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Chapter 5: Indigo
When I first visited Gandhi in 1942 at his ashram in Sevagram, in central India, he said, “I will tell you how it happened that I decided to urge the departure of the British.
It was in 1917.” He had gone to the December 1916 annual convention of the Indian National Congress party in Lucknow.
There were 2,301 delegates and many visitors. During the proceedings, Gandhi recounted, “a peasant came up to me looking like any other peasant in India, poor and emaciated, and said, ‘I am Rajkumar Shukla.
I am from Champaran, and I want you to come to my district’!’’ Gandhi had never heard of the place. It was in the foothills of the towering Himalayas, near the kingdom of Nepal.
Under an ancient arrangement, the Champaran peasants were sharecroppers. Rajkumar Shukla was one of them. He was illiterate but resolute.
He had come to the Congress session to complain about the injustice of the landlord system in Bihar, and somebody had probably said, “Speak to Gandhi.” Gandhi told Shukla he had an appointment in Cawnpore and was also committed to go to other parts of India.
Shukla accompanied him everywhere. Then Gandhi returned to his ashram near Ahmedabad. Shukla followed him to the ashram. For weeks he never left Gandhi’s side. “Fix a date,” he begged.
Impressed by the sharecropper’s tenacity and story Gandhi said, ‘‘I have to be in Calcutta on such-and-such a date. Come and meet me and take me from there.”
Months passed. Shukla was sitting on his haunches at the appointed spot in Calcutta when
Gandhi arrived; he waited till Gandhi was free.
Then the two of them boarded a train for the city of Patna in Bihar. There Shukla led him to the house of a lawyer named Rajendra Prasad who later became President of the Congress party and of India.
Rajendra Prasad was out of town, but the servants knew Shukla as a poor yeoman who pestered their master to help the indigo sharecroppers.
So they let him stay on the grounds with his companion, Gandhi, whom they took to be another peasant.
But Gandhi was not permitted to draw water from the well lest some drops from his bucket pollute the entire source; how did they know that he was not an untouchable?
Gandhi decided to go first to Muzzafarpur, which was en route to Champaran, to obtain more complete information about conditions than Shukla was capable of imparting.
He accordingly sent a telegram to Professor J.B. Kripalani, of the Arts College in Muzzafarpur, whom he had seen at Tagore’s Shantiniketan school.
The train arrived at midnight, on 15 April 1917. Kripalani was waiting at the station with a large body of students.
Gandhi stayed there for two days in the home of Professor Malkani, a teacher in a government school.
He began by trying to get the facts. First, he visited the secretary of the British landlord’s association.
The secretary told him that they could give no information to an outsider. Gandhi answered that he was no outsider.
Next, Gandhi called on the British official commissioner of the Tirhut division in which the Champaran district lay.
‘‘The commissioner,’’ Gandhi reports, ‘‘proceeded to bully me and advised me forthwith to leave Tirhut.’’ Gandhi did not leave. Instead, he proceeded to Motihari, the capital of Champaran.
Several lawyers accompanied him. At the railway station, a vast multitude greeted Gandhi.
He went to a house and, using it as headquarters, continued his investigations. A report came in that a peasant had been maltreated in a nearby village.
Gandhi decided to go and see; the next morning he started out on the back of an elephant.
He had not proceeded far when the police superintendent’s messenger overtook him and ordered him to return to town in his carriage.
Gandhi complied. The messenger drove Gandhi home where he served him with an official notice to quit Champaran immediately.
Gandhi signed a receipt for the notice and wrote on it that he would disobey the order. In consequence, Gandhi received a summons to appear in court the next day.
All night Gandhi remained awake. He telegraphed Rajendra Prasad to come from Bihar with influential friends. He sent instructions to the ashram. He wired a full report to the Viceroy.
Morning found the town of Motihari black with peasants. They did not know Gandhi’s record in South Africa.
They had merely heard that a Mahatma who wanted to help them was in trouble with the authorities.
Their spontaneous demonstration, in thousands, around the courthouse was the beginning of their liberation from fear of the British.
The officials felt powerless without Gandhi’s cooperation. He helped them regulate the crowd. He was polite and friendly.
He was giving them concrete proof that their might, hitherto dreaded and unquestioned, could be challenged by Indians.
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NCERT Solutions Class 12 English Chapter 5 Indigo
1. Why do you think Gandhi considered the Champaran episode to be a turning point in his life?
Gandhi considered the Champaran episode a watershed moment in his life because it was India’s first Satyagraha movement, and it restored courage and a feeling of self-reliance to the Champaran peasants. As a result, Gandhi regarded it as significant in his life and the course of Indian independence.
2. How was Gandhi able to influence lawyers? Give instances.
Gandhi was able to persuade the lawyers by setting a good example. Gandhi was willing to spend time in prison for the sake of the peasants. This prompted them to remain in Champaran and volunteer to accompany him to jail if he was arrested.
3. What was the attitude of the average Indian in smaller localities towards advocates of ‘home rule’?
During that time, the average Indian in smaller towns and villages was terrified of the British. They were afraid of the repercussions of assisting proponents of “home rule.”
As a result, while they were supportive of people like Gandhi, they were afraid to express it openly, and only a few dared to do so. In the story, we meet people like Professor Malkani, who had the courage to give shelter to Gandhi on the latter’s visit to Muzaffarpur.
4. How do we know that ordinary people too contributed to the freedom movement?
We know that ordinary people helped the freedom movement in the following ways.
Thousands of poor peasants took part in spontaneous demonstrations around the courthouse in Motihari.
Owing to his tenacity, an ordinary peasant named Rajkumar Shukla spearheaded this movement. This resulted in India’s first Satyagraha movement, which contributed to the freedom movement.
In Champaran, Mahadev Desai, and Narhari Parikh, two young men who had recently become disciples of Gandhi, and their wives volunteered to teach in a school.
Champaran’s social and cultural backwardness was alleviated as a result of this. A doctor also volunteered for six months in Champaran.
NCERT Class 12 English Textbook Chapter 5 Indigo With Answer PDF Free Download