Mahatma Gandhi’s first visit to Chhattisgarh in December 1920. Although not mentioned in Gandhi’s history, there is enough information from various local sources that Mahatma Gandhi came to Raipur in connection with the Kandel Canal Satyagraha and went to Dhamtari, Kurud.
Balgangadhar Tilak, who was conferred with the title of Lokmanya, the most popular leader of that era, died on 1 August 1920. Although Mahatma Gandhi’s identity and his important place in Indian politics had already been established. But after the death of Tilak ji, he became the focal point not only of Congress but also of Indian politics. Congress took the reins of Mahatma Gandhi.
Meanwhile, in Kandel village of Dhamtari district, the Satyagraha of the farmers was going on under the leadership of Chhotelal Srivastava. Pt. Sunderlal Sharma and Pt. Narayanrao Meghawale were also supporting the Satyagraha. The government’s irrigation department accused the farmers of Kandel of stealing water from the canal. It was the month of August, it was raining heavily. There was enough water in the fields. Therefore, the charge of farmers stealing water from the canal was false. A policy of repression was adopted to collect forcible irrigation tax. The allegations were baseless, so the farmers were also adamant about not paying tax. A fine of Rs 4030 was confiscated on their cattle during the farming period. Both sides were unswerving. Therefore, it was decided to hand over the leadership of the movement to Gandhiji. Pt. Sunderlal Sharma went to Calcutta on 2 December to pick up Gandhiji. They reached Raipur on 20 December 1920 with them. Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla, Thakur Pyarelal Singh, Sakharam Dubey etc. welcomed him on the platform. Gandhiji was lodged in the barrister Thakkar’s bungalow in Raipur. Gandhiji was accompanied by prominent leaders of the Khilafat Movement Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali. Ali was also the mother of the brothers. In the evening, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a huge general meeting. That place is famous today as Gandhi Chowk in Raipur.
On 21 December 1920, Gandhiji left Abbasbhai’s motor to Dhamtari in front of the Balasamaj reading room located at Azad Chowk. On receiving the information about Gandhiji’s arrival, the irrigation officials swelled hands and withdrew the anti-farmer order. Returning from Dhamtari, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a mehthi sabha in the ground next to the Anandasamaja reading room in Kankalipara. There was a tennis court at that place. On the stage from which he addressed the meeting, a drama called Bhishma Pitamah was played a night before. The play was acted by the people of Brahmanpara. After the meeting, those who had reverence for Gandhiji kept one brick each as a memento of the stage. Even the stage was not left intact. Mahatma Gandhi was collecting funds for the Tilak Swaraj Fund during his stay in Raipur and Dhamtari. They received cash, gold and silver jewelery as donations. Gandhiji had said – ‘I am a tradesman, I will auction these things’. At the auction, the price was much higher than the actual price of the items.
On December 21, at 11 am, Gandhiji reached Dhamtari with the Shaukat brothers. The crowd gathered to see Gandhiji at Cornbandh Chowk. The speech was arranged in the enclosure of Seth Hussain. It was impossible to reach the gathering place by motor by crossing the sea. At that time, Omar Seth, a Kutch businessman from Gurur, lifted Gandhiji on his shoulder and took him to the stage. Bajirao Kridatta presented a bag of Rs 501 to Mahatmaji. In his hour-long address, he referred to Chhotilal Babu, Narayan Rao Meghawale and Sundarlal Sharma for the successful operation of the Kandel Canal Satyagraha, while highlighting the importance of a true, non-violence-based satyagraha. After the meeting, Gandhiji received a flourish at the house of Nathuji Jagtap. The result of Gandhiji’s influence was that more than 500 activists from Dhamtari attended the Nagpur session.
After returning from Dhamtari, Gandhiji addressed a women’s gathering at Machilabad in Tatyapara, Raipur. A large number of Muslim women attended the meeting. The women openly donated to the Tilak Fund. Gandhiji had elaborated on the outline of the Non-Cooperation Movement in these meetings. The Ali brothers, while giving speeches on the Khilafat Movement, emphasized on Hindu-Muslim unity. Gandhiji also went to the Jaitasava monastery of the old settlement. Abbas Bhai soon got the punishment for taking Gandhiji to Dhamtari by sitting in the motor. The license of his transport company Raipur Bus Service was canceled.
