Sunday, April 12, 2020

Mamlatdar Mohanlal Shah

Mamlatdar (Tehsildar) Mohanlal Shah

When we joined service in mid eighties, there was a proverb of revenue administration, “કલેક્ટર કકળાટ કરે, મામલતદાર મૂંઝાય, સર્કલ બિચારો શું કરે, તલાટી કરે તે થાય”. Collector clamours, Mamlatdar confused, what can a Circle do, the Talati (Patvari) is supreme. Over these 35 years, the mode of governance changed. Regulatory mechanism has been replaced by the developmental and people friendly administration. Now, who clamours, who confuses and who decides, the players are changed. But when Britishers were ruling India, Mamlatdar and Collector were the powerful and supreme authorities.

Bardoli Satyagraha against the 30% rise of land revenue was lead and won by Vallabhbhai Patel successfully in 1928. Gandhi kept himself away. The women of Bardoli bestowed the title Sardar to Vallabhbhai Patel. The Satyagrah made Vallabhbhai Patel an important national leader thereafter. It was fought on the pattern of Kheda Satyagrah lead by Gandhi in 1918.

At National front, Jawaharlal Nehru succeeded his father Motilal Nehru as INC President in 1929. Purna Swaraj (total independence) resolution was passed at Lahore session of Congress on 19 December 1929 and public announcement was made to celebrate 26 January 1930 as Independence Day. It was followed by 34 days of famous 241 mile (384 km) long Dandi March of Gandhiji from Sabarmati Ashram Ahmedabad to Dandi in Navsari from 12 March to 6 April 1930. Pinch of salt lifted by Gandhi brought out millions of Indian out of home fighting Civil Disobedience Movement, resulted in the Gandhi-Irwin pact, round table conference, GoI Act 1935, and further more the dominion status of self rule and freedom after 17 years.

The farmers of Kheda were facing consecutive three years of drought 1928-30. Farmers were demanding tax exemption. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel advised the peasants of Matar and Mehmadabad taluka to refuse tax payment. Afraid of the agitation, Alfred Master the Collector of Kheda postponed the recovery of revenue for one year. Vallabhbhai wished to go for no tax campaign like Bardoli Satyagrah, but Gandhiji was worried about the violence and actions of the authority of confiscation of land, animals and properties of the peasants, therefore was in search of an alternative mode of agitation and had found out the easier but effective option of involving common people without fear of losing land or animals. It was to break the law of salt. Vallabhbhai Patel was in disagreement and had considered it a weak agitation, but the words of Gandhi were final. Smarter Gandhiji then entrusted the job of deciding the route of Salt March to Vallabhbhai, that he had transferred to Ravishankar Maharaj and Mohanlal Pandya. Both suggested Dandi.

After Gandhi’s announcement of breaking the law of salt, the Collector Kheda Alfred Master prepared the list of persons to be detained including Sardar Patel. The Collector Kheda announced prohibition of public address for a month. Unaware Vallabhbhai Patel when he was addressing the gathering at village Ras, the First Class Magistrate of Borsad served him a notice. SP Bilimoria arrested and brought him before the Collector Alfred Master, who after 90 minutes hearing, punished him with an imprisonment of 3 months and fine of ₹500 (or 3 weeks additional jail) on 7 March 1930. He was sent to Sabarmati jail. At the gate SP Bilimoria offered him Sigaret but knowing well the jail rules Patel left sigaret smoking forever. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Pandit Madan Mohan Malavia objected the punishment to Vallabhbhai Patel and raised the issue of freedom of speech in the Central Legislative Assembly.

Sardar Patel remained in Sabarmati jail for 111 days from 7 March 1930 to 26 June 1930. When he was moved out of jail on 26 June, the entire nation was charged and changed under the Dandi victory of Gandhiji. Jawaharlal and his father Motilal were also arrested, therefore, Vallabhbhai worked as Working President of INC. Gandhiji was arrested on 4 May 1930, therefore, Vallabhbhai Patel was in lead role. But he was again arrested on 31 July 1930 from Mumbai and was placed in Yerwada jail with Gandhiji. Jawaharlal Nehru was also shifted to Yerwada jail.

Ras village of Borsad taluka was the major centre of agitation. When Gandhi’s Dandi March reached Ras on 19 March 1930, the peasants of Ras and other 13 villages resolved to refuse pay land revenue tax under the threat of losing land and properties. Borsad taluka started no tax agitation from May 10, that was supported by peasants of Kheda in a Sammelan on 31 May at Kheda. Collector Alfred Master and his Mamlatdar Mohanlal Shah were active in crushing the agitation. One Mohan (Gandhi) was leading the agitation and another Mohan (Mamlatdar) was crushing it! Mamlatdar Shah was moving with police force in vehicles, was beating the peasants and looting their ornaments. He established temporary detention centres and was arresting the leaders and placing them in them. It had created fear and terror amongst the villagers and by February, many of them migrated to Vadodara and were staying in refugee camps made of leaves and stems of trees. Their lands were confiscated and officers resigned were fired.

The Collector and the Mamlatdar then declared sale of agricultural land confiscated from the Patidars and offered them to the Baraiya and Patanvadia Koli of the taluka. On September 20, Mamlatdar Shah told the Kolis of Asodar village that he had come to return their land at ₹10 for 10 bighas which were taken away from them by the Patidars during the major drought year of 1899-1900. He promised them to give police protection. In December, he offered land, houses and position of Mukhi to them and declared himself the saviour of Baraiya and Patanvadia. Under his instigation, theft of standing crop and fire of houses of Patidara took place in 17 villages. But his divide and rule policy didn’t work longer. He tried to convinced the Baraiya that they were the original kings and owner of the land. But Congress leader Bhavanji Parmar called a meeting of Baraiyas of 17 villages and resolved that whosoever Baraiya purchases the land of Patidar would be boycotted socially. Therefore, except few, none came forward. All 51 villages of Borsad taluka joined the no tax movement and didn’t surrender against the divide and rule strategy of the Collector and the Mamlatdar. However, under the force, they could recover 40% of the land revenue from the taluka. When Revenue Minister Frank Hudson visited Borsad in December 1930, the refugees of Ras and Bochasan met him and represented the atrocities of the Mamlatdar. Mamlatdar Mohanlal Shah was transferred and Solomon Benjamin was made the Mamlatdar of Borsad. Collector Alfred was replaced by Perry in 1931.

Compromise was reached by Gandhi-Irwin pact but Mumbai Goverment didn’t agree to return the confiscated and sold land of patidars during the agitation. Arrested agitators were released from the jails but the compromise didn’t save Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru from capital punishment. It had opened the door of “self rule” Gandhi told. In 1931 Sardar Patel replaced Jawaharlal Nehru as President of INC. But his brother Viththalbhai Patel who resigned from the post of Chairman of the Central Legislative Assembly during the Civil Disobedience movement was annoyed as he aimed the chair. Finally, with the efforts of Sardar Patel, barring 72 acres, 1792 acres of confiscated land of Borsad taluka was returned to the peasants by 30 April 1931.

Malatdar of Borsad Mohanlal Shah under the British authority of the Collector Kheda Alfred Master, did challenge the public authority of Sardar Patel in 1930 in the name of Social Justice of offering confiscated land of Patidars to the Baraiya and Patanvadia Koli, was not confused but was clear in his goal of serving the British authority. Days have changed after independence, and the authority of Mamlatdar diminished but the importance of revenue administration continued. And therefore, in a service of 35 years in IAS, even though one can become Collector for 2-5 years, still the aspirants carry the craze for the post of Collector, the legacy of British Administration.

25 December 2019


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