The father of our nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was not just a pacifist but also a disciple of honesty and veracity who with his nonviolent persuasions liberated India from the shackles of British rule and led it towards the path of successful Independence in the year 1947.
But would this sovereignty really have been possible if Gandhi would’ve died 30 years prior to 1947? Would the history of our Independence have been the same?
Such questions are evoked by the tale of Batak Mian, who not just rescued Mahatma Gandhi from being poisoned in the year 1917 but also faced dire retribution for going against the will of his British masters.
1917 Bihar, Batak Mian, and his heroic tale
Batak Mian was a cook and also an employee of an indigo plant at Motihari district of Bihar
(East of Champaran). Under the subservience of Britishers, many farmers of Champaran were forced to grow Indigo. In order to save the farmers from this purgatory and forcefulness, Gandhi was called to visit the Champaran district of Bihar. His coming to Bihar eventually gave birth to the first Satyagraha movement, an important revolt in the Indian struggle for Independence.
The tale begins with the arrival of Gandhi at the Motihari Railway station in the month of April 1917. Thousands of his admirers were present at the station to welcome the man who they believed was foreordained to save them from the anguish of the Englishmen.
During his visit to Motihari, Gandhi was invited to dinner with Erwin, the Manager of the British Indigo plantation. The Englishmen were already exasperated with the eminence that Mahatma Gandhi was gaining and with him intruding in the workings of Indigo plantation and tinkathia system they finally decided to plan his assassination during the dinner.
How Batak Mian saved Mahatma Gandhi
This is when Batak Mian comes to the story. He, who was Erwin’s cook was ordered by Erwin to serve Gandhi a glass of milk mixed with poison. For this scheme of homicide, he was even offered considerable douceur, apart from issuing threats if he does otherwise.
Erwin most certainly believed that Batak Mian would serve the poisoned glass and that Gandhi would be gone but Batak Mian was a nationalist who felt deeply for his nation, he did serve the glass of poisoned milk to Gandhi but at the same time revealed Erwin’s ominous plan of assassination to him which helped him to flee the dinner and eventually to lead a productive Satyagraha movement in Bihar.
The whole dinner incident was witnessed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of sovereign India.
Gandhi successfully got away with his ‘could have died’ episode but the man who saved his life had to go through a lot of personal struggle. Batak Mian was ejected from his job, tortured, sent to prison, and was even impelled by the Englishmen to leave his native village (Siswa Ajgari). He lost his house and everything that he had.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad narrated the story post India’s Independence
In the year 1950, Dr. Rajendra Prasad the then president of India visited Motihari where a large gathering was present at the station to greet him. There was a ruckus going on at the entrance gate of the station, Prasad made his way to the entrance and saw an old man standing in the crowd trying to make his way to meet him (Dr. Prasad), and then & there Prasad recognized that the old man was none other than Batak Mian, he went towards Batak Mian and hugged him.
To the astonished crowd Prasad narrates how despite being a poor cook Batak Mian refused all kinds of bribe to poison Gandhi in the year 1917, he explained that if Batak Mian would’ve agreed to poison Gandhi then the history of Indian independence since 1917 would most certainly not have been the same.
Everyone remembers Nathu Ram Godse, but nobody knows the cook who saved Gandhi’s life
What is saddening is that Batak Mian and his courageousness have still not received the light and public attention that it actually deserves. Most of us are aware of the fact that how in 1948 Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse but only a few of us are aware of how an impoverished cook Batak Mian, saved Bapu’s life back in 1917.
In 1950 Rajendra Prasad ordered that 24 acres of land would be granted to Batak Mian and his three sons as a token of gratitude but even today his family and forerunners are as impoverished as ever and the quest for the promised lands is still going on.
In 2010, then president Pratibha Patil had ordered to submit a report on action taken to fulfill Rajendra Prasad’s promise. But that too didn’t lead to any action.
The forgotten hero
Today, Batak Mian and his wife’s tomb lie unattended in Siswa Ajgari village. His grandchildren work as laborers to make a living and live on a patch of land near the Valmiki Tiger Reserve forest.
It is disheartening that our partisans do not recall and propagate instances of such heroes. It is about time that every Indian should give the respect, appreciation, and acknowledgment that Batak Mian has earned because of his good deed. He was deeply patriotic and we should never forget that if it weren’t for him to save Gandhi’s life back in 1917 the history of our Independence would have been very different.