Mahatma Gandhi went directly to Nagpur from Raipur. A Congress session was held there. Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, Barrister CM Thakkar, Thakur Pyarelal Singh and Pt Sakharam Dubey also went to Nagpur to hear the non-cooperation movement from Raipur. Dr. Khubchand Baghel was studying medical in Nagpur. He also attended the session as a member of the Medical Corps. Pt. Madhavrao Sapre was also present in Nagpur. They were touring across the state and were successful in making the convention successful.
As soon as he returned from the session, local leaders started campaigning for the cooperation movement. The lawyers left the advocacy among them Thakur Pyarelal Singh and Pt. Ramnarayan Tiwari. But Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla, a prominent leader of the Congress, continued his advocacy. District Council Chairman Yadav Rao Deshmukh resigned from the post. Raosaheb Vamanrao Lakhe, Raisahab barrister C.M. Thakkar, Seth Gopikishan, Khanbahadur Shamsher Khan renounced their titles. The people of Raipur conferred Lakhiji with the title of Popular on the same day. Barrister Thakkar was a candidate in the assembly elections, he boycotted the election.
The Revolving Chair
In November 1933, Gandhiji announced a visit to India for Harijan revival. He started a nationwide campaign from Chhattisgarh. His journey started from Durg Nagar. On 22 November, Gandhiji reached the fort and became the guest of Ghanshyam Singh Gupta. Gupta was an Arya Samaji, he was an influential leader of the Congress. He was also the Speaker of CP-Berar Assembly from 31-7-1937 to 19-2-1952. He also became the president of Durg Municipality in 1933. He made a visit to the school run by the 1926 Corporation to Gandhiji. In this school, students used to sit together on a strip without any discrimination. Gandhiji was very happy with this. Gandhiji addressed a huge gathering in the Motilal Bavli campus after the school visit. At that time there was no system of loudspeakers. It was not possible to reach people. Gandhiji used to address by sitting in a chair, so only listeners on one side were able to see him. Guptaji found a solution for this. As soon as Gandhiji sat on the stage, Gupta asked him to sit on this rotating chair and the chair would be slowly rotated round in all four directions, so that everyone could see you. Mahatma liked this solution. He had said to Guptji – “Tu to bada chatur nikala” (You came out so smart)
The Remarkable Ruling
Gupta had the benefit of Gandhiji’s association multiple times. One incident is of Wardha. At the scheduled time, Gupta reached Mahatma’s hut, at that time he was discussing with a big European official. Gandhiji looked at his watch and told the officer that now he will talk to you after a while. The ones I just gave time to have arrived. This is an example that shows Gandhi’s punctuality. Similarly, Gandhiji was also staunch towards Hindi. On one occasion, Gupta started talking in English to Gandhiji. Gandhiji immediately interrupted him – ‘You know good Hindi, speak Hindi’. Another context is that of the Legislative Assembly. Speaker Gupta had allowed Bilaspur member barrister Thakur Chedilalji to speak in Hindi in the House, which was opposed by other members. But Guptaji satisfied the members by citing the rules. Gandhiji published this incident in Harijan and called it “Remarkable Ruling”.
Gandhi’s routine in Chhattisgarh
The responsibility of arranging Gandhiji’s visit to Mahakoshal was on the behavior of Rajendra Singh and Pt. Ravi Shankar Shukla. Gandhiji reached Raipur by motor on the same night, addressing a huge gathering in the fort. At nine o’clock at night, as a procession from Amapara School (present-day RD Tiwari School) he reached the residence of Pt. Shukla at Budhapara position. The crowd can only be estimated from the fact that it took them more than three hours to reach Shukla Niwas from Amapara. His aarti was performed at every step, Mahatma Gandhi was loaded with flower garlands. Flowers and pylons were decorated on both sides of the road and lamps were lit all the way. Such a historical welcome can only be from the heart emperor. Gandhi lived in Raipur till 28 November. He would visit other cities in the morning and take meetings and return for rest of the night.
Gandhi broke the wall
On 23 November, Gandhiji came for the Khadi and Swadeshi exhibition at Victoria Garden (Moti Bagh) at four in the evening. Yatiji wrote in his diary – ‘There was a crowd of more than one lakh on this occasion. It was as if Raipur district was overflowing. Wherever Narmund, only Narmund was seen. The crowd was so much that Gandhiji had to be moved by another route ‘. Pt. Ramdayal Tiwari, author of Gandhi’s Epistle, was also present there. He wrote – ‘Gandhiji’s welcome is a fierce display of reverence of the people. The entire dam of the system broke as soon as their car arrived. Gandhiji’s car got stuck in the tornado of people. If it was not strong enough, it would crumble and crumble with the combined strength of the people. In summary, Gandhi’s reception was so uncontrollable that he went through a lot of difficulty.
