Indigo – Important Questions

Louis Fischer (1896-1970) visited Gandhiji in 1942 and Gandhiji narrated him the incident which prompted him to fight against the British. He wrote his biography, ‘The life of Mahatma Gandhi’. This excerpt ‘Indigo’ is taken from that book.

Rajkumar Shukla, a poor peasant, came to Gandhiji with the problem of exploitation in his district. Gandhiji visited the place and freed the people of Champaran from tyranny.

Important Questions with Answers

Q. How did Rajkumar Shukla establish that he was resolute? Or Why is Rajkumar Shukla described as being resolute?

Ans. Rajkumar Shukla desired Gandhiji to go with him to his area called Champaran. Gandhiji was engaged at that time. However, Shukla did not leave Gandhiji. He followed him wherever he went. Finally, Gandhiji had to arrange and fix time to go with him. This shows that Shukla was resolute.

Q. Why did Rajkumar Shukla go to meet Gandhiji?

Ans. Rajkumar Shukla went to meet Gandhiji to convince him to visit Champaran to help indigo sharecroppers in their fight against the injustice of the landlord system in Bihar. He went to Calcutta to receive Gandhiji and never left his side. Rajkumar Shukla earnestly wanted that Gandhiji should visit Champaran to solve their problems.

Q. How was Gandhiji treated at Rajendra Prasad’s house? Or Why do you think the servants thought Gandhiji to be another peasant?

Ans. Gandhiji came along with Rajkumar Shukla, who was a peasant, to Rajendra Prasad’s house. He was dressed very simply, so he was treated like an untouchable peasant by not being allowed to drink water from the well.

Q. Why did Gandhiji decide to go to Muzaffarpur before going to Champaran?

Ans. Gandhiji decided to first go to Muzaffarpur because he wanted more information about the conditions in Champaran than Shukla was capable of imparting. It did prove helpful as the lawyers in Muzaffarpur, who frequently represented the peasant groups in the courts, briefed Gandhiji about their cases.

Q. How is Gandhiji critical of the lawyers?

Ans. Gandhiji was critical of the Muzaffarpur lawyers for charging a heavy fee from the sharecroppers, as the peasants were so crushed and fear-stricken that going to the law courts was useless. The real relief for them would be to be free from fear.

Q. How was Gandhiji able to influence lawyers? Give instances.

Ans. Gandhiji asked the lawyers what they would do if he was sentenced to prison. They said that they had come to advise him. If he went to jail, they would go home. Then Gandhiji asked them about the injustice to the sharecroppers. The lawyers held consultations. They came to the conclusion that it would be shameful desertion if they went home. So, they told Gandhiji that they were ready to follow him into jail.

Q. Why did Gandhiji feel that taking the Champaran case to the court was useless?

Ans. Gandhiji went to Champaran to fight the case of peasants. He collected all the information there and reached a conclusion that it was useless taking the Champaran case to the court. He found that the peasants were crushed and fear-stricken. He realised that the making the peasants free from the fear of British landlords was more important than fighting for them.

Q. What made the Lieutenant-Governor drop the case against Gandhiji?

Ans. Thousands of peasants held a spontaneous demonstration in Motihari. The officials felt helpless and the government was baffled. The pressure of the people was mounting. The judge didn’t want to aggravate the situation. He held up the sentence for several days and finally released Gandhiji without bail, thus dropping the case against Gandhiji.

Q. How did the Champaran peasants react when they heard that a Mahatma had come to help them?

Ans. Gandhiji received a summon to appear in court. The next day thousands of peasants had assembled in Motihari. They didn’t know much about Gandhiji. But they knew that he had come there only to take up their cause. Thousands of them held a demonstration.

Q. What were the terms of the indigo contract between the British landlords and the Indian peasants? Or What did the peasants pay to the British landlords as rent?

Ans. The terms of the indigo contract between the British and the peasants were that the peasants were sharecropper tenants, had to plant 15% of the land holding with indigo and surrender the entire indigo harvest to the British landlords as rent.

Q. What made Gandhiji demand 50% refund from the British landlords?

Ans. Gandhiji demanded 50% refund from the British landlords because he knew that the British would negotiate as they had expected full repayment of the money that had illegaly extorted from the sharecroppesrs.Gandhiji wanted them to surrender a part of the money and their prestige also.

Q. Why did Gandhiji agree to a settlement of mere 25 per cent? Or Why did Gandhiji agree to a settlement of25% refund to the farmers?

