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Good News Weekly for Rising India

Vol-1 | Issue-14 | March 26, 2017 | Price ` 5/-

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha 02



Gandhi launched many of his experiments in Champaran, including health and sanitation as well as education




By remaining peaceful and keeping the media in check, he proved that the indigo insult could be undone




The epic struggle to free Champaran farmers from forced indigo farming brought him the title Mahatma




Sulabh India is fulfilling the dreams of Gandhiji in installing toilets and freeing human scavengers




In the heated debate over non-violence he was opposed by many but proved it is not a weapon for the weak

30 Recalling Champaran Satyagraha on its centenary is revisiting the discovery of non-violent methods of protest and lessons drawn from them



In Champaran Gandhi had many top associates, but it was Braj Kishore Babu who he never let leave his side


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017




ARVIND MOHAN The author is a senior journalist, political commentator and socialist thinker

Mahatma Gandhi launched many of his experiments in Champaran. He did not collect a single penny as donation. He also took care that British Raj couldn’t brand it a violent struggle in any way

At first the

peasants liked the Indigo farming that earned them hard cash. They did not know its use and in very little time growing indigo became unprofitable for them


HAMPARAN has been the focus of historical attention for a long time -from Janak to Chandragupta Maurya, from Ashoka to the Mughal rule. When the Dutch, the French and the English arrived here to trade in Indigo and export it, the initiative looked pretty profitable because it was providing opportunity for extra income besides agricultural production. The fertile soil producing commercial crops like cane, opium, chillies and turmeric, promised a new phase of development. But soon the only people who continued to live here were the British, all others were compelled to migrate through severe thrashing. The British took over Bettiah, Ramnagar, and Madhuban states and after taking their agriculture rights, imposed land-revenue tax and cess-taxes on the region. The new combination of trade, administration and the old feudal structure created such terror that the lives of peasants became hell. People left their fertile and rich

region seeking respite and mercy. But the British and Indigo farmers rule created such a situation that they couldn’t salvage their money or reputation. Whenever any voice of protest was raised, the oppression became greater. No plea was of any consequence because the thief, the looter also the police were all one and the same. CHAMPARAN INDIGO - THE BEST Indigo production from Champaran and Tirhut was considered to be the best and the entire business of dying and clouring depended on it. The price of indigo became 50 times higher by the time it reached the markets of London and Europe from Champaran. If even a fraction of this benefit had reached Champaran, the district today would have scaled unimagined heights. On the contrary, the peasant here was caught with this one crop throughout the year and every year Nilhe (Indogo planters) forced them to grow indigo on the new

fields because continuous harvest made the fields less fertile. Although this marked the beginning of contract farming, eventually it became a structure in which power, zamidari rights and bullying, a part of the fields was confiscated - 5 katta from the first bigha i.e. one-fourth of total land and from subsequent lands 3 kattas per bigha because of which this crop came to be known as ‘teen-kattiya’. Also

Snapshots Indigo planters had local farmers of Champaran caught in a vicious grip The farmers of Champaran were allowed to sow only what the planters wanted Heavy taxes were levied by the British regime to those refusing to pay

MARCH 26, 2017

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha


THE NEED FOR A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF CHAMPARAN Mahatma Gandhi made sure that by 1942 British Indigo planters had to leave Champaran in a bloodless coup


HE need is to look at the Champaran satyagraha in a new light because Gandhi had invested a great deal of energy, time and resources in the same. He had included the assistance of many supporters. It was the beginning of many new projects. Gandhi’s visit to was a historical event but this experiment was in many ways unique. In addition to establishing Gandhi’s strength, it also proved to be the story of a public’s strength to rise up against injustice. It was also the story of Gandhi’s own efforts to establish a relationship with the hundreds and thousands of people and their problems, the people who spontaneously placed their trust in him. Champaran was a new place for Gandhi, also the support from people who had invited him there had its clear limitations. The society was fragmented into castes and groups. The administration supported Nilhe had spread their net everywhere, and the zamidars oppression was visible in every matter. On his own, Gandhi had come with some preparation. Some party workers along with Kasturba were in a position to come with some resources and monetary help. His experience of socialpolitical work in South Africa too was in his mind. It definitely makes an interesting and inspiring story to see how his stay Champaran sorted out the varied issues : there was no experienced worker not just in Champaran but entire Bihar, for every one coming from outside there was one servant and cook to accompany him, unknown territory, difficult weather, problems with dialect and language and so on. It is to be imagined how Gandhi toured in the area during April’s hot weather, how he convinced the leaders to eat together, how he persuaded the famous lawyers to

peasants were compelled to work begari (without wages), their ploughbulls and carts taken away at the time when they were needed and heavy fines imposed for the slightest error. There was no mention in the contract as to how the crop would be produced and in what quantity or what would be the farmers’ share in the transaction. Therefore it ultimately became the peasants’ responsibility to sow the crop, irrigate it, check the growth, harvest it and send it to the factories; while the planters had absolute power simply to get all the jobs done. At first the peasants liked the crops

give up their career and how he linked up the major subjects of education, health and sanitation with the movement against nilhe. When Gandhi went to Calcutta with Rajkumar Shukl he had with him only a small bundle of bedding, some papers and a box of peanuts and dry fruits because at this time he did not eat any grains or milk. He had informed some people in Ahmadabad Ashram and some friends about his planned visit to Champaran. In Calcutta people known to Bhupendra Nath Basu had some inkling of this plan but body in Bihar knew about it. In his letter to Maganlal Gandhi on reaching Muzaffarpur speaks about the difficulty he faced in Patna. Although Gandhi had begun to write letters regularly and his programs were fixed up much in advance, few people had information about his plans. Another big step that Gandhi took in Champaran was that he linked up a regional anguish to the national movement. He brought awareness, action and freedom for half the population which was trapped in ignorance and invisibility. Prior to this, there had been no beginning for any grass-root movement not only in Bihar but also the entire country. Gandhi brought Congress into the arena through Champaran and also a region into the national picture. The more aware people in Champaran like Rajendra Babu, Brijkishore Prasad, Rajkumar Shukl, Ramnavami Prasad, Gorakh Prasad, Peer

that earned them hard cash at the very start. Cane and opium farming was different experience and growing indigo was an entirely a different story. They did not know any use of this crop and in very little time growing indigo became unprofitable for them. Humiliation and suffering indignities was a new experience, but there was protest too. On several occasions there was violent opposition - first on personal scale and then collectively. But when the entire administration was behind indigo planters, every violent opposition proved to be the cause of further difficulties. Then

Mohammad Munis and Harbans Sahai had heard about the Congress and wanted to be part of it. Gandhi’s movement made them active Congress men and warriors in the national movement. All these people consider themselves to be blessed that Gandhi introduced them to the real rural India and the real problems of the country and also introduced them to a new path to solve these problems, away from the hassles of legalities and the court. Champaran emerged at the top in following Gandhi’s creative experiments. Although one of the poorest areas it proved to be the most resourceful in this respect and there was no suspicion of violence in any phase. In 1942 the English administration almost disappeared from Champaran but without any trace of violence. It also

happened that the British power which 25 years ago had witnessed the guts of the Champaran people, did not dare to inflict atrocities in the region. Some violence did take place in certain regions of Bihar during partition but as soon as Gandhi arrived there not only did the riots ceased but the perpetuators of violence rush to the forefront to maintain peace. Gandhi himself found this to be the foundation of his belief in the basic goodness in of human beings and also throwing in everything into the process of maintaining peace. Gandhi had traveled absolutely alone not only to Champaran but also to Bihar. In a month or two he made disciples and supporters beyond count. These included lawyers who charged fees up to 10 thousand but agreed to do clerical work and Bhojpuri translation from English/Hindi, only for Gandhi’s sake. After this they did not find it inconvenient to walk 10 miles, wash clothes, clean utensils, sleep on floors and travel in 3rd class. They were ready to go to jail and be caned, and accept one or two all others became Gandhians for life. These also included the people who had participated in nonGandhian manner within and outside Champaran. Rajendra Prasad, Kriplani and others took on major roles in the national politics while men like Anugrah Babu and Ramdayalu Babu played important role in Bihar politics. Brijkishore Prasad, Shambhu Sharan Verma and Rajkumar Shukl did remain alive to shoulder bigger responsibilities late but remain Gandhians and nationalists to their last breath. Prajapati Mishra, Vipin Behari Verma, Vibhuti Mishra, Kedar Pandey, Kamal Nath Tiwari and hundreds of others became active during this movement and worked for the country and for Gandhi throughout their life.

Gandhi had arrived fully prepared in Champaran. He was alone, without means and was also aware of the good and bad things prevailing in the society

came the phase of letter writing and efforts were made to send a word to the British monarchy. But there was no solution. Legal battles were fought but then how many people could go to the court. Moreover courts too were a part of the administration. The matter was not confined to peasants. The

indigo farming operation which had enchained the farmers also employed more than 35,000 workers employed in more than 100 kothis and factories. All of them were paid wages in cash. In the beginning the workers too liked the work and the regular income. Because of this, they even clashed


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

with the farmers. But later even the workers decided that they had had enough when the firangi raj along with all the old feudal ills created a trap for their meager earnings through extortion, commission, taxes etc. Therefore people from all groups joined in the protest against indigo planters and in the violent clashes during 1908-9 people started looking for new options. Gandhi reached there as part of this process. THE DECISION TO INVITE GANDHI The decision to approach Gandhi was taken by people who had new ideas despite being defeated in the earlier protests. At that time Congress unit had not been properly constituted in Bihar let alone Champaran. The Congress workers in Bihar worked under some other names but attended the convention as Congress men. Then there was Lucknow convention of Indian National Congress, in which the number of representatives from Bihar was not known. Raj Kumar Shukla who attended the convention, invited Gandhi to Champaran. Probably just one or two people only from the intelligence had attended the convention posing as Congress representatives. Gandhi had deliberately kept away the name of Congress in Champaran because it would provide the administration additional reason to suppress the protests and instead of viewing it as

MARCH 26, 2017

As soon as Gandhi realised that the Indigo

planters will not be able to continue with their activities, he began working for his third goal the peasants’ problem, they will see it as a part of the national struggle and will handle it accordingly. Since Gandhi was particularly cautious about this matter he stopped Madan Mohan Malviya, Mazrul Haq and other important leaders for joining the movement directly. At times when confrontation was imminent, Gandhi used his influence to prevent it. Several times he held on certain issues to make the British and the protesters agree to his point. At other times he compromised himself but did not allow the movement to be derailed. Now it is publicly known that there were several reports - including the plot to poison him that Gandhi kept to himself in order to prevent an uproar leading to digressions in the movement. GANDHI CAME FULLY PREPARED Gandhi personally, had arrived fully prepared in Champaran. He was conscious that he was alone, without means but well prepared and was also aware of the good and bad things prevailing in the society. He had made arrangements for certain means when

he reached Champaran and refused out rightly to accept any charity and donation. He had given instructions during the movement that no one should write or discuss the matter, should not organise lectures and meetings and should keep away the press. Not just this, Gandhi never linked the Champaran movement to the said national movement. Contributions were taken from outside Champaran but not spent there. Later when during the 10 month movement it was discovered that expenses were well within 2200 rupees only, Gandhi was overjoyed and said that they were actually able to save 500 or a 1000. Although he was worried about finding volunteers and the financial aspect of Sabarmati Ashram and other commitments, but at this time his primary anxiety was Champaran. Instead of bringing people from outside to Champaran he exercised the reverse option, sending people out of Champaran. Swami Satyadev was one such worker who was sent to south India from Champaran to promote the Hindi language. In Champaran Gandhi did

not speak of any revolution, no call to uproot powers, he did not argue about alternatives to violence, and did not lead any movement against the destruction of records by mahajans or the bashing up of zamidars by the peasants. While staying in Champaran he did not mention any caste or any community. He spoke a little Hindi, but only that. He did not go on fasts but left everything to pay attention specifically to matters when they threatened to turn violent. He extended affectionate behaviour not only to the English bosses but also to the Indigo planters. There is no evidence that he expressed any bitterness against Indigo planter Wilson, who attacked him at every point and probably even tried to poison him. However when he made a personal accusation against Kasturba then Gandhi who generally kept away from media debate gave a reply, albeit without any bitterness. It is due to this that in all writings by British officers one does not find a direct criticism of Gandhi. While Gandhi was burning down their palaces, planters too usually criticised his supporters instead of attacking him directly though Gandhi was working directly against them. GANDHI’S GOAL After looking at Gandhi’s orders, suggestions, observations and conduct, he seems to be focused on achieving only three goals - one, to end the suffering of peasants in Champaran, two, to dispel the fear of administration and the white men, third, the attempt to give a local alternative to the oppressive British system. The first job he accomplished with gusto and exercised great pressure on the British administration. He did not allow this matter to get diluted and he did not keep it a secret. One criticism made in this context is that indigo was any way about to die a natural death at this point because artificial colours had been introduced and vegetable dyes were on their way out. It is said that Gandhi made use of the opportunity because the demand for indigo saw a revival just once for a short time during the World War. If this was so obvious, the planters themselves were turning away from indigo farming then it is not possible that Gandhi did not understand the situation. But Gandhi also took little time to understand how the peasants were at the receiving end of the ‘teenkattiya’ farming, the zamidari of nilhe (Indigo planters), the close links between them and the British bosses and the dozens of levies/contributions that were an integral part of the old zamidari system. Immediately upon

MARCH 26, 2017 reaching Champaran, Gandhi realised that nilhe themselves, backed by the registered support of the administration, foresaw the end of ‘teen-kattiya’ farming and were imposing higher lagaan on the farmers in order to set them free. Gandhi raised these questions at every forum and in just a few days he convinced them into supporting him. As soon as it occurred to Gandhi that the administration along with the Indigo planters were not prepared to place their reputation at risk and Indigo planters will not be able to continue with their activities, he began working for his third goal. For this he sought support from both the government and the Indigo planters. Although he did not get the support he had asked for, the opposition to him too was not as forceful as it was in the matter of ending the ‘teen-kattiya’ farming of indigo. In this work there was something like the earlier situation in which everything was achieved through one command. When Gandhi left Champaran on the request of peasants from Kheda and the mill workers of Ahmadabad, he regretted

that he could not see the result of his first experiment and many of his dreams were still incomplete. His latest mission was not accomplished with the loudness with which he had sought to end the fear of the administration and the white man. But it was such a big secret too. This was probably the most effective initiative in his fight against the western culture or for alternatives. He achieved the basic aim of the movement through this strategy. He not only assured the support of all sections of society but of thousands of other people. Gandhi presented the successful achievement of his experiment in order to end the trauma of indigo farming, the terror of the white race, in order to establish the pattern of his simplicity and indigenous methods, and in order to present an alternative to creative activities. PAST EXPERIMENTS When we look at Gandhi’s experiments a hundred years later now, it becomes important to see and understand that in Champaran there was no lathicharge and no shooting. Nobody got a

It is important that there was no lathi-charge and no shooting. Nobody got a long term in jail, no life-risking strikes and no donation collection

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha long term in jail, no life-risking strikes, no charity donation and no expenses on pomp and show. Gandhi did not allow a single penny to be collected from Champaran as donation. In the 10 months of the movement just 2200 rupees were spent. The contribution that Gandhi had collected from outside too remain unspent. The money collected by Brij Kishore Babu was used later in different matters. Gandhi’s experiment in Champaran is special in several ways and its unique quality is important not merely in the context of national struggle and the end of British colonialism. Actually it was through this movement that Gandhi made a systematic beginning of his creative and cultural alternative plan. In this, it was his desire to seek support not just from the British administration but also from indigo planters, but this was not fulfilled. Not just this, he was not successful in taking this experiment to the level he had planned. The time shortage was a factor, also the number of trained workers for the purpose was limited. In some matters the support from local people too was not of the level expected. He wanted to start five-six schools, but could start only three, and one of these too had to close down later. Gandhi wanted to experiment with rural universities and modern cow sheds but could not do any better than starting one cow shed in Betia. Gandhi did not have the time


to even make a proper estimation of his experiments. The only evaluation criteria visible was the number of students who came to the schools. It would have been good if more research had been done in this matter, regarding its beginning, expansion and the debates that took place at that time. Later research could have been done on the changes and the expansion. Gandhi himself gave much weight-age to this sort of work and tried to expand it. Champaran too was a witness to the success of such experiments. But the process to continue Gandhi’s efforts and to find an alternative to the western model of development remained incomplete. A HISTORICAL EVENT Gandhi’s coming to Champaran proved to be a historical event. It was a unique experiment in multiple ways. In addition to illustrating Gandhi’s strength it is also an interesting story about the rise of the spirit of protest in a living society against injustice, about Gandhi’s own attempts to establish a relationship with the local people and their difficulties with complete honesty, trust, strength and understanding. It is also a story about the thousands and lakhs who placed their ready faith in Gandhi and made him their own. This is also the first non-violent experiment that underlines the people’s strength to oppose injustice through co-operative and collective efforts based on truth. In Indian social history, individual examples of power struggle have been witnessed on earlier occasions as well. But experiment that Gandhi initiated in Champaran has a lot more of farreaching impact; it included boycott of foreign goods, khilafat and non-cooperation movement, salt satyagrahaaaa and then on to the public revolt of 1942. The new generations today who are looking for a lasting and alternative development look at Gandhi’s creative alternative options as their model. The people who are now opposing the weaknesses and limitations of the present model of development and life style, have perceived elements central to Gandhian action and philosophy in matters of decentralisation, diversity and the rights of local inhabitants on natural resources. Gandhi has been the source of inspiration throughout the world for groups who have a post injustice participated in non-violent movements and searched for alternative to the western model of democracy. Gandhi remains at the center of hope for people looking for an alternative world structure. In the situation it is important that Gandhi, his movements and his experiments should be studied in detail and a path found to lead people to solutions for their needs.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017


CHAMPARAN: A NEW MANIFESTATION OF SATYAGRAHA The practice of Satyagraha championed by various social and political entities to achieve different goals, finds its origin in Champaran. Anand Kumar writes


campaigns held after Gandhi death were impatient restless and vengeful in nature as compared to Gandhi’s Satyagraha which was full of integrity


