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Krishna Kumar Singh, also known among friend circles KK and among close relative Krishna; Matriculation from Mithila High School Balour, Darbhanga in 1959, Graduated in Political Science Honours from C M College, Darbhanga, Bihar University in 1963; Joined post-graduate in Political Science the same year but dropped; joined Naxal movement under Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Satya Narayan Singh and Umadhar Singh in between but circumstances compelled to join literary work, clerk, proof readers etc in different publishing houses for livelihood; Finally joined journalism as career in different English newspapers and before my retirement from active journalism, I worked in The Times of India for about 19 years and retired as Chief Reporter  a few years back; continuing in journalism-reading more and more, writing more and more and praying to Almighty more and more-currently writing for different national English and Hindi dailies and magazines..

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

MAHATMA GANDHI AND BIHAR ! (ONE HUNDRED YEAR OF GANDHI'S FIRST VISIT TO BIHAR)

In next five years, it will be one hundred year  (1917-2017) when Mahatma Gandhi had first visited Bihar to take up the  sad plight of indigo planters (oppressed tenant farmers) of Champaran in the Himalyan foothills of northern Bihar. Although much has changed by now, the exploitations to oppressed and scar of untouchablity still persist even after the country achieved independence in 1947 from the yoke of  British Raj. We Bihari will celebrate the centenary celebrations of Gandhi's visit to Champran but we many  have forgotten the ideals of great Mahatma.
 Down the memory lane, the Champaran region, which was once cleansed by Gandhi, has been facing so many upheavals after Independence. Being land-locked areas on Indo-Nepal border, the land of Champaran continued to have notoriety in excess holdings of lands with influential persons, crime prone-areas, called Chambal of Bihar, and also centre of smuggling  and last but not the least, the division of society between high caste and low caste, aggravating untochablity.Let us hope for the best-good sense prevails among us!
Mahatama's Champran visit had many stories of ups and downs.It was in early 1916 when Mahatama Gandhi had come to Lucknow to attend the Congress conference. There Gandhi could know about exploitation of indigo planters and Champaran. An exploited farmer Raj Kumar Shukla (as Gandhi had quoted in his  autobiography) caught hold him there and persuaded him to speak to Vakil Babu and he will tell him everything about the distress of farmers of Champaran. Raj Kumar Shukla also requested Gandhi  to visit Champaran. Mahatama had also written in his autobiography that Vakil Babu was none else but Braj Kisore Prasad, who had become esteemed co-worker of Mahatama Gandhi during his "Champaran satya garah" for months together (unscheduled programme ).. In Lucknow itself , Shukla brought Braj Kishore Babu in his tent and had explained the situation of Champaran farmers. But Gandhi appeared unmoved and asked in turn to move a resolution in the party session in progress on this score. Subsequently Barj Kishore Babu moved a resolution expressing party's sympathy with the people of Champaran and it was unanimously passed in the Congress session. Even after that Gandhi was reluctant to visit Champaran despite requests by Raj Kumar Shukla. Gandhi, however, told Shukla that he would let him know about his visit later on. Helpless Shukla started following Mahatama Gandhi and pursuing to him to see the plight of farmers. Reluctant Gandhi later promised Shukla that he would visit Calcutta and thereafter decide about Champran visit. But ignorant, unshophisticated but resolute agriculturist did not leave hope and met Gandhi in Calcutta. Ultimately Gandhi had taken up a train of Patna from Calcutta in early 1917 along with Raj Kumar Shukla.
Mahatma reached Patna for the first time. Gandhi had idea that Shukla would be an influential  person and  knowing Patna people and from there he would move to Champoran. But Gandhi's illusions about Shukla soon over. Raj Kumar Shukla, hiowever, had taken Gandhi to Kadamkuan residence of Rajendra Prasad. But Rajendra Baby was away in. Puri. At Rajendra Babu's residence, Gandhi tasted for the first time untouchablity and feudalism tendency among the people of Bihar.Gandhi has said in his autobiography, " there were one or two servants at the bungalow, who paid no attention. There was strict untouchablity in Bihar. I might not draw water at the well whilst the servants were using it, lest drops of water from my bucket might pollute them, the servants not knowing what caste I belonged. Although Raj Kumar pointed me indoor latrine but servants promptly directed me to the outdoor one. All this was far from surprising or irritating to me, for I was inured to such things. The servants  were doing the duty, which they thought Rajendra Babu  would wish them to do. These entertaining experiences enhanced my regards for Rakj Kumar Shukla, if they enabled me to know him better." Such treatment of Rajendra Babu 's resdence to Mahatma Gandhi had also been written in the autobiography of Dr Rajendra Prasad in later years.
