Indigo: AHSEC Class 12 English summary, questions, answers

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Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the story Indigo by Louis Fischer of Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

indigo AHSEC Class 12 Assam

Summary/explanation: ‘Indigo,’ an excerpt from Louis Fischer’s biography of Mahatma Gandhi, describes how Gandhiji took up the cause of the poor indigo-growing peasants of Champaran, a remote village on the Himalayan foothills. In 1917, Gandhi travelled to Bihar to learn about the injustices of the landlord system, which exploited peasants. The sharecroppers were forced to grow indigo to comply with an old agreement.

When the poor farmers signed a new land agreement, the devious landlords demanded large sums of money in exchange for releasing their land. Gandhi’s long and heroic struggle for the Champaran issue marked the Civil Disobedience Movement’s first victory. The British landlords were defeated when they were ordered to return twenty-five per cent of the extorted money to the sharecroppers.

In 1942, the author paid his first visit to Gandhi at his ashram. There, Gandhi explained how the decision to urge the British to leave India was made. Gandhi had attended the Indian National Congress party’s annual convention in Lucknow. It took place in December 1916, and over 2,000 delegates and visitors attended. A peasant named Rajkumar Shukla from Champaran approached him and invited him to visit their village. Gandhi had only heard vaguely of the location. Shukla had decided to take Gandhi to his village to show him the injustices of Bihar’s landlord system and the plight of sharecroppers. Gandhi had other obligations, but Shukla remained by his side. After weeks of being pursued and pleading for a visit, Gandhi informed Shukla of his planned trip to Calcutta and asked him to accompany him from there.

Gandhi arrived in Calcutta months later, and Shukla was waiting for him at the designated location. When Gandhi finished his work there, the two of them boarded a train bound for Patna, Bihar. Shukla then drove him to the home of Rajendra Prasad, a lawyer who would later become President of the Congress Party and then of India. Even though the lawyer was out of town, the servants recognised Shukla and allowed him and his companion to stay. The servants assumed Gandhi was just another peasant and refused to let him draw water from the well, fearing he was an untouchable.

Gandhi travelled to Muzzafarpur prior to Champaran in order to obtain accurate and comprehensive information on the peasant issue. Professor J.B. Kripalani and a large group of students met him at the station. He stayed at Professor Malkani’s house, who was a government school teacher. People were afraid to express sympathy for leaders fighting for home rule at the time. Allowing Gandhi to stay in his home as a professor at a government institution was quite extraordinary. Sharecroppers came from all over to see the man who would fight for them in Muzzafarpur. Gandhi met with peasant lawyers who represented them in court and inquired about their fees. Gandhi expressed strong opposition to the collection of large fees from poor peasants, stating that taking the cases to the courts would be futile for the oppressed and terrified peasants. First and foremost, they must be free of fear.

The fertile lands in Champaran, where Indian farmers worked as tenants, were mostly owned by English landlords. Indigo was the main commercial crop, and farmers were required to plant fifteen per cent of their land with it. Thereafter, they had to surrender the entire harvest as rent.

Simultaneously, Germany developed synthetic indigo. The landlords realised that natural indigo was no longer valuable. They decided to stop cultivating it, forcing the farmers to pay compensation in exchange for being released from the fifteen per cent agreement. Many people agreed to sign the agreement and those who did not hire lawyers to fight their case. On the other hand, the landlords hired thugs. When the farmers learned about the synthetic indigo, they demanded a refund from those who had signed and paid.

Gandhi arrived in Champaran at that time. He began gathering information and even visited the British landlord’s association, which refused to provide any information to an outsider. Gandhi stated that he was not an outsider. Then he summoned the commissioner of the Tirhut division, which included the Champaran district. Gandhi was threatened by the commissioner to leave the district immediately. Instead of complying, Gandhi travelled to Motihari, the capital of Champaran, accompanied by several lawyers. He continued his investigation. Meanwhile, a farmer was being mistreated in a nearby village, so Gandhi rode an elephant to investigate. He was apprehended and ordered to return by a police superintendent’s messenger. Gandhi was driven home by the messenger, who handed him a notice to leave Champaran immediately. Gandhi not only signed the receipt but also responded with a letter stating that he would not obey the order. He was summoned to court the following day. Gandhi requested that Rajendra Prasad travel from Bihar with influential friends sent instructions to the ashram, and submitted a detailed report to the viceroy.

