- The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi in India and is considered a historically important revolt in the Indian Independence Movement.
- It was a farmer’s uprising that took place in Champaran district of Bihar, India, during the British colonial period.
- Champaran is a district in North Western Bihar. It formed part of the Tirhut division in the province of Bihar and Orissa in British India.
- Indigo cultivation in Champaran goes back to the late 18th century. By 1850, indigo had become the predominantly produced crop in Champaran.
- The predominant system of Indigo cultivation in Champaran was the tinkathia system.
- In this, the Ryot was under an obligation to cultivate three kathas per beegha of his land with indigo i.e. 3/20th of his landholding.
- There were no legal grounds for this.
- Moreover, post 1900, because of competition from the European synthetic indigo, the indigo factories in Bihar started facing decline.
- To escape losses, the planters began cancelling their agreements with the ryots to grow indigo. To release them from this obligation, they charged a tawane. damages as high as Rs. 100 per beegha.
- If the ryots could not make a cash payment, then handnotes and mortgage bonds were made at an interest rate of 12 percent per annum.
- Hence, there was a general discontent among the ryots around indigo cultivation in Bihar.
- The core reason for this was the low remuneration they received for the crop.
- They also suffered harassment and oppression at the hands of factory servants.
- All this resulted in demonstrations against indigo cultivation in Champaran twice; first in 1867 and second demonstration emerged in 1907-08.
- Gandhi returned to India, at a time of Socio-Politically surcharged situation, after a successful Satyagraha against the Apartheid system.
- The resentment surrounding indigo cultivation compelled Raj Kumar Shukla, a well-off agriculturist to persuade Mahatma Gandhi to visit Champaran and work for the oppressed peasants, in 1916.
- Brajkishore Prasad moved a resolution in the Congress meeting about the distress of peasants in Champaran, and it was unanimously passed.
- Later, Gandhi finally agreed to visit Champaran.
- Gandhi first arrived in Muzaffarpur.
- Being sensible to the situation, he immediately wrote to the Commissioner of the Tirhut Division informing him that he wanted to work with the cognizance and co-operation of the governmen
- In a meeting with Commissioner of Tirhut division, Gandhi stated that owing to public demand, he wished to enquire about the condition of indigo cultivation in Champaran and the grievances of the tenants associated with it. He also said that he did not have any desire to instigate turbulence.
- After arrival of Gandhi in Champaran district, the British imposed an order under Section 144, and when Gandhi refused, he was charged under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and summoned for a trial on 18th April, 1917.
- In meantime, Lieutenant Governor intervened and on the grounds of insufficient evidence against Gandhi and the doubtful legality of invoking Section 144 against him, ordered the local administration to withdraw the case.
- Moreover, he also gave Gandhi the permission to conduct the inquiry.
- Thus, the ideals of Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha which later became a characteristic feature of the Indian National Movement, began from Champaran.
- Later, the Lieutenant Governor in Council decided to appoint a Committee of Inquiry to examine and report on the agrarian conditions in Champaran. Gandhiji was appointed as one of its members.
- The Committee submitted its report on 4th October 1917 and made the following recommendations:
- The tinkathia system should be abolished.
- If someone enters into an agreement to grow indigo then it should be voluntary, its term should not extend more than a period of three years and the decision to select the field in which indigo is to be grown should rest with the ryots.
- The ryots who paid tawan to the factories would get back one fourth of it from them. Fourth, the realization of abwab (illegal cesses) should be stopped.
- The Government accepted almost all the recommendations of the Inquiry Committee, and issued a resolution.
- Later in 1918, Champaran Agrarian Act was passed.
- The series of celebration were held on 10 April 2017 with a National Conclave (Rashtritya Vimarsh) where eminent Gandhian thinkers, philosophers, and scholars participated, in remembrance of the Satyagraha.
- On 13 May 2017, Indian Postal Department Issued three commemorative postage stamps and a miniature sheet on Champaran Satyagraha Centenary.