25. END OF KHEDA SATYAGRAHA
The campaign came to an
unexpected end. It was clear that the people were exhausted, and I hesitated
to let the unbending be driven to utter ruin. I was casting about for some
graceful way of terminating the struggle which would be acceptable to a
Satyagrahi. Such a one appeared quite unexpectedly. The Mamlatdar of the
Nadiad Taluka sent me word that if well-to-do Patidars paid up, the poorer
ones would be granted suspension. I asked for a written undertaking to
that effect, which was given. But as a Mamlatdar could be responsible only
for his Taluka, I inquired of the Collector, who alone could give an undertaking
in respect of the whole district. He replied that orders declaring suspension
in terms of the Mamlatdar's letter had been already issued. I was not aware
of it, but if it was a fact, the people's pledge had been fulfilled. The
pledge, it will be remembered, had the same things for its objects, and
so we expressed ourselves satisfied with the orders.
However, the end was far from
making me feel happy, inasmuch as it lacked the grace with which the termination
of every Satyagraha campaign ought to be accompanied. The Collector carried
on as though he had done nothing by way of a settlement. The poor were
to be granted suspension, but hardly any got the benefit of it. It was
the people's right to determine who was poor, but they could not exercise
it. It was sad that they had not the strength to exercise the right. Although,
therefore, the termination was celebrated as a triumph of Satyagraha, I
could not enthuse over it, as it lacked the essentials of a complete triumph.
The end of a Satyagraha campaign
can be described as worthy, only when it leaves the Satyagrahis stronger
and more spirited than they are in the beginning.
The campaign was not, however,
without its indirect results, which we can see today, and the benefit of
which we are reaping. The Kheda Satyagraha marks the beginning of an awakening
among the peasants of Gujarat, the beginning of their true political education.
Dr. Besant's brilliant Home
Rule agitation had certainly touched the peasants, but it was the Kheda
campaign that compelled the educated public workers to establish contact
with the actual life of the peasants. They learnt to identify themselves
with the latter. They found their proper sphere of work, their capacity
for sacrifice increased. That Vallabhbhai found himself during this campaign
was by itself no small achievement. We could realize its measure during
the flood relief operations last year and the Bardoli Satyagraha this year.
Public life in Gujarat became instinct with a new energy and a new vigour.
The Patidar peasant came to an unforgettable consciousness of his strength.
The lesson was indelibly imprinted on the public mind that the salvation
of the people depends upon themselves, upon their capacity for suffering
and sacrifice. Through the Kheda campaign Satyagraha took firm root in
the soil of Gujarat.
Although, therefore, I found
nothing to enthuse over in the termination of the Satyagraha, the Kheda
peasants were jubilant, because they knew that what they had achieved was
commensurate with their effort, and they had found the true and infallible
method for a redress of their grievances. This knowledge was enough justification
for their jubilation.
Nevertheless the Kheda peasants
had not fully understood the inner meaning of Satyagraha, and they saw
it to their cost, as we shall see in the chapters to follow.