What is the Irwin Canal Movement? How did the movement contribute to the freedom struggle?
India’s struggle for freedom in the 1900s is a collection of numerous collective movements. Some are well known and very present in public memory but the contributions of many smaller movements have faded from public memory.
In Karnataka, the vision to self-governance was born in 1881 with the establishment of the Mysore Representative Assembly. This is 4 years before the beginning of the Indian National Congress. In 1927, Mahatma Gandhi visited the state and stayed here for 4 months kindling the fire for freedom. The Irwin Canal Movement was one of the most prominent events to result from this.
The Irwin Canal Movement
The Irwin Canal Movement was a farmer-led agitation against the irrigation, agriculture, and tax policies issued by the Princely Mysore government. It is commonly known as the Agrarian Revolution.
Events Leading Up To The Irwin Canal Movement
When the Mysore government built the K.R.S. dam and the Irwin canal or the Visvesvaraya canal as it is known today, they decided to impose new taxes on the farming community. They hoped to recover the government contribution to the cost of construction along with the interest due in this way. This hit the farmers hard as they had already spent considerable sums making their land suitable for irrigation.
In addition, the government wanted to impose a new Block system for crop cultivation. This involved growing alternate crops every year and was not practically feasible.
The Irwin Canal Movement
Recognizing the plight of the farmers, Mandya’s freedom fighter leaders, Honagana Hall Puttana and Induvalu Honnaiah met with Sri. H.K. Veeranna Gowda and narrated the issue to him. It was then decided to protest against the new tax policy in Bangalore with a delegation of farmers.
On December 31st, 1931, over 4000 farmers in 100 bullock carts marched from Madduru. These reached Bangalore on January 4, 1932, and gathered outside Attara Kacheri. The march was peaceful and very disciplined. Impressed by the united front, the Dewan of Mysore assured the gathering that their demands would be looked into.
Consequences Of The Irwin Canal Movement
Farmers were given the option to pay the contribution amount in 10 annual interest-free installments. But, they were told that failing to make payments in the stipulated time frame would result in them having to pay the amount with additional interest. Though many farmers paid interest in later years, the movement brought them all together in the fight against British rule.