Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Civil Disobedience, an account - Dharampal

Dharampal. "Civil Disobedience" ... the 1810 satyagraha against house tax ( long before Gandhi.)
"The people of all description, collected according to their several classes in the vicinity of the city, had bound themselves by oath never to disperse without extorting the object they were extending for, and they seemed to increase daily in numbers and resolution. They employed emissaries to convey a Dhurm Puttree to every village in the province, summoning one individual of each family to repair to the assembly at Benares. Several thousand Lohars, Koonbees, and Korees, were enticed from their houses, and collected here by the excitement. At the same time, the inhabitants continued to withdraw from the city, and even those who were unwilling were compelled to abandon their pursuits, to avoid the opprobrium and punishment denounced against all and inflicted upon many, who declined joining in the conspiracy. The individuals of every class, contributed each in proportion to his means, to enable them to persevere, and considerable sums of money were thus raised for the support of those, whose families depended for subsistence on their daily labour. (p.69)

He further explained:
The multitudes thus assembled were abundantly supplied with firewood, oil, and provisions, while nothing in the city except grain was procurable. The religious orders exerted all their power over the prejudices of the people to keep them unanimous, and the combination was so general, that the police were scarcely able to protect the few who had courage to secede, from being plundered and insulted. (p.69)
Referring to the role of the mullahs (boatmen) he added:
Much public inconvenience was likely to arise from the mullahs being drawn into the conspiracy, the communication with the opposite bank of the river was almost interrupted and I was compelled to proclaim that every boat abandoned by the proprietor should be forfeited to Government. The mullahs in consequence soon returned to their duties. At the same time several persons of different classes employed to extend the combination were detected by the police, and punished with exemplary severity. These examples, often repeated, began at length to deter others from incurring the consequence of similar offences. (p.70)
He ended with a reference to the additional factors of ‘fatigue and privations which began to be felt seriously by all’ and of the effect of his advice that ‘it is only by dispersing that the people can expect indulgence from the Government.’ He concluded his report by stating that he had ‘little doubt that in the course of a few days this combination, now no longer formidable, will be totally dissolved.’ (p.70)
By now the reports of the earlier situation had reached the Government at Calcutta. The event was first noticed by the Governor-General-in-Council on January 5, when after acknowledging the receipts of the reports up to December 31 as well as the petitions which had been received from Benares, the Government observed that it did not ‘discern any substantial reasons for the abolition of the tax’ and thought ‘it would be extremely unwise to sacrifice to riot and clamour a tax, the abolition of which is not dictated by any considerations of general policy.’ After approving the measures taken by the acting magistrate, the letter from Government added:

You will of course take the same opportunity of impressing on their minds the serious evils, which they are liable to ... "

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