O say that a new era had started in the Indian politics with the advent of Satyagraha from Champaran will not be an exaggeration. In fact, Gandhi had started the use of Satyagraha in reference to India at Champaran. Before the advent of Satyagraha, the Indian public had only two ways to fight the menace of injustice. It was either to resort to violent means for its abolition or to keep silent, ignore it and get away from that place. But Gandhi came out with a way of helping his co-workers as well as the farmers who had fallen prey to the unjust means of the British and were dissatisfied with them, by awakening their moral force wherein there was a difference between the unjust and the injustice was mandatory. One should hate the sin but not the sinner because the person who sins also

falls into a strange type of temptation and keeps on sinking in it. Therefore we should devise a means where the sin and the sinner both are taken care of. Gandhi also made it mandatory to have a critical analysis or view towards the unjust. Injustice breeds where there are cowards. Based on this theory, Gandhi developed a feeling of self-acceptance to overcome the ills of cowardice and stupidity. To summarize, if Gandhi had taken 6 weeks to confront the attrocities committed on the indigo farmers by the British and their Indian supporters, subsequently he has also spent 18 months to understand the pain of the grief-stricken and illiterate villagers and addressed the issues related to untouchability, and the declining lifestyle of the village women as well as the indifferences amongst the farmers. Struggle was called the procedure by which revolutionaries sought the origin

of the downfall. The revolution of France is a glaring example wherein we see that people not only broke open the jails but they also beheaded the emperor, burnt down the palace, thus giving way to any inconsistency and selfish motives. If we look back at the century-old history of Champaran we find that Gandhi had

Snapshots Before Satyagraha, people had only two ways to fight injustice – violence means and to keep silent Gandhi claimed injustice breeds on cowards and hence should be resisted with peaceful means After Gandhi’s death, Satyagraha was practiced by his followers to suit their political ends

MARCH 26, 2017 performed a historical duty to define the entire struggle and placing them on three strong pillars. They were truth, self-pity to defend the truth and third to establish the truth on a solid foundation by constructing warp wefts. Insistence for truth and the necessity for its creation had become the pre-requisites for the formation of a rightful and justified society like a river flowing out of it. Gandhi’s Satyagraha coupled with its integrity had impacted and inspired various leaders right from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, right from Czech intellectual Harbin to Tibet’s leader Dalai Lama as well as Aung San Suu Kyi the Premier of Myanmar. Back here, we see the politics of Satyagraha taking roots during the struggle for independence as the lone answer. It is to be noted that all the Satyagraha campaigns held after the death of Gandhi had a spirit of impatience and restlessness which was vengeful in nature as compared to the Satyagraha during the lifetime of Gandhi which was full of integrity. Why has this happened? It seems that after the death of Gandhi there was a rift between the followers of Satyagraha into two factions. One faction under the leadership of Vinoba has done many constructive works, thus making it synonymous with Gandhi’s Satyagraha by including agriculture and service of the dalits as well as saving the cows from being slaughtered. The basis of this was farming and handloom. This faction became more forceful and effective after the socialist movement generator Loknayak Jai Prakash Narayan dedicated his life for the Sarvodaya Movement in 1954. This faction was further divided into two more factions in 1974. One opposed emergency and called in for freedom by resorting to Satyagraha while the other kept silent considering emergency a procedure to enforce discipline. It would have been better had both these factions, on completion of 100 years of Satyagraha, shared the same platform in conversation with each other as was 100 years ago. Otherwise there will not be any worthwhile dialogue to bring back the people who have already embarked on the road leading to non-violence from Kashmir to Kanker and to Imphal. Without certifying the relevance of Satyagraha in the present scenario, the new wave of resistance which gave birth to social awareness, started at Champaran, will remain restricted to museums and seminars. If we talk

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

Champaran Satyagraha tell us that for existence of a just society, there should be coordination between anger and compassion of the unjust

about a Satyagraha in continuity with that of Gandhi, it would be the which took place soon after the independence in 1948 to end the aristocracy in Nepal. People resorted to Satyagraha, which started in Delhi by an follower of Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia. Similar remarkable experiment could be earlier, seen in the Civil Disobedience Movement during Gandhi’s time. It is interesting to note that Ram Manohar Lohia was jailed many times later as compared to the time when he was fighting for the independence. It was a big challenge for the socialists and had become mandatory to know how many times a person was jailed fighting the cause for Satyagraha, though this order weakened after 1977. Parliamentarianism had separated the socialists from the strategies of Satyagraha. The present day socialists are busy with the challenges of elections and hardly have pondered on the politics and ethics of Gandhi, Lohia and Jai Prakash. However, during this period there was immense expansion of

Satyagraha against power establishments. We have a successful history of Satyagraha starting right from the Chipko Movement in 197172 to protect and save the forests from the cruelty of the paper mill owners as well as to restore the water resources of the hills and the rivers. It was not without reason that the followers of Gandhi by practicing the Gandhian method have resorted to the constructive resistance method of Satyagraha for the safety of the forests, water and land. The resuscitation of ponds and water harvesting in water scarce regions by Anupam Mishra, water management as well as revival of rivers by the ‘Waterman of India’ Rajendra Singh, environmental activist Vandana Shiva who worked to promote bio-diversity in agriculture to increase productivity, nutrition and farmer’s income and Land Reforms under the leadership of PV Rajagopal, are all living examples of mass movements. By expressing creative resistance, women also plunged into Satyagraha for saving themselves from the


clutches of violence from within and outside the family. Because of the culmination of anger and compassion a change in the legal structure and Cultural Revolution took place at the same time. Satyagraha has been of good use to the last person in social strata starting from Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s Mahar Satyagraha to the resistance shown against the actions of the sturdy and bold bluster clan of Pune. But it is a matter of concern that right from Tirupatinath to Pashupatinath there has been no scope of Satyagraha in the wide red strip. Champaran saw the eradication of injustice related to these three powers. Different types of strategies were prepared for encountering and eradication of injustice related to these powers at Champaran. In the same way a strategy was prepared for the security of human rights from the activists of state power by the Indian Human Rights Commission (IHRC) based on the coordination of public consciousness and legal rights. Inspired by its constructive noncooperative methods many small and big organizations have associated themselves to Satyagraha. Satyagraha of Champaran teaches us the lesson that for the existence of a just society, there should be coordination between anger and compassion of the unjust. At the same time, we should make efforts to eradicate the untrue and unreal and side by side should be strong and capable enough to stand for the truth. This science of resistance had brought about a new social change in the society and for this one doesn’t need to be a Gandhian or to follow his ideology. Human civilsation’s new method of reforms, started from the Champaran, has been accepted far and wide from Asia to America. Even though the Nobel Peace Prize Committee did not have the courage to bestow Gandhi with the Nobel Peace Prize owing to dominion of the British Empire, still after the death of Gandhi in 1948, all those people and organizations who have been awarded and recognized for their efforts in eradication of violence and establishment of peace have all attributed their success to the philosophical importance, political utility and sociological uniqueness of Satyagraha. For a common Indian, the enlightenment and energy received from the Satyagraha of Champaran, will go a long way in strengthening the roots of Swaraj and the resolution to build a democratic country which is of great historical importance.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017



In 1917, Gandhi started a movement in Champaran that ended in the agreement between planters and peasants. But he did not go for a direct collision with the British. In his own words, lets read how he did it... MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography has narrated in detail about various experiments initiated by him in Champaran

The difference

between a farmer client and his lawyer is as wide as a river’s expanse during monsoons


HAMPARAN is King Janak’s land. Just as you see mango orchards everywhere in Champaran nowadays, it had indigo farms in the same way in 1917. Legally, farmers there were bound to cultivate indigo on 3/20 of the land. This system was called ‘tinkathiya’. Twenty ‘kathhas’ made one acre, and to sow indigo on three kathhas there, was the system of ‘tinkathiya’. I must admit that before going there, I had never even heard of Champaran. However, I was totally unaware of this. I had seen indigo tablets, but I had no idea that these are manufactured in Champaran, and because of which thousands of farmers were suffering,. Raj Kumar Shukla was a farmer from Champaran. He too had been suffering. But this sadness from the suffering made him want to wash away the indigo insult for everyone. I went to the Lucknow Mahasabha, which is where I met these farmers. “Vakil (lawyer) babu will tell you everything,” they would keep saying, and kept inviting me over to Champaran. By vakil babu, they meant Braj Kishore Babu, now a very dear associate from Champaran. Raj Kumar Shukla brought him to my tent. He was wearing a black achkan (long A-line

coat) and trousers. I did not find him appealing at the moment, and thought he must be one of those lawyers who fleece poor farmers. I heard about Champaran from him briefly. I remarked: “I can’t give an opinion without seeing the place for myself. You speak in the Mahasabha. For now, let me be.” Raj Kumar Shukla needed the help of the Mahasabha in any case. Braj Kishore Babu spoke about Champaran at the Mahasabha and a sympathy vote was passed. INSISTENT RAJKUMAR Raj Kumar Shukla was happy, but not satisfied. He wanted to tell me about the plight of farmers of Champaran himself. I told him, “I will include Champaran in my tours and be there for a day or two.” He said one day would be enough. I only needed to see the place for myself. I had gone to Kanpur from Lucknow. Raj Kumar Shukla was present there too. “Champaran is close from here. Please give it a day.” But I said: Excuse me for now,” and promised to go to Champaran. When I went to the ashram, Raj Kumar Shukla followed me there as well. “Please

decide on a date now,” he said. I said, “Fine, I am going to be in Calcutta on such and such a date. Come there and take me to Champaran.” Where I should go, what I should do and what I should see, I had no idea. Before I reached Bhupen babu’s house in Calcutta, he was already there. This determined and illiterate farmer was after my heart. In the beginning of 1917, we started from Calcutta. Our team was worth seeing; both of us looked like farmers. We took the same train Raj Kumar Shukla did, and reached Patna in the morning.

Snapshots Indigo farming by force had pushed the farmers, especially in Champaran, to ruins Raj Kumar Shukla kept insisting upon Gandhi to visit the place, which he had not even heard of Gandhi decided to visit for a day or two but seeing the situation there, stayed back for months

MARCH 26, 2017 BIHAR This was my first visit to Patna. I didn’t know anyone in whose house I could stay. I had assumed that Raj Kumar Shukla may be illiterate but he was sure to have a place to stay there. I learnt more about him in the train and found out more in Patna. Raj Kumar was a simple man. The lawyer he had thought as his friend, was not really his friend, and Raj Kumar Shukla was kind of dependent on him. The difference between a farmer client and his lawyer is as wide as a river’s expanse during monsoons. He took me to Rajendra Babu’s house, who had gone to Puri or somewhere else. There were one or two servants in the bungalow. I had something to eat but needed dates, and poor Raj Kumar Shukla had to get it from the bazaar. But untouchability was a big issue in Bihar. Water from my mug could upset the servant. He didn’t know my caste. Raj Kumar told me to use the washroom inside the house. But the servant pointed to the one outside. This didn’t upset me or bother me in the least. I had become accustomed to such incidents. The servant was merely doing his master’s duty. Such entertaining incidents made me respect Raj Kumar Shukla even more. I took over the reins from Patna onwards. Maulana Mazharul Haq and I had studied in London together. We had met again in 1915 in the Congress meeting in Mumbai. He was the president of the Muslim League that year. He had mentioned our old association and told me we should catch up when I am in Patna. Taking him up on that offer, I wrote to him and told him why I was there. He immediately came in his car and told me to come with him. I thanked him and requested him to send me where

I wanted to go, by train. He spoke to Raj Kumar Shukla and told him I should go to Muzaffarpur. The same day, I was given a seat in the evening train to Muzaffarpur. Acharya Kripalani used to live there in those days. I knew him well. When I had gone to Hyderabad, I had learned of his sacrifices, his life and about the ashram that ran on his money, from Dr Choithram. He was a professor in a Muzaffarpur college, but had disassociated with it for a while. I sent him a telegram. SCENARIO UNFOLDS The train reached Muzaffarpur at midnight. Dr Choitram was present at the railway station with his group of students. But he didn’t have a house of his own there. He used to live at Mr Malkani’s house. Malkani was a professor in a college, and my staying in the home of a government employee was not ordinary incident for those times. Kripalani detailed the condition of Bihar, and the Tiruhat department in particular, and gave me an idea of the tough task ahead of me. Kripalani ji had developed a strong bond with Bihar, and he had spoken to the people there about my work. In the morning, a small group of lawyers came to visit me. I remember Ramnavami Prasad was one of them. He caught my attention with his request. “The job you have come to do can’t be done from here. You should stay with the likes of us. Gaya babu is a well-

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha


known lawyer here. On his behalf, I request you to come. There is no doubt we are scared of the government, but we will do all that we can to assist you as well. A lot of what Raj Kumar Shukla has to say is true. The sad part is our leader is not here today. I had sent a telegram to Babu Braj Kishore Prasad and Rajendra Prasad. Both of them will come here as soon as possible and assist us. Please do come to Gaya babu’s house.” What he said had an impact on me. I was a little reluctant that my staying with Gaya babu might put him in trouble but Gaya babu assured me that was not the case. I went to stay with him. He and his family members showered their love and affection on me. Braj Kishore Babu came from Darbhanga. Rajendra Babu, from Puri. Here Braj Kishore Prasad seemed a different personality from the man I had met in Lucknow. Here he had the humility of a Bihari. His good intentions and extreme faith moved me. The respect the Bihari lawyers’ group had for Braj kishore Babu was a pleasant surprise for me. An unbreakable bond of love developed between me and this group.

from these simpleton farmers. Despite being known for their magnanimity, Braj Kishore Babu and Rajendra babu didn’t hesitate from charging a fee. Their argument was if they didn’t charge a fee in their profession, how would they run their households, and how would they help these people. When I heard the kind of money the lawyers in Bihar and Bengal got, I was shocked. “We charged Rs 10,000 for giving our opinion to sir.” I didn’t hear of anyone charging anything less than a thousand rupees. This group of friends took my gentle reprimand about this in a sporting way. I said, “After reading up on these cases, I am of the opinion that we should stop fighting these cases. These cases give very little profit. Where the citizens are so downtrodden, where everyone lives in fear, courts are not really the solution. The real solution would be to take fear out of people’s hearts. We can’t sit in peace until the “Teenkathiya” tradition is not abolished. I have come to see as much as I can in two days. But now I feel this work can take even upto two years. But I’m ready to put in that much time. I can also gauge what needs to be done. But I need your help.”

LAWYERS’ LEAGUE Braj Kishore Babu appraised me of everything. He used to fight cases for poor farmers; two such cases were on at the moment. He would get personal satisfaction by working on such cases. Sometimes he would lose some cases as well. But he would still charge a fee

DIFFERENT ROUTE I realized Braj Kishore Babu was someone with a calm temperament. He replied softly, “We will do all that we can to help. But you will have to tell us what needs to be done.” We spent the entire night discussing it. I told them, “Your legal prowess won’t be of too much help here. I would need your help as an assistant and a translator. I can also see chances of going to jail. I would like you to take this risk. But if you want to, it’s all right. But to leave your legal practice as a lawyer for an uncertain period, and to work with me as an assistant is not a

No work in Bihar could begin without the ushering in of education, for which we needed funds


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017

‘I humbly told the minister, “I don’t consider myself an outsider, and if the farmers agree, I have the full right to see how they are’

small demand I make of you. I am having extreme difficulty understanding the Hindi here. All documentation here is either in Kaithi or Urdu, which I can’t read. I expect you to translate it for me. This work is not possible with monetary compensation. This needs a feeling of service and without money.” Braj Kishore Babu understood me. But he started to have discussions and arguments with me and my associates. He tried to understand the deeper meaning of what I said: how long will lawyers have to stop their work, how many will be needed, will it work if a few people came for short durations in circulation, and so on. He asked the lawyers how much they were willing to sacrifice. In the end, he made a decision and said, “All of us are ready to do the work you assign for us. Out of these whoever you ask for, will be there with you. Going to prison is something new, and we will try to come to terms with this reality as well.” I wanted to see how the farmers were in reality. I wanted to see for myself how true were the allegations against the goras of the kothis, who owned indigo farms. I needed to see and meet thousands of farmers for this. But before that, I found it necessary to meet the indigo owners and the commissioner, and see what they had to say about this unfair practice. I wrote letters to both. THREATS START The owners’ minister told me clearly before the meeting that I am an outsider and that I should not interfere between them and the farmers. But if there was something I had to say, I should do it in writing. I humbly told the minister, “I don’t consider myself an outsider, and if the farmers agree, I have the full right to see how they are.” I also met commissioner sahib. He started to threaten me and advised me to leave Tiruhat without moving any further. I told my associates all this and said that the government will stop me from making further inquiries, and there was a possibility that the jail term could happen sooner than expected. If I had to let them arrest me, I should have it done in Motihari or, preferably, in Betia. So, I should reach there as soon as I can. Champaran is a district in Tiruhat commissionary, and Motihari its centre. Raj Kumar Shukla’s house was near Betia, and the farmers living near the kothis there were living in abject poverty. Rajkumar Shukla was keen to show me their plight and I too wanted to see it.

Thus, I left for Motihari that very day. There, Gorakh babu gave me shelter and his house became a dharamshala. Somehow we all would manage to fit in. The day we arrived, we heard that a farmer who lived about five miles from Motihari had been wronged. It was decided that I would go to meet him in the morning along with lawyer Dharnidhar Prasad. We left for the village on an elephant. In Champaran, elephants were used in the same way as bullock carts are used in Gujarat. We must have been half-way there when the police superintendent’s man arrived and told us, “Superintendent sahib sends his greetings.” I understood the rest. I told Dharnidhar babu to go ahead. I sat with the messenger in his rented vehicle. He gave me a notice asking me to leave Champaran, took me to his place and asked for my consent. I told him I couldn’t leave Champaran, and that I have to do my investigations and move forward. Not agreeing to leave Champaran meant a summons was passed against me and I was asked to present myself before the court the very next day. I sat up the entire night writing the letters that I had to, and gave instructions to Braj Kishore Babu on what had to be done. The news of the summons spread like wildfire and people say the scene they witnessed in Motihari was one they had never seen before. People thronged the kacheheri (court) and Gorakh babu’s house. Luckily I had finished all my work at night and could

manage the crowds. I realised the importance of having associates. They worked on trying to keep the people under control. Hordes of people followed me wherever I went in the court. I bonded with the collector, magistrate, superintendent, and others as well. If I wanted, I could have brought legal action against the government notices, but instead, I accepted all of them and behaved in a personal and nice manner with the government officials. They understood that I didn’t want to go against them, but wanted to politely oppose their orders. Thus, they weren’t scared of me. Instead of creating trouble for me, they happily helped me and my associates in controlling the crowds. But they also understood that their authority had been undermined. For a moment, people had left behind their fear of punishment and were now in control of the love they had for their new found friend. It is worth noting that no one knew me in Champaran. The farmers were illiterate. Champaran is a land in the Himalayan lowlands, on the other side of River Ganga, adjacent to Nepal and is a different world in itself. Here no one knew about Congress, neither was there a Congressman there. Those who had heard of it were scared to even utter the name, leave alone become a part of it.