The public rallies at the exhibition site and unfortunately the loudspeaker also deteriorated. No one could tell exactly what Gandhiji said there. The back wall of the garden had to be broken to move out of the exhibition site.
On 24 November Gandhiji met and was greeted at Lorry School (currently Sapre School). They were presented with mannets, placed in silver cages. Silver trunks were auctioned at the venue itself. The amount received was given in Harijan-Kosh. He attended the meeting held at Moudhapara. He also visited the Satnami Ashram and the orphanage. It is worth remembering that the Satnami Ashram was established by the efforts of Pt. Sunderlal Sharma. When Mahatmaji was informed about this, the words that came out of his mouth were – ‘Pandit Sundarlal Sharma Rajimwale is two years older than me in the work of salvation of Harijans. Those who have done an ideal in conducting this important work of the country by editing it before my mission’.
I’m a Baniya: Mahatma Gandhi
After inspecting the Satnami Ashram, Gandhiji went to Kanhaiyalal Verma’s house in Nayapara. There he addressed a women’s gathering. After the speech he spread his bag for Harijan-fund. The women filled his bag. Jetha Bai donated her gold ring. Gandhiji said – “I am a Baniya (tradesman), I will auction it”. He was auctioned at a meeting of Gandhi Chowk in a bid of Rs 500 for a ring of 15 rupees.
Avoiding national defects
Gandhiji was invited to deliver a speech at Rajkumar College. The principal was Smith Pearce. Gandhiji said – ‘Children must come in contact with the British and take their virtues but try to avoid their national miseries like alcoholism and gambling’. The prince of the princely states of Chhattisgarh used to study in Rajkumar College. Gandhiji knew this. He further said in his address – “Unfortunately we think that the king is a king, he cannot have any relation with the common people.” So we see that a separate school has to be opened for you. You do not have the courage to get education in ordinary schools. The sense of untouchability is stigma. In such a situation, you have to act with the same courage as Prahlada. This idea is completely contrary to my understanding, that a person becomes a upper caste or untouchable from birth. A complaint was made to the Home Secretary about the audacity of Smith Pearce, the principal of Rajkumar College.
Gandhi in Dhamtari
On 25 November, Gandhiji met at Dhamtari at ten thirty in the morning. He was presented with an honorarium on behalf of the Municipal Corporation of the Local Board. Gandhiji auctioned the certificate in the assembly itself, a bid of 15 rupees was made. After the meeting, he went to the house of Nathuji Jagtap at one o’clock, where he received milk and dry fruits. Meanwhile, a bundle of letters reached him. On his instructions, his secretary Mahadev Desai would reply to the letters. From Jagtap’s house, Gandhiji reached the home of Chhotalal Srivastava. A women’s meeting was held in front of his house. In the meeting, Gandhiji called for an end to untouchability and discrimination of caste and creed. After the meeting, Satnamis received fruits from the food brought by the head of the society. He was very impressed with the cleanliness of the Harijan locality.
Turmeric rice in a bundle
From Dhamtari, a bundle fell in Mahatma Gandhi’s motor at Cornaband Chowk in Raipur. The bundle was opened on Gandhiji’s instructions, it contained a turmeric lump, a little yellow rice, two cauldrons, a half-coin and some flowers. It came out of Gandhiji’s mouth – ‘It is a gift of a true poor’. Potali was auctioned at the House of Nawapara-Rajim for 101 rupees.
Gandhi in Bilaspur
“Ram of Shabri”
Gandhiji left for Bilaspur by car. Near Nandghat, an old lady stood in front of her car carrying a flower garland. Gandhiji did not stay anywhere other than the scheduled program. But looking at the 70-75 year old man, he stopped the car, asked – “What’s the matter”? The woman said – ‘I am a Harijan woman, I want to wash Gandhi’s feet once before dying and offer them flowers’. Gandhiji said with a laugh – ‘I’ll take one rupee for that’. Where does that poor old lady come from? One rupee in 1933! The woman became frustrated. He said – ‘You stay here, Baba, I am in search of my house’. Gandhiji thought more jokes, he said – ‘I don’t have time to stop’. Hearing the answer, the woman was shocked. At this point, Gandhiji put one foot forward. The old man’s wish was complete.
