Farmers strip on Champaran Satyagraha anniversary

While Mahatma Gandhi launched the Champaran Satyagraha 100 years ago on April 17 in support of oppressed farmers in Bihar, their plight ironically remains just as bad

Photo by National Herald
Photo by National Herald

NH Web Desk

Denied a meeting with the Prime Minister on Monday, some of the protesting farmers from Tamil Nadu stripped outside the PMO while raising slogans in support of their demands. The farmers have been camping at Jantar Mantar demanding the creation of a drought relief fund and a relief package for farmers. Last week they had posed for photographs while symbolically eating rats.

Ironically, on this very day 100 years ago, Mahatma Gandhi had launched a civil disobedience movement in Bihar’s Champaran which came to be known as Champaran Satyagraha and changed the course of the freedom struggle.

But as the nation remembered that historic occasion with conventions, marches, exhibitions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon the people to launch a ‘Swacchagraha’ to make India clean.

But while Gandhi’s Satyagraha had taken up the cause of oppressed farmers forced to cultivate Indigo and sell them at low prices, the 100th anniversary celebration provides little thought to the plight of farmers even as the Government is spending several hundred crores to commemorate the event.

While the Bihar chief minister went on a Gandhi Smriti Yatra from Motihari in Champaran, a two-day conclave began at Patna to remember Gandhi and his relevance today. The state’s department of tourism shortlisted 12 sites to be developed as the Gandhian trail. Bihar has requested Railways to launch a train from Gandhi’s birthplace, Porbandar in Gujarat to Motihari in Champaran. Running promotional buses with books and videos on Gandhi’s life, organising plays and workshops across the state are also part of the government’s plan.

Photo by PTI
Photo by PTI
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar along with Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi lighting a lamp during the inauguration of the two-day national seminar on centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha at Gyan Bhawan in Patna on Monday

For the entire celebration, Bihar government has received funding of ₹100 crore from the Centre. The prime minister will launch a special digital exhibition at National Archives of India in New Delhi. He is all set to pay “karyanjali” to Gandhi, emphasising that a true tribute to Gandhi will be through hard work.

Connecting his Swach Bharat Abhiyan with Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha, “Swachhagraha” will showcase the milestones and progress of the cleanliness drive and will aim at generating greater awareness for cleanliness.

Ironically, several scholars and activists say the state of farmers in the region from where Gandhi started his movement is now no better than what it was back in 1917.

Gandhi’s satyagraha was focussed more on the transition from inside than just the “show” of it. For Gandhi, “truth” and the “insistence” on it neither required advertising and playing on words nor a grand budget. If we really want to celebrate the spirit of satyagraha, we cannot do away with the spirit of simplicity and humility, they held.

To quote Gandhi, “Satyagraha is soul force of pure and simple and whenever and to whatever extent there is room for the use of arms or physical force or brute force, there, to that extent is there so much less possibility for soul force.” (Source: Gandhi: Satyagraha in South Africa, Nayajivan, Ahmedabad, 1928, pp. 109-15.)

Would the grand celebrations have made Gandhi happy? One suspects that had he been alive in 2017, he would have been fasting somewhere in the country. How he would have reacted to the ‘Gau rakshaks’, ‘love jihad’ and anti-Romeo squad is being talked about by Gandhians. With farmer suicides in several states of the country unabated, he would possibly have been saddened by the extravagant celebration of the Champaran Satyagraha.

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Published: 10 Apr 2017, 6:53 PM