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Indigo | NCERT Solution | CBE Questions | Board Exam 2024

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Lesson Architecture:

History of Indigo Revolution in Champaran District of Bihar


The "Indigo Revolution" in Champaran district of Bihar, India, is historically known as the Champaran Satyagraha, and it was an important event in India's struggle for independence. The movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi and took place in 1917. Here's an overview of the history and significance of the Champaran Satyagraha:


1. Background:


During the colonial period, indigo farming was a common practice in many parts of India, including Champaran district in Bihar. Indigo was a cash crop cultivated by Indian farmers under the exploitative indigo planters, most of whom were British landlords. The British planters compelled the local farmers to cultivate indigo on a significant portion of their land, rather than growing crops for their sustenance.


The farmers were forced to plant indigo because the planters held oppressive contracts known as "tinkathia system." These contracts required farmers to plant a fixed area of indigo and surrender a substantial portion of their crops as rent, even if it led to financial hardship.


2. Entry of Mahatma Gandhi:


In 1917, at the request of local farmers and social reformer Rajkumar Shukla, Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Champaran to investigate the conditions of indigo farmers and address their grievances. At this point, Gandhi had already gained some recognition for his activism in South Africa and his work in advocating for the rights of Indians there.



3. Satyagraha and Reforms:


Upon his arrival in Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi conducted detailed inquiries and surveys to understand the plight of the indigo farmers. He discovered the oppressive and exploitative practices of the British indigo planters and decided to launch a nonviolent resistance movement or "Satyagraha" in support of the farmers' demands.


Gandhi's method of Satyagraha was based on principles of nonviolence, civil disobedience, and truth-seeking. He encouraged the farmers to resist the unjust tinkathia system and its implementation nonviolently.


4. The Turning Point:

The British authorities in Champaran initially opposed Gandhi's presence and attempted to suppress the movement. They issued a notice for Gandhi to leave the district, but he refused to comply and continued his activities. This stand-off between Gandhi and the authorities attracted national attention and support for the farmers' cause.


5. Resolution and Impact:

Under the mounting pressure from the public and with growing awareness of the injustice faced by the indigo farmers, the British government appointed a special committee to investigate the issue. Eventually, in 1918, the Champaran Agrarian Act was passed, which sought to address the grievances of the farmers and bring an end to the tinkathia system.


The Champaran Satyagraha marked a significant success for Mahatma Gandhi and his approach of nonviolent resistance. It also demonstrated the power of mass mobilization against unjust colonial practices. The movement in Champaran laid the foundation for future struggles led by Gandhi in India's fight for independence and inspired many Indians to join the national movement against British rule.


The Champaran Satyagraha remains an important chapter in the history of India's independence movement and Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and civil disobedience.




Glossary of History of Indigo Revolution in Champaran District of Bihar

Champaran Satyagraha


The Champaran Satyagraha was a nonviolent resistance movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917 in the Champaran district of Bihar, India. It aimed to address the exploitative indigo plantation system imposed by British landlords on local farmers. Gandhi's investigation and protest against the injustice resulted in public support and national attention. The movement led to the passage of the Champaran Agrarian Act in 1918, which addressed the grievances of the farmers and marked a significant success for Gandhi's approach of nonviolent resistance. This event laid the foundation for future struggles in India's fight for independence and inspired many to join the national movement against British rule.


Cash Crop

In the context of indigo during the colonial period in India, a "cash crop" refers to a crop that is primarily grown for profit or commercial purposes rather than for subsistence or personal consumption. Indigo was one such cash crop extensively cultivated by Indian farmers under the control and influence of British indigo planters.


Indigo

Indigo is a plant that produces a blue dye, which was in high demand in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. The British colonial rulers in India recognized the potential profitability of indigo cultivation and forced local farmers to grow indigo on a significant portion of their land. This system of cultivation was known as the "tinkathia system."

