Chamba Agitation:Resilience Against Injustice


The Princely State of Chamba, located in present-day Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, witnessed several mass movements between the late 1800s and early 1900s. These movements were often a response to the unjust actions of the ruler or other times due to the atrocities committed by the British.

In the year 1863 AD, during the reign of Raja Shri Singh, the state faced a confusing situation. Under the administration of Raja Sham Singh and his Wazir Govind Ram, the burden of rent on the peasants was extremely high. The government of the princely state employed laborers for state works, and one member from each family was expected to work for the Princely state for six months. Additionally, forced labor (Begar) was also demanded on the orders of British officers. Under these circumstances, the peasantry, led by Bhatiyat Waziri, resorted to the path of agitation.

Chamba Agitation Origins (1896)

Nestled within the tranquil landscapes of Chamba, a fervent struggle against the oppressive "taxes" and the eradication of the "begar" system commenced in the year 1896. This pivotal moment marked the inception of the Chamba Agitation and saw the formation of the "Bhattiyat Wazirat" group, which became the vanguard of the movement. The group's tireless efforts and unwavering resolve against the unjust practices of the ruling authorities inspired many to join the cause, leading to the eventual dismantling of the oppressive system.

Movement Objectives

The objectives of this groundbreaking movement were diverse, aiming at:

  • Refusal to Pay Land Revenue: Cultivators resisted unjust land revenue by steadfastly refusing to pay it.
  • Halting Forced Labor: Opposing coerced labor was a crucial aspect of the resistance movement.
  • Boycott of Public Works:  Residents collectively boycotted public works to amplify their dissent and express opposition to the authorities.
  • The cultivators refused to pay the unfair taxes and land revenue imposed on them. 
  • The residents also denied providing the required supply of porters for the State’s assistance. 
As a result, State officials targeted several agitators and punished them for disobeying the government rules. The Britishers then appointed an esquire committee through the Commissioner of Lahore to resolve the matter. The committee decided that the people were at fault and had caused an unnecessary disturbance in the area. Consequently, the leaders were arrested and punished for instigating the agitation. The rebellion was curbed by the State officials, but the residents continued to suffer from the autocratic government until the early 1900s. 

Chamba People’s Defence League

In 1922, the people of the state who were working in Lahore broke their long-standing silence and made a request to the king to form a 'Representative Advisory Council'. This was a remarkable step towards having a say in their governance and represented a significant shift in the political landscape of the time.

Later, in 1932, the ‘Chamba Peoples Defense’ League was established under the leadership of MA Ahmed. This organization was formed to fight against the maladministration of the government and to educate people on their civil and economic rights. The league had its headquarters in Lahore and worked tirelessly to encourage people to work towards independence. This was a crucial step towards the eventual achievement of independence and paved the way for future efforts towards self-determination.

Formation of Chamba Sevak Sangh

In 1936, the 'Chamba Sevak Sangh' was founded with the aim of serving the society. This union gained the support of the state, and some of the state's employees joined the union. After some time, the union started leading a movement opposing the forced labor system that was prevalent in the region. Due to its stance, the Sangh was banned, and it had to shift its headquarters to Dalohji.

Newspapers Chronicle the Movement

The fervor of the Chamba Agitation was not contained within the town; newspapers like ‘Kesari,’ ‘Inquilab,’ ‘Ghadar,’ and ‘Tribune’ started publishing news about the ongoing movement. These reports reached the ears of national leaders, echoing the struggle across the nation.

Chamba State Peoples Federation and Merger (1947-1948)

In the pivotal year of 1947, the 'Chamba State Peoples Federation' was established.

The struggle against the forced labor system finally bore fruit, and on 15 April 1948, Chamba merged into the Indian Union, becoming a part of Himachal Pradesh. The merger was the result of years of dedication, perseverance, and tireless efforts of the 'Chamba Sevak Sangh' and the 'Chamba State People's Federation'. Their contribution towards society will always be remembered.


The Chamba Agitation stands as a testament to the resilience of a community fighting against injustice. From the initial struggle in 1896 to the ultimate integration into the Indian Union in 1948, Chamba's journey reflects the indomitable spirit of its people.



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