What is 'Pagri Sambhal Jatta Movement' and how it is related to the ongoing farmers' protest?

'Pagri Sambhal Jatta Movement' was the farmers' agitation against the three British Laws-- the Doab Bari Act, Punjab Land Colonisation Act and the Punjab Land Alienation Act and can be related to the ongoing farmers' agitation against three Farm Laws introduced by the Government of India.
 Pagri Sambhal Jatta Movement
Pagri Sambhal Jatta Movement

Pagri Sambal Jatta, 
Pagri Sambhal Oo.

(Take care of the Turban, O peasant,

Take care of it.)

These lines are from a famous song 'Pagri Sambhal Jatta', written by Banke Dayal. On 3 March 1907, Banke Dayal (the editor of the Jang Sayal newspaper) sang the song for the first time at a peasants rally in Lyallpur (present-day Faisalabad, Pakistan). The song soon became an anthem against three British Laws-- the Doab Bari Act, Punjab Land Colonisation Act and the Punjab Land Alienation Act. The rally was organised by Sardar Ajit Singh (Bhagat Singh's uncle), Kishan Singh (Bhagat Singh's father) Ghasita Ram and Sufi Amba Prasad. 

They had also established an underground organization 'Mehboobane Watan' or Bharat Mata Society in 1906 with the aim to re-orchestrate the revolution of 1857 on its 50th anniversary in the year 1907. 

The movement came to be known as Pagri Sambhal Jatta Lehar. The movement can be related to the ongoing farmers' agitation against three Farm Laws introduced by the Government of India. 

During the medieval period, only noblemen were allowed to wear a turban but during the Sikh revolution in the 17th century, Guru Gobind Singh declared it as a symbol of defiance. He subverted the selectiveness of a turban, providing common man with a way to claim and assert their own self-esteem. Here, Pagri represents the dignity of the common man. In 1907, Pagri Sambhal Jatta was a call to not let the Pagri fall, literally and figuratively.

What led to the farmers' unrest in the 1900s?

In 1879, the British Government constructed 'Upper Bari Doab canal' to draw water from the Chenab river to Lyallpur (present-day Faisalabad, Pakistan), to set up settlements in an uninhabited area and promised the allotment of free land to the peasants. Thus, the peasants moved and settled in the new lands allotted to them. 

With the enactment of the above-mentioned laws, the British Government became the master of these lands and denied ownership rights of the peasants, reducing them to sharecroppers. 

The new Acts also prohibited the farmers from building the houses or felling the trees on those lands. The law also stated that if the eldest son died before attaining adulthood, the land will become the property of the Government and wouldn't be passed to the younger son. 

Pagri Sambal Jatta Movement

These laws resulted in widespread unrest against the colonial rulers, just like the ongoing farmers' protest against the new Farm Laws 2020. 

Punjab and Haryana emerged as the nerve centre of these protests and Sardar Ajit Singh chose Lyallpur as the centre for the agitation because it was a nearly developed area and had people from almost all parts of Punjab including retired military people who could prove to be useful in bringing about a revolt in the army.

After witnessing the widespread resentment, the British Administration made minor amendments in the laws to put a lid on the protests. Amid the ongoing farmers' protest, the Government of India is also willing to make slight changes in the new Agriculture Laws. 

Bhagat Singh in 1931 wrote, "Just before this meeting, Lala Ji told Ajit Singh that government has made some amendments in colony act. In the gathering, while thanking the government for this amendment, we should request the government to cancel the whole law. However, Ajit Singh made it clear to Lala Ji that the agenda of the meeting was to inspire the public to stop paying agri-taxes," as published in the daily 'Pipal'. 

Sardar Ajit Singh in his autobiography 'Buried Alive' stated, "Lala Lajpat Rai was first hesitant in addressing the meeting, but people shouted that they were anxious to listen to Lala Ji. Seeing the public enthusiasm, he made one of his finest speeches, full of eloquence and spirit." 

He further wrote, "There were riots in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore etc. British personnel were manhandled, mud was flung at them, offices and churches were burnt, telegraph poles and wires cut. In Multan Division, railway workers went on strike and the strike was called off only when the acts had been cancelled. The Superintendent of Police, Phillips, in Lahore was beaten by rioters. British civil servants sent their families to Bombay and ships were chartered to take them to England if the situation got worse. Some families were transferred to forts."

Thus, the major difference between the two is that the 1907 farmers' protest was violent while the 2020 farmers' protest is non-violent to date.

About Sardar Ajit Singh

1- Sardar Ajit Singh was an Indian revolutionary, an Indian dissident and a nationalist during the colonial era. 

2- He was an inspiration to Indian revolutionary and his nephew Bhagat Singh. 

3- He organised agitation by Punjabi peasants against the anti-farmer laws passed by the British Administration. 

4- He openly criticised the colonial government and was amongst the early protestors in Punjab.

5- In May 1907, Sardar Ajit Singh along with Lala Lajpat Rai was exiled to Mandalay in Burma. However, due to great public pressure and apprehension of unrest in the Indian Army, both of them were released in October 1907. 

6- In 1909, Sardar Ajit Singh along with Sufi Amba Prasad escaped to Iran and lived in a self-imposed exile for 38 years. In March 1947, he returned to India and took his last breath on 15 August 1947 at Dalhousie, Punjab-- the same day India was declared independent of British rule and was divided into India and Pakistan. 

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'Pagri Sambal Jatta' Song

Pagri Sambal Jatta, 
Pagri Sambhal Oo.

Hind see mandar saada, is de pujaaree o. 
Jhalenga hor aje, kad tak khuaaree o.
Marane dee kar lai hun toon, chhetee taiyaaree o.
Marane ton jeena bhaida, ho ke behaal o.
Pagri sambhaal o jatta? 

Mannadee na gall saadee, eh bhaidee sarakaar vo. 
Aseen kyon mannie veero, is dee kaar vo. 
Hoi ke katthe veero, maaro lalakaar vo. 
Taadee do hatthad vajadee, chhainiyaan naal vo. 
Pagri sambhaal o jatta?.

Fasalaan noon kha gae keede.
Tan te na disade leede.
Bhukkhaan ne khoob napeede.
Ronde nee baal o.
Pagri sambhaal o jatta?

Ban ge ne tere leedar.
Raaje te khaan bahaadar.
Tainoon phasaun khaatar.
Vichhade pae jaal o.
Pagri sambhaal o jatta?

Seene vich khaaven teer.
Raanjha toon desh e heer.
Sambhal ke chal oe veer.
Raste vich khaal o.
Pagri sambhaal o jatta?

Summary of Indian National Movement

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