NO CONGRESS, PLEASE! Today, without the name of the Mahasabha (Congress), it, and its people had made a foray into the area and had carved a niche for itself. I consulted my associates and decided that no work will be done in the name of the Mahasabha. This was about what we did, rather than who did it. Here, the Mahasabha was unpopular, as people thought of it as a conglomeration of lawyers who fought cases against each other and were simply too engrossed in finding legal loopholes. That the real Mahasabha was not this had to be explained to the people through what we achieved, not by arguing about it. Thus, no role was assigned for messengers from the Mahasabha, either in an evident or hidden manner. Rajkumar Shukla didn’t have it in him to enter a meeting of a thousand people. He had never done anything vaguely political. He didn’t know the world outside Champaran, and yet, his and my meeting felt like that of long-lost friends. This gave me a feeling of having witnessed God, non-violence and truth; this is no exaggeration, but the truth. When I think about my role in this, I see nothing but people’s love for me. I have nothing but unshakeable faith in love and non-violence. This day in Champaran was one I can

The villagers were incredibly dirty and health and hygiene had to be ensured

MARCH 26, 2017

We let the police informers come in, behaved politely with them and even gave whatever reports we had

never forget. This day for me and the farmers was like a festival. According to the law of the land, a case was to be registered against me. The trap that the commissioner had laid for me had ensnared the government. The case was called to court. The lawyers and magistrate were a frightened lot. They didn’t know what to do. The public prosecutor was requesting to postpone the hearing. I stepped in and said there was no reason to postpone the date, because I confess to have broken the law and the notice that had ordered me to leave Champaran. After saying this, I read out something I had written. I went somewhat like this:

make you decrease my punishment and be lenient towards me. I only want to prove that my motive behind disobeying the order is not to insult the government, but to obey the law coming from the highest order there is – listening to your inner voice.” Now there was no need to postpone the hearing date. But the magistrate and the lawyer did not expect a verdict either. Thus, the court adjourned to give the verdict at a later date. I sent a telegram to the viceroy apprising him of the entire thing. A telegram was sent to Patna as well. The same were sent to Bharat Bhushan,Pandit(Madan Mohan) Malviyaji and others as well.

THE DEFENCE “I want to give a small explanation on what I had to do to take the serious step of not obeying the order under Section 144. In my humble opinion, this is not about obeying the order, but about a difference of opinion between me and the local government. I have come in this region with the intention to serve the people and the country. The indigo owners do not do justice to the farmers. I have been requested to come here and aid them, which is why I am here. How can I help them without knowing everything that is going on? Thus, I am here to study the matter further and, if possible, with the help of indigo owners and the government. I have no other motive, and I don’t believe my coming here will lead to unrest and bloodshed. I claim that I have adequate experience on this. But the government’s opinion is on the contrary. I understand its dilemma and also agree that it has to believe all that is fed to it. As a lawabiding citizen, I feel like automatically obeying the order given to me by the government, but I feel if I do so, I will not be carrying out the task given to me. I feel my duty to them can be served only by living amongst them. Thus, I can’t leave Champaran on my own free will. I am now forced to ask the government to carry out this duty. “I understand well that in India, a person of my stature should be careful before setting an example by doing something. But I whole-heartedly believe that the quagmire that we are in, a self-respecting person like me has no other alternative, except to disobey the order that has been given to me. In return, I accept whatever punishment is to be given for the same. “My intention of this speech is not to

FREED Just before the court was to announce the verdict, I got an order from the magistrate that the viceroy has said the case should be withdrawn, and then I got the collector’s letter saying I could carry on with whatever investigation I wanted, and that I could ask any help from the officials in the same. None of us had expected this quick and happy result. I met the collector Mr Heckock. He looked like a fair man who wanted to be just. He said I could ask him for any documents I wanted and meet him whenever I wanted to. On the other hand, India got a living example of Satyagraha, that is, passive political resistance. The newspapers wrote about it a lot and Champaran and my investigation got a lot of exposure. Although my investigation asked of me to be objective towards the government, I didn’t need the newspapers and reporters talking about it. Not just that, their extra-analysis and long reports on the matter could do more harm than good. So, I requested some major newspapers not to send their reporters here. I told them I would send whatever I thought should be published, and would apprise them of latest news. I understood the indigo owners were miffed at me. The officials weren’t too happy either, I knew that, too. Seeing newspapers publishing news that was half-true or lies would mean their irritation would not come down on me, but on the poor, scared, helpless people. And I knew that would come in the way of the true reality that I wanted to find out. The indigo owners stared a vitriolic campaign. On their behalf, a lot of lies were printed about me and my associates. But they missed their aim

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha because I was extra careful and would find a strain of truth in the smallest of things. They didn’t hold back while trying to pull down Braj Kishore Babu in every way. But with their trying to bring him a bad name, respect for Braj Kishore Babu only increased. In such a fragile situation, I didn’t encourage the coming of reporters to the place. I didn’t invite leaders either. Malviyaji said, “I will come when you ask me to. I am ready.” I didn’t trouble him either. I didn’t let this struggle take on a political hue. Whatever happened, I would send reports of the same to newspapers. Even when it comes to politics, when there is no room for exercising it, any attempt to do so results in “Maya mili na ram” (Everything was lost). I had experienced this dozens of times. Even when it comes to just social work, there is politics in it, if not in an evident way, then in a hidden way. The Champaran battle was proving it all over again. Now about a critical point. If this investigation was to happen in Gorakh babu’s house, he would have had to vacate the premises. And in those days, people in Motihari had not become so courageous as to rent us a house. But Gorakhbabu found an intelligent solution and we all moved into a new place.


of money I wanted. Money was not a problem anymore. But we had decided to fight the battle with as little money as we could. We didn’t need any more money than this, we felt, and it was true. I believe that the total spending was not more than Rs 2,000-3,000. I also feel we had Rs 500-1,000 left from what we had collected. We needed a lot of strength, though, because several groups of farmers started coming to us to document their stories. Crowds would gather in front of people writing down these stories. The entire house would be full of people. My associates would try with all their might to protect me from people who had come to see me, but to no avail. The only solution was to send me out at a specified time to meet with people. There would be no less than six-seven

FUND CRUNCH However, the condition was not just that we could work without money entirely. I was of the firm opinion that not a paisa will be taken from the farmers of Champaran. That would ‘I was of the firm opinion that not a paisa will be taken from the farmers of Champaran. That would be misconstrued. I had be misconstrued. I had decided that I will not ask money for the cause from Indians. also decided that I will This would give the movement a national and political hue’ not ask money for the cause from Indians. Doing so would give the movement a people documenting the stories, and national and political hue. Some friends yet, it wouldn’t end until late evening. from Mumbai promised to help with Rs We didn’t really need stories from so 15,000/-. I turned down their assistance many people, but they felt at peace after politely. I decided to accept whatever having recounted their hardships, and I help Braj Kishore Babu’s team could get would get to understand their feelings. from the wealthy and rich people from Those documenting the stories Bihar, but those who were not from would have to adhere to a script. They Champaran. Whatever was the had to have discussions with every difference, I would ask for from Dr Pran farmer. Anyone who didn’t have proper Jivandas Mehta. He had written to me answers would not have his story saying I could ask for whatever amount documented. Anyone whose story


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

would seem baseless from the beginning would be told to go. Although this meant the process became more timeconsuming, the stories were very much truthful and legitimate. THE PLAINCLOTHES MEN The police’s intelligence agents were bound to be around somewhere. We could have stopped them from coming, but we had decided we would do nothing of the sort. Not just that, we would be polite with them and give them whatever report we thought we should. All the documentation was done in front of them. This meant the farmers became more fearless. Initially, they were terrified of such police, but now that fear was gone and chances of any exaggeration in front of them were lesser. Farmers would be careful in telling the tale since they knew that not telling the truth would mean they would have legal cases against them. I didn’t want to pester the indigo owners, but to win them over with good behaviour and righteousness. So I would write letters and even try to meet those against whom there were a lot of complaints. THE APOSTLES The team of Braj Kishore Babu and Rajendra babu was matchless. Their love had made me practically handicapped, and I couldn’t take a step without them. Call them their disciples or associates, but Shambhu babu, Anugraha babu, Dharni babu, and Ramnavami babu, all of them would be together at all times. Vindhya babu and

MARCH 26, 2017

I realised that the newspaper analysts and

reporters writing about our work would harm it Janakdhari babu would also come whenever they could. This was the Bihari sangh. Their main work was to document farmers’ stories. How could Acharya Kripalani be left behind? Despite being a Sindhi, he was more Bihari than most. I had seen very few examples of people who immerse themselves in the culture and soul of the place they go to, and don’t let anyone realise they are from some other area. Kripalani ji is one of them. His main assignment was that of a guard. He had taken it to be his life’s work to save me from those who had come to see me. His strategies included joking around with someone, or threatening someone else in a nonviolent way. At night, he would take on the garb of a teacher, joke around with people and encourage anyone who was weak of purpose and intention. Maulana Mazharul Haq registered himself as my assistant, and would come and meet me at least twice a month. There was a world of difference between the times when he lived a life of luxury, and now, when he lived a simple life. He would come and spread his love, but due to his regal ways, those who saw him from the outside looked upon him as an outsider.

MISSION EDUCATION As I started gaining experience, I realised that any real work in Champaran needed the advent of education. The level of ignorance in people was abysmal. Children would run around all day, or their parents would put them to work in the indigo fields for daily wages of twothree paisa. Men would not be paid more than 10 paisa. Women would get six paisa and boys, three paisa. Anyone who got wages of 25 paisa was considered lucky. After consultation, it was decided that schools would be opened in six villages. The condition was that the village head would give the teacher money for food and a house to live in. We would provide for the other expenditure. These villages didn’t have too much money, but they did have grains. Thus, people were ready to give dry ration. Now the big question was where to get the teachers from. In Bihar, it was tough to find good teachers who would charge less or nothing at all. We wanted teachers who may have less knowledge but should have strength of character. Then again, I could not remain content with just education alone. The villages were dirty beyond description. The lanes would be full of trash, the

areas around the wells were full of smelly filth and you couldn’t even look at people’s houses. The elders needed a lesson in cleanliness. People in Champaran seemed to be ailing with one disease or another. Our thought process was: try to bring about as much improvement as possible, and by doing that try to make a difference in all facets of life there. Here, we needed the help of a doctor. For this, I asked for assistance from Dr Dev from Gokhale’s society. I already had nice relations with him. I had profited from his service six months ago. Teachers had to work under his supervision. DISCIPLINE Everyone had been told not to get into the matter of complaints against the indigo owners. They shouldn’t come anywhere near politics, and no one should step out of their work space. The discipline with which the people adhered to it was amazing. I don’t remember even one instance when someone didn’t obey what was told. On one hand, social service was taking place and on the other, documentation of people’s stories was taking place, and it was increasing with every passing day. Stories of thousands of farmers were noted down. How could that not have had an impact?As the number of people coming to me increased, the irritation of indigo farmers increased as well. Their attempts of bringing a stop to my investigation increased.

MARCH 26, 2017

Sir Edward Gates dug

in his heels and ensured that the farmers received their dues GOVERNMENT NUDGE One day, I received a letter from the government of Bihar. The gist was: Your investigation has gone on for a while now. Now you should conclude it and leave Bihar. The letter was a polite one, but the meaning was clear. In reply, I said the investigation would go on for more time, and that I didn’t intend to leave Bihar until the investigation was over and the people in the region weren’t out of their many troubles. The government had only two ways to bring an end to my investigations. One, they believe the complaints and take action. Two, appoint their own investigative committee to address these complaints. They invited me to become a member of the committee. Seeing other names and after consultation with my associates, I agreed to become a member on the condition that I will be free to consult with my associates, and that the government will be wrong if it thinks I will not think or speak in favour of the farmers. If I am not satisfied with the committee’s ruling, I will not abandon my quest for working for the farmers’ welfare. Sir Edward Gate felt the conditions were valid and agreed to them. Sir Frank Sly had been appointed as the committee president. The investigative committee upheld all the reports by the farmers, and ruled that the indigo farm owners return the money they had illegally held back from the farmers, and also suggested that the Tinkathiya tradition be abolished. Sir Edward Gate played a big role in finalising the report and passing the order based on the report. If he hadn’t dug his heels in, and not used his capabilities like he did, the report would not have been prepared in the unanimous way that it had been made, and the order that was passed would not have come into being. The indigo farm owners had a lot of clout. Despite the report being published, some of them expressed their extreme displeasure about it, but Sir Edward Gate did not relent and the committee’s rulings were followed. And so, Teenkathiya, the tradition that had been carried on for a 100 years, was abolished.The rule of indigo farm owners finally ended and the myth that the indigo stain can never be washed out proved to be false.

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha



MIRACLES OF THE FIRST 3 DAYS Gandhi reached Champaran and realised that his understanding of the issues from hearsay were incomplete and he changed his tactic. Lalita Mishra Writes


T is said neel farming was taken to the foreign shores from India. It is called indigo in English. The root word is indicum, which comes from ‘India’. This color became extremely popular the world over and took on the form of a priceless commodity. When the East India Company came to India to do business and trade, the main commodity in 1600 was indigo. The indigo business had flourished for many years. To ensure more and more farming of indigo in India in the 18th century, the Company lent foreign farmers a lot of money. In the beginning, this farming become rampant in Bengal, and thus started the cycle of exploitation and torture of Indian farmers. Gandhi reached Motihari at 4’O clock on 15th April 1917 along with his two fellow workers Babu Dharnidhar and Ramanavmi. Some students of the district school accompanied by a large number of people had come to receive them at the railway station. But this crowd was very less compared to the one which gathered at Champaran or at Bettiya when Gandhi reached there. The move which Gandhi took without informing the Commissioner of Muzaffarpur created a furore on reaching Motihari.It was not a question of the gatherings or the people’s support, but what was of prominence was that it shook the British government. Gandhi knew about the loss and profit of what he was doing but he took the risk anticipating the results at large. Actually based on hearsay and the information gathered from his followers at Muzaffarpur as well as seeing the attitude of the government it was quite clear that the picture of Champaran which was there in his mind was quite different from the real picture, which was deteriorating and needed immediate action. CHANGE IN TACTIC Therefore, Gandhi who was earlier dependant on Raj Kumar Shukla till the time he reached Patna, now completely changed his mind on reaching Motihari as he was overcome by some sort of an obsession which made him restless. On reaching the house of Gorakh Babu from the station Gandhi started preparing himself for the following day. Gorakh Babu’s house had become a rest house where amidst all the hustle and bustle the work was also going on. The priorities for the following day were chalked out as Gandhi had to leave for Patti Jasauli the next day on elephant

fearful the British were and what all arrangements they made to combat him. The secret report read that Gandhi may ignite the flames at Champaran. The fear of the government and the planned moves of Gandhi compelled and constrained Commissioner Morsehead to make a wrong move, who applied his dirty tactics and applied the formula of forcefully restraining Gandhi and had caught him in a false case in order to keep him out of the city.

Priorities for the following day were chalked out as Gandhi had to leave for Patti Jasauli the next day on elephant

back. Telegrams were also sent to Malviyaji, CF Andrews, Henry Pollack and Rajendra Prasad. It was hot, being the month of April, and was quite difficult for the elephant or any kind of animal to undertake such a tedious journey. Gandhi could sense his imminent arrest, but more than that he was worried about the atrocities that may continue on the indigo workers after he is jailed. During that time Congress was not at the forefront in Bihar but it was like a meeting place and a forum of nation lovers and native people who met and exchanged their views on the political issues. There was not a single fulltime member of the Congress and Gandhi himself was not able to associate himself with the congress as well as with the socialistic organizations. The attitude of the British towards Prof Malkani, in whose quarters Gandhi was staying, as well as towards Prof Kripalani and his personal interaction with the Commissioner and the Indigo Planters’ Club convinced Gandhi that he will be arrested very soon. Instead of refraining himself from his activities he wanted to cash on it by drawing political acclaim out of it. The official documents which were produced after independence revealed that the British government was afraid of the coming of Gandhi and they even alerted the Bajapta Army when he did not turn up after the discussion of April 7. From one or more letters of the police and the secret service we come to know how

COMMISSIONER TRAPPED Earlier the court used to pass judgements on the basis of pleas and witnesses produced by the Commissioner, but Gandhi was a hard nut to crack as he had already experienced these tactics in South Africa. The allegations put by the Commissioner on Gandhi were reversed thus putting the commissioner in a tight corner and insults were hurled at him right from the junior officers to the senior ones. But this kindled the start of a new struggle which not even Gandhi nor his followers ever imagined. The Commissioner wrote a letter to the District Collector that there is a possibility that Gandhi may go to Champaran without informing the British and in such a scenario there will be chaos. Hence he should be served a notice under Section 144 of the Fauzdari Act and should be asked to return. Gandhi had already planned his itinerary, to visit the village and to meet the indigo farmers from the next day onwards. On reaching Champaran he went to village Patti Jasauli where atrocities were committed on the indigo farmers a few days ago. Enroute he stopped at village Chandriya to inquire about the Motihari Indigo House. On being interrupted by the government authorities and the secret service, he terminated his journey and went back with them, but sent Dharnidhar Babu and Ramnavmi Prasad to Patti Jasauli. On his way the DSP handed over a notice written by the Collector WB Hancock which ordered Gandhi on the basis of the Commissioner’s letter to leave the district. Gandhi replied the letter diplomatically and with a cool mind “I am sorry that you had to serve me this notice based on the Commissioner’s statement. But I would like to state that the Commissioner has misunderstood me fully and keeping my commitments and duties towards the general public at large, I cannot leave the district.”


