XVI. METHODS OF
To give a full account of the Champaran inquiry would
be to narrate the histroy, 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 is now in
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 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 hundered 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 meals.
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 #darshan# 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.