President to attend Satyagrah centenary event this month

New Delhi/Patna: President Pranab Mukherjee will attend Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagrah’s centenary celebrations later this month in Patna, where a host of events have been lined up to mark 100 years of the historic movement.

The Bihar government will tomorrow kick off the year-long commemorative celebrations, as it was on April 10, 1917 that Gandhi set foot in the state for the first time.

“100 glorious years of Gandhi’s iconic Satyagrah movement is being marked through a number of events in various parts of Bihar and the President is slated to attend a function in Patna on April 17,” an official source told PTI.

Incidentally, Mukherjee had inaugurated the year-long centenary celebrations of the Patna High Court on April 18, 2015.

Patna has several landmarks and heritage trails associated with the legacy of Gandhi and his stay in the capital 100 years ago, after he had alighted from a third-class compartment at Patna railway station (then Bankipore station).

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to inaugurate the opening ceremony of the celebrations, which will later spread to West Champaran and East Champaran (erstwhile unified Champaran district) and Muzaffarpur, among other places.

A two-day seminar on the life of Gandhi and other social issues would be the first in the series of events that kick off on Monday.

“The President will only be attending the function in Patna for a day. He may visit the Patna Sahib gurudwara,” the source said.

Incidentally, Patna in January hosted grand festivities to mark the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, with the iconic Gandhi Maidan becoming the focal point of the celebrations.

The Maidan (erstwhile Patna Lawn) also is the site of the world’s tallest statue of Gandhi, which was sculpted by legendary artist Ram Sutar.

A whole host of other activities, from exhibitions to workshops and heritage walks, are lined up from Patna to Motihari (district headquarters of East Champaran) during this period.

Gandhi came to Bihar at the invitation of indigo cultivator Raj Kumar Shukla who wanted him to take up the cause of the farmers who were forced to grow indigo by the British.

A framed painting showing him alighting from a third-class compartment, put up at the Patna Junction, commemorates his first visit to Bihar’s capital.

An interesting incident took place that day when Shukla took him to the residence of Rajendra Prasad, a Congress leader and a lawyer who had just started practising at the Patna High Court and went on to become the first President of the country.

“Shukla took Gandhi to the house of Rajendra Prasad, a lawyer, he and other indigo-growers had engaged. However, the lawyer was out of town, and judging Gandhi to be of low caste, did not allow him to draw water from the well or use the lavatory in the house,” reminisces his grandson Rajmohan Gandhi in his book “Gandhi: The Man, His People and the Empire”.

Incidentally, an important scene in Oscar-winning biopic “Gandhi” was shot at centuries-old Patna Collectorate, near the Maidan during the 1980s.

The Durch-era Record Room was dressed up as the Motihari Jail while the District Magistrate Office was used for the SDO Court scene.

It was this episode and the turn of events over the next few years, including the Champaran farmers’ movement that would earn 48-year-old barrister Gandhi the exalted moniker of ‘Mahatma’.