23. THE KHEDA SATYAGRAHA
No breathing time was,
however, in store for me. Hardly was the Ahmedabad mill-hands' strike over,
when I had to plunge into the Kheda Satyagraha struggle.
A condition approaching famine
had arisen in the Kheda district owing to a widespread failure of crops,
and the Patidars of Kheda were considering the question of getting the
revenue assessment for the year suspended.
Sjt. Amritlal Thakkar had already
inquired into and reported on the situation, and personally discussed the
question with the Commissioner, before I gave definite advice to the cultivators.
Sijt. Mohanlal Pandya and Shankarlal Parikh had also thrown themselves
into the fight, and had set up an agitation in the Bombay Legislative Counsil
through Sjt. Vithalbhai Patel and the late Sir Gokuldas Kahandas Parekh.
More than one deputation had waited upon the Governor in that connection.
I was at this time President
of the Gujarat Sabha. The Sabha sent petitions and telegrams to the Government,
and even patiently swallowed the insults and threats of the Commissioner.
The conduct of the officials on this occasion was so ridiculous and undignified
as to be almost incredible now.
The cultivators' demand was
as clear as daylight, and so moderate as to make out a strong case for
its acceptance. Under the Land Revenue Rules, if the crop was four annas
or under, the cultivators could claim full suspension of the revenue assessment
for the year. According to the official figures the crop was said to be
over four annas. The contention of the cultivators, on the other hand,
was that it was less than four annas. But the Government was in no mood
to listen, and regarded the popular demand for arbitration as lese majeste
[=disrespect to the king]. At last, all petitioning and prayer having failed,
after taking counsel with co-workers, I advised the Patidars to resort
Besides the volunteers of Kheda,
my principal comrades in this struggle were Sjts. Vallabhbhai Patel, Shankalal
Banker, Shrimati Anasuyabehn, Sjts. Indulal Yajnik, Mahadev Desai and others.
Sjt. Vallabhbhai, in joining the struggle, had to suspend a splendid and
growing practice at the bar, which for all practical purposes he was never
able to resume.
We fixed up our headquarters
at the Nadiad Anathashram, no other place being available which would have
been large enough to accommodate all of us.
The following pledge was signed
by the Satyagrahis:
'Knowing that the crops of our
villages are less than four annas, we requested the Government to suspend
the collection of revenue assessment till the ensuing year, but the Government
has not acceded to our prayer. Therefore we, the undersigned, hereby solemnly
declare that we shall not, of our own accord, pay to the Government the
full or the remaining revenue for the year. We shall let the Government
take whatever legal steps it may think fit, and gladly suffer the consequences
of our non-payment. We shall rather let our lands be forfeited than that
by voluntary payment we should allow our case to be considered false or
should compromise our self-respect. Should the Government, however, agree
to suspend collection of the second instalment of the assessment throughout
the district, such amongst us as are in a position to pay will pay up the
whole or the balance of the revenue that may be due. The reason why those
who are able to pay still withold payment is that, if they pay up, the
poorer ryots may in a panic sell their chattels or incur debts to pay their
dues, and thereby bring suffering upon themselves. In these circumstances
we feel that, for the sake of the poor, it is the duty even of those who
can afford to pay to withhold payment of their assessment.'
I cannot devote many chapters
to this struggle. So a number of sweet recollections in this connection
will have to be crowded out. Those who want to make a fuller and deeper
study of this important fight would do well to read the full and authentic
history of the Kheda Satyagraha by Sjt. Shankarlal Parikh of Kathlal, Kheda.