Thakur Deshraj


Thakur Deshraj

Thakur Deshraj (Hindi: ठाकुर देशराज) (1903-1970) was a social worker, nationalist and a historian of Rajasthan in India. He was born in village Jhagina of district Bharatpur in Rajasthan, India. He was revenue minister in the princely state of Bharatpur. His wife was Tribeni Devi.

Condition of farmers in Rajasthan before independence

Before independence the state of Rajasthan, which came into existence on 30th March 1949, was a union composed of several princely states of Rajputana. The condition of the farmers in Rajasthan was bad. The farmers of the Rajasthan were exploited and oppressed by the Jagirdars during British Raj. They were deprived of fundamental rights. They were given inhuman treatment when the Jagirdars did not get cesses known as “lag”(tax) or “begar”(forced work) in time, they were given hard punishments and their crop used to be destroyed. The farmers were tenants of the land and their condition was deplorable under the exploitation of landlords called Jajirdars, Zamindars and Bishwedars etc. The tenant had no right over the land cultivated by him. He was only the tiller of the soil, but was under the whimsical mercy of those landlords.

But the farmers as a class were awakening under the leadership of Thakur Deshraj and there was turmoil of the tiller demanding, “Land to tiller”. Thakur Deshraj united farmers of Rajasthan under the banner of Jat Mahasabha. He led the movement of nonpayment of cesses to Jagirdars in 1000 villages of district Jhunjhunu. He organized successful mass rallies of farmers of Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This hostile state of affairs led the newly formed state government to take immediate steps to reconcile the situation. The pressure of protection of the tenants was so immense that the government had to take immediate steps and with this aim “The Rajasthan Protection of Tenants Ordinance, 1949” was promulgated to meet the burning need of the time. Thus Thakur Deshraj was an instrument of change in the abolition of Jagirdars in Rajasthan.

Thakur Deshraj in Shekhawati farmers’ movement

Background

In Sikar district, Rajasthan, there were 500 villages of the Jats in one grouping, but in contrast to Haryana and Uttar Pradesh their condition was very backward during British rule. The condition was poor and destitute. The reason for this was the existence of the Rajput feudal Thakurs (Bikaner and Shekhawati). In this vast spread out region, there was not a single primary school. The farmer communities, including Jats, could not put Singh to their names. They could not wear a colored Pagri or turban. They could not sit on a charpoy in front of the Rajput Thakur. They were treated as untouchables. Their ladies were made to wear clothes similar to those worn by lower classes. They were not allowed to wear gold ornaments. On his wedding day the their bridegroom was not allowed to ride a horse. Fifty-one kinds of taxes called ‘lagh’ were imposed on the farmers. There was no Law or Court. The only law was that of the Thakur. The Jats and other communities had totally suppressed by the continual atrocities committed by the feudal arrogant Rajput .

Thakur Deshraj wrote the Jat history in 1934 at the same time he also published local newspapers to promote the farmers to fight for their rights and awakened them to realize the self-respect. He started a newspaper named ‘Rajasthan Sandesh’ in 1931 for this purpose. With his efforts the All India Jat Mahsabha could be associated with the farmer movement in Shekhawati.

Pushkar "adhiveshan" (conference) 1925

Thakur Deshraj came to Pushkar in 1925 in the adhiveshan of All India Jat Mahasabha, which was presided over by Maharaja Kishan Singh of Bharatpur. Sir Chhotu Ram, Madan Mohan Malviya, Chhajju Ram etc. farmer leaders had also attended. This function was organized with the initiative of Master Bhajan Lal Bijarnia of Ajmer-Merwara. The farmers from all parts of Shekhawati had come namely, Chaudhary Govind Ram, Kunwar Panne Singh Deorod, Ram Singh Bakhtawarpura, Chetram Bhadarwasi, Bhuda Ram Sangasi, Moti Ram Kotri, Har Lal Singh etc. The Shekhawati farmers took two oaths in Pushkar namely,
#They would work for the development of the society through elimination of social evils and spreading of education.
#‘Do or Die’ in the matters of exploitation of farmers by the Jagirdars.

