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Gandhi’s early activism in India (1915-18)

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After 1916, Gandhi concentrated at the redresser of three specific local wrongs.

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Gandhi in Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda:

The story of Champaran (Bihar) begins in the early 19th century when European planters had involved the cultivators in agreements that forced them to cultivate indigo in 3/20th of their holdings (Tin-Kathia).

But when indigo became un-remunerative, the European planters imposed higher taxes to compensate their losses in the International Trade at that time.

Gandhi (in July 1917) was successful in abolishing the Tin-Kathia system and refund was made to the cultivators.

In Ahmadabad (March 1918) the dispute was between the mill owners and workers over the ‘plague bonus’, which the former wanted to withdraw once the epidemic was over.

The workers troubled by inflation wanted adequate compensation. Gandhi initially persuaded the mill owners and workers to agree to arbitration by a tribunal but the mill owners withdraw after commitment.

Gandhi then advised the worker to go on strike and he undertook hunger strike after which the mill owners were pressurized into accepting the tribunal award of 35 per cent increase.

The peasants of Kheda district (1917-18) were in extreme distress due to a failure of crops and the government ignored their appeals for the remission of land revenue.

The peasants of Kheda were already hard pressed because of plague, high prices and drought. Appeals and petition having failed Gandhi advised the withholding of revenue and asked the peasants to fight unto death.

After the Government directed that revenue should be recovered only from those peasants who could pay, the movement was withdrawn.

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