16. METHODS OF WORK
To give a full account
of the Champaran inquiry would be to narrate the history, for the period,
of the Champaran ryot, which is out of the question in these chapters.
The Champaran inquiry was a bold experiment with Truth and Ahimsa, and
I am giving week by week only what occurs to me as worth giving from that
point of view. For more details the reader must turn to Sjt. Rajendra Prasad's
history of the Champaran Satyagraha in Hindi, of which, I am told, an English
edition/1/ is now in the press.
But to return to the subject
matter of this chapter. The inquiry could not be conducted in Gorakhbabu's
house, without practically asking poor Gorakhbabu to vacate it. And the
people of Motihari had not yet shed their fear to the extent of renting
a house to us. However, Brajkishorebabu tactfully secured one with considerable
open space about it, and we now removed there.
It was not quite possible to
carry on the work without money. It had not been the practice hitherto
to appeal to the public for money for work of this kind. Brajkishorebabu
and his friends were mainly vakils who either contributed funds themselves,
or found it from friends whenever there was an occasion. How could they
ask the people to pay, when they and their kind could well afford to do
so? That seemed to be the argument. I had made up my mind not to accept
anything from the Champaran ryots. It would be bound to be misinterpreted.
I was equally determined not to appeal to the country at large for funds
to conduct this inquiry. For that was likely to give it an all-India and
political aspect. Friends from Bombay offered Rs. 15,000, but I declined
the offer with thanks. I decided to get as much as was possible, with Brajkishorebabu's
help, from well-to-do Biharis living outside Champaran, and if more was
needed, to approach my friend Dr. P. J. Mehta of Rangoon. Dr. Mehta readily
agreed to send me whatever might be needed. We were thus free from all
anxiety on this score. We were not likely to require large funds, as we
were bent on exercising the greatest economy, in consonance with the poverty
of Champaran. Indeed it was found in the end that we did not need any large
amount. I have an impression that we expended in all not more than three
thousand rupees, and as far as I remember, we saved a few hundred rupees
from what we had collected.
The curious ways of living of
my companions in the early days were a constant theme of raillery at their
expense. Each of the vakils had a servant and a cook, and therefore a separate
kitchen, and they often had their dinner as late as midnight. Though they
paid their own expenses, their irregularity worried me, but as we had become
close friends there was no possibility of a misunderstanding between us,
and they received my ridicule in good part. Ultimately it was agreed that
the servants should be dispensed with, that all the kitchens should be
amalgamated, and that regular hours should be observed. As all were not
vegetarians, and as two kitchens would have been expensive, a common vegetarian
kitchen was decided upon. It was also felt necessary to insist on simple
These arrangements considerably
reduced the expenses, and saved us a lot of time and energy, and both these
were badly needed. Crowds of peasants came to make their statements, and
they were followed by an army of companions who filled the compound and
garden to overflowing. The efforts of my companions to save me from
darshan-seekers were often of no avail, and I had to be exhibited for
at particular hours. At least five to seven volunteers were required to
take down statements, and even then some people had to go away in the evening
without being able to make their statements. All these statements were
not essential, many of them being repetitions, but the people could not
be satisfied otherwise, and I appreciated their feeling in the matter.
Those who took down the statements
had to observe certain rules. Each peasant had to be closely cross-examined,
and whoever failed to satisfy the test was rejected. This entailed a lot
of extra time, but most of the statements were thus rendered incontrovertible.
An officer from the C.I.D. would
always be present when these statements were recorded. We might have prevented
him, but we had decided from the very beginning not only not to mind the
presence of C.I.D. officers, but to treat them with courtesy and to give
them all the information that it was possible to give them. This was far
from doing us any harm. On the contrary, the very fact that the statements
were taken down in the presence of the C.I.D. officers made the peasants
more fearless. Whilst on the one hand excessive fear of the C.I.D. was
driven out of the peasants' minds, on the other, their presence exercised
a natural restraint on exaggeration. It was the business of C.I.D. friends
to entrap people, and so the peasants had necessarily to be cautious.
As I did not want to irritate
the planters, but to win them over by gentleness, I made a point of writing
to and meeting such of them against whom allegations of a serious nature
were made. I met the Planters' Association as well, placed the ryots' grievances
before them, and acquainted myself with their point of view. Some of the
planters hated me, some were indifferent, and a few treated me with courtesy.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Satyagraha in Champaran, published by the Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahmedabad-14. Price Rs.2-4, postage etc. As. 14.