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Tonk Movement


Tonk Movement a peasant struggle waged in some parganas of north mymensingh in 1946-50. Tonk is a local land tenure term for rent paid in produce. Why it is called tonk is not clear. Tonk is like the dhankarari (rent in dhan ie, paddy) of south Bengal. Tonk is certainly a tradition of pre-money period, when peasants paid their rent in paddy. Customarily, tonk raiyats paid paddy rent at the rate of 10 to 15 maunds (a maund = 37.5 kg) of paddy for every 1.25 acres of land. In money term this was more than double the rate of cash rent. Hence the raiyats of tonk areas were pressing for a just adjustment of paddy rent with money rent of other raiyats. But zamindars refused to recognise the tonk raiyats as regular raiyats. They argued that the tonk raiyats were little more than cultivating slaves, and were thus not entitled to raiyati rights and the right to commutation from kind to cash rent.

The bengal provincial krishak sabha (BPKS) launched a series of peasant struggles (1946) which included Tebhaga, Nankar, and nachole uprising. moni singh, a communist leader of BPKS in the district of Mymensingh, organised the tonk peasants. Tonk tenure was almost universal in north Mymensingh districts, particularly in the thanas of kalmakanda, durgapur, haluaghat, nalitabari and sreebardi. These places were predominantly cultivated by the raiyats of the ethnic groups of garo and hajong mainly. Under the leadership of Moni Singh, himself a zamindar of Susang Durgapur, the tonk peasant drew up a six-point charter, which made the slogans of the movement. Their demands were: total abolition of tonk system; recognition of tonk peasant rights in land; assessment of rent proportionate to pargana rate of cash rent; waiving the arrears of tonk rent; abolition of zamindari system and annihilation of imperialism. There were police raids in villages, which were reported to have been organising tonk movement. The village people and communist volunteers together gave resistance to such raids. Many were arrested and jailed. In the wake of the Partition of Bengal (1947) the peasant struggle came to a halt for the time being. But very soon tonk movement started again in 1948 and continued until the zamindari system was abolished in 1950. Under the east bengal state acquisition and tenancy act (1950) all tonk peasants were recognised as normal proprietors of the lands they possessed. [Sirajul Islam]