Lessons from Champaran -SN Sahu
Gandhi’s first satyagraha for the cause of farmers stands in sharp contrast to the passage of the three farm laws today
Mahatma Gandhi’s first satyagraha in India was launched in Champaran in 1917 to save farmers from the exploitation of British indigo planters — the corporates of that era engaged in contract farming. The protest bears close resemblance to the farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws that were framed without consulting farmers or other stakeholders and passed by dispensing with parliamentary scrutiny.
Sensing that the laws would cause incalculable harm to them, the protesting farmers marched to Delhi. But they were prevented from entering Delhi. The British, too, had prevented Gandhi from investigating the plight of farmers in Champaran. He was asked to leave, subjected to coercive measures, even arrested for violating the law. Gandhi willingly submitted himself to the penalty for disobedience to resist injustice truthfully. The farmers have also submitted themselves to sufferings for the sake of their peaceful agitation. Gandhi’s admission before Champaran’s magistrate that he violated the law because he was tuned in to the higher law of conscience disarmed the British. He was allowed to identify the causes of the sufferings of farmers. After holding consultations with farmers, British planters, the colonial bureaucracy and the police, Gandhi submitted a report portraying farmers’ exploitation. The British authorities instituted a committee — Gandhi was a member — to address their grievances. The British regime responded by framing the Champaran Agrarian Bill, 1918 and referred it to the Select Committee of the Bihar-Odisha assembly for scrutiny. Even Gandhi was requested to examine it.
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The Telegraph, 9 February, 2021, https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/lessons-from-champaran/cid/1806096?fbclid=IwAR3ENOxX6nsrEClMIshAb5QgJQjoheuM6G7A776qY-gin6ZqrFN-vEESSpk