Ans. For Gandhiji, the amount of the refund was less important than the fact that the landlords had been forced to return part of the money, and with it, part of their prestige too. So, he agreed to settlement of 25 per cent refund to the farmers.

Q. “The battle of Champaran is won.” When and why did Gandhiji exclaim this?

Ans. Gandhiji said that the battle of Champaran is won when the prominent people agreed to go to jail for the course of Champaran. Gandhiji knew that now he would be able to pressurize the government.

Q. How did Gandhiji show that he cared for the cultural and social backwardness of Champaran villages? Or How did Gandhiji help the peasants of Champaran?

Ans. The peasants of Champaran’s villages were culturally and socially backward, besides being crushed and fear-stricken by the British due to the sharecropper agreement. Gandhiji freed them from exploitation by teaching them that they had rights and also supporters of their cause. The backwardness was tackled by opening primary schools, improving the healthcare facilities and teaching the villagers personal cleanliness and community sanitation.

Q. Why do you think Gandhiji considered the Champaran episode to be a turning point in his life?

Ans. Gandhiji considered the Champaran episode to be a turning point in his life because it was the first successful civil disobedience movement for him. Though it began as an ordinary attempt to free the poor peasants from injustice and exploitation, it was important because it wiped out the mortal fear of the Britishers from the hearts of the simple farmers.

Q. Why did Gandhiji oppose when his friend Andrews offered to stay in Champaran and help the peasants?

Ans. C.F. Andrews wanted to stay in Champaran and help the peasants, but Gandhiji objected to it because he wanted to mould ‘a new free Indian’. Although the cause was good and he believed their victory was certain yet they wanted the peasants to be self-reliant.

Q. Why did Rajkumar Shukla invite Gandhiji to Champaran? How did Gandhiji solve the problem of the indigo farmers?

Ans. Rajkumar Shukla invited Gandhiji to Champaran to fight against the injustice meted out to the peasants in Champaran. Gandhiji scolded the lawyers for collecting big fees from the sharecroppers. He telegraphed Dr. Rajendra Prasad to come from Bihar with his friends who conferred with Gandhiji who asked them what they would do if he was sentenced to prison. The senior lawyers replied that they had come to advise and help him. Being a stranger Gandhiji was prepared to go to prison for the sake of the peasants. They also agreed to follow Gandhiji to jail. Gandhiji and the lawyers had written down depositions by about ten thousand peasants and notes made on other evidences. He was served summons but he remained firm. Then he received a written communication from the magistrate that the Lt. Governor of the province had ordered the case to be dropped. Gandhiji agreed to a settlement of 25% refund to the farmers.

Q. Give an account of Gandhiji’s efforts to secure justice for the poor indigo sharecroppers of Champaran? Or Describe the difficulties faced by Gandhiji in Champaran.

Ans. First of all, Gandhiji began by trying to get the facts, for this purpose he visited the secretary of the British Landlord’s Association, but he refused to give any information to an outsider. Next he called upon the British official commissioner of the Tirhut division in which Champaran district lay. The commissioner bullied him and advised him to leave Tirhut. This shows that Gandhiji was a staunch seeker and believer of truth. But Gandhiji did not leave and rather proceeded to Motihari, the capital of Champaran. He mobilized the support of the lawyers and Peasants. He got an official notice to quit Champaran immediately. But he disobeyed the order and was summoned to court. The spontaneous demonstration of thousands of farmers was their liberation of fear of the British. Gandhiji just wanted the civil disobedience movement or Satyagraha in a non-violeht manner. Later on for India’s freedom struggle Satyagraha and non-violence became the pillars of strength.

Q. Why did Gandhiji agree to a settlement of 25% refund to the farmers? How did it influence the peasant-landlord relationship in Champaran?

Ans. Gandhiji fought the case on behalf of the sharecroppers and the evidence that he collected was so overwhelming that the landlords were asked to repay. When Gandhiji asked for 50% repayment, the landlords offered to pay only 25% as they wanted to create a deadlock and thus prolong the dispute. To everybody’s surprise, Gandhiji agreed to a refund of 25%. Gandhiji explained that the amount of refund was not important. What mattered was, that the landlords were obliged to surrender a part of their money and with it, part of their prestige. The peasants saw that they had rights and persons to support them in upholding their rights. They learned courage. Gradually, indigo sharecropping disappeared from the area and the land came back to the poor peasants.

