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027. Vinoba Bhave. John Spenser.

Vinoba Bhave. John Spenser Essay. Reintroduced by 
P S Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.

By PSRemeshChandra, 8th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/21nds2jj/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

Once an Australian writer wrote a book about a strange thing happening in India and developing there as a very interesting and great public movement. It was originated by an Indian scholar and saint, which gradually gained momentum and became a landmark in the history of the nation. This interesting story is reintroduced here along with its aftereffects in the recent years. Spenser is not responsible for paragraphs from four onwards in this article.

The famous foot-marches of an Indian Saint begging for land all the way and distributing it to the poor.

The famous Australian writer John Spenser went to India to study the strange and unique Land Begging Movement of Vinoba Bhave and came back with a fantastic book which explored the question of how cultivatable land could be made available to landless people everywhere without any bloodshed. It was begging for land and giving it to the poor which could have been adopted anywhere successfully at the risk of politicians going bankrupt and jobless. Vinoba Bhave was an Indian Saint with an acute social consciousness and commitment. He made many foot-marches (Pada yaathraas) throughout India begging to rich people for a gift of land for him. In India it is difficult for people to deny a saint his request. So he obtained immense acres of land on the way and after obtaining it gave it all to the landless poor. This ingenuous technique of this great Indian Aachaarya gradually developed into a great social movement and reformation which became the Bhoo Daan Movement or Land Donation Movement. Bhoo in India means Land and Daan means Gifting. Vinoba Bhave came to be known as The Saint who Gave Land to the Poor.

Cultivative land for the cultivator.

The most efficient theories against communism in matters concerning land. 

When India became free from the British Rule in the year 1947, Telengana in the Andhra Pradesh State was a region of poverty. Landlords possessed all the land and the peasants were greedily exploited not only by the landlords but by money-lenders also. As a natural consequence, the extremist communist movement of Naxalism flourished there. When Vinoba Bhave had once to visit Andhra to attend a Sarvodaya Samaaj meeting there, he decided to travel by foot from Vaarddha Aashram to Hyderabad so that he could study the people on the way. This Padayaathra or Travel on Foot became popular for many reasons. After the meeting, he travelled to the problem-torn Telengana area and held a prayer meeting at Pochempelly where he requested the rich to offer land to the poor, a willing and peaceful act on the part of the ‘haves’ for the ‘have-nots’. A moved landlord offered 100 Acres then and there which was the accidental birth of the massive Bhoodaan Movement in 1951. The inspired Vinoba began to travel from village to village collecting land. When someone refused to give land, Vinoba asked them to treat him as one of their sons and give him his due share of the land, which was dramatically successful. It was simply impossible to deny a gift to a Saint. Tens of Thousands of Acres of land were given to him willingly. Bhoodaan Movement was a token reply to the extremist communists there who were moving through the revolutionary path to attain the same objective. Bhave asked them why they came at night, and why not came by day and took land as he did, with sincerity and love.

Here lies the way to employment and prosperity.

In North Indian States not only land but even wells, bullocks and houses were donated to the Saint. 

This brilliant success of Aachaarya Vinoba Bhave in collecting land in Andhra made Bhoodaan a national movement. It was a movement with faith in the goodness of mankind. People could be successfully influenced to give up some of their most valuable possessions to the poor. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited Bhave to the capital city of Delhi. It was another Padayaathra collecting land all the way. He stayed in a hut near Raj Ghat, the final resting place of Mahatma Gandhi, where this Fakir was visited and listened to by the Prime Minister, President of India and the Planning Commission Members. From there he travelled by foot again to the vast Uttar Pradesh State where not only land but even wells, bullocks and houses were donated to him by exhilarated people. By then, Bhoodaan had become a great national movement in India. Nowhere in this world has such a daring and successful movement been organized by a Saint.

Marching to their professional politics.

Ask cultivatable land for lease, and if not given willingly, confiscate forcefully and cultivate; then give the lease amount too forcefully. 

After the passing away of such visionaries as Aachaarya Vinoba Bhave and Jawaharlal Nehru, this great and successful movement and silent revolution of India also passed out. People no more begged for or donated land. Things reverted to their former positions of exploitation, want, poverty, aggression, encroachment, attacks, retaliation and revenge. Extremists tempted people to confiscate land where it is in plenty and remains unutilized and the landowners were the least willing to part with their land. The moderates and the extremists in the Indian Communist Movement clashed against one another on their opinions on this issue and their party was split into so many parties and groups such that the boat remains still on the shore. But one among them came up with an excellent solution to the Indian land problem. He was the venerable parliamentarian and workers’ leader A.K.Gopalan. According to his theory, unemployment and poverty are the problems of India that remain unsolved. The greatest number of job opportunities lies in land but the lions’ share of the cultivatable land is kept idling and bare by the great land owners. Therefore the unemployed and the poor shall assemble themselves and approach the land owners asking for the cultivatable land on terms of lease. If they give the land willingly, the jobless may find their jobs in the fields year round. Thus unemployment can be redressed. Because all cultivatable land is now being cultivated instead of lain waste as previously, agricultural production in the country will increase many fold and the problem of poverty also would be solved.

Who will give away their mother.

The world wide fear created by Jean Paul Sartre in his play ‘The Stained Hands’. 

But what if the landlords were not willing to give their land on lease? Then confiscate the land forcefully and go through the same process as if the land was given to the needy in lease. If the land owner is not willing to accept the amount of lease, the lease amount also should be given him forcefully. It was a genuine single solution to two most important problems of India. What is disturbing in these deals is the universal fear that the principle of private ownership of land would be violated. This communist visionary’s solution was a guarantee that the private ownership of land would not be affected anyway, unemployment and poverty would be eradicated and a peaceful and silent land revolution like this could be pivotal in turning away the course of international communism. The traitors in the leadership of the Communist Parties in India were terrorized at this suggestion and they tried in all possible ways to oust this visionary from their party. Wherever and whenever possible, he was restricted, restrained and censured. Anyway he led a mass movement of encroachment of lands lain barren as a result of which governments were forced to take hold of such land and distribute it among the poor. The Indian communists are still treading in the dark laying their unsteady and wavering steps reaching nowhere, like the party leadership in Jean Paul Sartre’s play ‘The Stained Hands’ who betrayed and killed their leader, know that they have no way other than to follow the strategy laid out by him, which they can never do for fear of admitting that his views were right. 

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

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Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.

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Denise O
9th Jul 2011 (#

Great information on Vinoba Bhaven and his movement. Nice read. Thank you for sharing.