ABSTRACT

This chapter introduces and situates the villages under study, fictitiously named Udaynala and Gopinathpur. Both are seemingly peaceful villages in a placid and uneventful landscape. The chapter reviews the existing literature on West Bengal’s agrarian relations and political change. Udaynala and Gopinathpur are adjacent villages, at slighdy less than one kilometre’s distance from each other. They both fall within the Raina No I Development Block located in the Dakshin Damodar region of Burdwan district. Gopinathpur borders on Udaynala in the west. Its population is all Hindu, and numerically quite evenly divided between lower and upper castes. Paddy cultivation is the main source of income and livelihood in both villages. The Indian National Congress dominated West Bengal’s political life after Independence, invariably winning a majority of seats in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly in Calcutta. The situation after Independence, as several studies have shown, was one of a continued pressure on land, swelling the ranks of the poor and landless.