Visit to Mandawa

Thakur Deshraj came to Mandawa in 1929 to take part in ‘Arya Samaj’ function and realized the social problems of Jats in Shekhawati region. He published a series of articles in ‘Jatveer’ on the acts of oppression on farmers, which awakened them. Later ‘Jatveer’ paper was also published from Jhunjhunu. The paper ‘Ganesh’ published by him from Agra also played an important role in farmers’ movement. Thakur Deshraj along with Pundit Tarkeshwar Sharma circulated hand written newspaper called ‘Gram Samachar’ started in 1929. Later he also published newspaper ‘Kisan’. All these papers created a revolutionary change in the farmers.

Formation of Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha

In the series of Pushkar function next adhiveshan of All India Jat Mahasabha was organized at Delhi in 1931 under the chairmanship of Rana Udaybhanu Singh of Dholpur state. Large number of farmers from Shekhawati took part in it. At this adhiveshan Thakur Deshraj constituted ‘Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha’.

Establishment of ‘Shekhawati Kisan Jat Panchayat’

With the efforts of Thakur Deshraj a sabha of Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha took place at Badhala village in Palsana. It was attended by famous revolutionist Vijay Singh Pathik, Baba Nrisingh Das, Chaudhary Laduram (Gordhanpura). It was resolved in this meeting that –


#Jat Panchayats be established to prevent the excesses of Jagirdars,
#The sons of farmers be given education and fight with Jagirdars with the organizational support.
#Efforts are made for the economical, social and cultural development of farmers.
#The farmers are given the khatoni parcha after the settlements of their lands.

With these objectives ‘Shekhawati Kisan Jat Panchayat’ was established in 1931 in Jhunjhunu.

Jhunjhunu "adhiveshan" (conference) 1932

There was a grand gathering of farmers under the banner of Jat Mahasabha in Jhunjhunu on 11-13 February 1932. 60000 Jat farmers attended it. Thakur Deshraj camped at Jhunjhunu for 15 days to make it a success. The farmers from all parts of India attended it. It was presided by Rao Sahib Chaudhary Rishal Singh Rayees, who was escorted from station to the place of meeting on elephant accompanied by a carvan of camels. This program was of Jats but all the communities cooperated and welcomed. Kunwar Panne Singh Deorod welcomed this rally where as Vidyadhar Singh Sangasi did the welcome of ‘Jaipur Prantiya Jat Kshatriya Sabha’ rallies. Though the Jagirdars did all attempts to make it a failure, but it proved a success. On the appeal of fund collection the participant farmers donated their gold ornaments, which they were wearing. This was the first opportunity of awakening the Shekhawati farmers and proved a grand success. Sardar Harlal Singh and Chaudhary Ghasi Ram had traveled a lot for its publicity and spread its message. Some of the competent people were awarded Kshatriya titles. For example Chaudhary Har Lal Singh was awarded as ‘Sardar’, Ratan Singh of Bharatpur as ‘Kunwar’ and Chaudhary Ram Singh as ‘Thakur’. Thus the Rajput monopoly over these titles vanished.

As the tenth guru of Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh made Sikhs as ‘Singh’, Thakur Deshraj made the farmers of Shekhawati as ‘Singh’. Thakur Deshraj floated three slogans in this function namely,

#Keep your aims high
#Leave the social evils
#Change your dress and put Singh after your name.

The Jhunjhunu adhiveshan brought wonderful changes in the life and culture of the farmers of Shekhawati. Their morals were boosted up and other classes accepted the Jats as noble Aryans and Kshatriyas. The success of Jhunjhunu adhiveshan not only changed the life of Shekhawati farmers but those of Jaipur and Bikaner princely states also. After this there were programmes started to improve the social life of the Jat community.

