In a span of 117 years it has been estimated that there were around 110 uprisings. The first accounts of peasant uprisings thus came to be written up as administrative documents – dispatches on counter-insurgency operations, investigations etc. (Were these reports were used for understanding subsequent uprisings?)
Was the fact that the recording of these uprisings were done in adinstrative documents the reason behind the peasant being denied his position as a subject of history? Did it convert what could have been, in a sense, history, into an element of administrative concern? Can we. therefore, say that peasant insurgency was assimilated as an element in the career of colonialism, and the peasant was denied recognition as a subject of history in his own right ?
What about the argument of the peasant as the maker of his own rebellion and the attribution of a consciousness to him (and the consequential rejection of the idea that these uprisings were purely spontaneous)? Is there merit in such claims? How does one view these peasant movements in light of the nationalist ideas that charismatic leaders were indispensable, and the Marxist view that these were in some ways pre-political movements?
Can we argue that Hobsbawm’s pre-political societies is a European concept which does not translate well into the “Indian” context because the relationship between landlord and peasant was one of dominance and subordination, of extraction of surplus by pre-determined means and therefore, it was a political relationship of a feudal type which derived its material sustenance from pre-capitalist conditions of production and its legitimacy from a traditional culture still paramount in the superstructure? (Phew!)
What is the role of administrative and revenue collection changes brought about by the likes of the Permanent Revenue Settlement? Can we argue that under the British, landlordism was revitalised, and the local landed gentry gained in power and therefore, as a direct result of this, peasant indebtedness grew? Furthermore, is it feasible to say that due to lack of rent laws, enforceable ceilings, and co-ordination between the harvest and the fiscal calendars, and with the development of a market economy, the landlords turned into moneylenders?
Is this an effective rejoinder? The relationship became deeply political in nature, and there was no way for the peasant to launch himself into grievance redressal projects in a fit of absent-mindedness. Subversion had immense risks inherent – hence, no uprising could take place without proper temporising (not spontaneous). Armed rebellion was undertaken only as a last resort, after deputations and peaceful demonstrations had failed. There was consultation, meetings of clan elders, conventions, gatherings etc. – only when consensus among the entire community was reached did the actual uprising take place (attributes consciousness).
Such insurgency affirmed its political character by its negative and inversive procedure, attempting to force a mutual substitution of the dominant and the dominated in the power structure. It did not lack in leadership, aim, or even a programme, although these were not sophisticated.
You may find this useful-
Some Notes on Peasant Uprisings (thanks due to Gautam!) Peasant Uprisings (some Notes on) (click to download)