Champaran is a historic region which now forms the East Champarana District and the West Champaran district in Bihar, India. Champaran was part of erstwhile Mithila (Nepal) under celebrated King Janak, probably the father of Sita.
People mentioned in the extract
- Raj Kumar Shukla – A peasant from Champaran
- Rajendra Prasad – Later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India
- Professor Kripalani – A professor at Muzaffarpur
- Professor Malkani – A teacher who worked in a British school.
- Indian Lawyers – Tried to discourage Gandhiji. Gandhiji chided them for fooling the peasants.
- Police officer – He served Gandhiji with an official order to quit Champaran because his presence was becoming a concern for the authority.
- Motihari Court Judge – A Briish
- Kasturbai – Gandhiji’s wife
- Devdas Gandhi – Gandhiji’s youngest son
- Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Gait – A British
- Charles Freer Andrews – A British social worker
Share cropping system in Champaran
Champaran is part of the state of Bihar. It was famous for its indigo plantations owned by the British landlords and worked by the Indian peasants. The British forced the peasants to cultivate indigo in the 15% of their land and submit the entire harvest to the landlords as their rent. Good idea, was it not? Poor Indians, they had to obey the British because they were afraid of the British. They hated this agreement and wanted to be free.
It was during this time that Germany developed synthetic indigo and the British knew that the peasants would be free from the agreement and that they would get no more income from them.
So the smart landlords freed them from the agreement by making them pay heavy amount for that. Most of the peasants were happy and paid and got their freedom from the landlords. But soon the news of the German indigo reached them and they realized that they were cheated.
Indian lawyers fool the peasants
The peasants went to the Indian lawyers and paid them heavily to get back their money. The lawyers knew that the peasants would never get their money back from a court controlled by the British, yet they pretended to be helping them.
Who will help them?
Soon the peasants realized that they needed a stronger and reliable help and they turned to Indian National Congress. Accordingly, a peasant, Raj Kumar Shukla reached Lucknow where the Congress convention was being held and happened to meet a young Congress member called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Mr. Gandhiji heard Shukla’s story was impressed but regretted his inability to help the peasants of Champaran. He tried to escape Shukla but Shukla was not ready to abandon his pursuit. Finally Gandhiji had to comply. He reached Champaran and learned the situation. He was moved by the way the poor Indian peasants had been exploited and fooled by the British landlords and the Indian lawyers.
- For stirring men and women into violence, Gandjiji is arrested and tried in the Motihari Court.
- Thousands of peasants surround the court to support Gandhiji and the authorities are held spellbound at Gandhiji’s knowledge in law and his boldness.
- The court dissolves all charges against Gandhiji and this opens a new door of action.
- Gandhiji and his followers gather evidences against the landlords and the Lieutenant Governor agrees to compensate the peasants.
- Thinking Gandhiji would not agree to a settlement as low as 25%, the landlords agree to compensate with the return of 25% of the amount the peasants had paid earlier.
- Gandhiji agrees with the agreement against all disapproval and the three hundred old sharecropping crisis comes to an end.
A Peasant comes to Meet Gandhiji
- Raj Kumar Shukla, a representative of the Champaran peasants, meets Gandhiji in Lucknow seeking his help.
- He requests Gandhiji to come with him to Champaran to help and fight for the poor peasants who had been cheated by the rich landlords and the Indian lawyer there.
- After an initial refusal, Gandhi agrees to go with Mr. Shukla.
- Via Kolkata, Patna and Muzafarpur, Gandhiji and Shukla reach Motihari and finally Champaran.
Questions & Answers
- Who was Raj Kumar Shukla? Why did he want Gandhiji in Champaaran?
Raj Kumar Shukla was a peasant from Champaran. He was a sharecropper under the British landlords there. The sharecropping system had become a big trouble for all the peasants in Champaran and there was no one to help them. Shukla heard from someone that Gandhiji could solve their problems and therefore wanted Gandhiji in Champaran.
- Why were the sharecroppers ready to sign the agreement to pay the money to get released from the previous agreement to plant indigo?
The peasants had already been suffering due to the age old agreement made by their forefathers. They could not do any other work than the cultivation of indigo and therefore remained poor. When they were told of the new agreement to pay a compensation to be released from the previous agreement, the peasants found it better.
- Why did the sharecroppers demand their money back?
The British landlords were very shrewd and knew how to exploit the poor, unlettered Indian peasants. When they heard that the demand for natural indigo would soon fall and that the Champaran peasants would be free from the agreement, they exhorted/took money from them before the peasants knew the true story. But when the peasants knew the truth they realized that they were cheated and therefore wanted their money back.
- What made Gandhiji accompany Raj Kumar Shukla to Champaran?
Gandhiji had no plan to involve himself in any mass movements. But when he heard about the miseries of the Champaran peasants under the British landlords and that the Indian lawyers there didn’t do anything honestly for the peasants and having seen the determination and tenacity of Shukla, Gandhiji decided to accompany him to Champaran.