Even as the state government is to launch ‘Gandhi Smriti Yatra’ from Motihari on April 15, commemorating 100 years of Champaran Satyagrah, many sites related to Gandhi are in a poor condition.
Gandhi for the first time experimented satyagrah (non-cooperation) from Champaran.
Though the places Gandhi visited 100 years ago are still there, but most of the concrete structures and buildings where he spent his days and interacted with indigo planters, workers and Nilaha Sahibs (Indigo factory owners) have either disappeared or are on the verge of collapse.
The court of sub divisional magistrate of Motihari where Gandhi gave the historic statement ‘why did not he obey the order to leave Champaran by the first available train’, which compelled British government to withdraw case against him and in inturn he won the first battle of satyagrah, no longer exists.
Even Motihari zila parishad where the Champaran inquiry committee had recorded statements of the Nilaha Sahibs too has disappeared.
Bettiah’s Hazarimal Dharmashala which remained centre of all socio- political activities during satyagrah, is now in a dilapidated condition and may come down any moment. The building, which once witnessed the upsurge of more than 10,000 indigo planters, who had turned up to lodge complaints against indigo factory owners and managers, now stands dwarfed by high rising shopping mall and the ground close to Dharmashala has been turned into a garbage dumping yard.
Gandhi also visited dozens of villages to get a first person account of plight of indigo planters, who were worst victims of Teen Kathia system of indigo plantation. There he also discussed their sufferings with indigo factory owners and managers. The satyagrah activities started from April 1917 and reached its peak in October 1917 when British government accepted the Champaran inquiry committee recommendation to end Teen Kathia system.
But throughout this period Mothari and Bettiah remained the headquarters. Gandhi’s first stoppage at Motihari was advocate Gorakh Prasad’s house and at Bettiah he stayed at Hazarimal Dharmashala.
“Government should have preserved the old buildings as souvenirs of Champaran Satyagrah,” Shailendra Kumar Singh, a local and a writer, said. “But no such effort is visible. The state archaeology department, too, has never taken such initiative,” he added.
Singh said Bettiah would have lost Hazarimal Dharmashala if locals had not opposed the (Hazarimal) family’s commercialisation drive. “People did not let them demolish the original building and brought the matter to court,” he said. Even advocate Gorakh Prasad’s house is half demolished now and owned by another family. “They too wanted to replace Gandhi’s room by a modern structure, but people opposed. It now remains locked,” he said.
At Motihari zila parishad office site there was a bus stand. It has now been shifted and Gandhi Museum has come up there.
“With a plaque carrying names of villages Gandhi visited, the museum seems to be the only place which reminds of Champaran Satyagrah,” he said. It also has the desk used by the Champaran inquiry committee to record statement of Nilaha Sahibs at erstwhile Motihari zila parishad office,” he added.