The trial began. The Government pleader, the Magistrate and other officials were at a loss to know what to do. The Government pleader was pressing the Magistrate to postpone the case. But I interfered and requested the Magistrate not to postpone the case, as I wanted to plead guilty to having disobeyed the order to leave Champaran and read a brief statement as follows:
'With the permission of the Court I would like to make a brief
statement showing why I have taken the very serious step of
seemingly disobeying the order passed under section 144 of Cr. P.C.
In my humble opinion it is a question of difference of opinion
between the Local Administration and myself. I have entered the
country with motives of rendering humanitarian and national service.
I have done so in response to a pressing invitation to come and help
the ryots, who urge they are not being fairly treated by the indigo
planters. I could not render any help without studying the problem.
I have, therefore, come to study it with the assistance, if
possible, of the Administration and the planters. I have no other
motive, and cannot believe that my coming can in any way disturb
public peace and cause loss of life. I claim to have considerable
experience in such matters. The Administration, however, have
thought differently. I fully appreciate their difficulty, and I
admit too that they can only proceed upon information they received.
As a law-abiding citizen my first instinct would be, as it were, to
obey the order served upon me. But I could not do so without doing
violence to my sense of duty to those for whom I have come. I feel
that I could just now serve them only by remaining in their midst. I
could not, therefore, voluntarily retire. Amid this conflict of
duties I could only throw the responsibility of removing me from
them on the Administration. I am fully conscious of the fact that a
person, holding, in the public life of India, a position such as I
do, has to be most careful in setting an example. It is my firm
belief that in the complex constitution under which we are living,
the only safe and honourable course for a self-respecting man is, in
the circumstances such as face me, to do what I have decided to do,
that is, to submit without protest to the penalty of disobedience.
'I venture to make this statement not in any way in extenuation of
the penalty to be awarded against me, but to show that I have
disregarded the order served upon me, not for want of respect for
lawful authority, but in obedience to the higher law of our being,
the voice of conscience.'
There was now no occasion to postpone the hearing, but as both the
Magistrate and the Government pleader had been taken by surprise,
the Migistrate postponed judgment. Meanwhile I had wired full
details to the Viceroy, to Patna friends, as also to Pandit Madan
Mohan Malaviya and others.
Before I could appear before the Court to receive the sentence, the
Magistrate sent a written message that the Lieutenant Governor had
ordered the case against me to be withdrawn, and the Collector wrote
to me saying that I was at liberty to conduct the proposed inquiry,
that I might count on whatever help I needed from the officials.
None of us was prepared for this prompt and happy issue.
I called on the Collector, Mr. Heycock. He seemed to be a good man,
anxious to do justice. He told me that I might ask for whatever
papers I desired to see, and that I was at liberty to see him
whenever I liked.
The country thus had its first direct object-lesson in Civil
Disobedience. The affair was freely discussed both locally and in
the press, and my inquiry got unexpected publicity.
It was necessary for my inquiry that the Government should remain
neutral. But the inquiry did not need support from press reporters
or leading articles in the press. Indeed the situation in Champaran
was so delicate and difficult that over-energetic criticism or
highly coloured reports might easily damage the cause which I was seeking
to espouse. So I wrote to the editors of the principal papers
requesting them not to trouble to send any reporters, as I should
send them whatever might be necessary for publication and keep them
I knew that the Government attitude countenancing my presence had
displeased the Champaran planters, and I know that even the
officials, though they could say nothing openly, could hardly have
liked it. Incorrect or misleading reports, therefore, were likely to
incense them all the more, and their ire, instead of descending on
me, would be sure to descend on the poor fear-stricken ryots and
seriously hinder my search for the truth about the case.
In spite of these precautions the planters engineered against me a
poisonous agitation. All sorts of falsehoods appeared in the press
about my co-workers and myself. But my extreme cautiousness and my
insistence on truth, even to the minutest detail, turned the edge of
The planters left no stone unturned in maligning Brajkishorebabu,
but the more they maligned him, the more he rose in the estimation
of the people.
In such a delicate situation as this I did not think it proper to
invite any leaders from other provinces. Pandit Malaviyaji had sent
me an assurance that, whenever I wanted him, I had only to send him
word, but I did not trouble him. I thus prevented the struggle from
assuming a political aspect. But I sent to the leaders and the
principal papers occasional reports, not for publication, but merely
for their information. I had seen that, even where the end might be
political, but where the cause was non-political, one damaged it by
giving it a political aspect and helped it by keeping it within its
non-political limit. The Champaran struggle was a proof of the fact
that disinterested service of the people in any sphere ultimately
helps the country politically.