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Rajkumar Shukla the Champaran-Sharecropper requested Gandhiji in Congress Session in Lucknow to fix a date to visit Champaran where the sharecroppers were subjected to injustice. Till Gandhiji fixed a date he did not leave him rather he accompanied him wherever he went. Gandhiji was impressed by his tenacity and determination and finally agreed to go there from Calcutta. Why did Gandhi chide the lawyers who represented the interests of group of sharecroppers of Champaran? Gandhiji chided the lawyers for collecting big fees from the sharecroppers to fight their case in law courts. He felt taking their case to law courts would do little good when they were so crushed and fear stricken. So his first priority was to free them from fear. What were the conditions of sharecroppers of Champaran? The peasants of Champaran were tenants of British landlords. Under long term sharecropping arrangement they were growing Indigo on 15 percent of their holding and surrendering the harvest as rent to the British landlord. But when Indigo price fell due to synthetic Indigo developed in Germany the landlords obtained agreement from the peasant to pay them compensation which some of the peasants resisted and fought their case in court. What made the British realise that the Indians could challenge their might hither to unquestioned? The spontaneous demonstration around the courthouse by the peasants of Motihari on knowing that Gandhiji was in trouble was the beginning of their liberation from fear of the British which made the British realise that now the Indians can challenge their might. How did Gandhiji make the peasants fearless and self-reliant? Gandhiji made the peasants fearless by letting them know about their rights, fighting their case and by obtaining the refund of compensation made to the British landlords who were behaving as lords above the law. Why is Rajkumar Shukla described as being ‘resolute’? Rajkumar Shukla was a man with a strong will power and determination. He had come all the way from Champaran district to Lucknow to speak to Gandhiji. He accompanied Gandhiji everywhere, even to the ashram near Ahmedabad. For weeks he never left Gandhiji’s side till he asked him to meet him at Calcutta. Why do you think the servants thought Gandhiji to be another peasant? Shukla took Gandhiji to Rajendra Prasad’s house as a poor yeoman. Gandhi was dressed in a simple dhoti and was accompanying a poor peasant. Hence the servants mistook him to be a peasant. List the places that Gandhi visited between his first meeting with Shukla and his arrival at Champaran.
Gandhi first met Shukla at Lucknow. Then he was in Cawnpore and other parts of India. He returned to his ashram near Ahmedabad. Later he visited Calcutta, Patna and Muzaffarpur before arriving at Champaran. What did the peasants pay to the British landlords as rent? What did the British now want instead and why? What would be the impact of synthetic indigo on the prices of natural indigo? The peasants used to pay indigo as rent to the British landlords. Germany had now developed synthetic indigo. So the British landlords wanted money as compensation for being released from natural arrangement. The prices of natural Indigo would go down due to the synthetic indigo. The events of this part of the text illustrate Gandhi’s method of working. Can you identify some instances of this method and link them to his ideas of Satyagraha and non-violence? Gandhiji opposed unjust laws. His politics was intermingled with the day to day problems of millions of Indians. He was willing to oppose the unjust laws and go to jail. The famous Dandi March is an example of his law-breaking action. He broke the salt law. His disobedience was always peaceful and a fight for truth and justice. This had a direct link to his ideas of Satyagraha and non-violence. Why did Gandhi agree to a settlement of 25 percent refund to the farmers? For Gandhi the amount of the refund was less important than the fact that the landlords had been forced to return part of the money and with it, part of their prestige. So he agreed to the settlement of 25 percent refund to the farmers. How did the episode change the plight of the peasants? The peasants were saved from spending time and money on court cases. After some years the British planters gave up control of their estates. When these reverted to the peasants, indigo sharecropping disappeared. Why do you think Gandhi considered the Champaran episode to be a turning point in his life? The Champaran episode began as an attempt to ease the sufferings of large number of poor peasants. He got the whole hearted support of thousands of people. Gandhiji admitted that he had done a very ordinary thing. He declared that the British could not order him about in his own country. Hence he considered the Champaran episode as a turning point in his life. How was Gandhi able to influence lawyers? Give instances. Gandhi asked the lawyers what they would do if he was sentenced to prison. They said that they had come to advise him. If he went to jail, they would return. Then Gandhi asked them about the injustice to the sharecroppers. The lawyers held consultations. They concluded that it would be a shameful desertion if they returned home. So they told Gandhi that they were ready to follow him into jail. What was the attitude of the average Indian in smaller localities towards advocates of ‘home rule’? The average Indians in smaller localities were afraid to show sympathy for the advocates of home-rule. Gandhi stayed at Muzaffarpur for two days in the home of professor Malkani, a teacher in a government school. It was an extraordinary thing in those days for a government professor to give shelter to one who opposed the government.
