Birth: 2nd October 1869 in Porbandar (Gujarat)
GANDHI Profile: Lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India. Satyagrah: In South Africa (1893-1915), he successfully fought the racist regime with a novel method of mass agitation, which he called satyagraha. The idea of satyagraha emphasized the power of truth and the need to search for truth.
It suggested that if the cause was true, if the struggle was against injustice, then the physical force was not necessary to fight the oppressor. Without seeking vengeance or being aggressive, a satyagrahi could win the battle through nonviolence. This could be done by appealing to the conscience of the oppressor. People – including the oppressors – had to be persuaded to see the truth, instead of being forced to accept the truth through the use of violence. Through this struggle, the truth was bound to ultimately triumph.
The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2nd October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi’s Peace Prize is given for social, economic, and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
Return to India: He returned to India from South Africa on 9th January 1915.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9th January every year to mark the contribution of the Overseas Indian community to the development of India.
Champaran is a district in North Western Bihar. It formed part of the Tirhut division in the province of Bihar and Orissa in British India. Indigo cultivation in Champaran goes back to the late 18th century. It was in 1813, however, that the first indigo factory was founded at Bara village.
By 1850, indigo had become the predominantly produced crop in Champaran, replacing even sugar.
(Indigo Planter office source: Gandhi in Champaran :D. G Tendulkar)
The predominant system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran was the tinkathia system.
In this, the ryot was under an obligation to cultivate three katas per bigha of his land with indigo i.e., 3/20th of his landholding (1 beegha= 20 katas).
There were no legal grounds for this. It was done solely at the wishes of the indigo factory owners (planters).
Moreover, post-1900, because of competition from the European synthetic indigo, the indigo factories in Bihar started facing a decline. To escape losses, the planters began canceling their agreements with the ryots to grow indigo. To release them from this obligation, they charged a tawan i.e., damages as high as Rs. 100 per bigha. If the ryots could not make a cash payment, then hand notes and mortgage bonds were made at an interest rate of 12 percent per annum.
Planters also suffered harassment and oppression at the hands of factory servants. All this resulted in demonstrations against indigo cultivation in Champaran twice. First, in 1867 when the tenants of the Lalsariya factory refused to grow indigo. Since the redressal of the grievances was not satisfactory, a second demonstration emerged in 1907-08 which witnessed unrest and violence in Sathi and Bettiah against the tinkathia system.
The resentment surrounding indigo cultivation compelled Raj Kumar Shukla, a well-off agriculturist to persuade Mahatma Gandhi to visit Champaran and work for the oppressed peasants. Along with Brajkishore Prasad, a reputed Bihari lawyer who fought cases for the tenants, Shukla first met Gandhi at Lucknow where he had come to attend the Annual Congress Meet of 1916. Initially, Gandhi seemed unimpressed by both of them and clearly stated that unless he saw the situation for himself, he would not do anything.
He followed Gandhi to Kanpur and Sabarmati. Gandhi finally agreed to visit Champaran.
(Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi on their return from South Africa to India in 1915.)
Note: In Champaran Movement Gandhi was assisted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Sinha, Sant Raut, and Pir Younis.
(Sitting (L-R): Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Narayan Sinha. Standing (L-R): local advocates Ramnavmi Prasad and Shambhusaran Varma.)
Gandhiji and Champaran Satyagraha
Gandhiji reached Champaran in 1917 with Raj Kumar Shukla. On his arrival, the District Magistrate served him with a notice saying that he was not to remain in the district of Champaran but must leave the place by the first available train.
Gandhi disobeyed this order. He was summoned to appear before the court. The magistrate said, ‘If you leave the district now and promise not to return, the case against you will be withdrawn.’
‘This cannot be.’ replied Gandhi. ‘I came here to render humanitarian and national service. I shall make Champaran my home and work for the suffering people.’
The charismatic attributes of Gandhi can be judged when he appeared before the crowd and said, ‘You must show your faith in me and in my work by remaining quiet. The magistrate had the right to arrest me because I disobeyed his order. If I am sent to jail, you must accept that as just. We must work peacefully. And a violent act will harm our cause.’
The crowd dispersed peacefully. The police stared at Gandhi in admiration as he went inside the court.
The Government withdrew the case against Gandhi and allowed him to remain in the district. Gandhi stayed there to study the grievances of the peasants.
He took up residence at Hazarimal Dharmashala in Bettiah village. He then visited many villages in the region to study the grievances of the peasants. He recorded the statements and testimonies of 8,000 indigo cultivators to understand their issues and the causes underlying them.
He came to the conclusion that the ignorance of the cultivators was one of the main reasons why it was possible for the European planters to repress them.
He established the first-ever basic school at Barharwa Lakhansen village, 30 km east of the district headquarters at Dhaka, East Champaran, on November 13, 1917, to improve the economic and educational conditions of the people. He also set up two more basic schools at Bhitiharwa with the help of Sant Raut in West Champaran and Madhuban in this district on November 30, 1917, and January 17, 1918, respectively.
Under pressure from the Government of India, the Government of Bihar appointed a committee of inquiry (June 1917).
The recommendations of the committee were implemented, partly by the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1917 and partly by executive orders which contain several concessions and prescription of limits for the enhancement of rents.