Nirjhar’s image resonates with another similar image—the work of artist Gaurishankar that was published in the Allahabad periodical Abhyudaya in Novmber 1931—that we reproduce here. Gaurishankar’s image, like Nirjhar’s, shows a map of India whose space is filled up by the sparsely-clad body of the Indian Farmer (bharatiya kisaan), “crucified” by the burden of the land tax (lagaan). He is attacked by plague (mahaamari), drought (anaavrshti), deluge (ativrishti), poverty (daridrata), and influenza. At the bottom of the cross is the “orphaned family” of the farmer.
Eighty four years separate the two images, and many things have surely changed in the India of 1931 and the India of 2015: after all, in 1931, India was still a British colony, but today it is proud to declare itself an emergent global power.
But has life really changed for the Indian Farmer?
Text by Sumathi Ramaswamy