‘Spring Thunder In Bhojpur’

Gambhira–the Martyr of Champaran

Arup Kumar Sen

Champaram district of Bihar has entered the lexicon of anti-colonial struggle in India in the wake of Gandhi-led revolt of the indigo farmers in 1917. The same district witnessed revolutionary spark in the wake of the Naxalite movement in the early 1970s. However, this post-colonial revolt did not find place in the annals of Indian history. Very recently, a Bengali radical magazine, EbongJalarka (April-September, 2023), has attempted to document this revolt in Champaran, in its special issue on ‘Spring Thunder’ in Bhojpur and other districts of Bihar.

The fire of the Naxalite movement spread its wings to Champaran, particularly after the visit of CharuMajumder to Bihar in the year 1970. Gambhira Shah, of the Teli caste, led the peasant movement in Champaran. After finishing his study at Motiharicollege, he started earning his livelihood as a truck mechanic. He came to Kolkata in connection with his profession and got involved in the Naxalite movement. After giving farewell to his profession, he returned to his village, Mahuabon, in Champaran.

Gambhira started giving leadership to the downtrodden people for establishing ‘Garib Raj’. The radical movement protested against the rape of women and other social evils, and fought for the minimum wages of the agricultural labourers. Village Committees were formed in 25 villages under the leadership of Gambhira. After consulting the villagers in the meetings, the foot-soldiers of the revolution started occupying the lands of the big landlords of the region.

In 1977, Gambhira and his six associates were picked up by the police and they were told that a peaceful settlement would be made with the landlords at the Darpa Moth (a religious place), the mahanta of which owned 400 acres of land. Later, they were brutally tortured at the Moth by the landlords and their henchmen. On July 3, 1977, when the policemen and the chowkidar of the local police station refused to torture Gambhira and his associates further, the police officer opened the lockup and allowed the landlord/s and their goondas to enter into the police station, and they killed Gambhira after torturing him for four hours. Thus ended the life of the revolutionary son of Champaran.

Gambhira’s wife stated after his murder that they would pursue the struggle to establish ‘Garib Raj’, the ideal preached by her husband. His mother, Babunia, said, ‘Gambhira is not my son only, he represents the poor of the world.

In the last rite of Gambhira Shah, 10,000 poor people congregated, of whom 3,000 were women. On July 3, 2007, a bust of Gambhira was erected in his village, Mahuabon. Even now people congregate in the village on the day of his martyrdom every year.

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Vol 56, No. 29, Jan 14 - 20, 2024