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The Brave Cook Who Saved Gandhi's Life

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Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.

The story of Batak Mian, the brave cook from Bihar, India who saved Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

The story of Batak Mian, the brave cook from Bihar, India who saved Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

Who Was Batak Mian ?

History can be ironic at times. It makes us remember the bad things that happened in vivid clarity but pushes the small good deeds away into its dusty annals.

Take the case of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of India for example.

On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was killed by three bullets fired by his assassin Nathuram Godse during an evening prayer ceremony at Delhi. A few hours later, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announced to the world that the “light has gone out of our lives”.

Everyone knows Nathuram Godse. In fact, several books, documentaries, and movies have been made on his killing and his infamous legacy is still remembered and raked up at frequent intervals.

Yet, few Indians even know that there was a cook who had saved the life of Mahatma Gandhi in 1917 and had paid a heavy price for it in the form of brutal punishments by the British. A resident of Motihari district in Bihar, Batak Mian saved the legendary leader from being poisoned in 1917.

The story has no documentary evidence and Batak Mian’s contributions have long been forgotten over the years. But it is time we bring this unsung hero to the foreground.

As the famous actor Farooq Sheikh writes about him acknowledging his contribution to the nation.

“If it weren’t for Batak Mian, India’s history would have been different…”

A resident of Motihari district in Bihar, Batak Mian saved the legendary leader from being poisoned in 1917

A resident of Motihari district in Bihar, Batak Mian saved the legendary leader from being poisoned in 1917

The Story of Batak Mian

The year was 1917 and Mahatma Gandhi was on his way to the Champaran district in Bihar to protest against the brutal TinKathiya system implemented by the British for Indigo crop production.

As per the system, every farmer is required to plant indigo in three out of every twenty parts of his land for his landlord. The farmer who refuses to do it would not only be subjected to heavy back-breaking taxation but there were also instances when the British landlords used to whip the farmers and torture their families in case of refusals.

As Gandhi himself writes about the appalling conditions of the farmers in his letter to the British.

“One of them showed strong marks on his calves and on his back. They were sent by you to the murghikhana (fowl-house) and were fined Rs 10 each. They were released at midnight on their promising to secure the fines in the morning.”

As he arrived at Champaran, the news spread like wildfire as a large crowd gathered to welcome the man who was the only savior to release them from their cruel fates.

At the same time, there was a sharp discomfort within the British landlords who knew that this man can turn the tables against them. One of the landlords who disliked Gandhi was Erwin who ruled over a large indigo plantation with an iron fist.

Erwin decided to get rid of Gandhi once and for all. He invited him for a dinner that night at his farmhouse. Gandhi accepted the invitation and he went to the Englishman’s house along with his close confidant Dr. Rajendra Prasad( the 1st president of independent India).

Unknown to Gandhi, Erwin had instructed his cook Batak Mian to serve him a glass of milk laced with poison after the dinner. Erwin offered substantial cash emoluments to Batak Mian including land and ‘free education’ to his siblings. He also threatened him with dire consequences should he refuses to do what he was told. As expected, Batak Mian was terrified, and he agreed to poison Gandhi.

But when the time came, his conscience egged him to do the right thing and he warned Gandhi not to drink it. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the witness to the incident as the fearless cook went against the dictates of his master who was fuming with anger at his audacity.

Thus, he saved the life of Gandhi who went ahead the secured the independence of India from the British. But he paid a heavy price for it. Erwin put him into jail and brutally tortured him. His land was seized, and he was dismissed from the town along with his family. Erwin never forgave him as he even burned down his house and gave his land to a crematorium.

Bigger things happened in Indian history later as the small good deed of Batak Mian was forgotten for years.

Everybody forgot the contributions of Batak Mian

Everybody forgot the contributions of Batak Mian

Batak Mian is Forgotten

It was only later in 1950 when India’s first President Rajendra Prasad personally went to Champaran and acknowledged Batak Mian’s contributions in front of a huge crowd. The president himself narrated the story about how he saved the Mahatma’s life in 1917. He even asked the collector of the village to grant Batak Mian’s family 24 acres of land as a token of appreciation.

However, it didn’t happen. After his brief brush with fame, the unsung hero Batak Mian died in 1957 as a poor migrant labourer. It is time that we acknowledge this forgotten hero and accept that, had he not saved Gandhi, India’s history would have been very different from what it is today.

Sources

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 18, 2021:

Thanks Devika

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 18, 2021:

An enlightening hub and so much I learned from this.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 17, 2021:

Thanks

Deshsewak Kuldeep Bhagat from A TO Z Exim Shopping Mart on February 17, 2021:

I salute Such A Brave And God Enlightened Soul,He was not survived by Then Govt Because They Afraid Of British because they have gotten Only Half Freedom,,,,,,All Are Dansing With Laurel Of Power And Chair,,,,,Really very Shame full Act,I Recommend him For Bravery Award,Modi Government should Do This work.,,,,,jai Hind jai Bharat Deshsewak Kuldeep Bhagat

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 17, 2021:

Thanks, Sankhajit

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on February 17, 2021:

a nice piece on Gandhi's life

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 17, 2021:

Thanks MG

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 17, 2021:

Interesting incident from Gandhi's life. Nice info.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 17, 2021:

Thanks Chitrangada

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 17, 2021:

Nice and well written. Thank you for sharing this informative article with others, who may not be aware of him.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 16, 2021:

Thanks Vanita

Vanita Thakkar on February 16, 2021:

This is a really good article on the unsung hero - Batak Mian. Heartiest tributes to him. It is very sad that he was not looked after when he was in such troubles throughout his life in return to his kind deed.

Thanks for sharing this article. I am sharing it further.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on February 16, 2021:

Thanks, Tuli. Indian history is so diverse that we can spend a lifetime unraveling its various threads.

Tulii Banerjee from Kolkata on February 16, 2021:

Your article gives so much great information Ravi. This is a detailed, well-structured, and a very informative fact file. Thank you for sharing.

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