The Gandhi Ashram and memorial at Motihari in East Champaran today welcomed eleven intrepid walkers led by Birendra Soni, who have retraced the steps of Mahatma Gandhi’s journey across this backward region almost a century ago. The walk covered a route of approximately 550 kilometres, and about 5,000 people participated in the various activities organized by the walkers.
Thirty walkers from various places, as well as local residents retraced the steps of the Mahatma, starting 2nd October, [Gandhi’s birth anniversary and World non- violence day] from Bihtarwa and culminating on 18th October in Motihari. The significance of 18th October is that on this day in 1918, the Champaran Agrarian Ordinance was repealed, thus signifying the effectiveness of Gandhi’s first Satyagraha.
A ‘Padyatra’ [journey-on-foot] to draw attention to Gandhian values and development took place in Champaran on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti: the birth anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi. The walk retraced the footsteps of Gandhiji on his struggle for the indigo cultivators. The walk symbolised a call for local development, and sought to focus on the need for a workable and sustainable development pattern for the villages of Champaran.
The route covered by the walkers was Bhitiharwa , Murli Bharwan , Narkatiyaganj , Kathari , Chanpatiya , Brindvan , Bettiah, Singacharpar , maujhaliya , Bhakhariya Chowk ,Karmwa Bazar , Sugauli , Dumri , Ramgadrwa , Andhra , Chauradano, kodarkat , Bhelwa Koti, Dhaka, Madhubani , Barharwa Lakhansen ,Chorma , Madhuban , Piprakothi , Chand Sariiya , Chandhariya , Turkauliya, Bhishanpurwa , and Motihari.
The Mahila Samakhya, local District Administration, and Panchayats of the villages provided whole-hearted support to the walk, says Birendra Soni , representing the proposed Gandhi College of Social Work,[GCSW] the main organizer of the event.
Most of this places visited by Mahatma Gandhi during Champaran Satyagrah ( Indigo Movement ) in 1917 and 1918 were covered in the walk. The GCSW, to be opened shortly intends to set up special study centres in the villages that have Gandhi memorials. The Gandhi Satyagraha Walk was to draw attention to the relevance of Gandhian-based social work, which is expected to be the focus of the GCSW, located at Bhitarwa village in East Champaran. The walkers also promoted Gandhian thoughts for promotion of Peace and Non-Violence.
Birendra Soni, says “It is a call for the young people to come forward and think of working towards the development of their own village, contributing their bit to the community, in the way that Gandhi spoke about. Panchayat Raj in its true sense is whole-hearted participation in village affairs, participation in the decision making process, and transparency. A second revolution is needed in Champaran, and our attempt is to focus on a Sathyagraha... a walk for truth that has the potential to energize the people, young and old.”
The Satyagraha Padyatra programme consisted of of inter-religious prayer meetings, Prabhat Pheri, village cleaning campaigns, distribution of books and screening of films on Gandhi. Hand cranked spinning wheels weree part of the event: the participants demonstrated the carding and spinning of cotton into thread. It is said that Gandhi advocated an hour of spinning a day, and this exercise could produce enough yarn to make a set of clothes every year.
Birendra Soni said, “This event is taking place under the blessing and guidance of Padmshree Bhanrlal Jain - Founder Gandhi Research Foundation , Dr. Sudarshan Aynger - Vice Chancellor, Dr.Rajendra Khinmani - Registrar , Gujarat Vidhyapith , Shri Brajkishor Singh - Secretary , Gandhi Memorial Museum, Motihari and Frank Krishner - AASRA , Shri Arvind Chauhan and Shek Saffudin - Gandhi Shodh Sansthan.”
The main walkers for the event were Birendra Kumar Soni , Ashok Chaubey , Rafi Ahmed , Sanjay Namdev , Akhilesh Raikwar , Madan Kumar , Dinesh Shah ,Rajendra Kumar, Lalbabu , Rajendra Kumar,Chandrakishor Mahto , Shivkaran, and many more participated by accompanying the team from one village to another.