The authorities struggled to manage the swarm of people who arrived at Motihari the next morning. They gathered around the courthouse when they learned that their messiah was in trouble. This was the beginning of their freedom from British fear. Gandhi assisted officials in controlling the crowd, demonstrating that the mighty British could now be challenged by the Indians.

The government prosecutor was perplexed and requested that the trial be delayed. Gandhi protested the delay and pleaded guilty to disobeying orders, but he added that he did so for the sake of humanity and national interest. He ignored the order to leave, not to defy the law, but to follow the voice of his conscience. He was ready to accept the result of his actions. Despite the judge’s announcement, Gandhi refused to pay a bail amount for a two-hour break. The judge released him without bail. After two hours, it was announced that the verdict would be postponed for a few days and Gandhi would be released.

Meanwhile, numerous prominent lawyers, including Rajendra Prasad, arrived from Bihar. Gandhi advised them to continue fighting for sharecroppers even if he was imprisoned. They realised it would be embarrassing not to because Gandhi, despite being from a different part of the country, was willing to go to jail for the farmers. As a result, they decided to join the fight against injustice. The lawyers even expressed an interest in being arrested alongside Gandhi in court. Everything had gone according to plan, but Gandhi’s case was dropped. This was India’s first civil disobedience victory. Gandhi, with the help of the lawyers, investigated the farmers’ complaints thoroughly. The investigations began in earnest, with the collection of documents and data, as well as the preparation of cases. Enraged landlords expressed their displeasure as Champaran grew busier.

Gandhi was summoned by Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Gait in June. However, he made detailed plans for civil disobedience in case he did not return before leaving. Following extensive meetings with the Governor, a commission was established to investigate the plight of sharecroppers. The commission consisted of landlords and government officials on the one hand, and Gandhi as a peasant representative on the other. Gandhi’s trip to Champaran, which was planned to last only a few days, ended up lasting a year. The sharecroppers won the official investigation. The landlords agreed to reimburse the peasants’ money. They were afraid Gandhi would demand a full refund of the money extorted from the farmers through deception, but he only asked for half of it. The landlords offered twenty-five per cent, which Gandhi accepted to their surprise, and the matter was settled. The fact that the landlords were forced to surrender a portion of their money and prestige was more important to Gandhi than the amount of the refund. Until that point, they had been acting as lords above the law. Peasants, on the other hand, realised that they, too, had rights and that there were people willing to fight for them.

Within a few years of the incident, the British landlords had left the estates, and indigo sharecropping had come to an end. Instead of being satisfied with large political or economic issues, Gandhi was concerned with the social and cultural backwardness in the Champaran villages and desired an immediate solution. He asked teachers to educate the masses who had come from far and wide, including his wife and youngest son. Kasturba educated them on personal hygiene and sanitation. Gandhi also brought in a doctor to help with the healthcare system, which was in disarray. For all types of illnesses, a combination of only three medications was prescribed. The filthy state of women’s clothing was a result of their utter poverty. While in Champaran, Gandhi kept a long-distance eye on the ashram. He sent regular instructions and requested accounts.

What happened in Champaran was a turning point in Gandhi’s life because it sent a clear message to the British that they could no longer rule India. The goal was to alleviate the suffering of the poor peasants, not to defy British rule. Gandhi’s politics were always intertwined with the common man’s problems. He was fighting for humanity rather than big ideas or ideologies. Every step he took was focused on building a self-sufficient nation capable of standing up for its independence.

Gandhi was adamantly opposed to his close aides’ suggestion that they enlist the help of Charles Freer Andrews, a devoted Mahatma follower, in their fight. His argument was that having an Englishman on their side would simply reflect their own lack of courage. Because their cause is sincere, they must learn to rely on themselves and win the battle. There was no reason to seek an Englishman’s help. In this way, Gandhi taught everyone a lesson in self-sufficiency. As a result, India’s fight for independence, relief for poor peasants, and a lesson in self-reliance all happened at the same time.

