The Blue Monkey In Golden Bengal : Understanding the colonial policy and socialconditions of the indigo rebellion’s peasant

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för statsvetenskap (ST)

Abstract:  This thesis investigates some social factors that instigated Bengal’s peasants to revolt against theBritish colonial raj repeatedly. The majority of peasant rebellions of Bengal have been examinedfrom the view of political economy, where the general perspective is that peasants revolted becauseof economic exploitations by planters, landlords, and other classes. However, this study argues forextending beyond the political-economic view, and for the importance of also bringing in overallsocial conditions in the examination of peasant rebellions. From these perspectives, this studyexamines a single case, the Indigo rebellion of Bengal, in relation to colonial policy, institutionalarrangements and peasants’ social condition.Archival data, Indigo commission report of 1860, books, academic articles, political drama, etc.,have been used as data sources for the study. To get a personal experience of the indigo rebellion,I have traveled to some districts where the indigo rebellion occurred and discussed with thepeasants to find some oral history. By applying the case study research method, I have analyzedthe data with the thematic analysis method. Commercialization of agriculture, moral economy, andexpansion of the market economy theory has been applied to analyze the data.This study finds that colonial policy and institutional arrangement created conditions to exploit thepeasants’ labor and wealth. The first significant change brought in Bengal by colonial power wasthe change in land ownership. Because of the Permanent Settlement Act, land became a productof money-making in the colonial state. The second significant effect of colonial rule is the changeof agricultural mode of production. The study also shows the commercialization of agriculture thattransformed the traditional method of agriculture, shifted the entire ‘production risk’ on thepeasants’ shoulders, and created insecurity of peasants’ subsistence. Thus, this study indicates thatBengal’s peasants repeatedly revolted because of colonial institutional arrangements andextractive land, economic, social, and indigo production policies that made peasant life miserable 

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