What is Champaran Satyagraha?
The Champaran Satyagraha was a farmer's uprising that was observed in the year 1917. This was the first movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India after his return from South Africa. It is deeply important in the Indian independence struggle as it not only marked Gandhi's entry into the struggle but also marked the beginning of a successful chain of farmer uprisings in the country.
The Champaran Satyagraha was against British policies that forced farmers to grow Indigo in their fields. The discontentment and disaffection towards the British colonial rules around the plantation of Indigo grew among the farmers. Indigo is an expensive crop to grow. It not only leeches away the soil's nutrients, rendering it almost useless for further plantation, but it is also extremely delicate and hard to grow. The chances of crop failure are really high. The risk-to-reward ratio was nil. However, the farmers were still forced to grow Indigo as it was a highly profitable crop for the East Indian Company, which had established a wide trade over the crop, which made it important for farmers to go on a mass movement like Champaran Satyagraha.
History of Champaran Movement
There is a long history of the discontentment of the farmers, which eventually climaxed in farmers' uprisings in Champaran Satyagraha and other parts of the country subsequently. The crop that sits at the centre of it all, Indigo, finds its plantation history dating back to the late 18th century.
- Indigo cultivation was started in the state of Bengal in 1777. Indigo is a natural dye that has great demand all across the globe. The demand for blue dye in Europe made it a very lucrative idea for traders.
- European planters enjoyed a great monopoly over the indigo plantation as they forced the Indian farmers to grow Indigo for them by tying them down with fraudulent contracts and deals, which became the ultimate reason for the Champaran Satyagraha movement.
- The Tinkathia System, which literally translates to three parts, was an economic policy introduced by the East India Company in India. It was limited to the states of Eastern India, such as Bihar.
- Food crops were replaced with cash crops like indigo which took a massive toll on the farmers.
- The farmers were lured with advance loans to grow their crops, and once they entered this arrangement with the Britishers, it became an inescapable loop of debt as the interest rates were very high. On top of this, the taxes were very exorbitant for the farmers that already earned little to no money.
- Brutal oppression and practices were undertaken to extort rent payments or if the players were told no by the farmers.
- The farmers sold the hard-grown indigo at rates that didn't make it through the break-even point to maximise the European profits and satiate their greed.
- If paddy crops took the place of indigo crops, the planters would go to great extents, mostly illegal, to get their wish. These practices included but were not limited to kidnapping family members, looting, and even burning crops, which later motivated farmers to initiate Champaran Satyagraha.
- These illegal practices of the planters were largely supported and shrouded by the government, which gave them immunities in judicial proceedings.
Champaran Satyagraha Leaders
Champaran Satyagraha was started under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. But there were some other famous personalities as well who were associated with the movement and played their roles well. The Champaran Satyagraha leaders list includes Rajendra Prasad, JB Kriplani Mahadev Desai, Ramnavmi Prasad, Narahari Parekh, Brajkishore Prasad, Mazhar-ul-Haq, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, and Shambhusharan Varma.
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It is important to note that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not associated with the Champaran Satyagraha. He played an active role in the Kheda Satyagraha.
Champaran Satyagraha: Indigo Rebellion
The Champaran Satyagraha was a farmer revolt or uprising that happened in 1917. The farmers protested the forced cultivation of Indigo, which is a cash crop that required extensive care and left the land it grew on nutritionless. The major events of the Champaran Satyagraha 1917 are as follows:
- The Champaran movement was inspired by the Indigo Rebellion that occurred in Bengal in 1860. Indigo, as a natural blue dye, had a great market overseas, which the European monopolised on the backs of poor farmers in India.
- Farmers were pressurized to cultivate Indigo even though it was sucking them bone-dry. There were no profits, and rents and taxation made it hard for them to get the cost of cultivation.
- There were several instances of illegal extortion methods that the landlords undertook, and numerous lawyers highlighted them. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and Peer Muneesh are one of them.