Under this exploitative system, the farmers were bound by contracts that required them to dedicate a certain portion of their land to indigo cultivation, often at the expense of growing food crops for their sustenance. Additionally, they were required to surrender a large portion of their indigo harvest to the British planters as rent, even if it resulted in financial hardship and food scarcity for the farmers and their families.


Champaran Agrarian Act


The Champaran Agrarian Act was a legislative measure passed in 1918 by the British colonial government in response to the Champaran Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi in the Champaran district of Bihar, India.


The Act aimed to address the grievances of the indigo farmers who were subjected to the exploitative tinkathia system imposed by British indigo planters. Under this system, the farmers were forced to grow indigo on a significant portion of their land and surrender a substantial part of their indigo harvest as rent to the planters.


The key provisions of the Champaran Agrarian Act included:


1. Fixing Indigo Prices: The Act fixed a fair and reasonable price for indigo, ensuring that farmers were not exploited by the planters in the sale of their indigo produce.


2. Prohibition of Tinkathia System: The Act abolished the oppressive tinkathia system, which compelled the farmers to cultivate indigo against their will and interests.


3. Providing Legal Support: The Act offered legal protection to farmers, empowering them to challenge unfair contracts and exploitative practices in court.


4. Rent Adjustment: The Act allowed for a fair adjustment of rents to prevent excessive exploitation of the farmers by the planters.


The passage of the Champaran Agrarian Act was a significant victory for the indigo farmers and marked the success of the nonviolent resistance movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. It demonstrated the power of collective action and peaceful protest in addressing injustices and set a precedent for future struggles in India's fight for independence. The Act provided some relief to the farmers and contributed to the growing discontent and resistance against British colonial rule in India.

Tinkathia system

The farmers were forced to plant indigo because the planters held oppressive contracts known as "tinkathia system." These contracts required farmers to plant a fixed area of indigo and surrender a substantial portion of their crops as rent, even if it led to financial hardship.




Sharecroppers in Champaran District


In Champaran, sharecroppers were farmers who worked on land owned by British indigo planters under a sharecropping arrangement. Sharecropping was a prevalent agricultural practice during the colonial period, especially in the context of indigo cultivation.


Under the sharecropping system in Champaran, the British indigo planters would provide the land and the necessary resources for cultivating indigo, such as seeds and tools, to the sharecroppers. In return, the sharecroppers would cultivate the indigo crop and give a significant portion of the harvest, usually half, to the planters as payment for using the land and resources.


Sharecroppers were often subjected to harsh and exploitative conditions. They had little control over what crops they could grow, with indigo being the dominant cash crop forced upon them by the planters. The sharecroppers had limited bargaining power and were vulnerable to the whims of the planters who could dictate the terms of the agreement.


The sharecropping system in Champaran contributed to the impoverishment and exploitation of the local farmers, as they were often left with meager portions of the harvest to sustain themselves and their families. The situation was further exacerbated by the oppressive tinkathia system, which required fixed amounts of land to be dedicated to indigo cultivation, leaving less land for other essential food crops.


The plight of the sharecroppers was one of the central issues addressed during the Champaran Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917. Through the Satyagraha, Gandhi and the farmers sought to challenge the exploitative indigo plantation system and bring relief to the sharecroppers and other indigo cultivators in the region. The movement played a crucial role in drawing attention to the hardships faced by the farmers and initiating reforms to improve their living conditions and land rights.




Theme:

  • The lesson ‘Indigo’ is a narration of how Gandhi came to the assistance of the Champaran’s indigo sharecroppers who faced great grievances and exploitation at the hands of British landowners.

  • The lesson also highlights the socio-political hold that Gandhiji had over the people of Champaran in his efforts to rid the sharecroppers of the Indigo issues.

  • Champaran episode proved to be a milestone and gave way to civil disobedience movement in his all-out struggle against the British Government.



Story-At-A-Glance:

Rajkumar Shukla Meets Gandhi

  • Gandhiji went to Lucknow to attend the December 1916 annual convention of the Indian National Congress party.

