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The Blue Rebellion and After

Indian farmers rebelled against being forced to grow indigo plants. In March 1859, thousands of ryots in Bengal refused to grow indigo. This was known as the ‘Blue rebellion’.
  • The farmers refused to pay rent to the planters.
  • They attacked the indigo factories with weapons and their womenfolk attacked with pots and pans.
  • The agents of the planters were beaten.
  • The farmers who worked for the planters were socially segregated.

     Now let us see what gave the farmers the courage to rebel against the Planters

  • The farmers had the support of the zamindars and local headmen and this gave the farmers immense courage.

  • The zamindars turned against the planters as they were not happy at being forced to lease their land for long periods to the planters.

  • The indigo peasants also imagined that the British government would support them in their struggle against the planters.

Before we talk about the aftermath of the ‘Blue Rebellion’ let us once again try to understand the Ryoti system of indigo cultivation.


We have three tiers in this system.

  • The Farmers, ryots or peasants who were poor and actually tilled the land and cultivated the indigo plant. They usually had the support of the village headman.
  • The Planters who were rich and powerful: - They loaned money to the farmers and forced them to grow indigo plants.
  • The British who purchased the indigo dye from the Planters

In the ‘Blue rebellion’ the Farmers rebelled against the Planters

  • After the ‘Blue Rebellion’ the Lieutenant Governor toured the region in the winter of 1859.

  • Ashley Eden, a magistrate issued a notice stating that ryots should not be compelled to grow indigo plants.

  • The British were worried that the rebellion would get out of hand and spread to other regions, so they tried to pacify the farmers.

  • The military was used to protect the Planters from the farmers.

  • Soon, the Indigo Commission was set up to enquire into the system of indigo production.

  • The commission declared that the Planters were unfair and that the farmers were not paid enough for their toil.

  • The Commission also stated that in future the farmers could refuse to grow indigo plants and the Planters did not have a right to force them.

After the ‘Blue Rebellion’, indigo production collapsed in Bengal. Planters shifted their operation to Bihar. When Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa, a peasant from Bihar persuaded him visit Champaran and see the plight of the indigo cultivators there. Mahatma Gandhi’s visit in 1917 marked the beginning of the Champaran movement against the indigo planters.


Champaran Movement

Champaran is a small village about 300km from Patna. It is here that Gandhiji for the first time experimented with the Satayhagraha movement and successfully freed the peasants from the oppressive Indigo cultivation. Gandhiji established an ashram here at a place called Motihari and strived to uplift the poor villagers.

Gandhiji Ashram at Motihari

Gandhiji at the Age of 48, before Coming for the Champaran Satyagraha

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