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Roll of Honour
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Sepoys on the Move
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The Empire Builders
For God and Country

Unseasonal rains in the Kheda district in 1917-1918 had destroyed most of the crops there. The famine code stipulated that if the crop yield fell to a certain minimum level the cultivators need not pay tax. In Kheda however, the revenue officials insisted on collecting revenue.
When petitions to the government fell on deaf ears, Gandhiji advised the ryots to resort to satyagraha. The ryots took a pledge not to pay revenue but to submit to whatever penalty the government imposed on them as a consequence.
Volunteers fanned out to villages in the district to explain the principles of satyagraha to the peasants. The volunteers explained that while the ryots did not have to fear the government officials, they should be civil to them. To Gandhiji, civility did not mean mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion but an absence of ill-will towards the adversary. He explained that if the peasants were rude to the officials, the satyagraha would be spoilt. It would be like 'a drop of arsenic in milk'.
It was hard for the satyagrahis to come up to Gandhiji's expectations and going by the reports of the revenue officials the code of conduct laid down by Gandhi was not always observed by the satyagrahis. The villagers for example stopped giving food or water or shelter to the officials when they came on their rounds. Livestock would be let loose so that the animals belonging to tax defaulters could not be identified and therefore could not be impounded. Local people who assisted in the collection of revenue were ostracised.
The revenue officials complained bitterly about the rude methods adopted by the farmers but they knew that things could become even worse. Law and order could break down altogether. The peasants, however did not have the resources to sustain a long agitation and to avoid causing them hardship, Gandhi began to look for some graceful way out of the situation. In the event it was the revenue officials who made the first move. They offered to suspend revenue collection if the well-to-do farmers agreed to pay the revenue.
The satyagraha had borne fruit but Gandhiji did not consider it a complete victory. He said a satyagraha could be considered worthwhile only if it left the satyagrahis stronger and more spirited. Apparently that had not happened in the case of the Kheda satyagrahis who had been left exhausted by the stand-off with the government.
Still Gandhiji was satisfied with the outcome of the Kheda satyagraha as it marked the beginning of an awakening among the peasants of Gujarat.

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