- The efforts of Sant Raut and Raj Kumar Shukla got Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran in 1917. This Champaran Satyagraha movement had great active participation from the law community of India.
- India's first basic school was established by Gandhi at a small village named Barharwa Lakhansen, which was 30 kilometres away from East Champaran.
- 13th November 1917 saw him organising a team of experienced lawyers to organise a detailed survey of the village to assess the denigrated level of living that the residents were subjected to here. This team included lawyers like Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Rajendra Prasad, & Babu Brajkishore Prasad.
- During the Champaran Satyagraha movement, Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 16th April 1917 on the charges of creating deep unrest and was ordered to evacuate the province. Upon being asked to pay a fine of Rs. 100, he simply refused. His arrest saw thousands participating in protests, and the court let him out. The case was subsequently taken back as well.
- There were organised strikes against the landlords under the leadership of Gandhi. This agitation was when the terms Bapu' and Mahatma' were used to him for the first time ever.
Significance of Champaran Satyagraha
The Champaran Movement, though limited to a small district of Bihar, turned out to be a watershed moment in the history of the Indian struggle for independence. Its significance has been broken down into points concisely below;
- Civil Disobedience: This was the first instance of the civil disobedience movements that would be carried out in the rest of the country later. Gandhi was arrested but refused to pay the fine imposed on him and follow the orders that wanted him out of the province. His arrest sparked protests with thousands of participants. This resulted in his release, and the case, too, was taken back by the British.
- Mass Movement Era: The Champaran Satyagraha marked the start of mass movements that were integral to Indian gaining its independence in the year 1947. Mass participation was noted for the first time here as the INC was always reluctant to organise them. This was continued in other movements.
- The emergence of a Messiah: Mahatma Gandhi garnered a huge population amongst the local folk of the country. The Indian intellectuals were aware of his achievements in South Africa, but the Champaran Movement catapulted his fame to every household as a messiah for hope and change.
- Non-Violence as a tool: The Champaran Satyagraha was so popular with the masses because it was non-violent. Protests like these have a higher reward-to-risk ratio, making people show up for the cause. The success of the Champaran Satyagraha proved the efficacy of non-violence as a protest technique.
Result of Champaran Satyagraha
The Champaran Satyagraha was mostly a success. Upon the movement's conclusion, the Champaran Agrarian Bill was introduced by W. Maude, who was an executive council member in the Government of Orissa and Bihar.
- This bill consisted of all the recommendations Mahatma Gandhi suggested and became the Champaran Agrarian Act, 1918. This marked the first instance ever of the British correcting their attitude towards the Indian populace.
- The non-violent approach of the Champaran movement confused the British. With their modern rifles and artillery, the British were far superior to the Indian masses in terms of brute strength.
- Mahatma Gandhi's moral superiority was established by the end of the Champaran Satyagraha, which gave hope for change to the masses. This was important because this triggered greater participation.
- The Tinkathia System, which had existed for about a century, was abolished. This stopped the oppression of the planters to a great extent.
- The win at Champaran Andolan helped Mahatma Gandhi do more for society eventually. Clean-ups, establishing schools and hospitals, undoing the purdah system and untouchability were some of the things he was able to achieve.
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Champaran Satyagraha UPSC
Champaran Satyagraha UPSC notes are important to prepare by all aspirants of the Civil Services exam. They should be aware of the history, significance, and leaders of the Champaran Movement to score well in the History section of the Prelims and Mains exam.
Question - Which one of the following was the main aspect of the Champaran Movement?
- Active pan-India participation from lawyers, students and women
- Joining the peasantry in the Indian struggle for independence
- Active involvement from the Dalit and Tribal community
- Decrease in the cultivation of crops
Answer - B
Question - Consider the following statements;
- It was India's first Civil Disobedience movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi.
- It was a protest against the injustice meted out to tenant farmers in the Champaran district of Bihar.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct about Champaran Satyagraha?
- Only I
- Only II
- Both I and II
- Neither I nor II
Answer - C
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