The Jat Prajapati Maha-Yagya 1934

After successful Jhunjhunu adhiveshan in 1932, a deputation of Jats from Sikar district, under the leadership of Prithvi Singh Gothra met Thakur Deshraj and requested him to do a similar adhiveshan in Sikar also. After long discussions Thakur Deshraj proposed to have a yagya at Sikar. A meeting for discussing this issue was called in Palthana village in October 1933. This was attended by all activists from Shekhawati and one member was invited from each family in Sikar district. About 5000 people gathered in the meeting. The Sikar thikana wanted to make this meeting a failure. For this, the thikanedar sent hundreds of handcuffs loaded on camels along with the police force to terrorize the people taking part in the meeting. [Dr Pema Ram & Dr Vikramaditya Chaudhary, Jaton ki Gauravgatha (जाटों की गौरवगाथा), 2004, Publisher - Rajasthani Granthagar, Jodhpur, p. 145 ] Thakur Deshraj addressed the people that :"these handcuffs would get you independence. If you are afraid of these you would never get freed. We have gathered here for a religious purpose and we will complete". [Dr Pema Ram & Dr Vikramaditya Chaudhary, Jaton ki Gauravgatha (जाटों की गौरवगाथा), 2004, Publisher - Rajasthani Granthagar, Jodhpur, p. 146 ]

These words of Thakur Deshraj played a lightening effect amongst the people and they all were energized for further struggle with the Jagirdars. People listened the leaders very calmly and meeting was a great success. Police could do nothing. The leaders who attended the meeting were Sardar Harlal Singh, Chaudhary Ram Singh Kunwarpura, Chaudhary Ghasi Ram, Kunwar Net Ram Singh, Panne Singh Deorod's elder brother Bhoor Singh etc. There was a speech by Master Ratan Singh Pilani. A resolution was passed in this meeting to conduct a seven day "Jat Prajapat Mahayagya" (Prayer ceremony for the Lord of Universe) in Sikar on next "basant" in 1934, to spread the principles of Arya Samaj and create awakening in Shekhawati. It was decided for this purpose to collect "ghee" and money from each household. A "yagya" committee was formed consisting of Chaudhary Hari Singh Burdak of Palthana village as its president, Master Chandrabhan Singh as minister. Deva Singh Bochalya, Thakur Hukum Sing and Bhola Singh were made incharge of publicity. [Dr Pema Ram & Dr Vikramaditya Chaudhary, Jaton ki Gauravgatha (जाटों की गौरवगाथा), 2004, Publisher - Rajasthani Granthagar, Jodhpur, p. 146 ] The office of managing committee was earlier in Palthana. In December 1933 this office was transferred to Sikar.

The Jat Prajapati Maha-Yagya took place at Sikar from 20 - 29 January 1934. Kunwar Hukam Singh Rahees Angai (Mathura) was made Yagyapati or Chairman of the Yagya. Chaudhary Kaluram of village Kudan was the Yagyaman. Acharya Shri Jagdev Sidhanthi received an invitation for this Yagya at his Gurukul at Kirttal, In that invitation was he requested to attend the Yagya and bring twenty Bhramcharis and disciples with him. Volunteers went to all the households in all the villages in the region and collected material that would be needed. They collected Ghee, Flour, Gur, and invited all the householders to participate. Hundreds of cans of Ghee and hundreds of sacks of flour were collected.

During the Yagya 3000 men and women adopted the "Yogyopavit", which was a symbol of "Kisan sangathan"(farmers' organization). Sheetal Kumari daughter of Kunwar Netram Singh adopted yagyopavit. Chaudhary Chimana Ram of Sangasi brought his wife wearing salwar-kurta. The unity of Jat farmers in this Yagya had terrified the Jagirdars of Sikar. The role played by Sardar Har Lal Singh and Thakur Deshraj was unparallel which made this yagya a grand success.