Taking into account the helplessness of Shukla, Mahatama Gandhi contacted Maulana Mazharul Huq, who in turn rushed at Rajendra Babu residence to fetch Gandhi  to his residence. But Gandhi  resisted and asked Huq to te guide him the way of Champaran. Huq talked to Shukla and suggested  Gandhi should first go to Muzaffarpur and from there he should take train for Champran. after reaching Muzaffarpur, Gandhi met Principal Kripalani of Government College , Muzaffarpur as Gandhi was knowing him for long.. There Kripalani also explained to Gandhi the desperate condition of farmers and rather gave the idea of difficult task for him. From there final journey of Champaran began for Gandhi. In the process, leaders like Rajendra Prasad Brajkisohore Prasad, Ramnavi Prasad, Gaya Babu had reached to meet Mahatma . All these illustrated sons of Bihar were Gandhi's helping hands in launching Chapmparan satyagrah by him.Gandhi decided to avoid court procedures to end exploit ation of farmers.
From there Gandhi's face to face with Ahimsa began. "tinkathiya" system was in vougue in Bihar, specially in Champran.An informative book on Gandhi, ""Great Soul-Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India", written by Joshe Joseph Lelyveld, winner of the Pulitzer Prize has dwelt at length  Gandhi's Champran satyagrah. About the exploitation, the writer has said," Farmers were forced by a corrupt combination of local law, taxation, chronic indebtedness and crude force to devot a portion of the land they farmed to growing indigo plants on which they seldom earned a  meaningful return. The indigo , in demand In Europe as a dye for fine fabrics, went to class of British planters, who leased the land, including whole village, from large Indian landlords called zamindars with the land came to tenants, who then had little or no bargaining power against the planters. State of these peasants called ryots was any better than that of indentured labourers of in South Africa; in many cases, it was probably worse. The system  had grown up over near a century.'"" Lelyveld has also quoted the write up of a British officials, who had described exploitation of Champaran farmers, "Not a chest of indigo reaches England without being stained with human blood."
Non-violent agitation , launched by Gandhi, by one estimate had spent 175 days in Bihar in 1917 working on the Champaran struggle. Gahdi had later described his Bihar visit as" birthplace", meaning it as his first immersion in rural India. In Champaran Gandhi was ordered by the collector, the local representative of colonial British Authority to leave but Gandhi politely defied the order, then sent nightlong missives in all directions until the national movement and everyone from the viceroy on down knew he was facing arrest. Llyveld has written , " Crowds of rough unlettered tenant farmers gathered to protect him; youthful nationalists made their way to Champaran as would-be satyagrahis; and the viceroy intervened to cancel his expulsion from Champaran region.. Within weeks Gandhi himself was appointed official commission investigating the complaints of the tenant farmers-it would recommend they be freed from any compulsion to grow indigo."
 In the wake of Champaran satyagrah, Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru has described Gandhi,,"the see essence of his teaching was fearlessness and truth ad action allied to these.. This voice somehow different from others. It was quite and low and yet it could be heard above the shouting of the multitude; it was soft an gentle, and yet there seemed to be steel hidden away some where in it........Behind the language of peace and friendship there was power and quivering shadow  of action and a determination not to submit to a wrong."
In between his champaran visit, many things happened. Ganbdhi had to pass through many experiments-right from court cases to satyagarkh to free the farmers from the clutches of exploitation. His method of satyagrah was unique.. And after full -fledged enquiry by Gandhi himself and the Raj agreeing to his recommendations, the tinkathiya system , which was in vogue of for over a century, was thus abolished and with planters' raj came to an end. In his autograph , Gandhi had commented, " the ryots, who had all along remained crushed, now somewhat came to their own and the superstitions that the stain of indigo never be washed out exploded."
Mahatma had desire to do more for Bihar, specially Champran but it could not materialise ansd Gandhi has concluded in his autobiography about Champaran satyagrah, "It was my desire to continue the constructive work for some years to establish more schools and to penetrate the more effectively. The ground has been prepared, but it did not please God, as often before, to allow my plans to be fulfilled. Fate decided otherwise and drobve me to take up work elsewhere.."
Successive rulers after independence in Bihar have failed to root out social evils like untouchablity, inequality, land to landless, food to poor, education to all without any discrimination. at least remembering Gandhi 's role to end exploitations through non-violence means in Champaran in Bihar although We have voluminous Constitution and laws to tell the world that there is democracy in India!

1 comment:

  1. an informative article about an important incident. Persistence pays. But for Raj Kumar Shukla, Gandhi would not have have been the Mahatma and the plight of farmers in Champaran would have been unheard.

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