Bhoodan Movement in India by Vinoba Bhave

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Vinoba Bhave

India experienced the majority of its movements in pre-independent country in its struggle for freedom. Yet, there are several other movements that were initiated years after freedom. One such movement was Bhoodan Movement, a rather unique movement in our history. Launched by Vinoba Bhave, The Bhoodan Movement was aimed to provide livelihoods to the landless underprivileged people of the country. It was a kind of movement initiated by the people, for the people, and to the people.

The movement didn’t ask the government for its revenue to help the poor, instead, it requested the wealthy community of the country to share a portion of their wealth with the poor. The Bhoodan movement also known as the Bloodless Revolution was a voluntary land reform movement in India.

On his death anniversary, let’s recall the pioneer of the Bhoodan Movement- Vinoba Bhave.

Vinayak Narahari Bhave was born on 11 September 1895 in a small village called Gagoji, Maharashtra. He was the son of Narahari Shambhu Rao, a local weaver of the city, while his mother Rukmini Devi was a religious woman from Karanataka. Vinayak grew up with his four brothers and a sister. From a young age, he was an enthusiastic reader of Bhagavad Gita. He was also well-read in the writings of Maharashtra’s saints and philosophers and had an interest in Mathematics.

Naturally, the school and colleges never provided him a direction in his life, and remained lost and unfocused throughout his schooling. Thus in 1916, on his way to Mumbai for intermediate exams, Vinoba threw his school and college certificates on fire and instead went to Varanasi to live a life of a Brahman. There he got into the study of ancient Sanskrit texts and fulfilled his ongoing to attain the imperishable peace of life. He translated The Gita into Marathi and named it as Geetai.

Vinoba Bhave

The same year, a report published on Gandhi’s speech at the newly founded Hindu University attracted Bhave’s attention and he wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi. After a few exchanges of letters between him and Gandhi, the latter invited him to Kochrab Ashram in Ahmedabad for a personal meeting. He met Gandhi on June 7, 1916. And this proved to be a turning point in his life.

Over the course of time, the bond between the duo got stronger and Vinova started participating in several tasks at the ashram like teaching, spinning, and studying. In 1921, on request of Gandhi, Vinoba took charge of the ashram at Wardha. There, he started writing ‘Maharashtra Dharma’, monthly essays on the Upanishads in Marathi. Soon, this monthly became weekly and continued for the next three years. Along with this, he also participated in several movements by Gandhi in the freedom struggle.

In 1923, Bhave was jailed for months at Nagda jail and Akola jail for taking part in the flag satyagraha at Nagpur. In 1932, he was again jailed for six months to Dhulia for participating in anti-Colonial acts. He was jailed thrice during 1940-41 for individual satyagraha at Nagpur jails. In 1940, he was selected by Gandhi as the first individual satyagraha. Vinoba took part in the Quit India movement of 1942 for which he got jailed for three years at Vellore and Seoni jails. In total, Vinoba spent five years in prison where he continued his writings and gave lectures on Bhagavad Gita to his fellow inmates. Four languages of South India were learned by Vinoba at Vellore jail and the script of Lok Nagari was also created here, after research. Thus, even in jail he spent no moment without studying and teaching- a true Brahman epitome.

After India gained Independence, Bhave launched two important initiatives in 1950- Kanchan-Mukti and Rishi-Kheti movements. The Kanchan Mukti program was launched in order to free India from its dependence on gold while the Rishi Kheti focused on cultivation without the use of bullocks.

In 1951, on one of his visits to Pochampalli, the Harijans of the village told him that they needed land to make a living. The poor and landless people of the region suffered a lot after India became independent. In the middle of the discussion, Ram Chandra Reddy, a landlord showed his willingness to give 100 acres of land to the landless. This incident inspired the great Bhoodan Movement of the 1950s.

The Bhoodan or Land Gift movement

Vinoba Bhave

The Bhoodan Movement was the voluntary land reform movement in an attempt to make land available to the landless people from donations. Vinoba Bhave walked for 13 years throughout India in order to receive donations from the wealthy and also encourage people to share a small section of their land with the poor. He traveled thousands of miles, held hundreds of meetings, and inspired people to come forward and support. It was his simpleness that some dacoits from the notorious Chambal Valley surrendered themselves to Vinoba in May 1960. It was a victory of nonviolence.

When he returned, over a 4.5million acres of land was given to him as donations in 1957. Bhoodan Acts were passed that stated that the beneficiary had no right to sell the land or use it for non-agricultural purposes or for forestry. For example, Section 25 of the Maharashtra State Bhoodan Act states that the beneficiary (who must be landless) should only use the land for subsistence cultivation. If the “owner” failed to cultivate the land for over a year or tried to use it for non-agriculture activities, the government would have the right to confiscate it. The movement soon failed due to increasing misuse of the donations.

In 1966, Vinoba retired and announced that he will enter meditation. He refused to eat food for days by accepting Samadhi-Maran. Vinoba Bhave died on November 15, 1982, at his ashram.

Vinoba Bhave was in all sense a true Gandhian as he always supported nonviolence over violence. Even after the death of Gandhi, he continued working on his ordeals and achieved many things. He worked tirelessly towards the eradication of the social evils of the country. His important books include Swarajya Sastra, Geeta Pravachane, Teesri Shakti or The Third Power, etc.  

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