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A Non-violent Satyagraha: 214 years ago
Non-violent struggles are nothing new in India. As Gandhi himself said, these ideas are as old as the hills. In fact, from olden days people have been familiar with certain non-violent methods of resisting injustice and evil: Prayopaveshana (fasting unto death), dharna (squatting at the doors of the oppressor), ajnab-hanga (civil disobedience) and desh tyaga (leaving the country).
Among the many recorded instances of such resistance in India is one that occurred in 1781, not far from the birthplace of Gandhi. This was in the city of Bhuj, which came under the state of Kutch and was ruled by an oppressive tyrant named Raja Raighana. Now, with the help of some Arab soldiers, Raja Raighana abducted the young and beautiful daughter of a businessman named Harijivan.
Helpless against the might of the Raja, Harijivan decided on a non-violent mode of resistance-he would embrace Samadhi in protest against this injustice. The news of his decision spread like wild fire all over the city. People thronged to his house in sympathy, begging him not to take any hasty step.
"Brothers," said Harijivan. "this is a matter of self-respect of the family and of the city where I dwell. It is true that, being businessmen rather than warriors, we know not to kill. But we do know to die. The cries of my daughter echo in my ear... and there is no justice at the door of the Raja. It is the hour, therefore, to resist this injustice by self-suffering. That is why I have chosen the way of Samadhi."
In the foreground of the haveli, Harijivan entered Samadhi amidst the awed silence of a large crowd. Among his last words were: "I cannot bear to think of the cries of my daughter. Therefore I go. Those who have eyes will see and those who have ears will listen to my humble prayers." Within minutes, Harijivan had consigned himself to the earth. The next to sacrifice themselves were seven members of Harijivan's family-his wife, two sons, daughter-in-law, sister, daughter and a grandson who set fire to the haveli and brought an end to themselves.
The news of this incident reached Anjar, a city close to Bhuj. Aroused and inspired by the sacrifice of Harijivan and his family, one young man, named Kora, rose in rebellion against the atrocities of the Raja. He and 400 young men of the city decided to stage a dharna to demonstrate the protest of the people. Having decided to face death rather than continue to bear the oppression of the Raja, the procession reached Darbargadh. There they squatted in the foreground, having vowed not to touch food or water till the Raja stepped down from the throne.
The news of the dharna reached Raja Raighana, but he thought that it would not last beyond a day or two. But two days passed and the young men were still there. Instead of going away, they were praying for the 'light' to kindle the heart of the Raja.
On the fifth day, the Raja came down and asked their leader Kora what they wanted. "We want you to step down from the throne," said Kora. A furious and insulted Raja ordered him killed immediately. Kora was thrown on a rock nearby, dying instantly. But this was not the end. A second volunteer came forth and repeated the words of his leader. He was ordered to be slain. One by one, the other volunteers came forth in a line. Each repeated the words of his leader, and each was slain under the orders of the Raja. At last, the Darbargadh was filled with 400 bodies of the young men of Anjar. The burial ground at Waghasar in Anjar, where they were buried by the king, is today a place of worship.
Ramnikbhai Turakia