Indigo Summary Class 12 English | English Flamingo

Indigo —by Louis Fischer

Indigo Summary Class 12 English | English Flamingo

Chapter Summary

Rajkumar Shukla ‘The Resolute Peasant’

The author had visited Gandhiji for the first time in 1942 at his ashram in Sevagram. There Gandhi started narrating the incident which made him decide to spur the exit of the British from India in 1917. Gandhi had gone to the December 1916 annual convention of the Indian National Congress Party in Lucknow. A poor and emaciated peasant, Rajkumar Shukla, approached Gandhi there. He wanted Gandhi to visit his district and look into the condition of the peasants there.
The peasants of Champaran including him were sharecroppers. He had come to the Congress Session to complain about the injustice of the landlord system in Bihar and was advised to seek Gandhi’s help. Shukla was illiterate but was very resolute. Even though Gandhi told him about his
commitments, Shukla did not leave his side. Impressed with his tenacity, Gandhi finally asked Shukla to meet him in Calcutta on a particular data to go to Champaran.

Visit to Rajendra Prasad’s House and then to Muzaffarpur

When the date came near, Gandhi found Shukla waiting for him in Calcutta. When Gandhi got free, they went to Patna, Bihar, to meet a lawyer named Rajendra Prasad. Rajendra Prasad was out of town, but the servants knew Shukla as a poor peasant who pestered their master to help the indigo sharecroppers. As Gandhi accompanied him,
they thought him to be another farmer and let them stay on the grounds. However, Gandhi was not allowed to drink water from the well as they thought that he was an untouchable. Before going to Champaran, Gandhi decided to visit Muzaffarpur to obtain more information about the conditions prevalent in the area. So, he sent a telegram to
Professor JB Kriplani, who received them at the station with a large body of students on 15th April, 1917. Gandhi stayed in Muzaffarpur for two days in the home of Professor Malkani, a government school teacher. He recalled that his stay in the house of a government servant was an extraordinary thing ‘in those days’ as many Indians were afraid to show sympathy for advocates of home rule.

Gandhi Scolded the Lawyers

The news of Gandhi’s arrival spread like wildfire.
Sharecroppers from Champaran began arriving in
large numbers to meet Gandhi. Muzaffarpur lawyers also met Gandhi and told him about their cases. When they reported the size of their fee Gandhi scolded the lawyers for collecting a huge fee from the poor sharecroppers. Gandhi concluded that the peasants were so crushed and fear-stricken that going to law courts was useless. The real relief for them was to be free from fear.

The Sharecropping Arrangement

According to the sharecropping agreement most of the land fit for cultivation in Champaran was divided into large estates. These estates were owned by Englishmen but worked on by Indian tenants. The landlords forced the Indian tenants to plant 15% of their holdings with indigo and surrender the entire indigo harvest as rent. This was done by a long term contract. After the landlords learned that Germany had developed
synthetic indigo, they asked for compensation from the sharecroppers for being released from the 15%
arrangement. The sharecropping arrangement was irksome, so many peasants signed willingly. At the same time, some peasants opposed it. Meanwhile, the information about synthetic indigo reached the peasants who felt cheated. The peasants now wanted their money back.

Gandhi Disobeys the Official Order

It was amidst such chaos that Gandhi arrived in Champaran and started his enquiry. First he visited the Secretary of the British landlord’s association but the Secretary told him that no information would be given to an outsider. He then visited the British Commissioner of the region. Here, Gandhi reported that he was bullied and asked to leave.
Gandhi did not leave and proceeded to Motihari, the capital of Champaran. There, using a house as headquarters, he continued his investigations. A report came in that a peasant had been maltreated in a nearby village. Gandhi decided to check the matter himself. On the way, he was ordered by a police superintendent’s messenger to return to the town. Thereafter, he was served with an official notice to quit Champaran. Gandhi signed a receipt of the notice and further wrote that he would disobey the order. As a result, he was summoned to appear in the court the next day.