In December 1934, ‘All India Jat Students Federation Conference’ was organized at Pilani; the coordinator of it was Master Ratan Singh. Sir Chhotu Ram, Kunwar Netram Singh, Chaudhary Ram Singh, Thakur Jhumman Singh, Thakur Deshraj and Sardar Har Lal Singh, along with large number of farmers from various states, attended it. This conference gave a great strength to the Jat youth.

Effect of Jat Prajapati Mahayagya

The Shekhawati Jat movement had its genesis in the Jat Praja Pati Maha-Yagna a socio-religious festival held in January 1934. It lasted ten days and was the biggest of its kind in Rajputana. It facilitated a widespread involvement of Jats in a community festival. Each Jat household attending it was to contribute some cash and an unspecified quantity of ghee. A total of two hundred maunds of ghee were used in the sacrificial flame. The function concluded with a triumphal elephant ride hitherto prohibited by the rules of Sikar Thikana. The success of this movement encouraged the Jats to hold more meetings on local levels and print literature to glorify Jat history. The Yagna became a dominant symbol of folklore, which glorified it as the beginning of an anti-feudal struggle. The peasants demanded remissions in taxes and finally a Jat-Sikar Thikana Agreement was signed on August 23, 1934, by which the Thikana authorities conceded to abolish various lags (taxes) and agreed to provide for a mobile dispensary. The following year, the Kisan Sabha formally came into existence andUnder its aegis the famous Sikar Andolan of 1935 was launched. With outside mediation efforts of Jamnalal Bajaj, Sir Chhotu Ram-a renowned Jat leader of Punjab and Ratan Singh of All India Jat Mahasabha, a settlement was arrived at and the Jats were promised remissions of rent, abolition of internal cesses and an introduction of fixed rent tenure.

Jaysinghpura firing incident 1934

On 21 June 1934 brother of Dundlod thakur in Shekhawati ordered firing on farmers of Jaysinghpura when they were laughing their fields and attacked them with a force of 100 horsemen and camel riders. Chaudhary Tiku Ram was injured in firing and died. On the appeal of Thakur Deshraj, 21 July 1934 was celebrated as ‘Jaysinghpura golikand diwas’ at various places. Under heavy pressure of Jat farmers the resident and home member state council sent the I.G. Jaipur Mr F.S. Young himself for the enquairy. Mr. Young arrested 17 attackers on the farmers and sent them to Jail. Rajasthan Jat Kisan Panchayat pleaded the case and got punished Thakur Ishwar Singh and others. This was the first opportunity when Jaipur had punished a thikanedar and arrest warrants issued against a tajimi sardar. This was a great victory of Shekhawati farmers after which they did not look back till they got the Jagirs abolished.

Historian

Thakur Deshraj is author of the book on History of Jats in Hindi Jat-Itihasa (Hindi: जाट इतिहास) published in 1934. [ [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JatHistory/files/%20HistoryofJats%20-Desraj-/ Jat History by Thakur Deshraj online] ] He also published local newspapers to promote the farmers to fight for their rights and awakened them to realize the self-respect. He started a newspaper named ‘Rajasthan Sandesh’ in 1931 for this purpose. He published a series of articles in ‘Jatveer’ on the acts of oppression on farmers, which awakened them. Later ‘Jatveer’ paper was also published from Jhunjhunu. The paper ‘Ganesh’ was published by him from Agra. Thakur Deshraj along with Pundit Tarkeshwar Sharma circulated hand written newspaper called ‘Gram Samachar’ started in 1929. Later he also published newspaper ‘Kisan’. All these papers created a revolutionary change in the farmers.

References

*Dr Gyan Prakash Pilania: Shekhawati Kisan Andolan ke Prernakunj – Thakur Deshraj, Jat Samaj, Agra, June 2005
*Jat Samaj: Agra, August 1991
*Dr Mahendra Singh Arya: Jat Gotra Shabdavali, Jaypal Agencies Agra,
*Thakur Deshraj: Jat Itihas (Hindi), Maharaja Suraj Mal Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi, 1934, 2nd edition 1992.


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