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017


KUMAR PRASHANT The author is a senior journalist and Chairman of Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi

FROM MK TO MAHATMA The epic struggle for liberating the farmers of Champaran from the torture of forced indigo farming turned into a much wider struggle for education, sanitation and testing the weapon of satyagraha

H Gandhi

ensured indigo farming was banned and the farmers were paid all their dues and became the top leader of India The British became aware of the power of satyagraha

ISTORY does not pass away, it repeats itself in new forms and references and forces us to open our eyes wide and recognize our surroundings. Some pages of history are such that whenever they touch you or you open them, they move you. The chapter of Champaran is an example of this touch which changed everything, especially Gandhi and he got what he was looking for On April 15, 1917, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi reached Champaran with an unknown person like Raj Kumar Shukla. Gandhi did not even know the name of Champaran and had no knowledge about indigo farming. He had merely been told of the farmers’ crisis. Earlier, as is well known, he had been to England to study law, and then in South Africa where he opened up his practice. Everything was going on well. Advocacy came to a standstill when at Moritzsburg station, the ticket checker threw Gandhi out of the compartment. Little did he know that by throwing this black man out of the compartment, he would shake the foundations of the British empire. In South Africa, he experimented with the weapon of satyagraha, which he had sharpened and used it against colour discrimination. He made his family imbibe his way of life, developed his own ashrams and methods to live accordingly. Before coming to Champaran, Gandhi had also entered the battleground. During the Zulu rebellion, he had raised an ambulance brigade for the British Army and served as Sergeant Major. He wrote the book ‘Hind-Swaraj’. After winning his own struggle in South Africa, he came to India and found his mentor, Guru Gokhale. For an entire year, Gandhi travelled the length and breadth of the country to study the conditions of Indians. He saw how the slavery of a hundred years has afflicted Indians. During this phase of seeing India, he recognised that this slavery has changed the state of mind of Indians.

CHAMPARAN VISIT Rajkumar Shukla took Gandhi to Champaran to show him the plight of the indigo farmers. He saw the scourge called slavery. Interestingly, Gandhi avoided a direct confrontation with either the British government or the indigo farm owners. He started the fight against the mentality of slavery. He kept on teaching Indians about their mentality. Bihar’s first grade lawyers came up and joined him which included Babu Braj Kishore Prasad, Ramanavami Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Dharnidhar Babu etc., all came closer to Gandhi. These were the lawyers who used to charge Rs 10,000/- as their fees. Gandhi made these people realize one thing: that they should not get carried away by the worldly treasures and nobody should

fight the battle half-heartedly. Professor Kripalani was also around, but he was more concerned about watching Gandhi speak. Gandhi called the people as per his requirement from Gujarat, Maharashtra,

Snapshots Gandhi had been to England to study law and South Africa to practice it After returning he toured the entire country for a full year to understand the people His visit to Champaran for a day or two turned into a ten-monthlong campaign

MARCH 26, 2017

We let the police informers come in, behaved politely with them and even gave whatever reports we had

etc. and told them to live with cleanliness, start studies and reading, and cooking etc. He requested as well as insisted that food should be cooked at one central place, that is in a common kitchen. Every reputed lawyer had brought his convoy which included his servant and his cook etc. Gandhi insisted to do away with this tradition as it was unnecessary and explained that they can all do the work together with the help of each other and there is no need for anyone to depend upon others. It is only on one occasion that he allowed others to cook. CF Andrews, educator and social reformer was to go to Motihari one day. He hurriedly cooked some half-baked chapatis and boiled potatoes. At that point, Gandhi walked in and on seeing the

poorly cooked food, he asked people to cook and himself sat down with Andrews. VICTORY, FINALLY But before Gandhi reached Champaran, his fame had reached there. The image which was created in the minds of the public was that he was a very effective weapon against oppression. Even those people who did not know what Gandhi did in South Africa had this picture of him in their minds that he was a miracle man. Not only farmers but also government officials kept on coming to see Gandhi on his way to Champaran. The British officers and the administration shocked. They knew, more than Indians did, what Gandhi had achieved with his

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha methods in satyagrahaa. They were highly apprehensive where Gandhi would take the farmers, for they knew well the extent to which the farmers had been crushed. Gandhi reached Motihari on April 15 and stayed at the house of Babu Gorakh Prasad. He apprehended being arrested, as he had seen how the British function while he was in South Africa. The supporters were eager to know how Gandhi would start satyagraha. He replied with a calm voice: “Tomorrow I will be going to Jasauli Patti.” he said. He had heard that people of a reputed family had been tortured there. But the lawyers rightly pointed out that such torture is rampant all over Motihari and Champaran, so he should start his struggle from Motihari. The night passed and the morning dawned. Gandhi got ready to go to Jasauli Patti. Dharnidhar Babu and Ramnavami Babu came out with him .They were to ride on an elephant in the scorching summer heat. Gandhi had never ridden an elephant before, and that too with three men sitting stifled. Gandhi started his discussions. He was worried about the position of the women. He had been shocked by what he had seen as the condition of women. During his journey, an official from the District Magistrate told him that he would have to leave the area as he was an outsider and was creating trouble. Gandhi informed that he was not an outsider and that he had no intention of creating trouble by working for the upliftment of the local women. However, he anticipated further trouble and drew up a list of things to do and the path to be taken by his followers just in case he is arrested. COURT DRAMA The next day, the real picture opened in the courtroom. The fame of Gandhi spread all over. Farmers thronged the court room. The public prosecutor came prepared to teach a lesson to the foreign returned Indian. The judge asked Gandhi as to who was his counsel. Gandhi replied ‘nobody’. He further said that he had already sent the reply to the District Collector’s notice. There was silence in the court room. The judge said that the answer has not reached the court. Gandhi took out the paper containing his reply and started reading it out. There was pin drop silence in the courtroom. And he said that he would not accept any restrictions by anyone on the freedom to visit and work anywhere in his country. But he


accepted that he had broken the District Magistrate’s order and would also accept punishment for it. Gandhi’s written answer was complete and there was silence in both the camps and everything went topsy-turvy. The government lawyers were astonished to see how a person who was being tried turned the tables on them, and even demanded punishment for himself. But there were no grounds on which he could be tried. The government and the administration had got ensnared in its own trap. The judge told Gandhi to apply for the bail but Gandhi replied that he has nobody who can be his guarantor and take his surety. The judge got confused and further said that if Gandhi assures that he will leave the district never to come back again, then all the charges levelled against him will be taken back. Gandhi then told the judge that if he passes a jail sentence, then after finishing his term, he would permanently reside in Champaran. In the meanwhile, orders were received from Delhi cautioning the judge not to involve himself with Gandhi and let him do what he wishes. In many ways, this sums up the concept of satyagrahaa: noncooperation without violence, but with absolute firmness. Gandhi took a vow from everybody that if the time comes for them to go to jail, they will not hesitate. All these lawyers were till date fighting cases to save their clients from going to jail and sending their opponents but now the time had come for them to go to jail. Going to jail was considered to be a disrespectful thing, but Gandhi made them understand that going to jail for a noble cause is not considered bad but is a matter of honour and respect. The task of lodging the statements of the farmers was not less than a war. People speaking different languages from all over the country had gathered to help the people of Bihar record the statements of the indigo farmers. Gandhi took a side track, which is very interesting. He started two campaigns: one for sanitation and hygiene and the other for education. He realised that it is ignorance that had enslaved the people of the country. And in these campaigns, he was highly successful. In the end, Gandhi ensured that forced indigo farming was banned and the farmers were paid all their dues. After Champaran, he became the tallest leader in the country. From Mohandas Karamchand to Mahatma Gandhi.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha First they will ignore “ you, then they will laugh

at you, then they will fight with you and then you willl win” Mahatma Gandhi, During Champaran Satyagraha



The first lesson from Champaran Satyagraha for us, is to identify the truth of our era


OOKING at it historically, we find 2017 only three decades away from the Independence from colonialism. By that time, Indian National Congress was not powerful enough to strategise for a long drawn agitation against the British or even oppose them openly. When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, Gopal Krishna Gokhle advised him to first tour the country extensively and understand rural India properly. Gandhi had already seen British repressesion and exploitation in South Africa and he had raised voice against it there. That is why, he wanted to teach them a lesson by continue protesting them in India as well. It needs to be noted that he had already learnt the basics of non-violent movement in South Africa itself. It needs to be emphasized that the movement based on truth and non-violence that he developed in India, was not just a way of protest but was such an alternative to human civilisation and development that had love and compassion. Those who have studied Gandhian philosophy too reiterate that his Satyagraha is not a non-violent way of protest only. And also there are no for or against parties in it. He doesnt talk of victory or loss but puts forth a request to all concerned to follow the path of truth. At a time when we are underlining the advent of satyagraha in Champaran, it is important for us to identify the truth of our own era. Is there space for respect and love for in all the contemporary issues before us like cleanliness and development. If we tread in absence of these, we will probably never be able to find permanent solution to any problem. Gandhi never confronted the British indigo planters personally, but he kept on highlighting that whatever they were doing to poor farmers was unjust, inhuman and impropriate. He also started many socio-educational works in Champaran and asked the locals and big leaders to join these endevours. In the present era of violence and dissatisfaction, it is essential to remember that a human bing can attain a high place in the society only when his heart is filled with feelings like love and compassion and he treats these qualities as basis of his work ethics.


KUMAR DILIP Edited, Printed and Published by: Monika Jain on behalf of Sulabh Sanitation Mission Foundation, owned by Sulabh Sanitation Mission Foundation Printed at: The Indian Express Limited A - 8, Sector -7, NOIDA (UP) Published at: RZ - 83, Mahavir Enclave, Palam - Dabri Road, New Delhi - 110045 (India) Corporate Office: 819, Wave Silver Tower, Sector - 18, NOIDA (UP) Phone: +91-120-6500425 Email:,

MARCH 26, 2017

DR BINDESHWAR PATHAK Renowned Gandhian, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement


CHAMPARAN SATYAGRAHA OF MAHATMA GANDHI The Satya that Gandhiji added to agraha is the basic constituent of Indian culture. The concept born at Champaran in Bihar, is being practicised in its entirety in Sulabh Sanitation Mission


HAMPARAN is an ancient city in Tirbhukti Division on the westnorthern side of Bihar State. It has Nepal on the northern, Gandak on the western and Bagmati river on the eastern sides. Mahatma Gandhi had started satyagraha movement against cultivation of indigo in Champaran on the request and humble challenge of Rajkumar Shukla, from here he initiated his non-violent movement for India’s independence, thus are Champaran, Rajkumar Shukla and Mahatma Gandhi remembered in history as a trio. Bordered with the mountainous range of the Himalayan territory on the north-eastern sides, Champaran has plain spread of soil garnered by the rivers there. The Soweshwar Fort is situated at a height of 3,000 feet. There are dense forests as well in the neighbourhood, of the mountain ranges with Sadaneera (Gandak), Bari Gandak (Boorli Gandak), Ghanavati, Bagmati and Lelbaagi rivers. The central region of Champaran has a number of lakes. The agricultural products of Champaran are wheat, jute, paddy, maize, oilseeds and sugar cane. The jungles there are rich with useful timber, the district has factories for paddy and oil grinding, crushing of sugar cane, weaving and manufacturing wearables. During the British regime, the area was famous for production of indigo, which was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi, well-known places such as Motihari, Bettiah, Raxaul are in the neighbourhood. The army headquarter, Sugauli is situated in this district where a people’s revolution took place in the year 1857 leading to awful massacre. Nepal Treaty was signed here in the year 1815. Going to the historical past of the district emperor Ashok had his partographs installed in Nandangarh, Rampurisa and Areraj, Triveni and Dhaka canals were built here for irrigation to save crops from draught. The original name of Champaran is Champaranya. Champaran literally means a place with abundance of Champa flowers, the

place earned its fame on account of its natural beauty. Its forests as well had Champa plants spread over large areas. A class of deer known as Champa was also found in the neighbouring forest, Champaran has also been famous for scholars of Sanskrit who authored well-known books in the language. One of the many implications of the name Champaranya is, one whose good deeds bear fragrance like the Champa flowers, this is symbolic, as well, since its fragrance is all pervasive but everyone may not bear its intensity, there is a famous saying. ‘Champa, thou hast three qualities, beauty, colour and fragrance With a single fault, bees never come near thee’ Among the litterateurs, the poet Gopal Singh Nepali was closely related to Champaran. Babu Raghubir Narain, writer of ‘Batohia’ has described in detail the glorious past of Champaran. The visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran initiated his satyagraha against the cultivation of indigo which led to the international recognition of Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi and Rajkumar Shukla, Mahatma’s advice to replace the cultivation of indigo with that of cotton flowered later as Khadi. The cotton mill of Champaran earned its fame in course of time. The Satyagraha Movement of Mahatma Gandhi started from Champaran replacing indigo with cotton, suits made of foreign cloth led to replacement with khadi. Independent India replaced British India leading to the glorious independence and demolishing British atrocities. The history of Champaran has the satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi as its foundation. The literal meaning of satyagraha is insistence for truth. The movement of Mahatma Gandhi had the implicit meaning of opposition of injustice with no malice for the doer of injustice. Gandhiji had explained it to Lord Inter-his is a movement based entirely on truth replacing ways of violence. Non-violence

Mahatma Gandhi’s

movement had implicit meaning of opposition of injustice with no malice for its doer

MARCH 26, 2017 is the most important element in the philosophy of satyagraha as the only true way to reach and stay with truth is nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi experimented with non-violence for the first time in South Africa during the last decade of the 19th century for the protection of the rights of Indians there. He adopted if, thereafter, against the British rule starting from Champaran, a city of Bihar. It is wellknown that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi went to South Africa in the year 1893 in course of a legal case of Dada Abdullah Haque Co. of Porbandar, when he returned to India after 22 years spent in South Africa, on 9th January 1915, he was welcomed in Bombay. One of the prominent leaders at the function was Gopal Krishna Gokhaley with Md. Ali Jinnah presiding over the meet. About two years thereafter, Gandhiji came to Bihar on 10th April, 1917 on the request of a farmer-worker, Rajkumar Shukla. He arrived at Champaran after spending 3-4 days at Patna and Muzaffarpur, Gandhiji wrote in his autobiography on the condition of the farmers in Champaran: ‘Champaran is the land of Raja Janak. During 1917 Champaran had as many farmers of indigo as orchards of mango.

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha Oped

The farmers were forced by law to cultivate indigo for the owner of the land on its 3/20th portion, this was known there as teen kathiya. An acre consisted of 20 kathas, out of which three kathas were used to cultivate indigo. Hence the custom was named as teenkathiya.’ Mahatma Gandhi came to Champaran to be acquainted with the atrocities against farmers there. He started a political struggle against the British administration, famous as Champaran satyagraha, it was fought for about two years from 1917 to 1918.His colleagues during the movement were – Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Anugrah Narain Singh, Acharya Kripalani, Ramnavami Prasad, Bindeshwari Prasad Verma, Dharnidhar Prasad, Mehendra Nath Sinha, Braj Kishore Prasad, Janakdhari Prasad. As a result of Gandhiji’s movement based on truth and non-violence, the British government constituted an enquiry commission for the first time with him, as a member. The commission submitted its report after enquiry to the government. The government framed a law, thereafter, declaring the teen kathiya system illegal. The problem of the farmers of Champaran was thus

We do not have Mahatma Gandhi with us, but his satyagraha mantra is the strength of the weak and helpless masses

solved and Gandhiji emerged as a national leader. He himself has written about it, ‘It was Bihar which made me known all over India. No one knew me prior to that. When I landed up in Champaran after spending twenty years in Africa, the entire country woke up, as it were, earlier I did not know where Champaran was, but when I came there, I felt as if I know the people of Bihar for ages and they, too, recognized me.’ The truth or Satya that Gandhiji added to agraha is the basic constituent of Indian culture. One should only know the truth, it is mentioned in Chhandogyopnishad, truth alone is worth knowing. In the Vedas, satya has been postulated as the principle and Rit or truth as practice, satya as well as Rit. The satyagraha of Gandhiji is the practical combination of Vedic Satya and Rit. It was used for the first time by Gandhiji in Champaran. When he came to Muzaffarpur J.B. Kripalani addressed him with the word ‘Mahatma’ for the first time, leading to him being called Mahatma Gandhi thereafter, the recognition of Gandhiji as Mahatama, thus, has become a natural bond between him and Champaran. We do not have Mahatma Gandhi with us, but his satyagraha mantra is the strength of the weak and helpless masses. Our Sulabh Swachhata Andolan is totally based on the philosophy and work of Mahatma Gandhi. I have been working on the social transformation following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. The love of Gandhiji for cleanliness is well-known. He wanted to see a clean India prior to an independent India. He was also intensely sensitive to the scavengers’ suffering from evil tradition like untouchability. He had said ‘I may not be born again, but if it so happens, I wish that I am born in a scavenger’s family, so that I may liberate them from the inhuman, harmful and hated work of carrying faeces.’ I have been working since the year 1968 for the solution of the two problems in the country, being inspired by the thinking of Mahatma Gandhi. My mission has been to get the so called scavengers rid of the inhuman work of carrying human excreta on their head and their inclusion in the mainstream of our society. Gandhiji had said, think about whatever you work to do if it benefits the people on the lower rung of society. I came to realize that social reform and the invention of an appropriate toilet-technique may be an effective solution for the said problems. Against this background I invented and developed two pit pour-flush compost toilet for the disposal of human excreta on the spot, after hard labour, research and study of material available on the subject. This is beneficial for health, easy to operate, culturally acceptable, environment-friendly and affordable.


