In the liberation struggle, Gandhi’s first civil disobedience movement was the Champaran satyagraha. Gandhi travelled to Champaran, Bihar, after being persuaded by Rajkumar Shukla, an indigo farmer, to explore the plight of the farmers there. Europeans compelled cultivators in the Champaran district of Bihar to grow indigo, a blue dye, which caused them tremendous agony. They couldn’t cultivate the food they needed, and their indigo payments were insufficient.
Reasons behind the Poor Condition of Indigo Planters and Champaran Satyagraha
Tinkathia was the most common method of Indigo cultivation in Champaran. In this case, the ryot was required to cultivate three kathas of indigo, each bigha of his land, or 3/20th of his total landholding (1 bigha= 20 kathas). There was no legal basis for it. It was carried out primarily at the request of the owners of the indigo factories (planters).
Furthermore, after 1900, the indigo industries in Bihar began to deteriorate because of competition from European synthetic indigo. The planters began cancelling their indigo-growing contracts with the ryots to avoid losing money. They demanded a tawan or damages of up to Rs. 100 per bigha, to relieve them from this obligation. If the ryots couldn’t pay in cash, they were given hand notes and mortgage bonds with a 12% annual interest rate.
Farmers suffered as a result of excessive taxes and an exploitative government. Under the Tinkathia system, British planters pushed them to produce indigo. Early in 1917, Gandhi travelled to Champaran with Rajkumar. On his arrival, the Region Magistrate issued him a notice stating that he could not remain in the Champaran district and must depart by the first train available. Gandhi disobeys this instruction.
He quickly gained the favour of the locals and the general public. In answer to a summons, he was escorted by about 2000 people when he went to court. The case against him was dropped, and he learned more about the situation.
Gandhi stayed in the area to research farmer complaints. He went to a lot of villages. He interrogated and documented the statements of almost 8,000 growers. In this way, he fully comprehends their grievance and the underlying causes.
He concluded that the cultivators’ illiteracy was one of the key reasons the European planters could control them. As a result, Gandhi established voluntary groups to better the people’s economic and educational conditions. They built schools and educated people on how to better their sanitation.
Result of Champaran Satyagraha
The government subsequently appointed a commission to investigate the cultivators’ claims. Gandhi accepted to serve on the committee after being asked. As a result, the Champaran Agrarian Bill was passed within a few months. The cultivators and land tenants were greatly relieved.
The government agreed to dismantle the tinkathia system after Gandhi led nonviolent rallies against landlords and plantations. As compensation, the peasants received a portion of the money taken from them. Gandhi’s first Satyagraha experiment was the Champaran Struggle, the Ahmedabad Mill Strike, and the Kheda Satyagraha. The people gave Gandhi the label ‘Bapu’.