ABSTRACT

In the 1940s, when the popular peasant politics was at its peak, the Assamese sharecroppers could hardly find any political mentor for them. The previous chapter discussed how nationalist and religious politics, and more or less independent peasant actions continued to hold sway over rural politics in Assam. While the Muslim League brought hope for better socio-economic conditions to the East Bengali peasants, the Congress nationalists reached out to the Assamese peasants, mostly rich and well-to-do ones. Their ryot sabhas, strategically defending the interests of the Assamese rich peasants-traders-moneylender network, continued to consolidate the Assamese peasants’ interests. On the other hand, the East Bengali poor peasants, supported by their rich brethren, eagerly looked forward to effective political mobilization by the Muslim League. In the meantime, the plight of sharecroppers and landless peasants in the valley hardly found a voice in the political programmes of both the Assam Congress and the Muslim League. Occasionally, both would come to the rescue of these peasants in the legislative space but did not effectively advocate the protection of their interests. Despite this gloomy picture in the 1940s, some amongst the Assamese tenants in the rent-free estates and the sharecroppers took the risk of inviting the wrath of their arrogant and powerful landowners. This was a little odd in the high days of nationalist politics. A small section of the Assamese youth, only recently christened in the communist doctrine of politics, tried to carve out a space within the nationalist political programme. They thought that the nationalist political perspective on the Assamese peasant question would not be able to help rescue the downtrodden amongst the Assamese peasants

from decades of exploitation. Did they succeed? To know this, we must begin our discussion with an enquiry into the early days of politics surrounding tenancy.