Through this toilet technology, a toilet may be built and maintained with materials locally available. It is fit to be constructed and operated in various geographical conditions. Not much water or scavengers are required for cleaning it. Sulabh toilet consists of two pits, one of the which is used at a time, with the other one kept as stand by. When the first pit gets filled up, it is closed and the excreta is diverted to the second pit. The content of the first pit gets converted into fertilizer. One litre of water is required to flush the toilet. Thus I have worked out the solution, based on education, and knowledge, to the two major problems of India-defection in the open and manual scavenging. I established Sulabh Toilet Organisation on March 5, 1970 with the determination to take my mission ahead, This was later named Sulabh International Social Service Organisation which is incessantly active in the field of sanitation for over four decades. More than 15 lac household toilets have been built by Sulabh as of now. We initiated in the year 1974 the concept of pay and use public toilet. The organization has built over 8,500 public toilets and bathrooms. About a crore and half people have been using Sulabh toilet everyday. The Sulabh toilet technology has achieved recognition as the best international practice in course of time, at the national and international levels, for the safe disposal of human excreta. It has been tested by a number of international agencies like UNDP, World Bank, UNICEF, WHO and recommended for adoption, specially for developing countries, BBC Horizons placed Sulabh technology in March 2014 among the five prominent inventions in the world. The work of Sulabh Movement is being delivered in strict compliance with the ways of Mahatma Gandhi. People who see and listen to TV-radio, read daily newspapers or visit Sulabh Campus must have realized how we are working to materialise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. Sulabh International is the singular social organisation that will be participating in the celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, having started with the year of his birth. Like Mahatma’s Charkha, Toilet is Sulabh’s tool. The 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji will be celebrated on 2nd October, 2019. On that occasion I shall like to say instead of garlanding his statue, Bapu, of your dreams for the creation of a new India, I have fulfilled your desire for toilet-construction, rehabilitation of scavengers and end of untouchability, we are paying our homage to you, restoring the human rights and dignity of the so- called untouchable Scavengers.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017


THE KRIPALANI FRIENDSHIP One of the closest comrades of Gandhi was JB Kripalani, and though he had revolutionary sentiments, never once in Champaran did he do anything to upset the movement RAM BAHADUR RAI The author is a very well known author and thinker. Currently, he is the Director, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts

Gandhi went

met the Secretary, Planters’ Association and held discussions about his intentions


lighting from a train coming from Muzaffarpur, Gandhi expressed the purpose of his visit inside the horse carriage, before going into the detailed study and survey of the miseries of the indigo peasants. They were legalistic in nature. Gandhi inquired from Kripalani as to how much he knew about the problems and sufferings of the farmers. In one of his memoirs Kripalani made a mention that he only knew about the atrocities committed on the farmers, but he said he would make me meet the lawyers of that area who would apprise me of the land reforms act. Gandhi talked to them on all the legal aspects relating to the problems being faced by the farmers. After that, Gandhi wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Muzaffarpur and went to meet him. Gandhi was considered an outsider and was asked to leave the district, never to return again as well as not to disturb the peace. We still have the same kind of attitude in the government machinery which is prevalent to this day. Subsequently, Gandhi went and met the Secretary of the Planters Association of the Indigo Farmers. It is not mentioned as to whether he was accompanied by Acharya Kripalani but Gandhi stayed in Muzaffarpur for four days. He wanted to understand the problems of Champaran from every angle. During those days, Muzaffarpur was the Commissionaire of the Tirhut Division and Champaran was one of its districts. Out of those four days of his stay, for two days he was at the disposal of Kripalaniji and the remaining two days he stayed at the residence of a reputed lawyer. GANDHI ON KRIPALANI Gandhi wrote in his autobiography: “Although I knew Acharya Kripalani who during those days used to stay in Muzaffarpur and I had gone to (Sind) Hyderabad, it was there that I came to know about his sacrifice, about his life and about the Ashram (Hermitage) which was sponsored by him, from Dr Choithram who wasa professor in the Muzaffarpur College but had given up his job. I wired him a telegram about my coming. The train reached Muzaffarpur around midnight and Acharya Kripalani came to receive me along with his students. It was quite interesting to know that he had no house of his own and he used to stay with Prof Malkani. He took me there and Prof Malkani was honoured to have me as his guest”.

In Acharya Kripalani’s memoirs and Gandhi’s memoirs there are two things which are mismatched. Firstly that Prof Kripalani used to stay with Prof NR Malkani, and secondly, he had given up his job. Perhaps these things are related to one’s memories.But the truth of the fact remains that since Kripalani was a Professorhe used to stay in one of the hostel rooms. Gandhi had gone to Champaran to study the problems and to redress the grievances of the indigo peasants. He had also made a mention in one of his autobiographiesthat Kripalani had envisaged the problems and the dilapidated state of Tirhut Division and that of Bihar as a whole. Kripalani had developed a bonding with the people of Bihar. LEGAL SUPPORT A small delegation of lawyers came to meet Gandhi the next morning. “Ramnavami Prasad was one of the lawyers who caught my attention by saying that I should have stayed with them as they will be able to help him out more accurately and I cannot accomplish my goals had I stayed at Prof Malkani’s house.” Gandhi was requested to stay at Gaya Babu’s house who was also a renowned lawyer. He was carried away by their love and hospitality. During that time Braj Kishore Prasad and Dr Rajendra Prasad had also reached Muzaffarpur. Though Gandhi had come to stay there for two days

but it was during that period he came to know the crux of the situation. That’s why while addressing the lawyers, he had exclaimed “I had come to see what all I could do in two days but now it seems that it may take two years for the reforms to take place and I am prepared for that, but it is impossible without your help and cooperation.” This was quite interesting. All the reputed lawyers of Bihar, including Braj Kishore had pledged their support to Gandhi but they inquired of him as to what kind of help is expected by him. This discussion went on for the entire night. “I would also like to extract the poet and the bilingual person which is hidden in each one of you.” Gandhi asked them whether they will be able to go to Champaran with him? To which Braj Kishore, who was present amongst the other lawyers, said:”We will

Snapshots Gandhi met Acharya Kripalani at the home of Prof Malkani, when Kripalani was also teaching The British were very cagey about Kripalani’s revolutionary thoughts and his political connections Gandhi assured the administration that Kripalani would not be disruptive

MARCH 26, 2017 carry out your orders and will execute the work entrusted to us. We will also make ourselves available as and when required by you.” Gandhi also cautioned them to be prepared at all times to go to jail. It was new to them but they said that they will gather momentum. Keeping all this in mind, Braj Kishore has commented that it was new to them earlier. After this Gandhi started for Motihari,which was the district HQ of Champaran, alongwith his team.There he stayed at Babu Gorakhprasad’s house who was one of the senior reputed lawyers. Kripalani could not accompany Gandhi as he was employed as a Professor of a Govt College and the summer vacations had not yet started. At the same time, he was in constant touch withGandhi as he was deeply interested in the activities of Champaran. All the letters pertaining to Gandhi used to come at Kripalani’s address who later on re-directed them to Motihari. Braj Kishore Prasad first met Gandhi along with Raj Kumar Shukla in 1916. Raj Kumar Shukla used to address him as ‘Vakil Saheb’. Gandhi had a different view about lawyers owing to their dress code and their image but later on he changed his views on reaching Muzaffarpur and Motihari, as they were quite cooperative. He mentioned them as ‘my dear friends of Champaran’ and ‘Braj Kishore Babu- the lifeline of Bihar’ in his autobiography. After a few years of Champaran Satyagraha one of the daughters of Braj Kishore Babu, Prabhawati came to Gandhi’s ashram (hermitage) where she got married to Jai Prakash Narayan. SACKED! After a fortnight, the college was closed for the summer vacation. During those days, the college was placed under the administration and aegis of the Bihar government, and Kripalani received a ‘love letter’ from the Director of Education that his services were terminated. He was known as a dangerous person in the eyes of the British owing to his links and associations with the freedom fighters and revolutionaries. How can the British tolerate a revolutionary professor?A person who was teaching the history of politics was not a mere teacher. He had his own views and that was a cause of concern for the British government, because of which his services were terminated. Treating him as a political figure,they closed the doors of the college for him. Prof Kripalani never regretted it, had it been so he would never have taken part in the Champaran Satyagraha so actively. Though he went to Champaran on

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

Motihari Apr 17, 1917 My Dear Friend, I could read your love, affection and your belongingness in your letter. Am I capable of getting that much of love and affection? Yes, I came to know that you are eager to help me. That’s your wish. You can either go to Ahmedabad and work there at the experimental school or else you can work here with me, not to mention that you can be imprisoned and put in chains.If you find that I am jailed, then in such a scenario you have to be at the helm of affairs and carry on the movement which I have started till such time the farmer does not get his freedom and breathes freely. You will not depart from your assignment nor will you leave this place. For me Champaran has now become my birth place and I am getting stronger day by day commensurate with my findings that things are getting from bad to worse. Your Well Wisher M.K. Gandhi

After a fortnight, the college was closed and Kripalani received a ‘love letter’ from the administration saying he was terminated

Gandhi’s call but it was he who initiated the movement. This happened after Gandhi had reached Motihari from Muzaffarpur. After losing his job for which he had no regrets, Prof Kripalani was as free as a bird and for him the sky was the limit. The day on which he got that letter regarding termination of his services, the very day he wrote a letter to Gandhi whether his services were required at Champaran. Gandhi immediately replied to that letter which speaks volumes about their friendship and relationship. CAMP MOTIHARI Immediately on receipt of this letter, Kripalani left for Motihari. Though Gandhi did mention about the job profile but still it needed clarity. After reaching Motihari, he looked for a job which he was able to get as per his stature. By that time Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Bhai Desai had also reached. Gandhi was able to convince the senior reputed lawyers who were camping there along with their convoy to partake in the community lunch which was under the onus and

responsibility of Kasturba Gandhi and Kripalaniji was to assist her. In his autobiography what Gandhi wrote about the working style of Kripalani was quite amazing. He wrote:“How can Prof Kripalani refrain and restrain himself from being a part of this function. Though he is a Sindhi, he is more like a Bihari. I have seen very few workers like him who mingles himself with the people of the place so nicely that they are unable to make out whether he is from their own community or from some other community. He positioned himself at the entrance and his main job was to save me from the crowds who were thronging in to see me and have a glimpse of me.He used all kinds of practices to stop people from reaching me, to some he would say jokingly and to others he would say sternly. During the night, he would become a teacher entertaining people as well as uplifting and encouraging those who were weak. What we can understand from this is written in his book ‘Gandhi-Jeevan Aur Darshan’. On arrival of Kasturba she, was made the head of the community kitchen and some people were made responsible to assist her. There was no


special task allotted to me but I used to oversee the arrangements and save Gandhi from the public. “Initially I used to cook food for Gandhi and myself.In this context Kripalani wrote that ‘to lessen the burden of cooking, I carried my pressure cooker with me.” Gandhi had again changed his diet plan and eating habits. He used to have boiled rice and vegetables. He also ate fruits which were available in the local market. He never used salt or spices. Kripalani wrote: “I also used to have the simple boiled food but sprinkled some salt over it to satisfy my taste buds. Two annas were spent on Gandhi’s food every day as rice and vegetables were quite cheap in Champaran.The rates of the fruits procured from the local markets were also less. It was during those days when Gandhi had not started drinking milk. I noticed that Gandhi did not like the Indian fruits as he had got used to the variety of fruits which he had during his stay in South Africa.” From this aspect, it was quite clear that there was a deep sense of understanding between the two at Champaran. Salt was the only minor difference in their dictionary of food. On the contrary Kripalani understood the motives behind Gandhi’s creative thinking. All those people who were not engaged in getting the statements of the farmers were non-Biharies. Gandhi had made groups of such people and sent them into the villages two at a time. Kripalani accompanied by Kasturba Gandhi also used to visit villages, Their motive was to educate the villagers on the aspects of education, health and sanitation. GANDHI TO MAHATMA It was in Champaran that the life changing episode took place and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came to be known as ‘Mahatma’which was later on recognized and approved by the entire nation and the world. There was no change in his aims and motives, which was Independence and Freedom. He was not able to decide the course of action to accomplish this goal. He never felt that the 150-years-old regime of slavery and bondage can be abolished through non-violence, but Champaran made him rethink on these issues. He remembered the time when he was voicing his opinion and doubted the policies of nonviolence and at the same time in Shanti Niketan, Gandhistated that the final call has not been taken and the final words have not been written in history. These words kept on repeating in his mind because seldom would one think that a lone man would deliver the peasants from the attrocities of the British so easily.He later on accepted that the policy of passive political ...Continued on Page 20


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...Continued from Page 19



Dharani Babu perhaps was guided by the British to suggest to Gandhi not to take Kripalani with him, but Gandhi said that could not be

resistance ‘Satyagraha’ of Champaran had broken the stranglehold of bondage and slavery and had proved its mettle across the length and breadth of the country. Kripalani wrote in his message that after his arrival, Gandhi was summoned by the Police Superintendent who was British. He told Gandhi that the government has full faith in his nonviolent policies but it is not free as far as the co-workers are concerned. Gandhi explained that they are all lawyers by profession and have only come to record the statements of the farmers and they have nothing to do with politics.The SP said ‘What about Kripalani? Gandhi replied: ‘He is a decent human being and is well versed with the terms and conditions on which I am working and will abide by it.” The SP cautioned Gandhi about Kripalani as the British were scared of him, and so was the case with senior Indian lawyers. It happened like this that the day when Kripalani reached Motihari from Muzaffarpur, that same day Gandhi was travelling to Betia to take stock of the situation at his investigation center. Kripalani reached in the afternoon and Gandhi was to leave in the evening. As soon as the news came about the arrival of Kripalani, one of the senior lawyers of Darbhanga, Dharni Babu came to Gandhi. Please remember that he was assisting Gandhi there. Till that time, Dr Rajendra Prasad and Brij Kishore Prasad had not reached and he was the only senior lawyer then. It is said that Dharni Babu held offices with the British government and it is understood that the words spoken by him before Gandhi were actually fed

into his mouth by the British. Whatever may be the reason, he went to Gandhi and said: ‘It would be prudent and wise if you don’t take Kripalani with you since he is known as a revolutionary politician and his presence will influence and disturb the people present there. He can also lose his temper.” FULL FAITH Gandhi listened to his advice, smiled and said ‘Professor is going with me’. Lawyer Dharni Babu was not Kripalani’s opponent but he never wanted the British to get outraged by the activities of Kripalani which may have a bad impact on Gandhi’s mission.His statement lacked maturity and had a touch of innocence in it. On this, Kripalani wrote his comments: “My intentions are very clear and would have done nothing which otherwise would have hampered the intentions of the British. I would have kept my calm to the extent of them losing their temper. Gandhi did not ask me to forward my political opinion. He knew it very well that I was a follower of the principles of Tilak, but in spite of the fact Gandhi, never asked me whether I was satisfied with the framework of the revolutionaries/freedom fighters. Gandhi had made up his mind that when I had come to work with him, then I will not do anything unbecoming which would slow down and hamper the process of reaching his goal and accomplishing his mission for which he had gone to Champaran. One can never imagine of betraying such a leader who believes in the principles of humanity and its beliefs.”

ACHARYA RAMAMURTHY The author is a famous Gandhist thinker, philosopher and author. He was very close to JP and Vinoba and is thought of as the propounder of the Total Revolution concept

SATYAGRAHA: THE BASIS OF DEMOCRACY FRIENDSHIP Gandhi has envisioned a thriving and invigorating democracy where plurality, diversity and opposition had an important role to play

A We are always

proud of our civilisation being spiritual, but never thought that violence could be lurking just around the corner

N epochal man knows the direction of an era and also how to merge it with the present. Two great men of the 19th Century made this happen in an extraordinary fashion. Karl Marx was a German who hogged the limelight when he identified the exploitation of labour class by the Capitalists by studying the history of civilization for nearly 10 years at London’s British Museum. There can no better example than Marx of self study leading to social philosophy. The second example is of Gandhi who practiced a new vision of life and social philosophy through meditation and changed the overall perspective of revolution. There is a similarity between the philosophies of the two. Marx understood the exploitation and violence on workers and Gandhi understood the discrimination and violence based on racism. As per Marx, all the civilizations had their roots in violence. Before Marx no other thinker has identified this truth. Although Gandhi’s period comes 24 years after the Karl Marx theory, when Gandhi was confronted with the theory of Karl Marx and was asked by journalists whether he agrees with it, he said that he will fully subscribe to it if the ‘Indian civilization’ is added to it. We are always proud of our civilization being spiritual, but never thought that violence could be lurking somewhere under our spiritualism. Nobody thought of this before Gandhi. This was revealed to us by none other than Gandhi himself. If we combine Marx’s exploitation and Gandhi’s racial discrimination, then we will be able to clearly see the roots of developed civilizations till date. When Vinoba started his Bhoodan Yagya Movement, he was actually searching for an ownership which was free of exploitation. Will we consider this discovery as that of Marx’s exploitation-free society or Gandhi’s exercise for a non-violence culture? In reality, Vinoba did the task of bringing two great minds together. Vinoba spread the message of co-ordination in his 13 years of journey on foot to the villages during which he gathered

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Today’s democracy patronises opposition. Why

will there be an opposition if everything is done on the basis of consensus and mutual agreement? lot of support. This was the material lesson of human life which Gandhi had started and was continued by Vinoba. Jai Prakash’s total revolution was perhaps not the last letter of this lesson and we will probably never find that last letter. Because man will keep on growing, the forms of civilizations will keep on changing and level of coordination will keep on manifesting in newer forms. An important thing which did not click Marx’s mind was that a citizen will be independent only if he attains freedom from the state, but he was unable to find a solution to the question that how will a person’s life be free from violence? This was done by Gandhi. This was also done by Buddha. Buddha accomplished his goals by his spiritualism and meditation. We cannot expect every citizen to be a master of meditation who will attain all values of life through his meditation. Gandhi accomplished this task - by spreading a culture of peace. In fact he trusted on modern teachings for the purification of the mind rather than depending upon meditation. Vinoba too evolved himself through a combination of intensive study and meditation. This process had a touch of politics but was devoid of any struggle for power. It had spirituality but without practices used in the name of spiritualism. We have all the three samples of life before us: Gandhi’s Satyagraha, Vinoba’s Public Service and Jai Prakash’s Advanced Citizenship. In today’s scenario, the citizens of India individually and as a society should decide as to which of the examples quoted above is beneficial to him as well as will be followed by him. It has been proven that the current day politics has no room for advanced

citizenship. Similarly, religion of the priest is also devoid of high values of life. There is no planning for new life in the prevailing system of education. In view of the prevailing circumstances, the need of the hour is a new culture which will enable us to live a life where there is no violence, where a person is able to earn his living without any exploitation and violence, and our relations with our neighbours are free from violence. We live in a traditional society. The second phase of change is democracy and the third phase is that of an ethical society about which Gandhi wrote extensively in his book ‘Hind Swaraj’. The basic challenge being faced by us today is that how can the traditional society be transformed into a democratic one. We were ruled by the British which has now ended but we have attained freedom, and independence only in the sense that British have departed from India. The assassination of Gandhi at the hands of a Hindu had made it clear that Hindus and Muslims cannot stay together. Does Swaraj also imply the same thing that people belonging to different races, castes, religions and cultures cannot stay amicably together as neighbours. If we don’t want to say this, then we will have to assume that there is no place for diversity in a democratic society and it should be the endeavour of the society as well as the Govt to minimize the dissimilarities as well as to nullify them at a particular point. Buddha laid down the principle of having meetings, dialogues and conversations till there is a meeting of minds between them. Today’s democracy patronises opposition. Why will there be an opposition if everything is done on the basis of consensus and mutual

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha agreement? We feel that opposition is a vital aspect of democracy since many decisions are required to be taken. Minority opposition always opposes the government. All these tasks may be accomplished on the platform of advanced citizenship. To tide over the critical situations, it is not enough to just form a political party and convene an all party meeting to prevent racist politics from taking over a racist country like India. This is why we need a culture of peace. The culture of peace never puts before us any demands which cannot be fulfilled by means of education or educating people. Developed and enlightened citizenship will make democracy thrive where there would be no need of intervention of the police or the judiciary. In the Congress plenary session in 1934, Gandhi proposed an amendment in the constitution of the party. It was clearly written in Congress’s basic objectives that freedom would be obtained only through peaceful and valid means. Gandhi wanted to replace ‘Peaceful & Valid’ with ‘Truthful & Non-violence’. His proposal was rejected by the Congress General Body which made Gandhi disassociate himself from the Congress. This example was necessary to show the differences between the Congress and Gandhi on the issues of Satyagraha. Nehruji used to spin the wheel and cut the yarn but he never considered Khadi (handloom) more than an attire for gaining independence. But for Gandhi , Khadi was a weapon as well as the means for serving the downtrodden, thus helping in the creation of a new society. The allegiance towards Khadi by Gandhi as well as that of other workers of Congress and the principles of truth and non-violence were also of prime importance to Gandhi. To some, it was a weapon for resistance, so we see Satyagraha in a different perspective altogether. People who advocate that we are free now and there is no need to lay emphasis on truth and non-violence as well as proclaim why to make khadi mandatory in building the society, are only propagating their views and not those of Gandhi.

