cultivators as % of population —- 13.40
Cultivators as % of main workers —- 40.97
Agrl. labourers as % of population —- 7.07
Agrl. labourers as % of main workers —- 21.62
Source : Compiled from 1981 Census Abstract.
Agricultural labourers in Bihar can be broadly classified into the following three categories :
(a) Banihars or Charwahas : They are actually attached labourers, working in the landlords’ fields on an annual contract basis. They are allotted little pieces of land, varying in size from 5 kathas to 1 bigha* ; for their own cultivation, and during agricultural seasons they receive wages for their daily work at par with daily wage labourers. In some areas, the landlord demands a share of what is produced on the allotted land, but the general practice is that the landlord, having advanced the seeds, take back one-and-a-half times the amount advanced when the crop is harvested. Debt burdens force them to stay attached with the landlord, in some cases for generations, and often they are made to work as domestic servants as well.
(b) Land-owning Labourers : Although they own small pieces of land, for their subsistence they are forced to rely mostly on their work as wage labourers.
(c) Landless Labourers : Their number is not quite high and they are heavily underemployed. Recent years have witnessed a tremendous increase in their migration to Punjab where the wages are quite high in comparison to Bihar. In Bihar, their daily wages range from 750 grams to 2 kgs. of wheat or rice, or Rs. 2 to Rs. 10 in cash. During harvesting season, they receive one out of every 10 bundles of crops harvested as wages. The wages differ greatly in different areas and in different operations depending upon a number of factors, the foremost of which is the state of their organised strength.
* 20 kathas make one bigha, but the size of a bigha varies greatly from one region to another. In Bbojpur, 1-5 bighas may be roughly equivalent to 1 acre.
Full-time free wage labourers working in modern capitalist farms or in areas of cash crops are quite an exception in Bihar.
The struggles of agricultural labourers revolve around the issues of wages; dwelling land ; interest rates; communal, government, surplus and benami lands under the occupation of landlords and rich peasants; water resources; fishing; social oppression and so on and so forth. Moreover, in Bihar, unemployment, not to speak of underemployment, is widespread among agricultural labourers and they have no avenues open to them for moving to industrial centres. Apart from the struggle for rise in wages, one also finds agricultural labourers quite eagerly participating in struggles for land, both for the purpose of dwelling as well as self-cultivation. Even if sometimes they managed to get parchas from the government officials, the land remained under the illegal control of gun-totting landlords. Any protest on their part is met with immediate attacks by the landlords. With their hamlets surrounded and set ablaze, property looted, women raped, and dear and near ones killed by the merciless landlords and their merceuaries, dissenting agricultural labourers are either forced to surrender or made to flee the village.
It is this situation that is being challenged today by the agricultural labourers of Bihar, under the leadership of the communist revolutionaries and with the aid of their own armed squads. Not only the agricultural labourers, but the poor and lower-middle peasants and the half-labourer-half-tenants are also there in the forefront of the struggle, and in this they enjoy the support of sizeable sections of the middle peasants, too. And the targets are the landlords and those kulaks who have virtually declared a war on the rural poor.
The pages that follow will bring you the saga of this heroic struggle. Over, then, to the flaming fields of Bihar.