Champaran Satyagraha: Leaders, Date, 1917 Champaran Movement UPSC

By Ritesh|Updated : November 22nd, 2022

The Champaran Satyagraha was the first satyagraha movement to have been led by Mahatama Gandhi after his return to Indian soil from South Africa. This movement happened in 1917 and is widely recognised as a farmer's uprising. It gets its name from the place it occurred in, Champaran, a small district in the state of Bihar. Also called the Indigo Rebellion, the Champaran movement finds its roots in the discontent and resentment over having to grow an expensive cash crop like Indigo in return for negligible payment.

Champaran Satyagraha UPSC topic is of great significance in modern Indian history for the Civil Services exam preparation. One of the first mass civil disobedience movements of the Indian struggle for independence, the Champaran Movement is heavily inquired about in the UPSC Prelims and Mains. This article shall cover all important aspects of the Champaran Satyagraha, from its conception and history to its conclusion and impact, in great detail, specifically from the perspective of competitive exams.

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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.

Champaran Satyagraha PDF

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.

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 is a farmer uprising that happened in 1917. The farmers protested the forced cultivation of Indigo, a cash crop that required extensive care and left the land it grew on nutritionless. The major events of the Champaran Satyagraha movement 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.
  • There was a lot of pressure on the farmers 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 break even on the cost of its 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 Raj Kumar Shukla and Sant Raut 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, 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 Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha & 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, a Member of the Executive Council in the Government of Bihar and Orissa.

  • This bill consisted of all the recommendations Mahatama Gandhi suggested and became the Champaran Agrarian Act of 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, giving the masses hope for change. 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.

Champaran Satyagraha UPSC

Champaran Satyagraha is a common topic of inquiry in the UPSC Exam. Candidates must prepare this topic properly and commit the factual information to their memories. Practice these questions on Champaran Satyagraha UPSC to test your knowledge.

Question - Which one of the following was the main aspect of the Champaran Movement?

  1. Active pan-India participation from lawyers, students and women
  2. Joining the peasantry in the Indian struggle for independence
  3. Active involvement from the Dalit and Tribal community
  4. Decrease in the cultivation of crops

Answer - B

Question - Consider the following statements;

  1. It was India's first Civil Disobedience movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi.
  2. 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?

  1. Only I
  2. Only II
  3. Both I and II
  4. Neither I nor II

Answer - C

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16 MahajanapadasNational Education Policy
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FAQs on Champaran Satyagraha

  • The Champaran Movement was a farmer uprising that protested against forced labour for the cultivation of Indigo. Britishers used to force farmers by binding them in unfair contracts/deals to grow Indigo on their lands which negatively impacted the fertility of their lands. This led to the famous 1917 Champaran Satyagraha under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

  • The Indigo plantation satyagraha took place in the district of Champaran in the state of Bihar. That is why it is popularly known as Champaran Satyagraha.

  • Mahatma Gandhi came to Champaran in the year 1917. He was invited to lead the Champaran Satyagraha by Raj Kumar Shukla and Sant Raut.

  • Champaran Satyagraha is famous because it was Mahatma Gandhi's first Satyagraha which was experimented on Indian soil after his help in South Africa against apartheid. Champaran Movement became the starting point of India's independence movement launched by Gandhi.

  • The outcome of the Champaran Satyagraha was a success. The Indigo Committee, set up by the British government, published its report on 3rd October 1917. It suggested the abrogation of the ‘tinkathia system’ and gave the freedom of choice to the peasants to grow whatever crop they wanted.

  • Champaran Satyagraha was a movement led by Mahatma Gandhi to support local farmers who were forced to grow Indigo on their lands by the Britishers. Some other Champaran Satyagraha leaders associated with the movement are Ramnavmi Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, JB Kriplani Mahadev Desai, Mazhar-ul-Haq, Narahari Parekh, Brajkishore Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, etc.

  • The 1917 Champaran Satyagraha was the first Satyagraha movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India. He practised his violent weapons on the Britishers and made them take back the policy of the Indigo plantation. He motivated hundreds of farmers to fight for their rights using the non-violent approach.

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