XXIII. THE KHEDA
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. Sjts. Mohanlal Pandya and
Shankarlal Parikh had also thrown themselves into the
fight, and had set up an agitation in the Bombay
Legislative Council through Sjt. Vithalbhai Patel and the
late Sir Gokuldas Kahandas Parekh. More than one
deputation had waited upon the Governor in that
I was at this 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 on mood to listen, and regarded the
popular demand for arbitration as #lese majeste#. At last
all petitioning and prayer having failed, after taking
counsel with co-workers, I advised the Patidars ro resort
Besides the volunteers of Kheda, my principal comrades
in this struggle were Sjts. Vallabhbhai Patel, Shankarlal
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 had 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 flase 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 withhold 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.