On the 30th and 31st January 2018, Xavier University Bhubaneswar held a commemorative national conference on “Remembering Mahatma Gandhi: Compassion and Relevance for our times”, as a preparation for the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation in 2019.
At this crucial juncture of human history, where the world is facing severe problems – be it in the political, economic and social fields- it is imperative to re-examine the relevance of his thinking and re-emphasize his message of peace, brotherhood and non-violence.
The Symposium attempted to initiate country-wide discussions on the renewed relevance of Gandhiji at this juncture, when problems like the widening disparity in incomes, rural poverty, the looming environmental crisis and communal disharmony are affecting many countries, including our own.
An idol of Gandhiji near, New Academic building
The programme included a plethora of activities including:
* Four technical Sessions on Gandhi's political thought, his envisioned economic model of development, land grab and gramdan-bhoodan movement and its great relevance at this juncture.
The highlight of the Symposium was a lively debate by the Post-graduate and the Under-graduation students from different departments on the “7 Deadly Social Sins” that Gandhiji had thought needed to be countered.
Renowned social and political scientists, Gandhian scholars and economist around the country were invited to present their papers at the Symposium.
* An enthralling Urdu recitation called “Dastangoi” on the Sabarmati Experience by Mr Ankit Chadha & Mr Vedanth Bharadwaj.
* An Indigo dyeing workshop by Mr Brij Ballav Udaiwal
* A mellifluous Rabindra Sangeet performance by Mr Pradip Dey
* The piece de resistance: the closure to the event by a mesmerizing Odissi dance performance that depicted the story of Mahatma Gandhi through a recital titled “Ahimsa”, brilliantly choreographed by Padma Shri awardee Smt. Aruna Mohanty.
My personal favourite part of the programme was the Indigo-Dyeing Workshop conducted by National Award recipient Mr Brij Ballav Udaiwal. Some of you may wonder how Indigo- Dyeing brings home the cause of Remembering Gandhi.
"Whenever I look at my indigo dupatta, I will forever remember the unforgettable dyeing experience as a takeaway from an exhilarating moment in college that had occurred simply one and a half month before my graduation".
You all may be aware of the 'Champaran Satyagraha' as initiated by GandhiJi. At the beginning of the workshop, we were briefed on this.
In the Champaran district of Bihar, the British landlords had mandated the “tinkathia system” in which the tenant farmers had to plant Indigo in every three out of twenty acres of their land. The farmers were paid a throwaway price for the Indigo plant and if they refused to plant the same - they were taxed heavily apart from having to bear with atrocities meted out to them by the British agents. This lead to reduced production of the much-needed food crop and exclusive indigo farming(even in off -seasons).
When the news of Gandhi's arrival to protest this inhuman imposition reached Champaran, a ray of hope was lit in the hearts of thousands of farmers who had come from distant villages to meet him in the railway station. Gandhiji thereafter left for the village Juralipath, when it was brought to his notice -that a farmer was mercilessly beaten and his property destroyed for having refused to abide by the tinkathia system.
On his way to the village, Gandhiji was served a notice from W. B. Heycock(British magistrate) ordering him to leave Champaran by the next available train. When Gandhiji refused to comply with the orders, he was arrested.A court hearing had ensued thereby, where the Magistrate had offered to withdraw the case and release Gandhi provided he left Champaran immediately. Gandhi had vehemently refused to leave without lending the distressed farmers a hand of support.
Fearing unrest and chaos from his crowd of supporters in Champaran, Gandhi was released. Two days later the case was withdrawn, allowing Gandhi to stay in Champaran. The government also instructed officers to look into the grievances of the Indigo farmers. In the meantime, Gandhiji visited villagers and studied their grievances. He recorded testimonials of 8000+ cultivators to understand the underlying issues.
In October the committee submitted its report to the Government and on November 29th the Champaran Agrarian bill was submitted to the Bihar Legislative Council. On March 4 the following year, with the Governor General's approval, the bill turned into a law.The strategy of nonviolence and peace worked wonders in the success of the Champaran Movement which in turn marked a new era in India’s freedom struggle.
After the background knowledge of the Champaran Satyagraha, we had a thoroughly exhilarating hands-on experience on the art of Indigo Dyeing through the Indigo Dyeing Workshop. Our college had thoughtfully provided us with sufficient pieces of white fabric, to be used for Indigo dyeing.
At the offset, the cloth was dipped in a bucket filled with cold water. After a couple of minutes, we were blowing the damp fabric in the air for five minutes so that it could dry partially. Mr Ballav had brought at least fifteen completely different indigo designs painted on white dupattas that were enticingly displayed on the handrail.
Depending on the pattern we chose to replicate, we had to tie the thread, in a certain fashion from one end of the fabric to the opposite end. In the meantime, we had to confirm that the fabric was tightly tied to the thread, before finally dipping the fabric in the indigo dye liberally for about ten minutes.Before proceeding to the next stage, it was imperative to ensure that all the water had drained out from the fabric.
Thereafter, the process felt to us at least, as magical and whimsically anticipatory as the unwrapping of the gift cover while opening a gift - the thread had to be untied and removed. And voila!! There was the dyed dupatta in all its splendour! The indigo-dyed-dupattas had to now be dried under the pleasant winter sunlight.
There were only winners in the workshop- every one of us was one that day!! We were ecstatic to learn we could retain the dyed dupatta that each of us had made with our own hands that day. I felt truly blessed and said a small silent prayer and thanks giving to Bapuji. Whenever I look at my indigo dupatta, I will forever remember the unforgettable dyeing experience as a takeaway from an exhilarating moment in college that had occurred simply one and a half month before my graduation.
Radhika Bhattacharyya is a Finance student pursuing her graduation from Xavier University. She is an avid reader and blogger. She enjoys singing in her spare time.She believes that a few kind words and a simple conversation are all it takes to make the world a happy place.
Radhika also belongs to the December 2017 cohort of MieRobot campus reporter track.
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