Spontaneous Demonstration of the Peasants

Gandhi could not sleep the whole night. He telegraphed Rajendra Prasad to come from Bihar with influential friends and sent instructions to the ashram. He also wired a full report to the Viceroy.
Next day, several thousand peasants reached Motihari and started demonstrating around the courthouse. They had heard that a Mahatma who wanted to help them was in trouble with the authorities. Gandhi felt that this was the beginning of their liberation from fear of the British.
The government and the officials felt powerless. So, Gandhi regulated the crowd and gave them a concrete proof that their power could be challenged by Indians. The crowd baffled the Britishes who wanted to postpose the trial. The British authorities wanted to consult the superiors. But, Gandhi protested against the delay. He confessed that he
broke the law but only because of the voice of his conscience. Soon, the judge announced that he won’t make a judgement for days. This allowed Gandhi to remain free.

Gandhi Influences the Lawyers

Rajendra Prasad, alongwith many prominent lawyers, conferred with Gandhi. Gandhi asked them what they would do if he was sent to jail. The senior lawyer replied that they were there to help Gandhi; if he was arrested, they would go home.
Gandhi reprimanded them about the injustice to the sharecroppers.
The lawyers consulted among themselves. They thought that when Gandhi, a total stranger, was ready to go to jail for the sake of the peasants, it would be shameful for them to leave the peasants, whom they claimed to serve. They told Gandhi that they were ready to follow him to jail. To this, Gandhi exclaimed, ‘The battle of Champaran is won’.

Civil Disobedience Triumphs, Lieutenant-Governor Summons Gandhi

Some days later Gandhi was informed that the Lieutenant-Governor of the province had ordered the case to be dropped. Civil disobedience had triumphed for the first time in modern India.
Inquiries into the grievances of the farmers over a wide area began. About ten thousand testimonials were reported and notes were made of the evidence. The whole area throbbed with activity while the landlords protested vehemently against
the inquiries. In June, the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Edward Gait, summoned Gandhi. Before he went, Gandhi laid out detailed plans for civil disobedience if he did not return. The Lieutenant-Governor, after having four protracted meetings with Gandhi, appointed an official commission to enquire into the situation. The commission
comprised landlords, government officials and Gandhi. Consequently, Gandhi stayed in Champaran for 7 months.

Gandhi Agrees to 25% Compensation

The evidence against the landlords was overwhelming. They asked Gandhi how much they should repay. They thought he would demand full repayment of the money which was illegally
and deceitfully extorted from the sharecroppers. But Gandhi asked for only 50%. The landlords offered a refund of 25% which Gandhi agreed.
Gandhi explained that the amount of the refund was not important. What mattered was that the landlords were obliged to surrender part of the money and with it, part of their prestige. Now, the peasants saw that they had certain rights and people to defend them while learning courage. Soon, the lands were reverted to the peasants and indigo sharecropping disappeared.

The Poor Conditions of Champaran and Gandhi’s Typical Methods

Gandhi now wanted to do something about the cultural and social backwardness in the Champaran villages. So, many volunteers from all across the country arrived. These included his wife,
Kasturba and his son. Soon, primary schools were opened in six villages. Kasturba taught the ashram rules on personal cleanliness and community sanitation. Health and poor state of women were among the many issues that were tackled. While in
Champaran, Gandhi kept a long distance watch on the ashram. He sent regular instructions by post and asked for financial accounts.

Significance of Champaran Episode

The Champaran episode was a turning point in Gandhi’s life. He explained that what he did was an ordinary thing. He declared that the British could not order him about in his own country. Champaran didn’t begin as an act of defiance. It was initially an attempt to help the poor peasants. This was the typical Gandhi pattern. His politics were intertwined with the practical day-to-day problems of the millions.

Self-reliance—The Making of a Free Indian

In all the things that Gandhi did, he tried to mould a new free Indian, who could stand on his own feet and thus make India free. Charles Freer Andrews, an English pacifist, who had become a devoted follower of Gandhi, came to bid him goodbye. Gandhi’s lawyer friends wanted Andrews to help them. But Gandhi strongly opposed the suggestion.
According to him, asking for Andrews’ help was showing the weakness of their hearts. He assured them the cause was just and they must rely upon themselves to win the battle. Gandhi in this way taught them a lesson on self-reliance.

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