Edit/Op-Ed

The Mahtma and the Present Day Champaran

Afroz Alam Sahil
 
Today when the entire world is celebrating the Mahatma’s Birthday as the International Non-Violence Day, people in Gandhiji’s karma bhoomi, Champaran are clueless.  The younger generation of Champran have no idea of how the people of their area  went through the painful times during the freedom struggle.

 
Few weeks back I was in Chamapran and got an opportunity to visit the Motihari Gandhi Sangrahalaya (Museum) and Smarak.  I found that the hats and the guns were missing from the Amar Jawan statues. Children are the alleged culprits!
 
The guard who works here earlier worked at a cigarettes factory in Nepal. He realized that his work at the cigarette factory was of no use for the society and wanted to dedicate himself to something noble. That’s how he joined the Gandhi Museum. The sad story is that he receives a paltry Rs. 300/- pm to manage his family. 
 
The gardener who works at the museum had an interesting (but discouraging)  story to share. Upon enquiry of number of visitors to the museum, he mentioned ‘who comes to ask about the Gandhiji, only 30-40 lovers come here to spend some (uninterrupted and private) moment with each other.’  The gardener uncle gets Rs. 500/pm. The lovers sometime order food and soft drinks from the museum canteen and pay the uncle Rs. 2/ to  Rs. 5/  as kind gesture  (read as tip). But with this managing his family has been extremely difficult especially at the times of price rise of daily consumer goods.  The talk of increasing salary to Rs 1500/ has been there without  any headway.
 
In between I wanted to see the canteen.  The canteen had soft drinks and some fast food eatables reminding me how we have a made a cruel joke of the Gandhian thought of Gram Swaraj and Swadeshi.
 
Next day local newspaper reported that Gandhi’s statue was uprooted and thrown on the street in Pakdidayal in nearby East Chamapran. Gandhiji visited Pakdidayal in 1904 after the earthquakes in the area.
 
Another story that indicates the apathy of the state government in protecting places of historical significance is   Harzarimal Dharmshala in Bettiah district. This building has been declared as a protected monument. But this does not stop the local businessmen to wait for the building to collapse to clear space for a business complex.
 
Pinjarapol Gaushala which is managed by Naresh Chandra Verma, a Gandhian had a similar story of neglect  to share.  Gandhiji had established this Gaushala but the present condition betrays any justification. BJP as a political party has been an ardent advocate of protection of cows but the this historic gaushala was also neglected during the NDA regime. This neglect happened despite the earlier Gaushala secreatry Ramavtaar Singhania, an RSS leader,  being close to the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.  Mr. Singahnia had written a letter requesting the NDA government to develop the East Chamapran as a model Cow Protected district.  Nothing happened.
 
The story does not end here.  You wont find writings of Gandhiji in Chamapran’s district centres. Earlier there were enough books and now no one knows how and when the insects have eaten up the Gandhian literature.

The demand for a Mahtama Gandhi university in Champaran  is quite old. Nothing has happened other than a sign board indicating the start of an open university. People who donated land for this project are an unhappy lot.
 
As usual the Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated as a routine.  Power hungry elite does not think the need to have Gandhiji or his philosophy of non-violence and peace  in their politics. Long back they used to win elections on the name of Gandhiji, now it’s the caste, community and the cash that determines who would win.  Gandhiji stands defeated in his own Karma Bhoomi.
 
 
Not only extremism, our self-centered approach towards social and political life have challenged the dream of the great hero of non-violence.  Despite all some with their characteristic village innocence believe that Gandhi  may reincarnate in Chamaparan. The worry is that  people may consider and make someone Gandhi  out of those very people who have killed the Gandhi both in their private and public lives.  I am now reminded of my father who died on this day last year. He believed in the Gandhian ethics and told me that non-violence and peace are the fundamental principles behind the sustenance of human civilization. My struggle as an RTI activist draws inspiration from both the Mahatma and my Abbu.

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