Pithoragarh: A symbolic rally was held up to the bank of the Sarayu river in Bageshwar on Wednesday to mark 100 years of an agitation by peasants of Kumaun region against the exploitative practice of engaging forced labour known as "coolie begar" during the British era.
"The agitation was launched on the occasion of Uttarayani festival (Sankranti) on January 14, 1921 with villagers immersing ''Coolie begar'' registers in the Sarayu river in protest against the practice under which they were forced to carry luggage of touring British officials from one place to another without any payment," Ranjit Singh Bora, organiser of the symbolic Satyagraha rally, said.
"Led by Kumaun leader Badri Dutt Pandey, the agitation in which 40,000 people from all over Kumaun participated, was against offering forced labour (begar) to touring British officers," he said.
Villagers were even forced to carry toilet pits, Bora said.
Commemorating 100 years of the agitation which led to the end of the practice, a senior citizen welfare trust took out the Satyagraha rally from the main chawk of the town till the bank of the Sarayu river.
Badri Dutt Pandey, the leader of the agitation, was conferred the title of "Kumaon Kesari" after the agitation.
The main attraction of the symbolic rally on Wednesday was the presence of Col (Retd) Ravindra Pandey, the grandson of Badri Dutt Pandey.
The agitation, a first-of-its-kind in Kumaun region at that time, was launched after the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi. This prompted Gandhi to visit Kumaun region in the year 1929, senior Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) leader K S Airi said. —PTI