On his way to Bilaspur in Raipur, he stayed for a while in Simga and Nandghat. Returned to Raipur by train on the night of 25 November. Gandhiji visited Saragaon, Kharora, Palari, Kanaki, Balodabazar and Simaga on the 26th. On 27 November, they went to Dumtarai, Mana, Abhanpur, Bhothidih, Maraud, Kurud to Dhamtari. Gandhiji also visited Bhatapara and Rajim. From 23 to 28 November, Dr. Hazarilal Jain of Dhamtari was the “charioteer” of Gandhiji. On November 28, at eight in the morning, he left for Balaghat by train. It is noteworthy that during the Harijan Yatra, Gandhiji did not stay in the country for so many days.
On 24 November, Gandhiji reached Bilaspur at eight in the morning. The crowd started gathering in the city from dawn itself. At seven o’clock, a crowd of people turned into a crowd, there was no place to walk on the main road, Gandhiji’s motor was crawling like an ant. People were showering coins, which were also hurting Gandhiji. There was a possibility of a crowd, so the group of volunteers surrounded the car. But the enthusiasm of the people and the desire to touch Gandhiji was such that many volunteers were injured due to the brunt of the bumps and nails of the people. Yadunandan Prasad Srivastava, who was clearing the path in front of the car, got caught in the grip of the crowd so that his feet got uprooted from the ground and he got hit by the road. The stay of Gandhiji was arranged at the residence of the owner of Kunjbihari Lal Agnihotri. Shrivastavji was responsible for reporting Gandhiji’s meeting. After the meal, he was to go to the women’s gathering. There was a huge crowd in front of Agnihotri’s house, so he had to go through the back door. But people got a glimpse of it. As Gandhiji moved towards the car, one of his legs was on the foot of the car and the other was on the ground when someone caught his leg. Seeing this, Shrivastavji without any hesitation pressed the hand of the person with his foot. He writes – ‘The work was of cruelty, but Gandhiji lost his foot’.
After the women’s gathering, after addressing a huge gathering in Bilaspur, he went to the station from where he came to Raipur by train.
Call the Naapi
It is about the Dhamtari incident. Gandhiji had to shave. Meeraben told Dr. Hazarilal Jain – “Bring the Naapi”. Dr. Jain kept asking the people who came with Gandhi – ‘Who are the Naapi? Mahatmaji calls them ‘. Someone told them the Naapi is called a hairdresser. Hazarilal rushed to Brahmapara and brought Makhan from there. Makhan shaved Gandhiji. Gandhiji said to Hazarilal – ‘Give a rupee a rupee’. On hearing this, Makhan fell at the feet of Mahatmaji and said – “Jekar darasan bar laakhon logan taras rahithen, taun la main aaj chhoo lenv, ihee mor nyochhaavar he” (Whose philosophy is loved by millions, today I will touch the power with them, they are a sacrifice for me.) Then Gandhiji said – ‘Feed a green grass of one and a quarter rupees to a cow’.
Similarly, the Kuber of Raipur also got the opportunity to shave Gandhiji. He too refused to take leave, but he also kept Gandhi’s hair for years.
Not everyone has luck like Makhan and Kubera. In 1920, when Gandhiji came to Raipur, then Abbas Bhai’s motor ride to Gandhiji came to Dhamtari. Gandhiji and other leaders were to go to Dhamtari in the bus. The police stopped the driver of the bus at the last moment. All the leaders were waiting for the bus in front of the Children’s Society reading room at Brahmanpara. When the driver did not come, Abbas Bhai took up the steering and took Gandhiji to Dhamtari. After a few days, the license deputy commissioner of Abbas Bhai’s Raipur Bus Service, CA. Clarke canceled.
Fear of locks fail
In 1933, Gandhiji’s meeting was held at four o’clock in the evening at the Saturnachari stop in Bilaspur. Ramsharan Tamboli was a student of 11th at that time and lived in a hostel behind the government high school. The hostel gate was locked since morning and the warden posted. The students’ persuasion and outrage had no effect on the principal. On the contrary, they started threatening the students and threatening to restate them. These measures were taken so that the students could not see Gandhiji and listen to his speech. The hostel is located on the way to the station from the assembly site. The students were allowed to play hockey in the hostel grounds from where the road is visible. Gandhi’s convoy passed rapidly. The students could not even get a glimpse of him. Meanwhile, seeing the opportunity, he ran towards Tamboliji Gate Phand Station … The train was standing on the platform. Gandhiji stood at the door with his bag spread. On seeing the student Ramsharan, Gandhiji signaled, the crowd made way. Gasping Tamboli came to Gandhiji and offered him Duanni(money) in his bag.