Hero of Bardoli
Bardoli is a Taluk in Gujarat. The
people of this Taluk were in sheer distress, having suffered because of
the floods and the famine. But, in this hour of distress, the foreign government
raised the revenue taxes by thirty percent. The people did not know what
to do. They went to Patel and said, "You are our only hope."
Said Patel, "If you oppose the government
your sufferings will multiply. You will lose your lands and houses, The
Government will do its best to crush you. You will not have a grain of
rice or a drop of milk, and the women and the children will suffer sheer
misery. Consider well. If you are confident that you have the grit to face
all this, let us fight."
"We are ready. We will die rather than
bow to injustice," said the farmers.
First of all, Patel wrote to the Governor,
and appealed to him to reduce the taxes. But he turned a deaf ear to Patel.
The Government even announced the date of the collection of the taxes.
"No one shall pay a pie as tax," Patel
instructed the farmers. The bugles of war sounded.
Patel divided Bardoli District into
several zones. Each zone had a center, and a leader and some volunteers
manned each center. There were messengers to carry messages from one center
to another. Patel also appointed spies to report on the movements of Government
"We shall use all our powers and crush
the agitation," declared the Governor of Bombay. The Government sent ruffians
to frighten the villagers.
The ruffians would enter villages and
beat up the villagers. They used to force their way into houses and carry
away grain, goods and money. They insulted the women. But the farmers refused
to yield. They did not pay a single pie.
The government began to auction the
houses and the lands. But not a single man came forward to buy them. Vallabh-
bhai had appointed volunteers in every village to keep watch. As soon as
he sighted the officials who were coming to auction the property, the volunteer
would sound his bugle. The farmers would leave the village and hide in
the jungles. The officials would find the entire village empty. They could
never find out who owned a particular house.
Patel was with the villagers all day
and night, and infused courage in them.
"If you still have a shred of fear,"
he told them, "throw it to the bottom of the well. It is the government
which is now frightened, not we."
"I, too, am a farmer," said Patel.
"I know the mind of the farmers. I want that the farmers should be respected
and am able to hold their heads erect. I can have peace of mind only when
that is achieved."
Patel learnt that some rich men were
coming from cities to buy the lands of the farmers, which were being auctioned.
"I am the Sardar (chief) in Gujarat," declared Patel; "let them come, I
know what to do." There was total social boycott of those who bought the
lands. The rich men who had come from, outside could not get a grain of
rice or a drop of water, and were glad to escape alive.