Eka Movement, also known as Unity Movement, was a peasant movement that occurred in the northern districts of the United Provinces – Bahraich, Hardoi, and Sitapur at the end of 1921. It was a Movement for the betterment of peasants exploited under British rule. The Movement focuses on eradicating the practice of collecting more than the recorded rent from the peasants.
Background – Eka Movement
Initially, the Eka Movement was started by Congress and the Khilafat Movement but later led by Madari Pasi. The Movement began in Lucknow, quickly spread to Hardoi, Sitapur, and Unnao districts, and became a powerful force. It started in November 1921 and continued until April 1922.
Small zamindars, who were disappointed with the British Government due to heavy land revenues, were also part of this Movement.
Causes of Eka Movement
The main reasons for the Eka Movement were:
- High rents (generally 50% higher than the recorded rates in some areas),
- Oppression by thekedars who were entrusted to collect rent,
- Practice of share rent.
Objectives – Eka Movement
- Refused to pay more than recorded rent,
- Demanded receipts for the rent paid,
- Refused to do begar (forced labour) and to pay nazrana (renewal fees).
The meetings of the Eka or Unity Movement involved a symbolic religious ritual in which a hole that represented River Ganga was dug in the ground and filled with water, a priest was conveyed in to preside, and the assembled peasants vowed that they would:
- Pay only the recorded rent but would pay it on time.
- Refuse to do forced labour (begar).
- Not leave when evicted.
- Give no help to criminals.
- Not pay the revenue without a receipt and remain united under any circumstance.
- Abide by panchayat decisions.
Outcome – Eka Movement
As the Movement progressed, the leadership of the Eka Movement changed from Congress to Madari Pasi, a low-caste leader who was not inclined to accept non-violence. Madari Pasi began this Movement from Barabanki, which quickly spread to nearby areas.
Eka Movement, led by Madari Pasi in the Barabanki district, rattled the Congres because of its violent ways. Such radical tendencies did not accord well with the official non-violent policies of Congress, which led to the withdrawal of Congress leaders from the Movement. Mahatma Gandhi was a national leader, and his ideology was based on non-violence. The Eka Movement lost contact with the nationalist class.
The loss of supporters and backing of Congress due to the violent turn of the Eka Movement made it easier for British colonial authorities to repress this Movement.
Many believe that Eka Movement failed due to a lack of proper organisation and leadership. However, through the Movement, the British Government realised the atrocities on the peasants for paying more than the recorded rent.
To quell the agrarian unrest and redress some immediate grievances of peasants, the Government quickly passed the Awadh Rent (Amendment) Act of 1921, which came into effect in November 1921.
Due to increased Government repressions, some peasants left the Movement, and few were satisfied with the benefits of the Oudh Rent (Amendment) Act of 1921.
By March 1922, severe repression by authorities brought the Eka Movement to an end.