Letter 35

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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30th September, 1990

My dear Pranav,

Some time back I wrote to you that I would describe the idea of gramdan given by Vinoba. Actually, this idea grew out of the concept of Bhoodan.

In bhoodan, Vinoba was asking people to donate one-sixth of their land to representative of Daridranarayan. He told people; "I am your sixth brother. I am a Brahmin. Give me my sixth share as a representative of the poor, landless labourers." He collected 4.2 millions acres of land, and most of it was distributed.

Vinoba expressed an idea that as air and sunshine are free gifts of God, we should also consider land as His Gift.

"Sab bhoomi gopalki (All land belongs to Gopal - Lord Krishna)." Nobody can be the owner of land for all are sons of Mother earth. We are all sons of the soil. "Mata bhoomih putro aham prithivyah" (Earth is our mother and we are all her sons). We are all bhoomiputras. We must share her favours. We do not own our mother. We serve her. That was his message in Bhoodan.

In Bihar in 1953,Vnoba took the next step. It was called gramdan. He wanted an entire village to renounce the ownership of all lands and declare them property of the whole village. Nobody could buy or sell or mortgage it. All debts created on its basis would be extinguished. People of village would cultivate it. It would be equitably distributed for cultivation. Government help, finance, fertilizers, etc. would go to the village. This idea would have revolutionized the entire rural landscape. Rural indebtedness, unequal distribution, disputes between the landless and the landlords would have all changed. It was an idea of Total Revolution.

Many villages, blocks talukas in Bihar Orissa were declared as gramdani villages. But this movement or idea did not take off. It remained a dream.

Vinoba obviously was not upset by its failure. He wanted to collect 500 million acres in bhoodan. He collected about 50 million. He started many Gramdans, but they did not survive. Redistribution of 50 million acres of land was still a great achievement. Nobody ever thought it possible. Vinoba made it possible.

What power did he have? Was he the elected representative of the people? Did he have state power? Did he have an army to enforce his demands? Was this accepted by all? Did it fit into our idea of economic man? Answers to all these questions are in the negative. But Vinoba got an idea at Pochampalli in Andhra Pradesh on 18th April, 1951. He could perceive its significance in the Indian context. He could appeal to the people of India. He could appeal to their spiritual roots in their own language. He could "see" a new idea. He was a darsanik. He could achieve it. He achieved it without bloodshed, without money. He achieved it peacefully, by appealing to the hearts of the people.

In other countries of the world, the redistribution of land has been done with force, with bloodshed, and with pain all around. Vinoba lighted a new path in this context.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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