  • During the proceedings, a peasant came to him. He was poorr and emaciated Rajkumar Shukla from Camparan.

  • He told Gandhiji that he wanted him to come to his district.

·

Purpose of Shukla’s meeting with Gandhi

  • The Champaran peasants were sharecroppers under an ancient arrangement. Rajkumar Shukla was one of them.

  • They were subjected to grave injustice.

  • As someone suggested Shukla to visit Gandhi, so he came to meet Gandhiji and wanted to take him to Champaran.

Gandhiji’s Consent to Visit Champaran

  • Gandhiji conveyed to Shukla that there was a scheduled visit to Kanpur and other parts of the country.

  • Shukla kept his patience and was resolute that Gandhiji must visit Champaran.

  • He accompanied Gandhiji wherever he went. He requested Gandhiji to fix a date for Champaran.

  • On seeing the tenacity on the part of Shukla, he eventually gave his consent to visit Champaran after he wrapped up his visit to Calcutta.

  • He asked Shukla to visit Calcutta and take him to Champaran after his scheduled visit at Calcutta was over.



Gandhiji’s visit at the residence of Rajendra Prasad:

  • The two boarded the train for Patna. On reaching Patna Shukla led Gandhiji to the house of Rajendra Prasad, a lawyer, who later became the president of the Congress party and of India.

  • Rajendra Prasad was out of town at that time . But the servants thought Gandhiji to be another peasant like Shukla and therefore did not allow Gandhiji to draw water from the well lest drops of water from his buckets should pollute the well.

Gandhiji’s Visit to Muzzafarpur

  • Gandhiji first decided to visit Muzzafarpur on his way to Champaran.

  • He wanted to obtain more detailed information about those conditions of the sharecroppers.

  • He sent a telegram to Professor J.B. Kripalani of the Arts College in muzzafarpur whom Gandhiji met at Tagore’s Shantiniketan school.

  • Kripalani met Gandhiji at the railway stationwith a large number of students when the train arrived at midnight on 15th April in 1917.

  • Gandhiji stayed with prof. Malkani, a Govt. school teacher.

  • Gandhi later commented that it was an extraordinary thing in those days for a Govt. professor to harbor a man like him.

  • In smaller localities, the Indians were afraid to show sympathy for advocates of home-rule.

Peasants flock to Visit Gandhiji

  • The news of Gandhi’s advent and of the nature of his mission spread quickly through Muzzafarpur and to Champaran.

  • Sharecroppers from Champaran began arriving on foot and by conveyance to see their champion.

  • Muzzafarpur lawyers called on Gandhi to brief him.

  • They represented peasant groups in court. They also told of their fees.

  • Gandhiji chided the lawyers for charging fat fees from the sharecroppers. He told them not to take those cases to the courts as that did little good.

  • Where the peasants were crushed and fear-stricken, the law courts were useless. The real remedy lay in making them free from fear.



Condition of Sharecroppers at Champaran:

  • Most of Champaran’s arable land was divided into large estates. These were owned by Englishmen and worked by Indian tenants.

  • The chief commercial crop was indigo. The landlords compelled all the tenants to grow indigo on 15 % of their holdings and surrender the entire indigo harvest as rent. This was done by long-term contract.

  • In the meantime, landlords learned that Germany had developed synthetic indigo. They, thereupon, obtained agreements from the sharecroppers to pay them

  • Compensation for being released from the 15 per cent arrangement.

  • The sharecropping arrangement was tiresome to the peasants. Many signed the agreement willingly. Those who resisted engaged lawyers.

  • The landlords were all villains. Meanwhile, the information about synthetic indigo reached the illiterate peasants who had signed. They now wanted their money back.

Gandhiji’s Meeting with secretary of British landlords’ Association

  • Gandhiji began to investigate into the issue. First, he visited the secretary of the British landlords’ association and the secretary refused to give information as Gandhi was an outsider.

