Champaran Satyagraha

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 25, 2022, 4:51

The Champaran Satyagraha in the year 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India and is regarded as a historically significant revolution in the Indian Independence Movement. A farmer's revolution occurred in the Champaran district of Bihar, India, during the British colonial period. Champaran is a district situated in North Western Bihar.

Initially, it was part of the Tirhut division in the province of Bihar and Orissa in British India. In 1972, it was divided into two districts, namely, Pashchim (West) and Purbi (East) Champaran. The farmers were dissenting against having to grow indigo with hardly any payment for it.

Reason for Champaran Satyagraha

The main system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran was the Tinkathia system. In this Tinkathia system, the ryots were obligated to cultivate three Kathas per Beegha with indigo, i.e. 3/20th of their landholdings (1 Beegha = 20 Kathas). There was no legal ground for this. It was done merely at the desires of the indigo factory owners (called the planters).

In addition to this, post-1900, due to competition from the European synthetic indigo, the indigo factories in Bihar started facing decline. The planters started cancelling their agreements with the ryots to grow indigo to avoid losses. To liberate them from this obligation, they charged a Tawan, i.e., damages as serious as Rs. 100 per Bigha. If the ryots could not make the payment, then hand notes and mortgage bonds were made against ryots at an interest rate of 12% per annum.

Similar to Bengal, there was a general disengage among the ryots around indigo cultivation in Bihar. The key reason for this was the low remuneration for their crop. They also suffered harassment and abuse by the factory servants. All these factors evolved in demonstrations against indigo cultivation in Champaran twice.

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First, in 1867 when the tenants of the Lalsariya factory denied growing indigo. Since the redressal of the grievances was not acceptable, a second demonstration emerged in 1907-08, which witnessed disturbance and violence in Sathi and Bettiah against the Tinkathia system.

The socio-politically surcharged condition in Champaran finally concluded in the historic Champaran Satyagraha, which none had seen coming, not even its protagonist, Mahatma Gandhi.

Role of Mahatma Gandhi in Champaran Satyagraha

In 1915, Gandhi had recently returned from South Africa after a successful Satyagraha against the Apartheid system. Thus, he had assumed the status of a rescuer. The bitterness surrounding indigo cultivation compelled Raj Kumar Shukla, a well-off agriculturist, to convince Mahatma Gandhi to visit Champaran and work for the oppressed peasants.

Mahatma Gandhi first arrived in Muzaffarpur. Being sensible to the situation, he instantly wrote to the Commissioner of the Tirhut Division, apprising him that he wanted to work with the cognizance and co-operation of the government. He also requested an appointment to explain to him the purpose of his visit.

In the meeting, Gandhi specified that on account of public demand, he wanted to inquire about the situation of indigo cultivation in Champaran and the tenants' complaints connected with it. He also mentioned that he did not have to want to initiate turbulence. He was asked to show the credentials to prove that there certainly was a public demand for his arrival, which he eventually produced.

Champaran Satyagraha was the first popular satyagraha movement, which also came to be known as the Champaran movement. The Champaran Satyagraha gave direction to the youth of India, which was wobbling between moderates who prescribed Indian participation within the British colonial system and the extremists from Bengal who advocated the use of vicious methods to collapse the British colonialists in India.

The government accepted almost all the recommendations of the Inquiry Committee constituted. To execute the recommendations, it also issued a resolution. Based on this report, Champaran Agrarian Bill was introduced in the Legislative Council on 29th November 1917. In 1918, the Champaran Agrarian Bill was eventually passed, and it became the Champaran Agrarian Act.

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FAQs on Champaran Satyagraha

Q.1. When did the Champaran Satyagraha start?

Ans. The Champaran Satyagraha was started in the year 1917.

Q.2. When was the Champaran Agrarian Act made?

Ans. In 1918, the Champaran Agrarian Bill was passed, and it became the Champaran Agrarian Act.

Q.3. Why is Champaran Satyagraha regarded as a historically significant revolution?

Ans. The Champaran Satyagraha in the year 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India.

Q.4. What was the main system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran Satyagraha?

Ans. The main system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran Satyagraha was the Tinkathia system, in which the ryots were obligated to cultivate three katas per bigha with indigo, i.e. 3/20th of their landholdings (1 bigha = 20 katas).