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Baldev Ram Mirdha

Baldev Ram Mirdha (1889-1953) (बलदेवराम मिर्धा) was a great social reformer of the Marwar region in Rajasthan, India. He was born in a Rad (also spelled Rar (राड़)) gotra Jat Hindu family of village Kuchera in Nagaur district in Rajasthan in 1889. His father’s name was Mangla Ram ji. His family was given the work of Department of Post and Telegraph. “Mirdha” was the title awarded to his family for this work by then ruler of Jodhpur. He was founder of ‘Marwar Kisan Sabha’ and ‘Rajasthan Kisan Sabha’. Baldev Ram Mirdha is popularly known as Kisan-Kesari.

In government service

Baldev Ram Mirdha was educated at Jodhpur. After completing his education, he got a job in the department of population. He was appointed sub-inspector in police department in 1914. He became reader of Inspector General, M.R.Kotewala in 1921. He was appointed on the post of police inspector in 1923. He was promoted to the post of Superintendent of Police in 1926 and Deputy Inspector General in 1943. Being on a higher post in Government, he realized the problems of the farmers of the Marwar region of Rajasthan and resigned from his post in 1947 for the cause of poor farmers.

Condition of farmers in Rajasthan

In making an assessment of his work one has necessarily to take ones mind back to the bygone era under the Maharajas and their feudal Lords. The times have changed so much that a youngman born and brought up in these times can hardly appreciate properly the difficult times in which his ancestors had been living since times immemorial. It will be no exaggeration to say that in those days one could not treat even one's body as exclusively his own. Though the position of Kisan in what was Khalsa (under the direct control of the state) was better in comparison to a Kisan of the Jagir areas, he was only a little above a beast of burden. Every thing that the Kisan had, never treated as his own. In Jagir areas all cultivators were really landless. There was no tenancy Law and one could be thrown away from the land one cultivated at the pleasure of Jagirdar, his "malik". In most of the Jagirs a Jagirdar would in the first instance be taking fifty percent of the produce. This would be taken by actual division of the produce on the thrashing floor or by appraisal of the standing crop (kunta). The latter method proved at times more onerous as the appraisal depended on the whims of the Kamdar. Then over and above the share of the produce the Kisan had to pay numerous "lags" or cesses. Together with the share of the produce known as "Hasil" these cesses meant that the Kisans had to part with more than eighty percent of their produce. The findings of the Sukhdeonarain Committee in the years 1940-42 bear this out. If a Kisan had to marry his daughter he had to pay "Chavri Lag" if he held a dinner then a "Kansa Lag"; if members of the family separated then "Dhunwa Lag" and so on. If the Jagirdar had a guest then fodder for his mount had to be supplied. Then there was "begar" that is forced labour, for tilling the personal lands of the Jagirdar. The homestead in which the Kisan lived in the Abadi had to be vacated in case he ceased cultivating the land. He could not alienate the plot to anyone. Then the bigger Jagirdars had judicial powers including magisterial powers. Further they had their own police force besides the revenue staff. This enabled them to keep their stronghold on the Kisans. Over and above this policy of divide and rule was fully practiced. By offering the temptation of giving better land for cultivation one Kisan would be set against another. There were no schools worth the name in rural areas and the masses were steeped in ignorance.

Spread of education

Realizing that it was beyond the means of the Kisans to have their own schools and which was obviously the Government's responsibility, he established chain of the boarding houses instead in the state where sons of the Kisans could live with their frugal means and get educated. With the help of colleagues he got constructed boarding houses at Jodhpur, Barmer, Merta, Parbatsar, Didwana, Nagaur, Pipar etc., towns of Marwar region. Thousands of students used these boarding houses and became Doctors, Engineers, Officers, Politicians, and Teachers etc. By organizing meetings for eradication of evil customs he infused consciousness in them and also tried to bring about unity. He was instrumental in strengthening the Panchayats.

Friend of oppressed farmers

It was in those times that Baldev Ram Mirdha came on the scene as the quide, philosopher and friend of the oppressed Kisans. Heredity and environment had given him many good things of life. He was himself in Govt. service yet he identified himself fully with the cause of the Kisan. The bureaucracy of the times was no means sympathetic to this cause. The Jagirdars were in the Council of Ministers and were on other important posts, which gave them effective leverage. Baldev Ram Mirdha was almost the only Kisan holding an important post. As a wise tactician, therefore, he chose spread of education and eradication of social evils as his tools to work with. He had deep understanding of society in the Marwar region. He tried all his life with full devotion to remove social evils like untouchability, child marriage, woman illiteracy, indebt ness, poverty, backwardness, intoxication, dissipation, bad customs etc. This would not ostensibly give cause of offence to the bureaucracy and the Jagirdars.

