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The Champaran Satyagraha, led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917, was a pivotal moment in India’s struggle for independence. Initiated in the Champaran district of Bihar, the movement protested against the exploitative indigo plantation system imposed by British landlords. Gandhi’s unique form of nonviolent resistance drew attention to the plight of indigo farmers, forcing the authorities to appoint a commission to investigate their grievances.
The success of Champaran marked the beginning of Gandhi’s impactful leadership in India’s freedom movement, highlighting the effectiveness of nonviolent civil disobedience as a potent tool against colonial oppression. The Satyagraha sowed the seeds for larger movements against British rule.
Champaran Satyagraha 1917
Champaran Satyagraha in 1917 was India’s first organised act of civil disobedience. The East Champaran district and the West Champaran district make up the historic Champaran district in Bihar, India. In 1914 and 1916, farmers in this area rose up in rebellion against the British because of the restrictions placed on the cultivation of indigo.
Similar circumstances existed in Bengal earlier, but after a significant revolt in 1859–1861, the peasants there gained their independence from the indigo planters. The characteristics of Champaran Satyagraha shall be covered in this article in order to aid with UPSC test preparation.
|April 10, 1917, to April 18, 1917
|Champaran district, Bihar, India
|Agitation against indigo plantation and forced indigo cultivation imposed by British landlords
|Mahatma Gandhi, Raj Kumar Shukla, Mazharul Haque, etc.
|Non-violent civil disobedience, Satyagraha (truth force)
What is India’s First Satyagraha?
The first Satyagraha movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India was the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917. It was a farmer’s uprising in the Champaran district of Bihar during the British colonial period. The Champaran Satyagraha is considered a historically important revolt in the Indian Independence Movement. The Champaran Satyagraha was a revolt against the British indigo policy. The demand for indigo dropped when the Germans invented a cheaper artificial dye. However, during the First World War the German dye ceased to be available and indigo once more became profitable for the British. Many tenants were forced again into indigo cultivation.
Champaran Satyagraha History
Tens of thousands of landless serfs, indentured workers, and subsistence farmers were forced to produce indigo and other cash crops rather than food crops in the Champaran district of the Indian state of Bihar. On 3/20 of the entire land area (called tinkathia system), the villagers had been compelled by the European colonists to grow indigo.
In order to maximise their profits before the peasants could move to other crops, European planters sought large rents and illegitimate dues from the peasants when German synthetic dyes supplanted indigo at the end of the nineteenth century. The prices at which the peasants had to sell their produce were set by the Europeans. These products were cheaply procured from farmers.
They lived in abject poverty as a result of being exploited by the violent militias of the landlords and receiving little compensation. The British government placed a high tax on them and persisted on raising the rate despite the fact that they were suffering from a severe famine. Peasants in Champaran rose against the government in the indigo plant farming in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia) as conditions became intolerable without food and money.
Read about: Civil Disobedience Movement
Champaran Satyagraha Features
Gandhi was invited to look into the issues of farmers in the setting of indigo planters in Champaran, Bihar, by a local named Rajkumar Shukla. The authorities told Gandhi to leave Champaran as soon as he reached there with Rajendra Prasad, Mazharul- Haq, Mahadev Desai, Narhari Parekh, and J.B. Kripalani.
Gandhi disobeyed the directive and decided to take the punishment. It was innovative at the time to use civil disobedience or passive resistance to defy an unfair mandate. Gandhi was finally permitted to conduct an investigation once the authorities finally gave in. Gandhi was successful in getting the government to end the tinkathia system and pay the peasants back for the ill-gotten gains.
Gandhi disobeyed the directive and decided to accept the repercussions. This form of civil disobedience or passive resistance in the face of an unjust mandate was innovative at the time. In the end, the authorities gave in and let Gandhi look into the matter. Gandhi was successful in convincing the government to do away with the tinkathia system and pay the peasants back for the illegal dues that were taken from them.