Snapshots Mahatma Gandhi and Karl Marx were two epochal people with divergent views Nobody before Gandhi thought that violence could be lurking somewhere beneath spiritualism Marx always felt that a person will be independent only when he attains freedom from the state


Gandhi had already laid the foundations and had started practicing the exercises, be it concerning the practices of individuality, that of a family and that of a society as a whole, while he was in South Africa. By doing this he became firm in his battle for Satyagraha. Truly Gandhi had to replace the words ‘passive resistance’ with ‘Satyagraha’ as the complete meaning of satyagraha was not reflected in the words ‘passive resistance’. The intensity of truth which was present in Satyagraha was missing in passive resistance. As a recourse and resistance to the violence hidden inside racism, Satyagraha was fully practiced in South Africa. In India, it was used as a weapon to end the British rule. Following Gandhi’s footsteps, his disciple Vinoba ji had projected the use of a milder version of truth as a tool for the change of thought, society and social structure. By then, JP had reached this conclusion that the second phase of change in India would be democracy. Therefore whatever he did was for democracy, the prevailing democracy. This is why all his actions, decisions, agitations were within the limits of the Constitution. This was Gandhi’s thinking as well. When asked before the end of the British regime as to what would be his first step after attaining freedom, he said it would be to take democracy to greater heights. It is true that democracy carried the same meaning for Gandhi as well as that for JP. It was not a democracy of groups or parties but one which started from Gram Panchayats. Gandhi along with Marx wanted a decline in the state power or we can say he wanted a decline in the repression power of the state and would in turn use the state power in creative works. JP leaves this question to be answered in the future. In democracy, a citizen craves for peace but within the limits of law and constitution. JP’s happiness knew no bounds if his citizen develops the capability to decentralize power, thereby becoming a mediator for people’s power, later on transforming it into the power of the Govt. Gandhi has a different take on it. He did not want, at any cost, to take away the power of Satyagraha from his people. On the contrary, he used to preach that the power of Satyagraha will elevate the citizen to a new level of democratic freedom and place him in the moral and ethical realms. The basis of the study of Gandhi is the citizen’s power of Satyagraha, whereas JP is happy and concerned about the individuality of the citizen. Whatever be their working strategies, Gandhi and JP both feel that our traditional society be merged into an ‘advanced citizenship based democratic society’.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

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POWER OF NON-VIOLENCE Gandhi’s concept of non-violence was that it needed utmost courage to practice, hence it is not the last resort of the weak RAJIV RANJAN GIRI The author is a writer on Gandhian thought and is currently a professor at Rajdhani College, Delhi University, teaching Hindi literature

Gandhi said it

was wrong to consider nonviolence as the weapon of the meek and weak


HE month: April, 1917. The land:Champaran. A new experiment in truth and satyagraha was being conducted by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Before this, he had conducted a similar experiment in South Africa and attined su cces s. Th i s “experiment” had given him a new identity in India. Possibly this was the reason Rajkumar Shukla didn’t request the other leaders to come to Champaran and see their plight, but spoke to Gandhi about it and invited him. Looking at the political backdrop of those times, it can be seen that in 1907, Gandhi was not one of the top leaders of the Indian National Congress. But the trust and faith that a farmer living at one end of the country had for Gandhi is remarkable. In his autobiography, Gandhi has written about Champaran in great detail. He says he witnessed the form of the goddess of non-violence (Ahinsa devi ka sakshatkar) here. In Mahatma Gandhi’s experiment of Satyagraha in India, it was the land of Champaran that was put to use. A sea change came about in the Indian Independence Movement after the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917. After this, Gandhi took centrestage in India’s Independence Movement and in the Congress. UNCHARTED TERRITORY While going to Champaran on Rajkumar Shukla’s insistence, Gandhi had no inkling that he was going there to do Satyagraha. He had no idea he would stay there for so long, that he would give a tangible form to his ideology on education; that he will call for people such as Kasturba Bai Gandhi and Rajendra Prasad; that the investigation to find out about the real plight of the farmers in Champaran will prove to be so significant; or that this Satyagraha in Champaran will change the course of history. Speaking about how the word

“Satyagraha” came about, Gandhi has made it clear that before the word was born, it was an action that was to take place. Later, this was known as Satyagraha in the world of words and knowledge. When the word was born, even Gandhi hadn’t been able to understand its true ramifications. Everyone knew about its English meaning– namely, passive resistance. In a meeting with the whites in South Africa, Gandhi observed that passive resistance has a big meaning. It is the weapon of the meek. It is also believed that it might give rise to differences, and its last resort can be visible in the form of violence. Gandhi spoke in its favour during such times. To define a new fundamental phenomenon, a new word is needed to describe it. A word that can describe it in its entirety. Many a time, new phenomena add new meaning to old words. At such a time, the old word loses its meaning and the new word attaches itself to it with vigour. WORD CONTEST The form in which the struggle against power was led by Gandhi in South Africa, the phrase passive resistance was not enough to describe its true meaning. That is why it became important to come up with a new word to introduce the real

meaning of their struggle. Gandhi was unable to come up with a relevant and independent word for this. Thus, for a small token prize money, he organised a competition for the readers of “Indian Opinion” for the same. The award went to Maganlal Gandhi. He joined “sat” and “agraha” to make “satagraha”. To make the word clearer, Gandhi added a “ya” to it and made it “Satyagraha”. As a result, this struggle was called Satyagraha in Gujarati. With time, the word became a synonym for non-violent struggle. It had become clear from the Satyagraha days of South Africa that the foundation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s work and philosophy was truth and nonviolence. For him, non-violence was the

Snapshots When Ganhiji went to Champaran, he had no idea as to what he would find there In Champaran, he gave a second try to non-violence that he had first tried in South Africa Term satyagraha was not invented by Gandhi but by Maganlal Gandhi through a word contest

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one touchstone for Satyagraha. Thus, it also involved a lot of discussions and arguments. Many people were not agreeable to making non-violence as the biggest value in life, as they aren’t even today. People who are at the two ends of the thinking spectrum also oppose non-violence as the touchstone. Polar right-wingers and fanatic Communists, who don’t agree on anything, speak in the same tune on this. Not just that, the great freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai was also not on the same page with Gandhi on this and opposed it vehemently. The discussion that took place between the two on non-violence is notable. In the July, 1916, edition of “Modern Review”, which was published from Calcutta, Lala Lajpat Rai published an essay “Ahinsa parmo dharma: The truth or eccentricity?” while questioning non-violence. In the write-up, Lala ji said “I have the highest regard for Shri Gandhi in my heart. He is one of the people I worship. I have no doubt about his truthfulness either. I don’t suspect his intentions either. But I think it is my duty to vehemently oppose this view of his. In this aspect, even a man like

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

Lajpat Rai said: “No one should be given the freedom to dirty our community strength”

Gandhi should not be allowed to tamper with the minds of the Indian youth and poison it. No one should be given the independence to dirty the community strength.” LALA’S OPPOSITION Due to his inability to understand non-violence, Lala Lajpat Rai called it a delusion, which makes a human being a coward, helpless and dumb. The wrong usage of non-violence is like a rot that takes over the entire body and poisons it. This rot weakens human faculties and deforms men and women, makes them delirious and transforms the fearful. According to him, one of the reasons India has become downtrodden in the past 1,500 years and had lost his humanity was because it was non-violent. Qualities such as courage, bravery and fearlessness became eroded since nonviolence became the top touchstone for purity. Purity and self-respect

became less important. The pride in one’s community, patriotism, love for one’s land and family, all was finished. Using non-violence in its poor form and in a wrong way and to give it importance over every other thing has meant Hindus have seen their downfall socially, politically and morally. Gandhi gave a reply to these allegations in Modern Review’s October 1916 edition. He wrote that while respecting Lala ji as much, he needed to counter the charge that India’s downfall has happened due to giving too much importance to nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no historic evidence that our humane behaviour has vanished due to too much non-violence. Have we given enough examples of our physical prowess in the past 1,500 years? Internal fighting and differences have kept us away from each other and our personal greed took preference over love for the nation.”


Gandhi said truth and courage were important elements of non-violence. He said you needed utmost courage to practice non-violence. Thus, it was wrong to consider non-violence as the weapon of the meek and weak. In 1936, the great poet Suryakant Tripathi “Nirala” had his poem published under the title “Ram ki shakti pooja”. In this poem, Nirala writes how power is on the side of injustice. That is why “Shakti ki karo maulik kalpana”; that is, make power an important part of your fundamental thinking. It is not wrong to say that injustice is indeed backed by strength. In reality, strength has been often looked upon as the synonym for violence. What Nirala is asking for as a fundamental imagination is the strength of non-violence. It seems as if Nirala is talking about the same strength that Gandhi found in South Africa when he called upon the strength of non-violence in his Satyagraha. By proving non-violence to be a synonym for strength, power, courage and bravery, Mahatma Gandhi talked about it as a fundamental need for strength and presented it as an alternative to the present violent times.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

RAI PRABHAKAR PRASAD The author has been an official of the Bihar Administrative Services and also the Registrar of Bhagalpur University

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THE SCOURGE OF CHAMPARAN The British indigo planters forced Champaran farmers to cultivate indigo which would render their lands barren. They also heaped taxes on peasants. This is how Gandhi became aware of their plight


The most

touching account of the indigo farmers was written by Deen Bandhu Mitra in his play “Neel Darpan”. Mitra was then a senior government official

T is said neel farming was taken to the foreign shores from India. It is called indigo in English. The root word is indicum, which comes from ‘India’. This colour became extremely popular the world over and took on the form of a priceless commodity. When the East India Company came to India to do business and trade, the main commodity in 1600 was indigo. The indigo business had flourished for many years. To ensure more and more farming of indigo in India in the 18th century, the Company lent foreign farmers a lot of money. In the beginning, this farming become rampant in Bengal, and thus started the cycle of exploitation and torture of Indian farmers. The first glimpse of this torture is given by a British officer. E De-Latur who was deputy magistrate, Bengal Civil Services, Faridpur. In 1848, he wrote, “Not a chest of indigo reached England without being stained in human blood.” When the British government came to know of these atrocities, it established an Indigo Committee to investigate these charges. In his suggestions to the committee, another British Deputy Magistrate, Ashley Eden read out a list of heinous acts committed by the indigo planters and said “that when it comes to bringing the British to trial, justice takes a back seat in the court of law”. Later, Eden became the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and was known as Sir Ashley Eden. It is after his name that the famous Eden Garden stadium is named. Tired of indigo farming, the farmers said before the committee that they will not sow indigo even if their throats were cut. They said they would go to a country where indigo had never been farmed, and never been cultivated. Screaming, shouting, these farmers said they will never sow indigo for anyone. When the British government made magistrates out of the same indigo planters, songs were written denouncing the move. These songs were sung by folk singers as they moved from one place to another. A

collection of songs was also published in Bengal, talking about the crimes committed by indigo planters. At that time, a popular ballad was sung by everyone: “Jaminer shatru neel, kormer shatru dhil/ Temone jater shatru Padre Hill” (The enemy of the soil is indigo, the enemy of labor is idleness/ Thus the enemy of caste is Padre Hill). The Rev. S J Hill of London Missionary Society himself mentioned the ballad in front of the Commission. The most touching account of the plight of indigo farmers was written by Deena Bandhu Mitra in his play “Neel Darpan”. Mitra was then superintendent under the Post Master General, Bengal and was from Nadia. He wrote the account under a pseudonym in 1860. The translation was done by Michael Madhusudan Dutt overnight. The translation was then published by an Englishman, James Long. Then the play was enacted in several cities and towns in India, and was also translated into several European languages. The play was being enacted in Calcutta once and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar happened to be

in the audience. He got so worked up that he hurled a shoe at the actor playing the indigo planter. All these incidents took place before the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Raj Kumar Shukla. The indigo unrest died out in Nadia and Jessore, but reared its head in Bihar. Until 1911, Bihar was a part of the Bengal Province. Back then in the Tiruhat government, some disputes arose between the people and factory managers in Darbhanga raj in 1866. One year later, violence spread after an aggressive agitation. Initially, Lal Saraiya of Sulogi in Jaukatia, which is near Majhaulia of Champaran, broke his deal with the indigo factory and said that he would not sow indigo anymore. He then sowed Rabi crops in his land instead of indigo. With unified agitation, the indigo planters acquiesced for a while, but soon started the exploitative cycle once again. Saran, Muzaffarpur, and Purnia districts are to the north of River Ganga in Bihar and to the south lies Munger. Half of the Bhagalpur district, also fall to the north of the River Ganga. Later, most of the northern area of this district becomes Saharsa district. Now, Saharsa district too is divided into three districts– Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura. The work to grow and cultivate indigo scientifically was started by Alexander Noel (Later Noel & Co) around 1778. In 1782, the first collector of the Tiruhat government which consisted of old Darbhanga and

Snapshots British brought lot of foreign farmers to cultivate Indigo in West Bengal Farmers and landowners were exploited, their lands would become infertile because of indigo Raj Kumar Shukla, Sheikh Gulab and Shitla Rai ignited a movement of Champaran farmers

MARCH 26, 2017 Muzaffarpur districts, Francois Grand, immediately started work on setting up his three factories and started farming as well. There was no social welfare work that stayed with him. After three years of his collectorship, he unashamedly said he started indigo farming in the European way, encouraged its establishment, and built three farms with his own money. This shameless, reckless, greedy, and a poor administrator was removed from his services from the East India Company. And, why not? After all, a dacoit had been burgled. In 1789 in Muzaffarpur district’s Motipur, the Dutch also entered the indigo business. It is said that the first indigo factory in Champaran was established in 1813 by Colonel Hicky at Bara, near Chakia railway station. Because the factory became famous, the area was known as Barachakiya from then on. Before indigo farming, farmers would reap good profits from cultivating sugarcane. But when the price of indigo went through the roof in 1850, indigo factories started coming up in place of sugar factories. In the beginning, indigo factories came up in places where the land was fertile for sugarcane and indigo farming. By 1875, the British indigo planters established their hegemony. A survey took place in 1892-97, which showed that there are 21 factories in Champaran, 48 kothis (of indigo planters), nearly 33,000 workers, and that nearly 7 per cent of the 95,970 hectares land was being used for indigo farming. Atrocities by indigo farmers increased. The lieutenant governor ignored the farmers’ demand of forming an investigative committee regarding these atrocities. In 1877, Stuart Bayley, Commissioner of Patna, wrote that it was clear to local authorities that there was dissatisfaction and unrest in the area. Artificial indigo hit the market in 1897. The result was that the price of indigo fell from Rs 234 per tonne to merely Rs 100 a tonne. But in 1911, when World War I began and the supply of artificial indigo from Germany stopped, the price of Bihar indigo shot up to Rs 675 per tonne. Indigo planters were happy beyond belief and the crimes committed by them reached new lows with a new cycle. Since the administration of Bettiah Raj was in the hands of Europeans, the indigo planters did what they pleased. The more the repression, the more aggressive was the agitation. The British communications network had spread rumours that the state was under heavy debt due to Betias king’s love for luxury and excessive expenditure. In 1876, a British by the name T. Gibbon was appointed the manager of this state so that he could pull the state out of the red. The manager