Q. Why is the Champaran episode considered to be the beginning of the Indian struggle for independence?

Ans. The peasants of Champaran were in great fear of the British government because they were forced to plant 15% of their holdings with indigo and surrender the entire produce to the landlord. When synthetic indigo came, the landlords released them after demanding compensation from them. The innocent peasants agreed without realising what they were doing. Later the British hired men to oppose them. When Rajkumar Shukla told Gandhiji about it, Gandhiji visited Champaran and realised that the peasants were greatly in fear of the British. He realised that it was necessary to rid them of their fear. He started Satyagraha movement. The farmers shed their fear and supported Gandhiji by reaching the place of Satyagraha. That is why Champaran episode is considered to be the beginning of the Indian struggle for independence as everyone realised that they can stand against the British who could not order them around in their own country.

Q. The Champaran episode was a turning point in Gandhiji’s life. Explain. Or How did Gandhiji use Satyagraha and non-violence at Champaran to achieve his goal?

Ans. In Champaran the peasants were greatly in fear of the British government. The cause of the problem was indigo and the greed of the landlords. They had forced the tenants to plant 15% of their holdings with indigo and surrender the entire produce to the landlord. When synthetic indigo came, the landlords were ready to release them. They demanded compensation the repercussion of which the peasants did not know and hence agreed to it. Later when the peasants came to know about synthetic indigo they asked for their money the British hired thugs to oppose them. Gandhiji realised that there was no need for lawyers. He realised that it was necessary to release them of their fear which was difficult to achieve as they were uneducated. But with his determination he championed their cause. Soon he led a movement of non-violence and Satyagraha. Many farmers demonstrated around the court room where Gandhiji was summoned, this made the British feel challenged. Sharecroppers from Champaran came barefooted to see Gandhiji. Muzaffarpur lawyers too called on him. He explained that what he had done was an ordinary thing, he had simply told the Britishers that they could not order him in his own country. Gandhiji tried to mould a new free Indian, who could stand on his own feet. This new realisation gave him a direction to lead the freedom struggle and thus proved a turning point in his life. This was the first time Gandhiji realised that India is capable of Mass Movement and it was after this episode that he started the National Struggle for freedom across the country.

Q. Gandhiji’s was not a loyalty to abstractions; it was a loyalty to living, human beings. Why did Gandhiji continue his stay in Champaran even after indigo sharecropping disappeared?

Ans. After the Champaran battle was won and the land reverted to the peasants, Gandhiji continued to stay on in the region. His loyalty was to living human beings and he realised that a lot needed to be done for the upliftment of the peasants in the villages of Champaran. Gandhiji took the initiative and began the work of eradicating their cultural and social backwardness. Primary schools were started so that the ‘poor peasants and their children could be educated. Gandhiji appealed to teachers, and many of his disciples, including his wife and son, volunteered for the work. Health conditions in the area were also miserable. Gandhiji got a doctor to volunteer his services for six months. All this goes to prove that Gandhiji’s loyalty was not to abstractions; his politics was always intertwined with the practical day-to-day problems of the millions.

Q. 7. Describe how, according to Louis Fischer, Gandhiji succeeded in his Champaran campaign.

Ans. The objective of Gandhiji in his Champaran campaign was to mould a new free Indian who could stand on his own feet and thus make India free. He succeeded because, as Rajendra Prasad said, “Gandhiji in this way taught us a lesson in self-reliance”. The peasants did not take the help of any specialist lawyers or any Englishmen like CF Andrews to fight their case. This gave them a new-found confidence in fighting their own battles and they were liberated from fear of the British. The fact that the British planters agreed to refund some of the money paid by the peasants was the crucial point that made the Champaran campaign successful. It showed that both the British and Indians could be treated equally. This ultimately led them in the freedom struggle and gave India its freedom.

Q. “I have come to the conclusion that we should stop going to law courts”, Gandhiji told Muzaffarpur lawyers. How was Gandhiji’s stay in Muzaffarpur?

Ans. Gandhiji decided to go first to Muzaffarpur, which was on the way to Champaran. Gandhiji wanted more complete information. Gandhiji stayed there for two days in the house of Professor Malkani, a teacher in government school. The news of Gandhiji’s arrival and of the nature of his mission spread quickly through Muzaffarpur and to Champaran. Sharecroppers from Champaran began arriving on bare foot and by conveyance to see their champion and defender. Muzaffarpur lawyers, who frequently represented peasant groups in court, called on Gandhiji to brief them. He scolded lawyers for collecting big fees from the sharecroppers. Gandhiji concluded that where the peasants were so crushed and fear-stricken, taking their cases to law courts was useless. He felt that real relief for them was to be free from fear.

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