Read about: Bardoli Satyagraha
Champaran Satyagraha Indigo Rebellion
In 1917, there was a farmer uprising known as the Champaran Satyagraha. The farmers objected to the forced growth of indigo, a lucrative crop that required meticulous attention and depleted the soil’s nutrients. The Bengali Indigo Rebellion, which took place in 1860, served as inspiration for the uprising. A natural blue dye with a sizable market abroad existed called indigo, which the Europeans monopolised at the expense of India’s impoverished farmers.
Even though it was draining the farmers to the bone, there was a lot of pressure on them to plant indigo. They struggled to break even on the cost of its cultivation because there were no profits and high rents and taxes. Numerous attorneys emphasized the numerous examples of illegal extortion tactics used by the landlords. Peer Muneesh and Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi are two among them.
Mahatma Gandhi was brought to Champaran in 1917 thanks to the efforts of Raj Kumar Shukla and Sant Raut. The Indian legal community actively participated in this effort. Gandhi founded India’s first elementary school in a little town called Barharwa Lakhansen, 30 kilometres from East Champaran.
On November 13th, 1917, he organised a group of knowledgeable attorneys to conduct an extensive assessment of the town to determine the subpar standard of living that the locals were forced to endure. Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, and Babu Brajkishore Prasad were among the attorneys on this team. On April 16, 1917, Mahatma Gandhi was detained on suspicion of inciting a riot and was given the order to leave the country.
He firmly refused to pay the Rs. 100 fee when it was demanded. Thousands of people protested his arrest, and the court had released him. Later, the case was returned as well. Under Gandhi’s direction, organised strikes were conducted against the landlords. During this uprising, he heard the names “Bapu” and “Mahatma” for the first time ever.
Champaran Satyagraha Significance
It put an end to the planters’ long-standing tyranny of the peasant through forced cultivation and subpar harvests. The British were given a comprehensive analysis of the situation. Based on the evaluation, the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1918 was created to safeguard the interests of the peasants. Gandhi, who had not previously participated actively in grassroots activism in India, observed that he was receiving a lot of attention as a result of the success of the Champaran initiative to reestablish justice.
Rajendra Prasad, who would later become one of Gandhi’s powerful itinerants, and other strong men like Kriplani were added to his team. Here, Gandhi gathered documentation from the oppressed peasants to support his claims, demonstrating that data-based arguments against British policy are more likely to succeed.
Gandhi was ordered to leave Champaran when he arrived, but he responded that he would rather be arrested than leave and continued with his mission. This is a significant first instance of satyagraha and civil disobedience in action. It persuaded people of Satyagraha’s ability to fight injustice. It paved the way for subsequent conflicts that finally led to India’s independence.
Read about: Khilafat Movement
Champaran Satyagraha Result
Most of the Champaran Satyagraha’s goals were met. W. Maude, a member of the Executive Council in the Government of Bihar and Orissa, introduced the Champaran Agrarian Bill following the movement’s end. This legislation, which included all of Mahatama Gandhi’s suggestions, was later known as the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1918.
This was the first time the British had ever changed their perspective on the people of India. The movement’s nonviolent stance perplexed the British. In terms of sheer power, the British were vastly superior against the Indian masses thanks to their sophisticated guns and artillery. By the end of this movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s moral superiority had been established, giving the masses hope for change. This was crucial because it encouraged more engagement.
It was decided to end the Tinkathia System, which had been in place for roughly a century. This significantly reduced the planters’ oppression. After winning in Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi was able to eventually accomplish more for society. He was able to accomplish a number of things, including cleanups, the establishment of schools and hospitals, the dismantling of the purdah system, and untouchability.
Champaran Satyagraha UPSC
Gandhi’s victory in Champaran elevated him to a position of prominence with the populace and the existing leadership, who had already admired him for his efforts in South Africa. This gave him the opportunity to lead the campaign until it was successful.