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Textual questions and answers

Think as you read-I

2. Why is Rajkumar Shukla described as being ‘resolute’?

Answer: Rajkumar Shukla is described as “resolute” because of the effort he put in to bring Gandhi to Champaran. Even though Gandhi took a long time to arrive in Champaran, Shukla did not give up.

3. Why do you think the servants thought Gandhi to be another peasant?

Answer: Shukla was known to the servants as a poor farmer who frequently pestered their master to help the sharecroppers. They mistook Gandhi for another peasant after seeing him with this man and, most likely, because of the simplicity of his clothes.

Think as you read-II

1. List the places that Gandhi visited between his first meeting with Shukla and his arrival in Champaran.

Answer: The first meeting with Shukla took place in Lucknow. Gandhi then travelled to Cawnpore and other parts of the country. He returned to his ashram near Ahmedabad, then to Calcutta, and then to Patna, Bihar, with Shukla. He then went to Muzzafarpur and finally to Champaran.

2. What did the peasants pay the British landlords as rent? What did the British now want and why? What would be the impact of synthetic indigo on the prices of natural indigo?

Answer: The peasants were forced to cultivate indigo on fifteen per cent of their land and pay the British landlords the entire indigo harvest as rent.

When the British landlords discovered Germany’s synthetic indigo and realised that cultivating it was no longer profitable, they forced the sharecroppers to sign an agreement in which the farmers would regain their fifteen per cent landholdings but would have to pay compensation.

Because synthetic indigo is produced in a factory, its prices are almost certainly lower than those of cultivated indigo. As a result, no one would buy natural indigo, and the market would crash. The land lord’s action was pre-planned in order to avoid this situation.

Think as you read-III

1. The events in this part of the text illustrate Gandhi’s method of working. Can you identify some instances of this method and link them to his idea of satyagraha and non-violence?

Answer: Gandhi never acted solely to demonstrate his opposition to the law, even when it violated natural justice and fundamental human rights. When he was asked to leave Champaran, he stated unequivocally that he would not do so. It was not in defiance of legal authorities, but in deference to a higher law of our being, the voice of conscience. Gandhi cooperated with authorities to keep the crowd at Motihari under control, and he was courteous and friendly with them. Simultaneously, he provided concrete evidence that the Indians were now prepared to challenge British power. These are some of the ways his methods are related to satyagraha and nonviolence.

Think as you read-IV

1. Why did Gandhi agree to a settlement of a 25 per cent refund to the farmers?

Answer: Despite Gandhi’s demand for 50%, the final figure was set at 25%. The landlord’s reputation and self-esteem were more important to him than the amount of the refund. They had always considered themselves above the law, but this incident humbled them. They had no choice but to give in to the poor peasants’ nominal demand.

2. How did the episode change the plight of the peasants?

Answer: The indigo plantation incident in Champaran changed the fortunes of Indian farmers. They became aware that they had legal rights and that there were people who would fight for them. They discovered that they were capable of resisting the British landlords who had been exploiting them for years. Most importantly, the peasants learned courage.

Understanding the text

1. Why do you think Gandhi considered the Champaran episode to be a turning point in his life?

Answer: The Champaran incident was a turning point in Gandhi’s life as well as India’s independence struggle. It was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. It sent a clear and unmistakable message to the British that they had no authority over Indians in their own country. By attempting to alleviate peasant suffering, Gandhi was able to mould a new generation of free Indians who could stand on their own two feet and fight for the country’s independence. To everyone, he demonstrated the meaning and value of self-sufficiency. In response to Charles Andrews’ request for assistance, Gandhi stated that when the cause is just, we should try to win the battle by ourselves rather than seek help from an Englishman, as this would only reveal our heart’s weakness. The Champaran incident marked the beginning of the end of British fear.

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Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions

1. What occurred in Lucknow that altered the course of Indian history?

Answer: Gandhi’s meeting with Rajkumar Shukla, a poor sharecropper, and subsequent visit to Champaran altered the course of Indian history. This meeting took place in Lucknow in 1916 during the Indian National Congress’s annual convention.

2. What annoyed Ghandhji about the lawyers of Champaran?

Answer: The lawyers in Champaran irritated Gandhi because they were charging poor peasants exorbitant fees to take their cases to court. He claimed that the courts would be powerless to help the frightened sharecroppers.

