Lucknow. As the nation celebrates its 77th Independence Day, The Mooknayak casts a discerning gaze on the freedom struggle, enriched by the Bahujan perspective. In the tapestry of India's struggle for liberty, the spotlight has predominantly illuminated the narratives of upper-caste leaders from privileged backgrounds. Yet, the annals of this arduous journey to independence are adorned with the sacrifices of countless unsung heroes from marginalized segments of society, often overshadowed by the neglect of historians and intellectuals. Madari Pasi stands as a poignant emblem of these uncelebrated freedom fighters who valiantly laid down their lives for the nation's emancipation.
The 1920s was a crucial decade in the follow-up to the Indian freedom struggle. The chain of crucial events in the 1920s cannot be connected if we don't include movements like the EKA movement. The Eka movement was a peasant movement initially started by the Indian National Congress and the Khilafat Movement, but later Madari Pasi took over the movement. EKA, which means Unity, got its name because of the movement's attempts to unite the peasants and small landowners.
The movement started in Lucknow at the end of 1921 and spread to the neighboring districts of Lucknow, Sitapur, Hardoi, and Unnao. The factors that spurred the movement were against high taxation, and the primary cause was the high rent which amounted to more than 50% of the actual rent. Baba Ramchandra started the movement against the rapacious zamindars for raising unjust taxes.
The farmers in the Awadh region were reeling from droughts and heavy taxes imposed by the government. The Eka Movement was launched against the high taxation imposed by the zamindars. Madari Pasi added a nationalist fervor to the movement by raising slogans of Swadeshi and Swaraj. The movement called for resistance through these methods:
The peasants shall not give up their farms when pushed by revenue collectors and were also expected not to do forced labor.
The farmers shall receive a receipt in return for payment of revenue.
The movement was successful in drawing the support of small landowners as well, who were disenchanted by the government's high taxation policy.
Madari devised a strategy to collect funds for the movement and simultaneously draw support for the same. He collected four annas for a ticket, which would have entitled the ticket holders to a piece of land after the country attained "swaraj." A report published in the "Glasgow Herald," a British newspaper, had this to say about the forgotten warrior:
“The ‘Aika movement at Hardoi is undoubtedly dangerous, but for the moment, it is not regarded as critical. The novelty of it appeals to the imagination of the uneducated masses. Madari Pasi, one of the leaders, has been selling tickets at four annas apiece, which is supposed to entitle holders to the possession of lands when ‘Swaraj’ comes into force.”
The movement, which originated from the “Non-Cooperation Movement,” severed itself from it gradually, as the same report also noted, “Non-Co-operators are reported to be somewhat alarmed at the growth of this new movement, which is getting beyond their control.” The movement got detached from the “Non-Co-operation Movement” after reaching its peak in early 1922. However, after it parted ways with the non-co-operation movement, there was a massive onslaught by the British against the organization. There were arrests on a large scale, and Madari Pasi had to go underground. There are conflicting claims regarding his arrests, as some people cite a lack of evidence to dispute the claim of his arrest.
Not many people know that Madari Pasi also met the great martyr, Bhagat Singh. Jaidev Kapoor and Shiv Verma, close associates of Bhagat Singh, have mentioned in an interview given to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) that they met Madari at a park in Kanpur. While the three of them stayed with Madari for a few days, they got to know about the struggles of the peasants. They claim that Madari was arrested and put in jail and that they met him after he was released from Jail. It is believed that it was during the stay with Madari that the socialist leaning of Bhagat Singh was accentuated, and consequently, the word “socialist” was added to HRA, i.e., Hindustan Republican Association, and the organization got its name Hindustan Socialist Republican Association in 1928.
The Mooknayak spoke to Rakesh Verma, who runs Jan Nayak Madari Pasi Jagrati Manch in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh. He says, “There is only one samadhi in his Mohan Khera Village of the Bharawan block in the Hardoi district, and no memorial has been built in the name of Madari Pasi in his home district by the government. He has been ignored by the politicians of the country, like many other freedom fighters belonging to the Pasi Community. This Independence Day, we should resolve to cherish the memories and the sacrifices of the freedom fighters belonging to the marginalized communities who remain buried in the annals of history and have slipped into oblivion." The death of Madari Pasi remains mired in mystery, though it is believed that he died a natural death in March 1931.