  • But Gandhi replied that he was not. Next Gandhi called on the British official commissioner of the Tirhut division in which Champaran district lay.

  • The Commissioner bullied Gandhiji as asked him to leave Tirhut at once.

  • Gandhiji did not leave and went to Motihari, the capital of Champaran in the company of some lawyers.

  • A vast multitude greeted him at the railway station.

  • Gandhiji decided to go to a nearby village where a peasant had been maltreated.

Gandhiji Served official Order to leave Champaran

  • Gandhiji did not proceed further when he was served summons to leave Champaran.

  • Gandhiji sent a reply that he would not quit Champaran. Gandhiji received a summons to appear in court the next day.

  • He telegraphed Rajendra Prasad to come from Bihar with influential friends and wired full report to the Viceroy.



A Big crowd of Peasants Gather in support of Gandhiji

  • A big crowd of peasants gathered at Motihari and their demonstration around the courthouse became the beginning of their liberation from the fear of the British.

  • The authorities found it difficult to control the crowd. The Govt. was baffled and the prosecutor requested the judge to postpone the trial.

  • Gandhiji pleaded guilty through a statement. He said that he was involved in a ‘conflict of duties.’

  • He did not want to set bad example as a law breaker. But he wanted to render the ‘humanitarian and national service’.

  • He disregarded the order to leave, ‘not for want of respect for lawful authority but in obedience to the higher law of being, that is the voice of conscience.

  • He asked for the pronouncement of penalty.

Decision of the Magistrate:

  • The magistrate did not pronounce the judgment for several days and allowed Gandhiji to remain at liberty.

  • Several days later Gandhiji received a written communication from the magistrate that the Lieutenant-Governor had ordered the case to be dropped.

  • Civil disobedience had triumphed for the first time in India.

  • Gandhiji and the lawyers proceeded to conduct an inquiry into the farmer’s grievances.

  • About ten thousand peasants wrote their depositions. Documents were collected.

  • The landlords protested vehemently.

  • In June Gandhi was summoned to Sir Edward Gait, the Lt. Governor. Before meeting him Gandhi had laid detailed plans fo civil disobedience in case he didn’t return.

Enquiry Commission Appointed

  • Gandhi had four interviews with the Lt. Governor. An official commission of inquiry into the indigo sharecroppers’ situation was appointed.

  • The commission comprised of landlords, Govt officials and Gandhi as sole representatives of the farmers.

  • The commission of inquiry found a mountain of evidence against the big planters. They agreed to make refunds to the peasants.

  • They asked Gandhi how much they must pay. They thought he would demand repayment in full what they had extorted from the sharecroppers. But Gandhi demanded only only 50 percent.

  • Revernd Hodge, a British missionary in Champaran having found Gandhi adamant offered to refund 25 percent and Gandhi agreed to it readily.

  • Gandhi stated that the amount of refund was less important than the fact that the landlords had surrendered part of the money and with that part of their indigo prestige.

  • Within a few years the British planters abandoned their estates. Indigo sharecropping disappeared.



Gandhiji’s Cultural and Social Vision:

  • Gandhiji saw the cultural and social backwardness of the Champaran villages and appealed to teachers, Mahadev Desai and Narhari Parikh joined him as disciples.

  • Gandhiji’s youngest son Devadas and Mrs. Gandhi also joined him in his mission for social service.

  • Primary schools were opened in six villages. Mrs. Kasturba Gandhi taught personal cleanliness and community sanitation to the villagers.

  • Gandhiji met a doctor who volunteered his services for six months.

  • Three medicines were available : castor oil, quinine and sulphur ointment.

  • Strangely enough these three medicines were distributed for different diseases.

  • Anybody who showed a coated tongue was given a dose of castor oil; anybody with malaria fever received quinine plus castor oil; anybody with skin eruptions received ointment plus castor oil.

