Bardoli Satyagraha Movement
The Badoli Movement (1928) was perhaps the first successful farmer movement in India that started in the Bardoli district of Gujarat to vent the simmering anger of the impoverished farming community. The movement, spearheaded by Saradar Patel, was an unique experiment in civil disobedience. The near-total success of this collective non-violent action led the foundation of many such movements in other prts of India.
The farmers of Bardoli had been pushed to penury by successive crop failures and were struggling to survive let alone pay the revenues on their land holdings. In the midst of such pervasive misery, the local administration led by the British Collector raised the revenue by a whopping 30 % pushing the farmers to despair. Failure to pay the enhanced revenue allowed the British officers to dispossess the defaulters of their moveable and unmoveable properties. With such a calamity looming, the farmers petitioned the administration to defer the revenue increase till a year or two, but, as expected, the plea elicited no response from the government.
The farmers approached Sardar Parel for a way out of the crisis. Sardar Patel, a lawyer of redoubtable legal acumen, asked the farmers to take a resolve to stay fully united, abjure violence at any cost despite physical provocation by the revenue collectors, and not to participate in any unction of their fellow farmers’ lands. The farmers followed Patel to the hilt.
When the day of collection of revenue finally arrived, no farmer paid a penny. The defiance was complete and stubborn. Most farmers fled to the nearby jungles to evade the revenue collectors’ eyes. The action of the farmers left the British officials clueless and angry. Prior to this, Sardar Patel had sent a fervent appeal to the Governor to intervene and postpone the collection of the enhanced revenue, but the appeal fell in deaf ears. Sardar decided to fight it out, in the most nonviolent and orderly manner.
The Sardar’s action had the moral blessings of Gandhi, although he didn’t participate in the movement.
As the face-off between the agitating farmers and the uncompromising British rulers dragged on, a few greedy and rich persons from Bombay came in and participated in the auction. They acted as spoilers, but Patel outsmarted them by asking the farmers and labourers not to work in their fields. The auctioned land remained in a limbo. A tiny group of rich farmers didn’t heed Patel’s call for boycott of the auction and went ahead to participate in it, and finally got the ownership of the land. But, the villagers, instructed by Patel, enforced a strict social boycott of the families making their living in the villages very difficult.
When this impasse was on, a benign Parsi from Bombay interceded to break the deadlock by prevailing upon the Governor to retrace his path and make a compromise with the agitating farmers. Accordingly, the 30% hike of revenue was reduced to just 6.3%, and all auctions were annulled retrospectively. The farmers got back their lost lands. Even the revenue collected from a handful of dissenting famers was returned to them. The relieved farmers rejoiced at their victory and heaped praise on Sardar Patel.
A new chapter in India’s freedom movement was, thus, written in Bardoli.