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

Raj Kumar Shukla reached Chhapra on April 3,

1915. He gave an eye witness account and told the people what was going on with the farmers made a plan: a sterling loan of about 95 lakhs was given on the condition of substantial European security. This loan added fuel to the fire. To meet the condition and cover the interest of the loan, the land of the raj was given off to British sahibs. Every 15-16 kms, there used to be a Britisher’s bungalow or kutcheri. In the beginning of the 20th century, north Bihar’s administration was controlled solely by British indigo planters. But the brunt of this was borne by Champaran. The flames of opposition and aggression started in villages and towns. These fires lit up several torches. Those carrying their burning torches were led by Satvariya’s Raj Kumar Shukla, Saathi’s Sheikh Gulab, and Lauriya police station’s Mathia village’s Shital Rai. These people moved from village to village, formed groups of opposition, and inspired the farmers to rise up against the opposition of indigo owners. In 1907, Saathi village started to wake up from its slumber. Under the leadership of Sheikh Gulab, the Muslim population had a meeting and decided to stop cultivating indigo. These three musketeers also formed a collective fund by getting money from the suffering farmers and others. This fund was not to eat, drink and be merry. Every paisa was accounted for and was used to break the vicious cycle of

suffering and exploitation through legal help. In 1908, Sheikh Gulab and a few others were appointed as special police, but they refused to accept the post. They were then sentenced to prison. Calcutta High Court acquitted them later. The same year on April 30, Calcutta’s Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb in Muzaffarpur against exploitation by the British administration. The same year, Shital Rai was surrounded by police in his village Mathia and arrested on October 26. He got invigorated when he saw about 4,000 farmers walking behind him as he made his way from the SDM’s bungalow to the nearby prison. This news was covered by a vernacular daily, Ananda Bazar Patrika in Calcutta on November 9, 1908. Shital Rai, Radheymal and 26 other people were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. Against the backdrop of this was the public meeting that took place in 1908 on Dussehra, and was organized at the Betia fair. The tinkathiya tradition was openly condemned at the meeting and at the behest of Shital Rai and Sheikh Gulab, thousands of fists were raised in protest. With his cleverness, Raj Kumar Shukla ensured that the meeting was a big success. A united front of the farmers was formed. According to the plan, in the Dussehra mela of 1908, under the


leadership of Raj Kumar Shukla, Sheikh Gulab and Shital Rai, all the peasants from Betia and nearby areas took a decision on the southern tip of Bara Ramana that they would not sow indigo anymore. It was also decided in the meeting that if any village came under a threat or was in trouble, the villagers would make noises of “Ho! Ho!” and alert those in the nearby villages. The villagers returned with a new-found vitality from the fair. They decided to encourage other farmers not to sow indigo. A British officer, W R Gorlay, was once the sub-divisional officer of Betia and the collector of Champaran. He was the director of agriculture in Bengal in 1908 and undertook a formal enquiry about the subject from December 1908 to January 1909, and gave his report to the government in April 1909. Although his report was never published, it was clear that the complaints by the farmers were found to be true. The government released the farmers who had been imprisoned but also locked up Gorlay’s report in an almirah. After the coronation in December 1911, the British monarch, King George the Fifth came to India. At the end of the month, when he was on his way back after a hunting trip in Nepal towards Bhikhnathori, about 15,000 farmers gathered at the Narkatiyaganj railway station with the efforts of Shukla, Rai and Sheikh. Amidst a lot of ruckus, the farmers spoke out their problems and woes to the emperor and also raised slogans in his favour. Not understanding the language of the farmers, the king wanted to know what they were saying, at which his sycophants told him that they were praising the British Empire and expressing their happiness. The atrocities by indigo planters increased thereafter. And as these crimes increased, the activities by Raj Kumar Shukla, Shital Rai and Sheikh Gulab also grew in the same proportion. Their organized groups began to gain strength in the villages. Every day, new people would join them. But they still hadn’t found a voice outside the district. When the announcement of Bihar Prantiya Sammelan (Bihar Provincial Conference) to be held in Chapra was made, these three saw a dim ray of hope in the dark. As a representative of farmers, Raj Kumar Shukla reached Chapra on April 3, 1915. He gave an eye witness account and told the people what was going on with the farmers there. Many eyes were moistened. Braj Kishore Prasad, too, was moved beyond words at the description of the many atrocities. Braj Kishore babu practiced law in Darbhanga. He had never seen farmers suffering himself, but what he heard from the stage that day and


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

afterwards changed him. Braj Kishore babu said in the conference that an investigative committee should be formed to investigate the complaints by the farmers. But the government trashed the proposal and the governor, Sir Charles Bayley, refused to grant sanction. But the government officials presented a report in June 1915, saying that most of the complaints from these farmers were true. The name of this officer was JA Sweeney. He was a settlement officer. He had been in close touch at the grassroot level since he had to travel from village to village for land surveys. But the government put that report on the backburner as well. Sweeney got nothing but insults and reprimands from his own kind. The British officers even stopped speaking to him. It was like a sort of banishment. When he was transferred, no British officer came to bid him farewell. On the global arena, World War I was at its peak. At the same time, the battle of righteousness that was being fought by the indigo farmers against the plants had reached its pinnacle as well. After a breakfast of dahi-chiwda (curd and beaten rice) every morning, Raj Kumar Shukla used to start from Satvariya every day, and meet large number of people. Even then, the people of his own village didn’t understand what he was trying to achieve. Bettiah Rajhanded over its peasants to the wolves. Simple, gullible and helpless farmers were being exploited. They were being trodden upon, repressed and walked all over. It was an endless cycle of exploitation. People thought this was their destiny. Raj Kumar Shukla challenged them and told them they have the power to change their destiny – awake, arise, move forward, and fight. In the dark times of hopelessness, Raj Kumar Shukla was the ray of hope with his raw courage. He was one of the farmers who knew how even the dry hard heart of the earth could be ripped open with a plough. He wanted to wash away the stains of indigo forever, the same stains that were all over on the soil of Champaran and kept him restless for several nights. The indigo planters had done enough harm. Whether the farmer wanted to or not, he would have to sow indigo on three kathhas for every bigha of his land. That is, on 15 per cent of his land. They would then have to sell this indigo at the price decided by the planters. The farms would turn barren. They weren’t even allowed to use the stems of these plants as fertilizers. These were used by planters in their own zirat (their own private lands used for cultivation). In 1908, Saathi kothi starts to charge “pani kharch” for indigo farming. That meant that whether the farmers watered their fields or not, they would still have to pay the irrigation tax. Taxes of these

MARCH 26, 2017

If any indigo planter needed to buy an

elephant, he would have to ask for its payment from the peasants and people of his land in the name of Hathiahi kinds that were charged in the times of Mughal rulers were called “aabvaab”. The planters started collecting taxes in any other name they fancy. Apart from farming tax and pani kharcha, the farmers would have to pay an anna for each tax they paid. This was called “baandhbaheri”. So that they could keep their own ploughs, they would have to pay Rs three per plough a year. This was called “bentmaafi”. When someone died, his son or daughter would have to pay a strange tax called “baaphi-putahi”. If a peasant organized his daughter’s wedding and built a madwa, the planter would charge a madwach of Rs 1.25. If a widow was getting remarried, she would have to pay Rs five in the name of Sagaura. If someone had a kolhu to extract oil or to crush sugarcane, Rs 1 was charged for each kolhu in the name of kolhuvaan. In the name of terracotta vessels, Rs one or two would be taken a year in the name of baatchhapi. The planters or their workers would extract something or the other from the people in the name of faguahi on Holi, dushehi on Dussehra, Ramnavami or any feast or pooja. If any indigo planter needed to buy an elephant, he would have to ask for its payment from the peasants and

people of his land in the name of Hathiahi. Similarly, they would collect taxes on horse purchase for a horse cart, motorcar, or a boat. If a planter had a wound, he would collect money for his treatment from the tenants in the name of Ghavhi. If the kothi had a bumper produce of mangoes or jackfruit, they would be distributed among the public but money for the same would be charged according to their financial status in the name of Aamhi or Kathari. When the sahib or his manager went to a village, every person on his land came to personally greet him and gifted at least a rupee. The people would have to get receipts for their tax, and every receipt cost one anna. Dozens of taxes would be taken in the name of farakvaat, dastoori, hisaabaan, tehreer, diwandastoori, mahaapatri, rajank, mukhdekhi, diwanbhenti, gurubhenti, junglaaisimonbisi, dahi-chiwhara, jumanhi, and so on. But this wasn’t enough for the indigo planters. They would extract fines from the peasants for every little fault and mistake. The people were controlled in such a way that they would have to approach the kothis for any real or fabricated dispute amongst each other. These kothis were like the cats that

stood for justice over rats. In Lucknow, the Congress Session was held under the chairmanship of Ambikacharan Majumdar from December 26-30, 1916. Nearly 2,300 delegates attended the session. Thousands of people poured in. There was excitement in the air. The year 1916 was replete with political activity under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. After the split of the Congress at Surat, Tilak was attending a Congress session for the first time, and that too with a number of his followers. These included Braj Kishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, and Mazharul Haq. The session was also attended by Surendranath Banerjee and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Like a demigod, Tilak stood tall in support of crores of Indians. Among the Bihari delegates was present a poor farmer as well. Wearing a plain dhoti-kurta and topi, Raj Kumar Shukla was trying to converse in his broken Hindi about matters of national importance. He was eager to bring the plight of indigo farmers and the atrocities of indigo planters through this event to the notice of other countrymen. In that sea of humanity, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi seem to be the only one who could help, felt Raj Kumar Shukla. Shukla first met Lokmanya Tilak and Madan Mohan Malviya and told them about the woes of farmers in his districts. But both leaders told him that the only immediate question in front of the Congress at present was political freedom. Shukla became restless. What use is the freedom of the

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Bettiah Raj handed over peasants to wolves. Helpless farmers were being exploited

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha




Gandhi said that the Motihari Congress office should be able to grow in size for all times nation when the sighs and screams of its people in pain, remained unheard? Shukla ji had heard how Gandhi ji had provided deliverance to the girmitiya workers in South Africa. Gandhi was dressed as a farmer form Kathiawar. He wasn’t wearing shoes either. He had sworn to be on bare feet for a year after the death of Gopalkrishna Gokhale in February 1916 at Pune. Gandhi’s camp wasn’t too far away from where the delegates from Bihar were staying. Shukla ji took along Braj Kishore Prasad to Gandhi’s camp. He held on to Gandhi’s feet and requested him to pass a proposal in the Congress about the atrocities being committed on the farmers in Champaran. Braj Kishore Babu was in a black achkan (long A-lined coat) and pajama. Gandhi ji took him to be an exploiter of poor, unassuming farmers. “I have spoken about my agony and problems to the lawyer in detail,” he said, and requested Gandhi ji to come to Champaran. The lawyer was none other than Braj Kishore Babu, who later became a close associate of Gandhi in Champaran and was also the livewire of several public projects. After listening to him about Champaran, Gandhi in his customary way said, “I can’t give my thoughts on this until I have seen it with my own eyes. Please bring the proposal in front of the Congress, but do not involve me in this.” Raj Kumar Shukla wanted help from the Congress. Babu Braj Kishore Prasad expressed his sympathy for the people of Champaran on the second day of the Congress session and presented the proposal, “The Congress most respectfully requests the government to understand the necessity to form a mixed committee of government and non-government staff to investigate the stressful relations between the British indigo planters and the peasants as well as to understand the land struggles in North Bihar.” The Bhothra proposal was passed unanimously. In support of the proposal, when Raj Kumar Shukla spoke on the stage in front of thousands in his broken words, even the biggies listened attentively. People in the pandal started asking each other, “Who is this man? Where is Champaran?”Hence, Champaran found its rightful place on the national map. Thanks to Raj Kumar Shukla and Babu Braj Kishore Prasad!


HEN Champaran Andolan reached a cer tain momentum and the noncooperation movement of indigo farmers veered its focus towards education and health, Gandhi expressed his desire of having an office in the district – not only a permanent one, but one that can be expanded. This happened after evening discussions one day, and he gave the example of cathedrals. He talked about Westminster Abbey, which was made by Alfred the Great, and said the office could be just like that, where new departments and divisions were still being constructed after hundreds of years. He believed that with work expanding, the office land and building can also keep increasing in size, and that we needed an office where there was scope for the same. The discussion was an informal one in the evening, which was attended by all assistants, including his private secretary Mahadev Desai. Bapu said Brij Kishore Babu and Rajesndra Prasadji should

promise to live here and Gorakh (Prasad) Babu should commit to find land for the office in a month’s time. Mahadevbhai said, “Bapu, what are you talking about? We are not even in a position to have a rented place for an office, and you are dreaming of an office like that.” Bapu said, “That is how it is with me.” The discussion ended there; the next day, Gandhi had to go to Bettiah. As soon as Bapu returned from there, Gorakh Babu, whose house was the first one Gandhi lived in, came to him with a programme for laying the foundation stone of the proposed

building. A local moneyed man, Devilal Sahu, had given several acres of his land for the purpose. The land was adjoining Motihari, right on the BetiaMotihari road. Immediately, Gandhi set about getting a trust deed made, along with the various conditions and riders. Letters were written to name trustees and get permission for constructing a building. Thereafter, he told all his associates that trustees should start living there and ensure that nothing goes wrong. Nothing should stop the house from being built. If one building does get demolished, another one should come in its position. Things didn’t come to that, thankfully, and the Congress Ashram that still stands today, away from the city, beats any other Congress office, nay any other political party’s office. With time, the activity here has waned significantly and encroachment is rampant, with the city gradually gobbling the suburbs. However, Champaran fulfilled Gandhi’s wish just as he was about to leave the district.


Gandhi had such a frugal meal, that his daily cost for food came to just one anna


HEN Gandhi arrived in Champaran, a big group of Bihar’s prominent lawyers and socially aware people came toward, to offer him assistance. Each one was a top earner with unmatched clout. Even Gandhi was surprised to learn about the earnings and lifestyles of not only Brij Kishore Prasad, Majharul Haq, Sachidanand Sinha, Hasan Imam, Rajendra Prasad, but also that of Dharnidhar Prasad, Shambhu Sharan and Anugraha Narayan Sinha. Many of them started living with him in Champaran and came along with an entourage of their servants. Someone would cook, another would give a massage, while the other would wash and iron clothes, and someone took care of shoes. Only Kripalaniji alone had become a Satyagrahai by then and had learnt to live frugally. Gandhi’s food would also be

cooked with his – boiled vegetables and rice. Initially, Gandhi would eat only dates, dry fruits, peanuts and honey. But he started having vegetables and rice as well when he came to Champaran. Later, however, both he and Kripalaniji stopped having salt. Back then, Gandhi’s one meal would cost one anna. Kripalaniji would not spend anymore on a meal either. On the other hand, the kitchens of lawyers had everything – from vegetarian delicacies to non-vegetarian fare. Back then, goat’s meat would cost one anna and rohu fish, two paise. It is easy to imagine the lifestyle and eating habits of lawyers who fought a single case for Rs 10,000. Summers had just about started and there was no paucity of fruits such as mangoes,

jamun (jambul), mulberries, khiri, farsa and litchi. Jarda and Sabuja had become popular and apart from buying, people would get them along as well. Even Gandhi was fond of mangoes. The rest of the people would eat curd-chiwda in the morning and start their day’s work. Their real activity would be seen on the food front in the evenings. They would eat once Gandhi had eaten and would leave for a walk. It was then that fried fish, goat’s meat, or a bird’s fried meat would be served with different kinds of cooked grains and chokha/mash of vegetables. The dinner would go on until midnight. Gandhi would be surprised at this and say, “These people eat all this and more, and call it jalpaan (snacks).”


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

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PRAMOD KUMAR The author is a a Hindi litterateur, socialist activist and professor of Hindi in the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Bihar

COLONIALISM, INDIGO FARMING AND REBELLION Resistance to indigo farming by force was not new. The first Indigo Rebellion in 1895 in Bengal showed the way. But it was Gandhi who finally ended it. Peacefully. Glimpses from a complex history

Many British

businessmen set up indigo business in North Bihar disregarding government’s regulations


HE Europeans came to India for the purpose of trade. Significantly, it was the initial phase of industrial revolution in Europe. Therefore, the burgeoning industries needed raw materials. The commercialisation altogether swayed the agricultural structure. Consequently, Europeans made their mark by gradually changing the agricultural structure that had a dual purpose. European traders reached far-flung corners of the country and sent the raw material to industries in England. It could be said that even before expanding their grip in the political sphere, the British traders started strengthening economically. In the era of Delhi Sultanate, Bihar was a part of Bengal Province in terms of administration. From the Battle of Plassey to the Battle of Buxar, British established themselves politically in Bengal and Bihar. In the year 1770, Tirhoot region was also dominated by East India Company. Bettiah’s King, Jugal kishore Singh was defeated in 1786 by Colonel Barker’s army and fled to Bundelkhand. Later, the British summoned him again and gave him the zamindari of this region. During this phase European traders began establishing their factories in this region. The indigo farmer, Minden Wilson came up with a list of indigo farming in Tirhoot region, the Dooria Factory. There were later many factories: Dooria, owned by John Fitch; Attur factory of James Gentile, Dholi and Duwdpore factory of William RB Hunter, the Kanti factory of Alexander Neel, SIngia factory owned by Thomas Park, and the Shahpore factory of

Richardson Purvis. Notably, these were owned by British families who were not in the services of the East India Company but they already began Indigo farming in Tirhoot region. It is quite a known fact that these factories and their landowners later strengthened the British hegemony in the region. LONG HISTORY It is pivotal to note here that indigo farming existed in India long before the advent of the British. Minden Wilson throws light on indigo farming and writes that the word indigo itself shows that it is an Indian plant. The ancient Greek philosopher and writer Pliny and other writers inform that it is an Indian plant. In Europe, the word was used for the first time in Germany in the 17th century. Indigo plantation till 1654 was restricted in Europe. However, on the contrary in India an excellent variety of Indigo was produced in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.It was exported in Rome and Qustuntunia in Europe. According to Ain-e-Akbari, this excellent variety of Indigo had its prime centre in Bida, a few miles away from Akbar’s capital. Beside Ain-e-Akbari, European traveller Bernier also writes, that the Dutch traders used to purchase indigo from around Bida and take it to Europe. In India, the credit for beginning Indigo farming of European quality does not go to British but a Frenchman named Louis Bonard who was Governor of French colony in India Chandannagar, formerly

spelled as Chandernagore. The French Revolution broke out at the same time. king louis 16th of France was dethroned and guillotined, and inspired by this, the people of Chandannagar threw out Louis Bonard and he was imprisoned in the same fort. Bonard managed to escape and reached Kolkata. He established an Indigo factory with the help of his foreign friends. His first was in Malda and then Jessore (now in Bangladesh) and he became the most successful businessman of his time. At the same time in North Bihar indigo farming was initiated. Historian Stevenson Moore writes that high quality indigo for the European market started being farmed in 1782, when one Grand was appointed as governor of Tirhoot by the East India Company. Grand established three indigo factories at his own expense. But in a short span of time, Grand was transferred from Tirhoot and was made a judge in Patna. Henceforth, he was asked to put an end to his business. Eventually, he was removed

Snapshots Natural blue dye was rare and indigo fulfilled that need as an organic substance India has been cultivating very high quality indigo since ancient times Banned in Europe, British businessmen forced their way into the trade and coerced farmers