He was one-man legal aid forum for the poor Kisans. A Kisan in trouble would go with his problem to his house, the outer portion of which would invariably provide shelter to him and one could not afford to have his meals elsewhere would be served a meal from his kitchen and then he would afford legal aid to him. After a stage was reached, when Kisans could provide some workers, he got established the “Marwar Kisan Sabha”. Though he was not an office bearer he was its alter ego. It became a mighty organization in a couple of years. The Kisan leader of the eminence of Late Sir Chhotu Ram of Punjab was the chief guest at a big Kisan Conference in Jodhpur in 1942. Unlike elaborate arrangements at political meets now-a-days thousands of Kisans would come with bajara bread of flour tied in "potlies" and a water tap and an open area for their stay would do. In other words there used to be no expenditure worth the name of these conferences.

Victory of farmers

Then came the demand for settlement of Jagir lands to cash rents, abolition of cesses, abolition of judicial powers of the Jagirdars, for due for Kisans in Govt. Service and so on. The state could no longer resist these just demands. Judicial and Police powers of the Jagirdars were withdrawn, cash settlement was introduced and cesses were consolidated with rent. This was however not without stiff resistance from the feudal lords. There were riots almost in every big Jagir area. Many Kisans had to perform the Supreme Sacrifice in Dabra, Khinsar, Ratkudia and several other villages, there was lot of bloodshed and these villages have become hallowed places for the Kisans.

On 15th August, 1947 India became free and a popular Ministry was installed in Jodhpur. Recognizing the importance of the Kisan Sabha, its general Secretary [[Nathuram Mirdha]Father's name is Thana Ram Ji Mirdha],Political son of Baldev Ram Mirdha, was included in the Ministry. In about a year the “Marwar Tenancy Act, 1949” was passed and this put the Kisans of Marwar at par with any Kisan in a progressive state. Overnight the tenants in the cultivator possession of their lands became khatedar tenants on April 6, 1949 without paying a pie. This was the achievement of one of the important objectives set forth by Baldev Ram Mirdha.

Abolition of Jagirs

After the formation of Rajasthan, Baldev Ram Mirdha who had by then retired from Government service formed the “Rajathan Kisan Sabha” and unified the Kisans of Rajasthan under its banner. He was its first President. Since the broad objectives of the Kisan Sabha and the congress were identical the congress leaders approached Baldev Ram Mirdha to unite the Rajasthan Kisan Sabha with the Congress. Baldev Ram Mirdha was a visionary and he realized that the two could not and should not remain separate. Therefore, he just made one demand from the national leaders that the Jagirs be abolished forthwith in Rajasthan. This was agreed to by the congress high Command with the result that the two organizations unified like the holy streams at the Prayag Sangam and Kisans became the flesh, bones, and sinews muscles of the congress, indeed the very lifeblood of the congress.

The Jagirs were soon abolished. He threw himself heart and soul for getting maximum numbers of seats for the Congress at the first general elections. In spite of the over whelming odds to the late Maharaja of Jodhpur being in the fray he could secure at least four congress candidates returned from the Nagaur district. So much was the opposition from the Maharaja that even Jai Narain Vyas lost the election at two places where the Maharaja himself opposed him. In the Jodhpur area two of the ex-presidents of the “Marwar Kisan Sabha” were weaned away by the late Maharaja and both of them were got elected as his candidates. However, Baldev Ram Mirdha never gave up hope. He never believed in bedeviling personal relations. In course of time both the members came back and joined the congress. In spite of Baldev Ram Mirdha being the protagonist of the Kisan his personal relations with the Jagirdar were quite friendly. As a statesman, he believed in tactful use of words as would keep old friends, win new ones and over come hostility of those against him.

One cannot under rate his achievements at the first elections. Even one candidate less from Nagaur would have meant that congress would be in minority as against the combined opposition and history would have taken a different course in Rajasthan.

Kisan Kesari

Anniversary of late Baldev Ram Mirdha will always be a great day of the Kisans of Rajasthan in general and former MarwarState in Particular. In remembering him one recalls to one's mind an individual or an institution. The aggregate of traits he possessed and which distinguished him from people of common stuff had shot him up on the terra firma of Marwar. His mental alertness, his ability to quickly asses a situation, clear and logical exposition of a subject in the language which the masses could understand, the depth of interest he took in the welfare of the underdog, his ability for ensuring social cohesion and the qualities of leadership in general made him the idol of Kisans, a position which none else had attained in these parts of our land. It is because of this reason that farmers of Rajasthan popularly call Baldev Ram Mirdha as Kisan-Kesari. Baldev Ram Mirdha was never mindful of his growing old age or ill-health and while working for cause of Kisans nearest to his heart, he breathed his last in harness at Ladnun, only a few months after the elections, getting ablaze a trail for others to follow. He died on August 2, 1953, of heart attack, at the age of 64, while delivering speech in a public meeting.

It will be nice tribute to his memory if the people of Rajasthan in general and Kisans in Particular try to emulate his example and imbibe his virtues in their lives for what illustrious Kisan son lived and worked for. His life will ever inspire the coming generations of Kisan workers.

See also

MIRDHA DAK

Raghuvendra Mirdha

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