To 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 connection.
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 lèse majesté.
At last all petitioning and prayer having failed, after
taking counsel with co-workers, I advised the Patidars ro resort to
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 accomodate 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 has 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 false or should compromise our
self-respect. Should the Government, however, agree to suspend
collection of the second installment 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 withold 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