Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Champaran Satyagraha movemement, Motihari - where Gandhi became the Mahatma!!
The Champaran Satyagraha of
It was here in Champaran District of Bihar Mahatma Gandhi launched the Champaran Satyagraha on April 10, 1917 against the British Raj  to fight for the legitimate  rights of farmers who were forced to undertake indigo cultivation.  The word Satyagraha was used for the first time in Anti-Rowlatt Act agitation. It was at the same place the tranfrmation from Mohandas Gandhi to Mahatma had begun!!
This Indigo was widely  used to make dye, and for the British it was a  good money-spinning business as the mark-up  was quite attractive. However, their Indigo business ran into rough weather  when the Germans, for the first time, introduced a cheaper and better quality artificial  product. Obviously, the demand for the India-made Indigo came down drastically. This very much affected the Indian farmers also  as they had to pay high rent on the land being cultivated by them.  In the ensuing WWI. the business scenario of Indigo changed as  the German dye was not available on the market. The British got a break-through and decided to take up the Indigo production again as it was a profitable one. Being greedy, as they were, they forced the Indian farmers  to go for Indigo cultivation on part of their land (in 3/20 part of a land)  in accordance with their lease agreement - a condition of their tenancy. Their compulsion  created much anger and resentment among the Indian farmers. The farmers were poorly compensated for the Indigo crops raised by them. If refused to cultivate, they would be intimidated and forced to pay higher taxation.  The 'White’ farmers who had settled in the area used what were called kothis (bungalows) as  headquarters  specifically to control Indigo cultivation. Each kothi had a British owner with a group of workers, supported by the local police and hundreds of acres of land in their possession. The british landlords ran the business with the help of their agents called Gumastha. yet another hardship was during Indigo offseason, the farmers had no rights to raise any other crops.  
Mahatma Gandhi,
Champaran district became a field-testing ground for Gandhiji and it was here roughly 101 years and five months ago in April, 1917, he put to test the viability of the  most potent anti-imperialist tool of Satyagraha or non-cooperation. It was this Satyagraha which immensely contributed to Gandhi, becoming the Mahatma in later years . Gandhiji  organised it along with  Braj Kishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha Ramnavmi Prasad, and others including J. B. Kripalani. In the later years of freedom struggle,  Satyagraha or non-violent resistance to an unjust and oppressive regime,  became a sort of antidote for the British  imperialism in the last century. Gandhiji availed himself of this opportunity and tried  his tirades against the British  by organizing non-cooperation movement on a large scale. Champaran, with a good cover of  forests, mango orchards and productive agricultural land provided  a good backdrop for Gandhiji.  

One Raj Kumar Shukla was instrumental in  turning Mahatma Gandhi from man to legend and Champaran District became the right platform to popularize his disobedience movement against British Bobs.  Ghandhiji's motivation and emotional appeal  had an impact on the psyche of the Indians who were on iron fritters. There  were also rumours thick in the air that  that Gandiji might attain satinwood and carry a Dhanda (a thin pole) in one hand. No doubt, in the coming years he earned the appellation ''Mahatma'' 

 It is essential to bring out an important fact that Raj Kumar Shukla was the person who impressed on Gandhiji  to visit Champaran and to see for himself  how the British were forcing the Indian farmers to cultivate Indigo so that they could reap the profits by throwing crumb for the cultivators.  He also became well-known because of his association with Gandhiji during   Champaran Satyagraha. It became the first experiment, using Satyagraha or non-cooperation as an effective tool to subdue the abrasive attitude of the British.  Gandhi himself admitted in his autobiography — ''The Story of My Experiments with Truth'' - Champaran in north Bihar, bordering Nepal on one side and eastern Uttar Pradesh on the other, is  a geographical area which he had never heard of before; nor had he visited this place earlier as part of his campaign against the British.  

The non-violent resistance shook the basic foundation of the unjust British rule and their immoral attitude to stay in a country where the people hated them and wanted them to  pack off as early as possible. The same  Champaran  experiment was within months replicated in Kheda in Gujarat in 1918 and elsewhere in the country and thereafter throughout the freedom struggle.

Only last year in April 2017, 100 year centenary celebration  of Satyagraha by Gandhiji  was held in  Motihari against the British Indigo planters  and the state function was presided over by the Indian PM Narendra Modi.  The PM recalled the persistent efforts made by Raj Kumar Sukla to bring Gandhiji on the scene to find a solution for the exploitation of Indian farmers by the British Raj in the rural areas of Bihar.   Gandhiji too mentioned in his book My Experiments with Truth, “This illiterate but determined farmer won my heart,” Only upon his urge, Gandhiji felt  the pulse of the exploited peasants and take remedial measures.

Gandhiji came to this place with his well-known lieutenants Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, JB Kripalani and others to oppose the injustice done to the farmers under the Tinkathia  system and other cess and taxes imposed by the then Government. The exploitative Tinkathia system was a suicidal one where-in farmers had been forced to plant Indigo in a part of their land (in 3/20 part of a land) compulsorily for almost 60 years. They had to do everything  right from cleaning the plant which is quite consuming, drying  it  and then finally packing it for  export to the industrialised Europe. It was a sort of forced labor and no wages whatsoever were paid to them. All this, was done practically for free. A disgusting and an immoral act on the part of the British; an ouright cheating of innocent farmers. The British Bobs were making money at the expense of every drop of sweat and blood from the Indian farmers. Though the farmers had protested twice earlier against this exploitative system, they were suppressed by the police.

Gandhi’s  denounciation against the British  put an end to the Tinkathia system. In the industrial west a new and cheaper coloring agent was widely used instead of Indigo and this finally ended the Indigo plantation in Champaran in 1922-23. Later sugar mills were opened by the British to keep the ‘White’ farmers happy who had settled in the area. When commercial sugarcane farming started, Indigo cultivation ended.

During his April 1917 visit to Champaran, Gandhi went ahead and built  the Bhitiharwa ashram and  ran protest rallies against the prevailing practice of untouchability. With support from his wife Kasturba,  Ghandhiji spoke about the value of education, cleanliness and good health.  He started  many basic teaching schools, imparting skills needed for making a living.  As far as Champaran is concerned, both Gandhiji and Raj Kumar Shukla, the man who brought Gandhi to Champaran, became two legendary figures. The British government tried to arrest him at Motihari under some pretext, but it fizzled out as the entire farmers's  fraternity rose against them as one man.

'Thus, this place became a launching platform for the popularity of non-cooperation movement which became quite handy in the agitation against the  Rowlatt Act. Gandhiji's sustained efforts brought about a change in the agrarian life of this district.