If Gandhi was a king of beggars, he was also a prince of looters. He saw in India the rich were growing richer and the poor were getting poorer day by day . He wanted to introduce his own idea of equality. His aim was to recognize village life, bringing relief to village people.
He robbed the rich to help the needy. Instead of blazing
torches and flashing swords, he used loving persuasion and moral coercion as his
weapons. He asked the rich to part with their coveted hoard, the learned pundits
to extend their knowledge to the masses, the capitalists to share their
knowledge to the masses, the capitalists to share their profits equitably with
the labourers, the rulers to grant human rights to the ruled and the timid lazy
countrymen to shed their lethargy. He encouraged his countrymen to wrest the
reins of Government from the hands of the alien rulers indifferent to people's
welfare. The magic spell of the earnest appeal of this dedicated soul captured
the imagination of the young and the aged, simple rural folks and shrewd
businessmen. Like a tornado he traveled from one end of India to the other and
encouraged people to dedicate their riches, their children , their all at the
altar of the nation. He shook up the dazed minds. To him parents gave away
their children for national service, the purdanashin women their jewellery, the
poor their coppers.
Once there was a failure of crops in the country. Peasants
were in the distress. But the government demanded full payment of taxes.
Helpless ryots, terrorised oxen to pay the dues. Gandhi asked them to rob the
Government of the taxes. The ryots launched a no-tax campaign. Under Gandhi's
lead, a batch of satyagrahi declare that we shall not of our own accord pay to
the Government the full or the remaining revenue for the year. We shall rather
led our lands be forfeited." The Government confiscated the peasants' lands with
standing crops. Gandhi convinced the peasants that they had a right to enjoy the
fruit of their labour and directed them to loot a confiscated onion field.
Accordingly a batch of volunteers removed the crop. Mohanlal Pandya, the leader
of the looting squad, was arrested . After his release, he was given a royal
reception and won the title "Onion-thief" Gandhi presided over the meeting and
put a mark of victory on his forehead.
On another occasion, under famine conditions, Gandhi gave
similar advice to the ryots. The Government officials, enraged at being deprived
of the land revenue, confiscated their property and forced them to quit their
huts. The peasants collected a few belongings and migrated from their ancestral
homes. The officials tried to auction the forfeited holdings but found no buyer.
After a prolonged inquiry, the peasants' demands were partly accepted and they
were exempted from taxation that year.
In Champaran, the white planters used special powers and
compelled the ryots to cultivate indigo and compelled the ryots to cultivate
indigo and did not pay them regular wages. They earned big profits levying
forced labour on the ryots. A harassed cultivator from Champaran approached
Gandhi for redress. Gandhi went to the spot, made a detailed imagination
followed. Ultimately the evil system was discontinued and the indigo planters
were deprived of huge profits. A century -old strain of indigo was wiped off
The salt tax in India was so high in proportion to the
miserable per capita income of one anna a day. The starving millions living on a
fare of salt and cereals had to pay a heavy poll tax. In some parts of the
country natural salt was procurable from salt creaks and salt rocks, but
salt-making was forbidden by law. As a protest, Gandhi launched his salt
campaign. He was determined to end this exploitation: " Either I shall return
with what I want or my dead body will float in the ocean.. We shall go to heaven
if killed , to jail if arrested and shall return home if victorious." From his
ashram , he walked 241 miles on foot in 25 days and broke the salt law on Dandi
beach by picking up a lump of natural salt. Sarojini Naidu hailed the law
breaker with a garland and tilak. Gandhi said: " To take a handful of salt earth
is a child's play. I am going to take possession of all the salt. " People
all over India began to collect contraband salt. The police started a mad
search of illicit salt. Palanquins carrying purdanashin ladies were searched.
While passing by a car Gandhi once called out to the police guard saying: " I
have some contraband salt. Do you want to stop me ? "
Gandhi decided to raid the salt depot at Dharasana. His early
arrest upset the plan. His non-violent army of looters marched to the salt
depot. A grim fight broke out. Police hit the volunteers with steel-shod lathis.