How do we know that ordinary people too contributed to the freedom movement? Gandhi was received by Professor J.B Kriplani at Muzaffarpur railway station at midnight. He had a large body of students with him. Sharecroppers from Champaran came on foot and by transport to see Gandhi. The lawyers at Muzaffarpur also called on him. A vast multitude greeted Gandhi when he reached Motihari railway station. Thousands of people demonstrated around the court room. This shows that ordinary people also contributed to the freedom movement. How did the development of synthetic indigo affect the English estate owners? Most of the arable land in Champaran belonged to the English landlords who had signed a long term contract with the peasants. The farmers planted 15% of their holdings with indigo and surrendered it as rent. With the development of synthetic indigo, its cultivation was no longer profitable. The landlords wanted to release the peasants of the contract and take money from them as compensation. Why did Gandhi meet the Secretary of the British landlords association on arriving in Champaran? What was the secretary’s response? When Gandhi arrived in Champaran, he first set out to ascertain the facts. He wanted the viewpoints of the landlords and the peasants. He visited the secretary of the British Landlords Association to get to know their point of views. The secretary told him that he could give no information to an outsider. Gandhi’s efforts proved futile. Why did Gandhi meet the British official commissioner of the Tirhut division? To understand the situation at Champaran, Gandhi wanted the viewpoints of the landlords and the peasants. The secretary of the British landlords association refused to impart any information. Gandhi, then, called on the British official commissioner of the Tirhut division. The commissioner bullied Gandhi and advised him to leave Tirhut. What was the conflict of duties in which Gandhi was involved? In court, Gandhi pleaded guilty for having disobeyed the official notice to quit Champaran. He read out a statement claiming he was involved in a conflict of duties. He clarified that he disobeyed not to break law and set a bad example but to render the humanitarian and national services for which he had come to Champaran. Why did Gandhi stay on in Champaran even after the sharecropper’s problems were solved? Gandhi aimed at improving Champaran culturally and socially. The problems were many. Health conditions were miserable. There was poverty, illiteracy and lack of sanitation. So he stayed on even after the sharecropper’s problems were solved. How did Gandhi teach his followers a lesson in self reliance? Charles Freer Andrews, the English pacifist and follower of Gandhi came to bid him farewell. Gandhi’s lawyer friends asked Andrews to stay on and support them. Gandhi vehemently opposed the suggestion and asked them to face the crisis independently. If their cause was just, Gandhi said, they would win the battle by relying on themselves. Long Questions Civil disobedience had triumphed the first time in modern India. Relate the events during Gandhi’s stay in Champaran that led to the triumph.
Gandhi visited Champaran to look into the problems of the poor peasants. At Motihari, he was greeted by thousands of peasants. This was the beginning of the peasant liberation from fear of the British. A peasant had been maltreated in a nearby village. Gandhi set out to see him. The police superintendent’s messenger overtook him and ordered him to return. Gandhi complied. At home, he was served an official notice to quit Champaran. Gandhi signed the receipt and wrote on it that he would disobey the order. This was the beginning of Civil disobedience. Gandhi received summons to appear in court the next day. The peasants thronged the courtroom. They wanted to help the ‘Mahatma’ who was in trouble with the authorities for trying to help them. The officials were powerless. Gandhi helped them regulate the crowd. This baffled the officials. The magistrate postponed announcing the sentence by two hours and asked Gandhi to furnish bail. Gandhi declined. The judge released him without bail. The judge said he would not deliver the judgment for several days. Later, the case was dropped by the Lt. Governor himself. Civil disobedience had triumphed. Why did Gandhi consider freedom from fear more important than legal justice for the poor peasants of Champaran? The poor peasants were ruthlessly exploited by the landlords of Champaran. Germany had developed synthetic indigo which resulted in a steep fall in indigo prices. The landlords had a long term contract by which peasants grew indigo in 15% land and handed it over as rent. The landlords no longer needed indigo and very cleverly wished to give up this arrangement for compensation. When the news of synthetic indigo reached the peasants, they demanded their money back and engaged lawyers to fight their battles. There was no respite for the farmers under the unjust system. When Gandhi came to Champaran, he realised that the fear stricken peasants got no help from courts. The real relief for them was to be free from fear of the British. Gandhi was summoned to appear in court for having refused the official notice to