Give a brief account of the struggle of Gandhi during the initial years of his advent on the Indian scene, with special reference to Champaran Satyagraha.
Before the advent of Gandhi on the scene of the nationalist movement, there was hardly any charismatic leader who could motivate the common man to join hands to oust the colonial power. After several years of struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and mastering the techniques of Satyagraha based on non-violence and truth, Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and straightaway joined the struggle for independence of the country.
Gandhi’s first experiment with Satyagraha in India came in the year 1917 in Champaran District of Bihar. The opportunity was provided by the indigo planters there, who were exploited and oppressed by the European planters. Gandhi arrived in Champaran along with other leaders like Dr Rajendra Prasad, J.B. Kriplani, Mazhar-ul-Haq and Mahadev Desai and made inquiries about the conditions of the peasants in Champaran. The District authorities ordered Gandhi to immediately leave Champaran. Gandhi defied this order and agreed to face trial and imprisonment.
Fearing a backlash, the British authorities did not try him and withdrew the earlier order and appointed a Committee of Inquiry on which Gandhi was also nominated as a member. Finally, the disabilities from which the peasants were suffering were reduced considerably and Gandhi won his battle without much resistance from the British authorities.
Again in the year 1918, a dispute was reported among the mill owners of Ahmedabad and the workers. The dispute was for wage hike. Gandhi advised the workers to go on strike and demand 35 per cent increase in wages. Gandhi also undertook fast unto death. His fast pressurized the mill owners who, on 4th day of his fast agreed to 35 per cent wage increase for the workers.
Another opportunity also came along in the same year. Due to adverse weather conditions, the crops failed in Kheda District of Gujarat but the British government refused to accept the genuine demand of the peasants for remission of land revenue. Gandhi supported the peasants and asked them to withhold the payment of revenue till the demand for its remission was met. Sardar Patel actively supported Gandhi during this agitation. The government relented and accepted the demand for remission of land revenue for whole of the District.
Beginning with Champaran Satyagraha, the above three incidents brought Gandhi in close contact with the Indian masses. His success in all these experiences brought him closer to their heart and they began to feel that with his methods, he could get them freedom from the British.