Published: 16th February 2021
What the FAQ: Who is Sir Chhotu Ram and why is he trending on social media?
Fondly called Deenbandhu, Sir Chhotu Ram was born in British-occupied Punjab on November 24, 1881 where he estblished himself as a politician who worked to support farmers
Many netizens are paying tribute to Sir Chhotu Ram lately with the trending hashtag #RememberSirChhotuRamInModiEra. The prominent politician and leader of farmers has gone down in history for fighting for the interest of oppressed communities across the nation. He is considered the brains behind Punjab’s first agricultural production markets and various legislations that have benefitted the community. With the Samyukth Kisan Morcha (SKM) commemorating the leader today, let’s find out why his legacy continues to be relevant.
Who is Chhotu Ram?
Born in British-occupied Punjab on November 24, 1881, he was a renowned politician in the province. Also fondly called Deenbandhu, he is the co-founder of the National Unionist Party. In 1937, he was knighted for his efforts to unite and work for marginalised communities. In 1920, Ram worked to build a peasant group that did belonged to every community and sect. In 1935, the party won elections and formed a provincial government which brought in laws to limit actions such as usury. When Ram passed away in 1945, Jat farmers from all over made their way to Rohtak where they paid respect to him. He has influenced the formation of a new party in Rajasthan called the National Unionist Zamindara Party in 2013.
What is his legacy?
As a member of the Punjab Legislative Council, Ram passed the Punjab Land Revenue (Amendment) Act in 1929 which has long-lasting effects on the state's agricultural practices. A year later, the Punjab Regulation of Accounts Act was able to address the exploitation of peasantry. Along with the Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act, the series of reforms made it mandatory for moneylenders to register themselves before lending money to farmers. In 1939, he transformed agricultural legislation with the Mandi Act or the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act. Thanks to this, market committees were formed in various areas which worked exclusively to ensure the farmers were not exploited when it came to their produce and how it was sold in the market.
How is he being remembered?
Farmers in Haryana have espoused Ram as a symbol of their struggle having added his image to wedding invitation cards and other documents. On their commemoration of Ram today, the SKM announced, “The Unionist Party that he set up brought in a law against usury in the 1930s, that protected peasants from the clutches of moneylenders and restored the right of land to the tiller of the land.”
They also said, “Sir Chhotu Ram is also credited for establishing the mandi system in India, and it is this system that the present farmers' movement seeks to protect and improve. On February 16, SKM calls on all its constituents to organise meetings that explain the contributions of Sir Chhotu Ram and the need to further strengthen the ongoing movement, taking inspiration from exemplary people like him."