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

The year 1908 was

marked by widespread rebellions across Bihar against forced indigo planting

from the post of judge in Patna for not winding up his business. NOT THE COMPANY There are two aspects: first, that the business of indigo farming and the East India Company government were not synonymous. Second, it was required to have permission of East India Company for indigo farming, but some British persons were farming independently here. In case of dispute between farmers and factories, East India Company considered that the farmers had to benefit too. After a few years in 1793, indigo farming began in Saran district. Apparently, Champaran was in Saran district during those days. After 20 years, in 1813, a high grade factory was opened by Colonel Hickey in Barachakia, Champaran. Before this in Champaran, sugar was the major business. Minden Wilson, who in 1847 came from Mauritius through Kolkata, reached Tirhoot. He writes that in Kokata he used to work in sugarcane farming business. The aim behind his training was to make him proficient for experiments in sugarcane farming to boost the sugar business. The state survey of 1847 in Champaran shows that the sugar mills were burgeoning but in 1850, the sugar business had to witness a major loss. Wilson writes that after two years of his arrival, sugarcane farming had to face a major setback. Several European businessmen went bankrupt. The Mauritius Experiment proved fatal here. The land was not suitable for sugarcane farming. This is why the foremost choice of Europeans became indigo farming. At the same time, indigo price escalated and indigo replaced the business of sugar. After

1850, for the next 70-80 years, indigo remained the main cash crop in these parts of Bihar. SEPOY, MUTINY AND INDIGO After the revolt of 1857, another pivotal phase of indigo farming in Champaran came. Indigo workers had a major role in bringing the British back to power after the revolt. On the other hand after the revolt, the control of the government of India was transferred from East India Company to the British Crown. The British Raj tried to remove the dissatisfaction among farmers to avoid any repeat of the Mutiny. But the indigo planters thought that they are an integral part of the government and tried to get the maximum benefit from the government. From the year 1850 to 1870, indigo farming in Bihar saw unprecedented growth. Around 1869-70, in Bengal when the social and political thinkers began connoting it as oppressive, the government banned indigo farming, considering the widespread dissatisfaction. A major portion of indigo planters went to Tirhoot and especially Champaran. As the competition of indigo farming increased the exploitation of cultivators and dissatisfaction among the farmers also escalated. In 1877, the Lt Governor of Bengal Sir Ashley Eden found that criminal cases have been registered on large scale in Saran, Champaran and Tirhoot districts. In this context, Eden wrote to Patna’s Commissioner SC Beli that suggestions of prominent indigo planters and officials should be taken regarding the deteriorating relations between indigo planters and local inhabitants. It was for the first time they united for the protection of their rights

in case of pressure from the government. On 2 April 1877 for the first time, indigo cultivators organised a meeting. A large number of cultivators participated in the meeting held at the Planters Club of Muzaffarpur. F Collin Greece put forward a proposal that was further supported by R Wilson. Through this proposal, planters emphasised on resolving the brewing issues of indigo farming themselves. Indigo planters association was formed in the month of June. Since then, this institution in coordination with the government was all set for protection of indigo farming, but not the farmers. Significantly, the planters united to attain maximum profit by exploiting the naïve villagers but the villagers also left no stone unturned to protest against them. RUMBLING PROTESTS In the beginning, the repression by the British planters and their local workers made the local inhabitants apprehensive to such an extent that they had to leave the villages. However, in 1867-68 they had to protest again. The uprising of indigo farmers in 1859 in Bengal inspired the famers in Champaran, and they also united to raise cane. In 186768, in Jaukatia village of Lal Sarai Kothi farmers protested against indigo farming. Rabi was cultivated in the land prepared for the cultivation of indigo. The simmering protests spread from Jaukatia to adjacent areas. The movement continued for four months. The impact of this incident was that the tenant farmers were forced to grow indigo on three kathas of every bigha (three out of twenty parts of their land). The government changed the system from panchkathiya to teenkathia. The owner of Lal Sarai Kothi was James Macleod, popularly known as king of indigo planters. Consequently, the movement cut the indigo farming area down but government in defense of indigo planters set up a small court of two judges in Motihari. The dissatisfaction among farmers was pacified temporarily but it was not the end of rebellion. On the one hand, dissatisfaction was brewing among the people and on the other, indigo planters were united in their exploitative ways. Torture was


rampant. In the year 1887, when Bihar province faced severe famine, the planters increased the price of indigo from 10 to 12 rupees per acre but it did not prove favourable for the local inhabitants. Amidst this, in 1893 the profit in indigo farming declined because of the entry of artificial indigo in the market. And the planters further cut back on the money paid to indigo farmers. To retain profit, the indigo planters came up with 52 illegal taxes imposed on farmers. This further deepened the disgruntlement between planters and the people of the region. In the beginning of the 20th century, the local inhabitants were up in arms to protest. In the year 1907, Sathikothi Assamese refused to plant indigo. Later, Gumasta Sunderman Rai of Sathikothi filed a case against a local revenue and law officer. Similar was the situation of Parsakothi: on October 16, 1908 there was violent clash between local inhabitants (raiyyat) and soldiers. WR Gorilla, who was in-charge of the agricultural department in Bengal, was sent to Champaran for studying the situation. But the government did not let his report see the light of day. It did not take any initiative to ameliorate the plight of the farmers. Consequently, the inhabitants of Telhara Kothi killed the Kothi’s manager, Bloomfield. Throughout the year 1908, the violence between farmers and indigo planters was at its peak. Consequently, the trend of tinkathia was reduced to dokathia. However, the local inhabitants could not shrug off the illegal taxes imposed on them. This is why discontentment and dissatisfaction kept brewing. Champaran, famous for its fertile land, became a subject of exploitation under the British rule. The land became a centre of British business and profiteering. The entire region became the epicenter of such violent repression, that the farmers’ backs were broken. GANDHI STEPS IN Gandhi’s arrival in the land of Champaran was a ray of hope. It was for the first time that the people of Champaran got their true leader. Perhaps Rajkumar Shukla was not aware that in the coming days, a leader like Gandhi will not only clear the smear of indigo (neel) but will also create such a roadmap of Satyagraha that will certainly make India independent of colonial rule. The struggling people of Champaran got a leader like Gandhi and Gandhi got a stage in the form of Champaran to spread his Satyagraha Movement in India. It ultimately proved to be the foundation of Swaraj and a paragon for passive resistance to British colonialism.


100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha

MARCH 26, 2017



In Bihar, especially, Gandhi had many close associates, but he would not let Braj Kishore Babu leave his side

M There is

evidence to prove that it was Braj Kishore Prasad who told Gandhi to aim at Swaraj, along with noncooperation

AHATMA GANDHI’S sudden arrival at Patna had surprised everyone. He had travelled with just Rajkumar Shukla, and had not informed any of the Bihar leaders. In a letter written to his nephew and the Manager of the Ahmedabad Ashram, Manilal Gandhi, he described Rajkumar Shukla as thick headed and stupid. In the same way, he had initially considered Braj Kishore Prasad, then a top lawyer, fully attired in an English suit, as a blood-sucker of the farmers But it was not long before Gandhi started looking upon Braj Kishore as a symbol of the rich Bihari culture and traditions. Braj Kishore met Gandhi at a time when he was getting ready to meet the officers at Muzaffarpur, as well as fulfilling the formalities of Champaran protest. Braj Kishore asked Gandhi in the local dialect as to what kind of support he was expecting from him. SUPPORT PLEDGED Gandhi clearly stated that he wanted a bilingual assistant who could converse in Bhojpuri as well as read Kaithi script. He is not in need of legal support, nor is he canvassing for donations. The moment Braj Kishore Prasad pledged his support, Gandhi’s search for his fellow workers for the campaign ended because including Motihari, in every city he had enlisted people who were trustworthy and known to him. In April 1917, Braj Kishore not only played an important role in the fields pertaining to law and judiciary but he was also an important figure in the socialistic and political field. He was one of the respected and renowned lawyers of that time who used to charge Rs 10,000/to contest a case. The lowest fees charged by any lawyer was not less than Rs 1,000/-. It is interesting to note that Gandhi’s entire expenses of 10 months at Champaran came to only Rs 2,200/-.

SUPERB GALAXY Maulana Mazharul Haq, Sachidananda Sinha, Imam Bandhu, Ganesh Datt Singh, Purnendu Narayan Sinha were also lawyers of no less repute and were always in the forefront. They never hesitated to go against the orders of the government, if the situation so demanded. Apart from all this, they were instrumental and played a vital role in their fight for a separate statehood for Bihar, shifting of the High Court to Patna, establishment of the Bihar Bank as well as building of the Bihar University. They also started the ‘Poor Boys Hostel’ in 1911 to meet the educational needs of the poor and needy boys, which saw many talented children rise up to new levels of excellence. They used to donate a major portion of their earnings regularly towards this noble cause. The British resorted to all kinds of power politics and tactics to defeat them in the 1910 Council Elections but they prevailed. Indigo farming was also prevalent in the Chhapra District but on a lower scale than in the Tirhut constituency. Indigo farming was done on a massive footing in Darbhanga by employing farmers who were subjected to atrocities, even though the atrocities committed on them were less as compared to those in Champaran. FIRST REVOLT The first incidence of revolt against indigo farming took place in Pandaul, Darbhanga. But these protests were sporadic and on a small scale, which helped the British to suppress them and a large number of people were affected. After some small incidents in the beginning, they later on became organised to voice their protest collectively, but it was of no avail. Finally they resorted to seek the help of the judiciary. Braj Kishore Prasad got connected to Gandhi in this regard. Gorakh Prasad, who practiced law at Motihari, became the mediator He was a native of Chhapra as well as a distant relative of Braj Kishore Prasad. Instead of restraining this protest to law and order, he also gave it a political touch and raised it on all the political platforms. His resolution was passed in the 1916 session of the Congress at Lucknow and it was there for the first time that Rajkumar

Shukla, a farmer by birth and profession addressed the Congress and it was here that he met Gandhi. ENDLESS COMPANIONSHIP Braj Kishore came to know about the arrival of Gandhi only after he started for Champaran and reached Patna. Braj Kishore had no prior intimation of the arrival of Gandhi. In spite of his busy schedule, he took out time for Gandhi and pledged his full support since Gandhi had come to resolve the issues relating to Bihar and Braj Kishore was a staunch Bihari. Gandhi was aware of the reputation and busy schedule of Braj Kishore Prasad, and that’s why he adopted a lenient attitude towards him as compared to his stance on other workers. Braj Kishore was not keeping good health. He was used to the luxuries of life and because of this very reason he was permitted to keep his domestic aide with him all the time, when others were asked to do away with them. He was also permitted to move out of station to contest his court cases, and back home, all the important decisions were kept on hold by Gandhi pending his arrival. ILLNESS On the contrary, Braj Kishore kept his work updated and never gave anybody a chance to complain. Being a patient of rheumatism and arthritis did not deter him from travelling mile upon mile with Gandhi, sometimes even during the night. He became ill after the protest got over and the doctors of Darbhanga and Patna could not cure him. So he then took the treatment of his doctor friend, Bidhan Chandra Roy from Bengal. Even Dr Roy’s treatment was not

Snapshots Top lawyer Braj Kishore Babu first met Gandhi at the Lucknow Conference of the Congress He used to wear Englishman’s attire and Gandhi first thought of him as a blood-sucker During the Champaran Movement, Braj Kishore worked as Gandhi’s aide and translator

MARCH 26, 2017 able to cure him from his illness. Then Gandhi sent him to Delhi where he was treated by Hakim Ajmal Khan. After meeting Gandhi at Muzaffarpur, Braj Kishore Prasad left for Calcutta to contest a legal case, leaving behind two of his associates, Dharnidhar Prasad and Ramnavami Babu. Ramnavami Babu was the brother in law of Braj Kishore Prasad. When Gandhi was asked by the British to leave the district, he refused which later on took the shape of a protest and culminated in a struggle. Thereafter, a meeting took place of all the important personalities of Patna to plan strategies to tide over the situation. Since the meeting was convened by Braj Kishore Babu, he accompanied by Pollack reached Patna the same day. The very next day i.e. 21st April all these leaders i.e. Braj Kishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Henry Pollack (who had worked with Gandhi in South Africa), Anugrah Narayan Singh and Shambhu Sharan Sharma reached Motihari. Till that time, the judgment of the court had not come but the proceedings were over and it was realised that the British government will relent. The verdict came in the night, the case was lifted and Gandhi was given the liberty to carry on with his investigations of the plight of indigo farmers. By that timeDharnidhar Babu and Ramnavami Babu had already commenced the work of recording the statements and testimonies of the indigo farmers at Motihari. With the induction of three more lawyers, the work became easier. After consultation with all these lawyers Gandhi told them to finish their respective assignments and then get back to him. It was easy for the other lawyers because they did not have much work at hand, but it was a bit difficult for Dharnidhar Babu because he had many legal cases in hand to be contested. Mazharul Haq was also quite busy but Gandhi reserved him for important occasions and relieved him from the day-to-day activities. But Gandhi decided to keep Braj Kishore with him all the time and would never let him go away once he was in Motihari. TRANSFORMATION When Gandhi went to Bettiah, Rajendra Babu was made in-charge of the Motihari mission, but he took Braj Kishore Babu with him. When Gandhi went for the first time to Lokariya village, he made Braj Kishore Prasad walk with him for nearly eight miles. Not only that, Gandhi always tried to keep Braj Kishore Prasad with him in all the important meetings and delegations where he was supposed to meet the dignitaries and delegates of the government. This protest saw a change in the people of Champaran as well as in Gandhi. It had brought about a dramatic change in their lifestyle and it changed the life of

100 Years of Champaran Satyagraha


much protests. This was the only reason that we don’t find a single Bihar woman taking part in the protest of Champaran, whereas during the time of the noncooperation movement and especially during the picketing the entire responsibility was taken over by the women of Bihar. The 1922 Conference of Gaya marked the end of making separate sitting arrangements for the women. Braj Kishore Babu had also made efforts to put an end to many social evils and traditions by being in the forefront and never hesitated from going to villages to protest against such evils.

He was instrumental in setting up the

machinery of one of the biggest handloom plants in Madhubani Braj Kishore Babu more than anyone else. Earlier also he used to work for the betterment of the masses with the help of his profession and his earnings, but the protest of Champaran had brought about a massive change in his profession, in his life, and his style of working. Though he did not do away with wearing coat and pant in spite of his wearing khadi and swadeshi (homemade) clothes, nor did he take part in the construction works started by Gandhi, his role was vital in whatever happened in Bihar post the Champaran protest. He toiled hard and sold khaddar on his shoulders. He was instrumental in setting up the machinery of one of the biggest handloom plants in Madhubani. He also played a vital part in the establishment of the National Schools and the Bihar University. Braj Kishore Prasad had left his practice during the Non-Cooperation Movement. SWARAJ There is evidence to prove that it was Braj Kishore Prasad who told Gandhi to aim at Swaraj along with non-cooperation movement. A political conference was held at Bhagalpur in Bihar before arriving at a consensus at a special session of the Congress at Calcutta, which was aimed at attaining Swaraj which was agreed upon and Gandhi was also given some sort of advice to which he also agreed. Braj Kishore Babu made all-out efforts to make the non-cooperation movement a success in Bihar. Picketing and protests

were launched outside the liquor and foreign good shops. Imported clothes were burnt. Braj Kishore Prasad and Rajendra Prasad also associated themselves with the newspaper ‘Searchlight’, which was published twice a week by Sachidananda Sinha and Hasan Imam, who were its editors. When differences arose between them on the issue of non-cooperation, Braj Kishore Babu and Rajendra Babu took over and they started publishing a weekly by the name of ‘Desh’, which became quite popular later on. It was published from the same press from where the newspaper Searchlight was being published earlier. On being inspired by Kasturba and other women taking active part in the protest of Champaran, Braj Kishore Babu also encouraged his wife Phool Devi, along with other women of his household, to join hands with Kasturba. He also made special efforts to educate the girl child. One of his daughters, Prabhavati was also an inmate of Gandhi’s ashram. His wife, Phool Devi also stayed at the Sabarmati Ashram for quite some time. Braj Kishore Babu’s friend and fellow worker Dharnidhar Babu along with his wife had offered their services for the Madhuban School. Another friend of his, Ramnandan Mishra, in spite of all family objections, had permitted his wife to work for the social cause. At the initiative of Braj Kishore Babu, a drive was organised for the re-marriage of the widows, which was accepted without

TROUBLES GALORE As time went by Braj Kishore became more and more busy and was overcome by health problems and loss of money. When the ancestral property was divided , his brother took the maximum share of it which Braj Kishore never protested and gave it wholeheartedly. The Salt Satyagraha was the biglast chance for him to show his activeness in Bihar. During this time he was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for five months. He also headed different positions in the Congress. He was asked to contest the elections time and again but did not, except for the election of the membership for the Council. In every election he put in his best, thus paving the way for the victory of the Congress party. KHADI PASSION Later, he surrendered his membership of the Congress Working Committee and dedicated full time to Khadi and other projects. His entire family started wearing Khadi. In those days, the handloom material used to be very thick and two whole lengths were joined to make a dhoti or a sari. It was next to impossible to make the basic changes right from the production to its sale but by staying in Darbhanga after the Champaran protest, Braj Kishore Babu with his undeterred efforts had made Darbhanga the hub of handloom or Khadi. Even though the rigorous imprisonment had a bad effect on his health, still he did not sit back during the rehabilitation and rescue operations of the 1934 earthquake. On the one hand he became busy more than ever and on the other, his health was deteriorating. The extraction of a tooth had a severe impact on his brain and his memory power. Sometimes his general condition looked normal but otherwise it became worse. This situation persisted for a long time. Braj Kishore Babu breathed his last on 15th October 1946 and homages and tributes poured in from all quarters, from everyone big or small for this obedient son of the soil who never took credit for any work nor had any craving or desire for any post.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Licensing) Delhi No. F. 2 (S-45) Press/ 2016 VOLUME - 1, ISSUE - 14 Printed by Monika Jain, Published by Monika Jain on behalf of SULABH SANITATION MISSION FOUNDATION and Printed at The Indian Express Ltd., A-8, Sector-7, NOIDA (U.P.) and Published from RZ 83, Mahavir Enclave, Palam-Dabri Road, New Delhi – 110 045. Editor Monika Jain