PART-1 

 

Yet another disturbing event unveils as the ryots of Champaran were tortured by the British to continue their Indigo business. This article depicts how the change took place. How a beautiful nature oriented place turned to a shrewd industry with no values.

Today, I’ll take you to a beautiful forest after we get a recent event out of the way.

I believe, there is nothing superficial in the cosmos. Everything existing has a purpose, some relevance, and a definitive meaning. Yesterday was a different day, today is a new one. I observed a vagabond girl. Her clothes depicted struggle, an endless journey.

As the three friends- me and two others were strolling away from the canteen, cups of warm comfortable tea in our hands, she cornered us. Confident and radiant as ever, the girl said –

Saab, do rupaye…”

 

 We were three of those stupid walking people with money in our pockets and false pride in our hearts. One of my friends pushed the girl out of the way and laughed. Yes, he laughed and replied.

We don’t give money. Go, find your fortune somewhere else. Itte peso se to ekphooklenge.”

The other friend stopped him in tracks and ordered.

“Stop laughing, insaan hai wo bhi.”

He went near the girl and asked her gently.

“Would you like to have a samosa”

The girl’s eyes lit up, we sat with her and she ate profusely. Telling how hard she had been working to earn her bit. The next day, my smoker friend quit smoking.

 

People don’t change with force; they change with love.

Maybe that’s what made ‘satyagraha’ a popular agitation…

Now let’s move to our lush green forest.

 

The Mognolian flower

 

 

The Beginning

 

 

 Champaran- The ‘Aranya (forest)’ of

 ‘champa (Mongolian)’ flowers.

“Champaran is a corrupt form of the word Champaranya. It is mentioned in the Puranas. In its jungles were the places of penance of Rishis.The ashrama of Valmiki Muni was also situated within this district. Janaki after her exile took shelter in this ashrama and her two sons Lava and Kusha were born there. The battle between Rama-       Chandra and his two sons Lava and Kusha took place somewhere within this district.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    –Rajendra Prasad

The Sub-Himalayan foothill of the Dun ranges in the Champaran district is adorned by a belt of deciduous forests. Embellished by the river Gandak, the area is moist and the rainfall is fair to promote the proliferation of Sal. Grasses, shrubs, and reeds compliment this beautiful rendezvous.

 

But our forest was even more beautiful once… Maybe it’s the beauty of this land that attracted many who found a way and got absorbed by its ‘mati’. But those were different days.

 

Forest of Champaran, Bihar (India)

 

 

A ryot would recall..

Champaran had two types of soil. There was one region to the north of Sikrahana, a perfect fit for Paddy cultivation and unfit for the growth of indigo. Then there was the other towards the south where paddy could not be grown. This land was fit for wheat, maize, and even indigo.

In earlier days, the modes of communication were limited. But the land still needed to be controlled, right? To solve the problem, the Bettiah Raj -the second largest zamindari state in Bihar, divided the estate into smaller sections and lent them out to the lessees. The lessees would look after the land allotted, take the rent from the cultivators and return the same to the estate. Initially, all these lessees were Indians. However, the tide turned…

 

The weak farmers with bare minimums, trying desperately to earn their bread.
Farmers were forced to cultivate Indigo by Britishers.

 

The proliferation in the demand of indigo had made its plantation highly profitable. Natural resources are alluring by nature, and so were these peasants- naïve. The plans were rude and bantering, but the innocent peasants and weak administration fell for them.

When Europeans Overtook

It all happened steadily, the Europeans who were interested in Indigo and sugarcane plantation started taking lands on the lease. They would build their factories and export cheap products at far higher rates to other places. Initially, the Europeans used to settle in the ‘southern’ region- where the soil was fit for indigo plantation. But their influence rose, and so did their factories.

 

Peole on their way to work in an Indigo factory in Champaran, Bihar (India)

 

By the time Sgt. Rajendra Prasad had written his complete account on “The satyagraha in Champaran”, there were over seventy factories in the region.

Seventy is a big number, isn’t it?

How did so many factories grow in Champaran?

Was the zamindari in India so weak, or were the British so cunning?

How could India forget its own values, of valuing the hearts of people, regardless of their position in the society?

Surprising truths…

Are often planned.

Read Part Two

Read Part Three

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