3. What were the peasants’ reactions to Gandhi’s visit to Champaran?

Answer: The peasants had no knowledge of Gandhi’s South African record, but they flocked to Motihari in massive numbers to see him. These Champaran sharecroppers began arriving on foot or by conveyance to see the man who had come to fight on their behalf.

4. What did the British government learn from the Motihari demonstration?

Answer: Thousands of peasants demonstrated at Motihari that British power, which had previously been feared and unchallenged, could now be challenged by the Indians. It was the first significant blow suffered by the powerful British rulers.

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11. Describe Rajkumar Shukla’s efforts to persuade Gandhiji to visit Champaran.

Answer: Rajkumar Shukla was a poor sharecropper from Champaran, a small village Gandhi had only heard of. The majority of the fertile land in Champaran was owned by English landlords who forced Indian farmers to grow indigo. Farmers’ conditions were deplorable and pitiful. Someone had suggested he meet Gandhi. Shukla travelled to Lucknow to meet Gandhi, inform him of the injustices of the landlord system, and transport Gandhi to Champaran. Gandhi informed Shukla that he had prior commitments in Cawnpore and elsewhere in India. But Shukla remained firm. Gandhi had him as a constant companion. He never left Gandhi’s side for weeks and even accompanied him to his ashram near Ahmedabad. Shukla begged Gandhi to set a date. Gandhi was moved by the poor farmer’s sincerity of purpose and tenacity. He informed Shukla of his planned trip to Calcutta and asked Shukla to come and pick him up from there. After months of anticipation, Gandhi arrived and boarded a train to Patna, Bihar, with Shukla.

12. How did the Champaran episode turn out to be the turning point in Gandhi’s life.

Answer: The Champaran incident gave India’s independence struggle a new dimension. The British, who believed they were above the law, were challenged. Gandhi told the officer that he was not an outsider in his own country when the secretary of the British Landlords’ Association refused him information about sharecroppers because he was an outsider. Gandhi was ordered by the British commissioner to leave Tirhut immediately, but he refused. He travelled to Motihari, Champaran’s capital, and wrote back that he would defy the order to leave Champaran. He was summoned to court the following day. Gandhi summoned Rajendra Prasad and his influential friends. Thousands of peasants flocked to Motihari the next morning to show their support for their leader. Gandhi assisted the officials in controlling the crowd while also demonstrating to them that their power could be challenged by Indians. Finally, a commission was formed to address the issue of indigo farmers. The landlords lost both their case and their pride. They were required to return twenty-five per cent of the farmers’ money. Champaran’s success was India’s first example of civil disobedience. It sent a strong message to the British that Indians had the courage to stand up to their power and that they would not be ruled in their own country. The mass movement began from there.

13. Describe the sharecroppers’ problems in Champaran.

Answer: The majority of the fertile cultivated land in Champaran was owned by British landlords, on which Indian farmers worked as tenants. The most important commercial crop was indigo. Farmers were forced to cultivate indigo on fifteen per cent of their landholdings and then surrender the entire indigo harvest as rent. This arrangement was made for the long term.

The landlords learned of Germany’s development of synthetic indigo just before Gandhi’s arrival. As a result, indigo farming was no longer a profitable endeavour. They agreed to let the sharecroppers out of the fifteen per cent agreement in exchange for compensation from the farmers. While some agreed, others sought legal advice. When the news of synthetic indigo became widely known, the peasants who paid noticed the landlords’ deception and fraud. They demanded a refund of their funds.

14. Who was Charles Andrews, and who needed his assistance? Why did Gandhi object?

Answer: Charles Freer Andrews was an Englishman who was both a devout Gandhian and a responsible citizen. He had come to bid farewell to Gandhi before heading off on an official tour of the Fiji Islands. Gandhi’s friends thought Andrews staying in Champaran and assisting them would be a good idea. Andrews was eager, but Gandhi’s approval was required. Gandhi was adamantly opposed to the idea. He claimed that including an Englishman in their fight would only emphasise their disparity and heart weakness. Their fight was for a good cause, and they should win by relying on their own abilities. Because Andrews is English, they should not rely on him for help. In this way, Gandhi taught everyone about self-reliance.

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