Bones were broken skulls fractured and blood flowed from the gashes. Many salt
depots were looted in other parts of India. In a year , the salt law was
relaxed. To collect or make salt for domestic use or for salt within a village
having adjoining salt deposits became legal.
The British Government met with a tough adversary in Gandhi
who proved that looting was one better than chicanery. Britishers came to India
as traders. They captured the Indian market and by unfair means they destroyed
India's hand-spinning and hand-weaving industry which once was the envy of the
world. The spindles and looms lay idle. Some artisans took to cultivation,
others turned into unskilled labourers. Pauperism stalked in the land of plenty.
Cloth imported form Lancashire and Manchester drained crores of rupees from
India. The merchants measuring rod was turned into a royal sceptre.
Gandhi hit upon the idea of boycotting foreign cloth, liquor
and British goods. He tirelessly pleaded with his countrymen to spin, weaver and
use home-made khaddar. People responded splendidly. Gandhi revived hand-spinning
and hand weaving and formed a women's volunteer corps for picketing foreign
cloth shops and liquor booths. He addressed meetings in cities and villages and
made a bonfire of foreign fineries. There was a sharp fall in import trade. Many
British owned cloth mills were closed down. Gandhi's bullets in the shape of
cones of hand-spun yarn hit the British textiles workers. Thousands were
unemployed. Years later, when Gandhi visited Lancahire, he said to gathering of
mill hands: " I am pained at the unemployment here. You have three million
unemployed, but we have three hundred million unemployed for half the year. The
average income is seven shillings and six pence a month. Do you wish to prosper
by stealing a morsel of bread from the mouth of the Indian spinners and weavers
and their hungry children? Is India morally bound to purchase Lancashire cloth,
whilst she can produce her own? Do you think of prospering on the tombs of the
poor millions of India?" This frank endeared him to the British workers who
greeted him with cheers.
Gandhi spared no effort in levelling the disparity of income
and social amenities between the rich and por. Once in a sweeper's meeting, a
lady took two gold bangles off her wrist, presented them to Gandhi and said:"
Now days husbands leave very little for their wives, I can therefore, only make
this humble offering, the last remnant of my ornaments, for the service of the
Harijans." Gandhi replied : " I admit I have been instrumental in making paupers
of doctors, lawyers and merchants. i do not repent. In a poor country like
India, where people walk for miles to get a dole of one pice per day, it does
not be have any body to wear any costly ornaments." In some cases, where the
bangles would not come off the wrists of young women, Gandhi had them cut.
Critics deplored Gandhi's practice of persuading women to donate their ornaments
for a public cause. Gandhi was adamant: " I would like thousands pf sisters, who
attend my meetings, to give me most , if not all, of their jewellery they wear."
His appeal inspired more women to make a gift of their ornaments. A young widow
invited him to her house and give all her ornaments. another married young
woman, whose husband was earning only Rs. 40 a month, started a fast in order to
make Gandhi to come to her house and accept her gift of ornaments.
In a public meeting, a teenager girl, Kaumudi, walked up to
the dais, took off her gold necklace, bangles and ear-rings and gave them to
Gandhi. He made the donors promise not to replace the ornaments they gave away
because "the real ornament of women is her character and purity". Even tender
aged children were not shared. When a small girl came to present flowers to him,
his eyes fell on the tiny ring on her finger. He coaxed her to donate it. He
relieved a boy of his gold studs saying: " Now you must do the right and proper
pranam and go, as you know I am carrying blood pressure of 195." He never
accepted any ornaments from children without their guardian's consent.
Gandhi gained notoriety as an expert looter and yet was ever
welcome and trusted by those who were robbed. An admirer agreed to pay him
Rs.116 per minute of his stay in his house, but Gandhi was too busy to spare
more than two minutes.
At the news of his sudden illness, a doctor friend rushed to
him. Gandhi twitted him saying: " What fee will you give me, if I allow you to
examine me?" In stead of getting any fees the doctor had to empty his pocket by
offering him whatever he had previously received from another patient.
Motilal Nehru and Deshbandhu Das renounced their princely
practice at Gandhi's call and made a gift of their palatial houses to the
nation. Gandhi turned thousands of amirs (millionaire) into fakirs (paupers).