  • Gandhiji saw the filthy state of women’s clothes. Mostly women had only one sari to wear. There was hardly any hygiene and cleanliness in their huts.

  • He asked Kasturbai to talk to them about it.

Gandhiji’s Concnern for his Ashram :

  • During his long stay in Champaran, Gandhi kept a long distance watch on the ashram.

  • He sent regular instructions by mail and asked for financial accounts.

Champaran Episode- a turning point

  • The Champaran episode was a turning point in Gandhiji’s life. Gandhi commented that he did a very ordinary thing.

  • He declared that the British could not order him about in his own country.

  • Champaran did not begin as an act of defiance. It grew out of an attempt to alleviate the distress of large numbers of poor peasants.

  • This was the typical Gandhi pattern — his politics were intertwined with the practical, day-to-day problems of the millions.

  • His was not a loyalty to abstractions; it was a loyalty to living, human beings.

  • In everything Gandhi did, moreover, he tried to mould a new free Indian who could stand on his own feet and thus make India free.

  • Rajendra Prasad commented that Gandhiji taught the people of Champaran a lesson in self-reliance.



NCERT Solution:


Think As You Read ( Page 47)

1. Strike out which is not true in the following:

a) Rajkumar Shukla was

(i) A sharecropper. (ii) a politician (iii) delegate ( iv) a landlord.

Ans: (ii) a politician (iv) a landlord.

(b) Rajkumar Shukla was

(i) poor (ii) physically strong (iii) illiterate

Ans: (ii) physically strong.

2. Why is Rajkumar Shukla described as being ‘resolute’?

Ans: Rajkumar Shukla was a poor and illiterate sharecropper who wanted Gandhihi to resolve the problem of the peasant of Champaran. He insisted Gandhiji to visit Champaran and accompanied him wherever Gandhiji went. Therefore, he is described as being ‘resolute’.


3. Why do you think the servants thought Gandhi to be another peasant?

Ans: Rajendra Prasad’s servants took Gandhiji to be another peasant as he was accompanied by Rajkumar Shukla who was a peasant by profession. Gandhi’s simple appearance and Shukla’s presence by his side made the servants think Gandhiji to be another peasant.

(Page 49)


4. List the places that Gandhi visited between his first meeting with Shukla and his arrival at Champaran.

Ans: The following are the places Gandhi visited from his first meeting with Shukla till his arrival at Champaran:

a) Kanpur b) Ahmedabad c) Calcutta d) Patna. d) Muzzafarpur

5. What did the peasants pay the British landlords as rent? What did the British now want instead and why? What would be the impact of synthetic indigo on the prices of natural indigo?

Ans: The British landlords compelled the peasants to plant 15 percent of their holdings with indigo and surrender the entire harvest as rent.

With the arrival of synthetic indigo they wanted agreements from the tenants to pay them compensation for being released from the 15 percent arrangement.

With the development of Synthetic indigo in Germany, the price and the demand of the natural indigo on European market will fall drastically. Therefore, the export business of indigo would incur a heavy loss.



Page 51

6. The events in this part of the text illustrate Gandhi’s method of working. Can you identify some instances of this method and link them to his ideas of satyagraha and non-violence?

Ans: The following are the instances that suggest Gandhi’s method of working in compliance with satyagraha and non-violence”.

(i) Gandhi’s refusal to obey the court order to leave Champaran is one instance from the text which suggests his methodology of non-violence. He disregarded the order to leave Champaran not for want of respect for lawful authority, but in obedience to the higher law of our being, the voice of conscience”.

(ii) His protest against the delay of court proceedings regarding his quit from Champaran is another instance of civil disobedience. The spontaneous

Demonstration of the peasants in thousands around the courthouse in Mothihari shows the instance of civil disobedience.

(iii) Gandhi received a written communication from the magistrate informing

him that the Lieutenant-Governor of the province had ordered the case against Gandhi to be dropped. Civil disobedience had triumphed, the first time in modern India.

