|Date||19 April 1917|
|Location||Champaran district of Bihar, India|
|Organised by||Gandhi, Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha Ramnavmi Prasad, Mazhar-ul-Haq,and others including J. B. Kripalani|
The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement inspired by Gandhi and a major revolt in the Indian Independence Movement. It was a farmer's uprising that took place in Champaran district of Bihar, India during the British colonial period. The farmers were protesting against having to grow indigo with barely any payment for it.
When Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa in 1915, and saw peasants in Northern India oppressed by indigo planters, he tried to use the same methods that he had used in South Africa to organize mass uprisings by people to protest against injustice.
Champaran Satyagraha was the first popular satyagraha to be started. The Champaran Satyagraha gave direction to India's youth and freedom struggle, which was tottering between moderates who prescribed Indian participation within the British colonial system, and the extremists from Bengal who advocated the use of violent methods to topple the British colonialists in India.
Champaran is a district which comes under the state Bihar. Under Colonial era laws, many tenant farmers were forced to grow some indigo on a portion of their land as a condition of their tenancy. This indigo was used to make dye. The Germans had invented a cheaper artificial dye so the demand for indigo fell. Some tenants paid more rent in return for being let off having to grow indigo. However, during the First World War the German dye ceased to be available and so indigo became profitable again. Thus many tenants were once again forced to grow it on a portion of their land- as was required by their lease. Naturally, this created much anger and resentment.
Neel (indigo) started being grown commercially in Berar (today Bihar), Audh (today Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) and Bengal in 1750 by the British East India company, primarily for export to China, UK and Europe. Being a cash crop which needed high amounts of water and which left the soil infertile, local farmers usually opposed its cultivation, instead preferring to grow daily need crops such as rice and pulses. Hence the British colonialists forced farmers to grow indigo, often by making this the condition for providing loans, and through collusion with local kings, nawabs and landlords. The trade was lucrative and led to the fortunes of several Asian and European traders and companies, including Jardine Matheson, E.Pabaney, Sassoon, Wadias and Swire.
As indigo trade to China was made illegal in the early 1900s and was restricted in USA in 1910, indigo traders began to put force on indigo planters to increase production. Many tenants alleged that Landlords had used strong-arm tactics to exact illegal cesses and to extort them in other ways. This issue had been highlighted by a number of lawyers/politicians and there had also been a Commission of Inquiry. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and Peer Muneesh published the condition of Champaran in their publications because of which they lost their jobs. Raj Kumar Shukla and Sant Raut, a money lender who also owned some land, persuaded Gandhi to go to Champaran and thus, the Champaran Satyagraha began. Gandhi arrived in Champaran, on 10 April 1917 and stayed at the house of Sant Raut in Amolwa village with a team of eminent lawyers: Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Babu Gaya Prasad Singh, Ramnavmi Prasad, and others including J. B. Kripalani.
Gandhi established the first-ever basic school at Barharwa Lakhansen village, 30 km east from the district headquarters at Dhaka, East Champaran, on November 13, 1917, organising scores of his veteran supporters and fresh volunteers from the region. His handpicked team of eminent lawyers comprising Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha & Babu Brajkishore Prasad organised a detailed study and survey of the villages, accounting the atrocities and terrible episodes of suffering, including the general state of degenerate living.
Building on the confidence of villagers, he began leading the clean-up of villages, building of schools and hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to undo purdah, untouchability and the suppression of women. Gandhi set up two more basic schools at Bhitiharwa with the help of Sant Raut in West Champaran and Madhuban in this district on November 30, 1917 and January 17, 1918, respectively. The purpose behind setting up these schools was to fight illiteracy and generate awareness among the rural people. He was joined by many young nationalists from all over India, including Babu Gaya Prasad Singh, Brajkishore Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Acharya Kriplani, Ram Navami Prasad and later Jawaharlal Nehru.
But his main assault came as he was arrested by police on the charge of creating unrest and was ordered to leave the province. Hundreds of thousands of people protested and rallied outside the jail, police stations and courts demanding his release, which the court unwillingly did. Gandhi led organised protests and strike against the landlords, who with the guidance of the British government, signed an agreement granting more compensation and control over farming for the poor farmers of the region, and cancellation of revenue hikes and collection until the famine ended. It was during this agitation, that first time Gandhi was called "Bapu" (Father) by saint Raut and "Mahatma" (Great Soul). Gandhi himself did not like being addressed as "Mahatma", preferring to be called Bapu.
The series of celebration began on 10 April 2017 with a National Conclave or Rashtritya Vimarsh where eminent Gandhian thinkers, philosophers and scholars participated. The Conclave facilities was inaugurated for this purpose. The event was organised by Education Department and Directorate of Mass Education being the nodal office. XML Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 April 2018 attended the concluding ceremony of the Champaran Satyagraha's centenary celebrations at Motihari in Champaran district of Bihar