Thumb Printed: Champaran Indigo Peasants Speak to Gandhi

Megha Todi

Affiliation: Navajivan Trust and National Archives of India, Gujarat, India

Keywords: Mahatma Gandhi, History of India, Colonialism, Indigo, Peasants, Law and Justice

Categories: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, News and Views

DOI: 10.17160/josha.9.4.837

Languages: English

M.K. Gandhi arrived in Champaran, Bihar in April 1917, to inquire into the conditions of peasants growing Indigo for European planters. For this, he required his local associates to go out and record what the peasants had to say about their plight. The enthusiasm generated by this novel move resulted in a vast storehouse of peasant-speak, untouched by scholars so far. Translated on the spot from local Bhojpuri into English, these remarkable first-person narratives, preserved in India's National Archives, have now been edited with explanatory notes by Shahid Amin, Tridip Suhrud and Megha Todi. ‘Thumb Printed’ is a rare collection of what ordinary peasants experienced, recalled and authenticated, by affixing their thumb impressions as a sign of veracity. When peasants speak, an entire world speaks. The fine weave of stories in this volume enable us to visualise these peasants working the indigo fields in flesh and blood, tilling, weeding, watering, carting their indigo crop to factories, getting shortchanged, fined…literally pilloried and beaten into submission. An exemplary work of scholarship and editorial craft, this volume would be long regarded as opening a new window on to the world of peasants, not as an abstraction but through the articulation of their lived experience. This is an edited excerpt from Thumb Printed: Champaran Indigo Peasants Speak to Gandhi (link).

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