Page 53

7. Why did Gandhi agree to a settlement of 25 per cent refund to the farmers?

Ans: According to Gandhi, with a settlement of 25 percent refund to the farmers the landlords had been obliged to surrender not only a part of their money, but also a part of their prestige. The amount of 25 percent refund was less important than the lesson imparted to the British for their wrong doing.

8. How did the episode change the plight of the peasants?

Ans: The episode of 25 percent refund to the farmers helped peasants to realize that they had rights and defenders. They became more courageous as they had no residue of fear for the British. Within a few years the British planters abandoned their estates, which reverted to the peasants. Indigo sharecropping disappeared.



UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT ( Page 54 & 55)


1. Why do you think Gandhi considered the Champaran episode to be a turning-point in his life?

Ans: Gandhi commented that he did a very ordinary thing in Champaran. He declared that the British could not order him about in his own country. Champaran did not begin as an act of defiance. It grew out of an attempt to alleviate the distress of large numbers of poor peasants. This was the typical Gandhi pattern — his politics were intertwined with the practical, day-to-day problems of the millions. His was not a loyalty to abstractions; it was a loyalty to living, human beings.

2. How was Gandhi able to influence the lawyers?

Ans: Gandhi reprimanded the lawyers of Muzaafarpur for demanding hefty fees from the peasants to defend their case in court. He further said that courts were useless when the peasants were fear-stricken. The lawyers felt ashamed to see that Gandhi, being an outsider, was ready to court arrest. On the other hand, the lawyers being of neighbouring states, wanted to go home. Thus they decided to follow Gandhi in prison. Thus Gandhi’s selfless and humanitarian approach influenced the lawyers.

3. What was the attitude of the average Indian in smaller localities towards advocates of ‘home rule’?


Ans: The attitude of the average Indian in smaller localities towards advocates of ‘home-rule’ was ridden with fear and suspicion Indians were afraid to show sympathy for advocates of home rule due to fear resulting out of cruel British authorities. So Gandhi was surprised when a Govt teacher by the name of professor Malkani to shelter Gandhi for two days in his village home.



4. How do you know that ordinary people too contributed to the freedom movement?


Ans: When Gandhiji came to Muzzafarpur, the news of Gandhi’s advent and of the nature of his mission spread quickly through Muzzafarpur to Champaran. Sharecroppers from Champaran began arriving on foot and by conveyance to see their champion. Thus they took active part with Gandhi in his demonstration of protest against the British.

Another instance was when Gandhi courted arrest in Mothihari, the spontaneous Demonstration of the peasants in thousands around the courthouse in Mothihari shows that ordinary people also contributed to the freedom movement.


CBE Questions: (2 Marks)


1.Why did Rajkumar Shukla want to meet Gandhiji?

Ans. Raj Kumar Shukla was a sharecropper from Champaran. He was illiterate but resolute. He had come to the Congress session to complain about the injustice of the landlord system in Bihar. He was sure that Gandhiji could help them. He wanted Gandhiji to come to Champaran district.

2. What was the main problem of Sharecroppers in Champaran?


Ans. The land was divided into large estates that were owned by Englishmen. The Chief commercial crop was indigo. The landlord forced all the tenants to plant 15 percent of their holdings with indigo and surrender the entire indigo harvest as rent. This was done by a long term contract.

3. How did Gandhiji react after receiving summon to appear in court the next day?

Ans. Gandhiji received a summon to appear in the court but disobeyed the order. He remained awaken all night. He telegraphed Rajendra Prasad to come from Bihar with influential friends. He sent instructions to the ashram. He wired a full report to the Viceroy.

4. How did Civil Disobedience triumph for the first time in modern India?

Ans. Gandhiji did not obey the British authorities, order to leave Chamapran. The summons were also served but he remained firm. Then he received a written communication from the magistrate that the Lieutenant Governor of the Province had ordered the case to be dropped.




( To be Continued). Keep visiting the site.

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