Mohd Akram/Motihari (Bihar)
Not many would know that much before Nathuram Godse’s gun targeted Mahatma Gandhi, he had faced an assassination attempt during his travel through Bihar.
The second generation of Batakh Mian Ansari, who had saved Bapu’s life back then, say they feel sorry that their grandfather was never given his due for having saved the life of such an important leader in the pages of history.
As India celebrates Gandhi Jayanti and the world International day of non-violence in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, Batakh Mian’s family is relegated to anonymity. Not many Indians are even aware that Mahatma Gandhi was in Champaran in 1917 where Batakh Mian saved his life,
It was to meet the Indigo farmers who were facing atrocities of the British in Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi had reached the town on 13 April 1927. During his stay, Bapu listened to the problems of the people and met several delegations.
He started making preparations for launching a major agitation against the British. Seeing the fallout of Mahatama’s moves, Irwin, the leader of the Indigo factory managers, invited him for negotiations.
The invitation was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. The plan was to poison his food.
At that time, the Batakh Mian Ansari, a resident of Siswa Ajgari, located a few kilometers from Motihari, was Irwin’s cook. He could barely manage the expenses of his family with his meager salary
Irwin had called Batakh Mian and told him to add poison to Bapu’s food. As a servant, Batakh Mian had no choice but to listen to his master. However, his mind didn’t approve of it.
On the designated time, duty-bound Batakh Mian went to Gandhi with a glass of mil mixed in poison.
He wept bitterly.
Gandhiji asked him the reason for his despair and Batakh Mian Ansari unraveled the murder plot to him.
The British had failed to get Gandhiji assassinated thanks to a conscientious Indian.
The stand didn’t endear Batakh Mian to the British. Untold miseries were heaped on his family; they were tortured; his house was demolished. Batakh Mian spent 17 years in jail.
Today his grandchildren say that they continue to suffer till this day for the Patriarch having saved Gandhiji.
The memories of Mahatma Gandhi’s arrival in Champaran are recorded in many books of history. None of these include the episode of sacrifices made by Batakh Mian and his family.
Ansari doesn’t figure even in Gandhi’s autobiography; nor is it mentioned in the book ‘Mahatma Gandhi in Champaran’ that is specifically about the country’s first President Rajendra Prasad’s visit to Champaran.
Chirag Ansari, Batakh Mian Ansari’s grandson, wonders about his grandfather’s near neglect by successive historians. “If it was someone else in my grandfather’s place, maybe he might not have been forgotten like this,” he says.
Chirag Ansari told Awaz-the voice on gaining independence from the British the then President Dr Rajendra Prasad had come to Motihari in 1957 to address the public meeting.
Batakh Mian was also present at the meeting. On seeing him, Rajendra Prasad shouted from the dais, “Batakh bhai kaise ho? (Brother Batakh, how are you?)
He invited them on the stage and spoke with him for a long time. On his return to Delhi, the President invited his son Jan Mian Ansari to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Rajendra Prasad wrote a letter to the Bihar government asking it to give 35 acres of land to Batakh Mian Ansari. The order was never put into action.
Chirag said that in 1955, again there was a proposal to give 50 acres of land to the family. However, after his father died in 1958, the Bihar government was against asked to give 35 acres of land to the family.
Regrettably, so far only 5 acres of land have been allotted to the family in their native village Siswa Ajgari. He says the family has contacted Rashtrapati Bhavan, Bihar Government and the district level offices several times with no success.
“Everyone has forgotten the man who saved Bapu’s life and suffered for it. Every year a program is held at his mazar, but neither the government nor the representative of any political party visit it for paying tributes,” rues Chirag.
Batakh Mian had three sons: Rashid Mian, Sher Mohammad Mian, and Jan Mohammad Mian. Even today, their children are forced to work as farm labourers and they live in poverty.
Chirag says the family has not given up hope. He feels one day the family of Batakh Mian will be taken care of and he will get his due place in history.
Source: Awaz The Voice