quit Champaran. The news of Gandhi being in trouble with the authorities spread fast. The peasants gathered in thousands around the court house. They shook off their fear and held demonstrations. The officials were baffled and helpless. This voluntary uprising of the peasants was their liberation from fear. For them, the British power was no longer unchallengeable. This was made important than legal justice as revealed in the future events. What idea do you get about Gandhiji from the Chapter ‘Indigo’? The chapter ‘Indigo’ highlights the greatness of Gandhiji who was simple, unassuming and yet a force to be reckoned with. His humility is revealed by his comment on the victory of civil disobedience ‘What I did was a very ordinary thing’. He was mistaken as a peasant by Dr. Rajendra's servant. At the same time, Gandhi was firm and resolute. He faced the officials and with conviction disregarded the orders to leave Champaran. The case against him had to be dropped. He fearlessly faced four protracted interviews with the Lt. Governor for the justice of the indigo sharecroppers. Even though he was the sole representative of the peasants, he proved his point. He broke the deadlock settling for only 25% refund. He was wise and judicious. He agreed because the refund instilled courage in the peasants as the landlords were obliged to surrender part of their money and prestige. Gandhi demonstrated by his actions an important lesson of self reliance in the freedom struggle. He refused the help of Mr. Andrews and claimed that if the cause was just one must rely on one.
How did the Champaran episode prove to be a turning point in Gandhiji’s life? Explain with the reference to the text, ‘Indigo’. Gandhiji recounts that it was the year 1916, when he was approached by a peasant, Rajkumar Shukla from Champaran during the annual meeting of the Indian National Congress in Lucknow. He wished Gandhiji to visit his state and look into the condition of sharecroppers there. Gandhiji learned that the areas of Champaran districts were divided into large estates owned by English men and were worked by the Indians worked as their tenant farmers and they had to pay 15 % of their land. Gandhiji reached their and started by trying to get together all the facts and met with resistance from the British. After the investigates by Gandhiji and the lawyers into the grievances of the farmers, it was decided by the Britishers that 25% of the money would be refunded. Gandhiji accepted the money offered to the farmer as refund even though he had demanded 50 % and thus the deadlock was broken. The farmers learnt that they too had rights and they became courageous. Within a few years the landlords relinquished their claims over the estates, which reverted back to the farmers. Now Gandhiji embarked on a programme to reform the economic and cultural backwardness of the area. He appointed volunteers to teach the villagers. Kasturba taught the Ashram rules and personal cleanliness and community sanitation. He got a doctor to volunteer his services for six months to improve the health conditions of the people. They realized the value of self reliance. Some of Gandhiji’s and lawyer friends thought that it would be a good idea of Charles Free Andrews, an English pacifist, who was a devoted follower of Gandhiji and on a farewell visit, should stay and help. Gandhiji strongly opposed it. If they get an English man on their sides it would show the weakness of their heart. They must rely on themselves to win the battle. The Champaran episode gave Gandhiji self confidence, direction and an impetus to launch freedom movement throughout India. Thus this episode was a turning point in his life as well in India. How do we know that ordinary people too contributed to the freedom movement? For the success of any movement, cooperation and participation of all is must. They make the movement not only a success but also lead to the pinnacle. When the peasants knew about Gandhiji, they reached Muzzafarpur. Gandhiji was ordered to appear in Motihari court on the following morning. Then the multitude of peasants blackened the town of Motihari. They knew that the Gandhiji, who wanted to help them, was in trouble with the authorities. It was perhaps the first kind of spontaneous demonstration of Indian against the Britishers. Seeing the situation beyond control, they sought his help to regulate the unprecedented crowd. The government was baffled. It has such an impact on the Government that the civil disobedience won for the first time in 1917 in modern India. Side by side the Government had to appoint an official inquiry commission to find out the atrocities done over the peasants. As a result, the owners had to refund the money. This opened the eyes of all. People from every nook and corner of India participated in the freedom movement. Women too gave up their homely comforts and worked with their leader. There were mass movements like freedom struggle, salt movement, quit India movement, civil disobedience, Satyagraha and the boycott of foreign goods, etc. Ordinary people were there at the back and call of their leader. Consequently, India became free on 15th August, 1947.
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