Bihar to celebrate 100 years of Gandhi’s satyagraha

in Vihara

The centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha against British rule will be celebrated in Bihar, from where it was launched, on a large scale in 2017.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Sunday announced at a function at Gandhi Sangrahalya here: ‘Now it is 2011. We will celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha movement against the British rule in 2017.’

Mahatma Gandhi launched his satyagraha against the British rule in Bihar’s Champaran district April 10, 1917. After his return from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi chose to experiment with satyagraha in Champaran.

In Champaran, a district in state of Bihar, tens of thousands of landless serfs, indentured laborers and poor farmers were forced to grow indigo and other cash crops instead of the food crops necessary for their survival. These goods were bought from them at a very low price. Suppressed by the ruthless militias of the landlords mostly British, they were given measly compensation, leaving them mired in extreme poverty.

The villages were kept extremely dirty and unhygienic, and alcoholism, untouchability and purdah were rampant. Now in the throes of a devastating famine, the British levied an oppressive tax which they insisted on increasing in rate. Without food and without money, the situation was growing progressively unlivable and the peasants in Champaran revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia) and Raj Kumar Shukla took Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran and the Champaran Satyagraha began.Mahatama Gandhi arrived in Champaran with a team of eminent lawyers, comprising of Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha and others.

Gandhi established an ashram in Champaran, organizing scores of his veteran supporters and fresh volunteers from the region. He organized a detailed study and survey of the villages, accounting the atrocities and terrible episodes of suffering, including the general state of degenerate living.

Building on the confidence of villagers, he began leading the clean-up of villages, building of schools and hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to undo purdah, untouchability and the suppression of women. He was joined by many young nationalists from all over India, including Brajkishore Prasad, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Ram Navami Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru.

But his main assault came as he was arrested by police on the charge of creating unrest and was ordered to leave the province. Hundreds of thousands of people protested and rallied outside the jail, police stations and courts demanding his release, which the court unwillingly did. Gandhi led organized protests and strike against the landlords, who with the guidance of the British government, signed an agreement granting more compensation and control over farming for the poor farmers of the region, and cancellation of revenue hikes and collection until the famine ended. It was during this agitation, that Gandhi was addressed by the people as Bapu.

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