In the previous part, we went through the moments of change. When the Europeans had started gaining influence, followed by the dissemination of Indigo factories throughout Champaran. The Bettiah Raj- one of the biggest zamindaris that existed in India had started rendering its support to the foreigners.
The moist pleasing areas of ‘Champaran’, that were exotically beautiful before the seizure, were becoming hostile for the ryots. Things were critically changing, but neither did the government heed to their pleas nor did it care.
What about the Bettiah Raj?
It could have cared, right? After all, they were the humans who belonged to the same community.
That’s where we left the last article.
You remember? Yesterday was a different day, today is the new one…
The Bettiah Raj was losing its touch. By 1888, it was in serious debt. This was the time when the British played their Trump card. T Gibbson raised about 85 lakhs from England and did a deal. British now had a portion of the estate and the game had turned around. Further, most of the lessees were now the British.
The planters started cajoling and forcing the innocent peasants to grow indigo. When the farmers would agree, the shrewd planters would take the agreement to writing. This agreement would include the bond for peasants to grow indigo in a definite proportion of their land for a more than twenty years. Thus, the peasants were trapped.
It was fine if the crops went well. However, If the peasant was unable to grow indigo, he was forced to give a huge sum for breach of the agreement- as time passed, the government kept increasing this price, cruelly diminishing the farmer’s income and his livelihood.
Years passed as the prices of indigo shot up and down. The planters kept shoving these price changes down the peasant’s throats- Every time the price decreased, the planters would find a way to leverage more from the poor peasants. The planters thus grew stronger and our own peasants grew frail.
INDIGO AND HUMAN BLOOD
R W Tower, the magistrate of Faridpur in Bengal had described the cruel plantation strategies in Bengal to the commissioner in one line, but unfortunately, Bihar had no strong leadership. However, the problems remained similar.
“Not a chest of indigo reached England without being stained with human blood.I have seen several ryots… speared through the body… shot down by Mr. Forde … how others have been first speared and then kidnapped; and such a system of carrying on indigo, I consider to be ……… the system of blood-shed.” R W Tower -Sighted: archieve.org, Satyagraha in Champaran
Indian’s suffered. The golden bird needed someone to guide her, to pull her out of the mud. Then there was a person called Rajkumar Shukla who went out to find their savior, a guy who had created havoc in South Africa. But Gandhiji was not easily reachable, so Shukla followed him wherever he went. He convinced Gandhiji, who didn’t know anything about Champaran- to come and visit the place.
‘One day will be enough, and you will see things from your own eyes” Shukla would insist.
Anyways, my word limit is nearly over, we will finish things up in one more article about the Satyagraha. In the next text, we will stand by Gandhiji and watch as the things proceeded to guide a mass agitation.
They say, leaders always find a way. Gandhiji was one such leader who created an entirely new path of social development. We will discover how a normal barrister with an indomitable will can transform the way millions think.
Till then, goodbye.
Note- The information in this text has been taken from Rajendra Prasad’s text of Satyagraha, and various other online/offline sources.