Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a law is unjust, we not only have the right to disobey it but also obligated to do so.”All of us should feel proud that people from Tiladi chose the latter. They were Gandhian even before Gandhi. With violence or civil disobedience?
“Tiladi is a Symbol of Traditional System of Protest in Pahad”
This was the early 1920s. The newly appointed young King of Tehri banned home brewing of liquor and tried to revise the forest settlement. It has been rumored that the herds would be taxed and cut or lop Kokat (hollow) tree without permission. The house of P.D. Raturi, the man behind the new forest settlement, was set on fire and made captive by villagers. Raturi warned the king of the worst consequences but Diwan ignored him and ordered the arrest of villagers. Villagers formed self-government named ‘Shri 108 Sarkar’ with Hira Singh as Prime Minister. Azad Panchayat was convened at Tiladi. British commissioner of Kumaun, N C Stiffe suggested to native Diwan (Chakradhar Juyal) punitive action against villagers.
On 30th May 1930, the troops of Tehri Raj (Garhwal Kingdom) fired several rounds of bullets on villagers of Rawain Jaunpur Valley in the contemporary Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Around 200 villagers were killed while many jumped into the Yamuna river and were drowned and many fled to the forest of Jaunsar Pawar. Neighboring villages were looted by the army, 164 people were arrested, and out of which 84 were sent to jail. Tehri Raj and Diwan Juyal blamed urban politicians (Bishambar Datt Chandola) and Swarajist for instigating the villagers.
Long before peasant’s march towards Tehri Darbar in 1930 from Tiladi, the peasants of Garhwal had marched to Tehri Darbar with their resentments/demands/Issues in the year 1885, and again in 1904 (Khujni Patti) & 1906 (Khas Patti). These were all part of the Dhandak tradition in Garhwal. The people of Uttarakhand got this understanding of ‘just and unjust rule or law’ and disobedience to the same not from any book or university curriculum, but from their community teaching and practices in the form of ‘Dhandak’.
The Dhandak of 1906 in Khas Patti became a symbol of people’s protest across Garhwal if not beyond that. During the Dhandak of Khas Patti, the state’s Forest Conservator was termed a foreigner and his face was branded with a hot iron. There are different versions of this story still in the memory of people across Garhwal. Peasants in the Alaknanda valley believe that it occurred in 1921 when the British Conservator and commissioner of the Kumaun division, Percy Wyndham, was branded on their face with a hot iron. Dhandak was part of the everyday community life of the people living in the region.
Dhandak is like Irish ‘Sinn Fein’, and Dum or Dujam of Simla State, a traditional form of resentment to make rulers realize their wrongdoing without challenging the authority of the ruler itself. In most possible manners it qualifies as a form of ‘Democracy within Oligarchy.’ This Dhandak was there before Tiladi as well as after the Tiladi incident but perhaps not now. Perhaps we as a political system are moving from Democracy to ‘oligarchy within democracy’.
Source: (1) The Unquiet Woods by Ramchandra Guha. (2) An Unjustly Law is No Law At All by Martin Luther King Jr. from Birmingham Jail. (3) Speeches of Thomas Jefferson