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3rd June, 1990
My dear Pranav,
In 1951, a conference of Gandhian workers, who were not involved in any politics and who belonged to the larger part of Total Revolution, called the Sarvodaya Workers was held at Shivrampalli in Andhra Pradesh. Vinoba attended that conference. He started from Sevagram in Maharashtra on March 7, 1951 on foot. In 30 days he walked 300 miles and reached Shivarampalli.
The Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh was then in turmoil. The communists tried to have an armed resurrection like the Yenan in China. They were creating panic in the minds of people by dacoity and murders. The Government adopted methods of tit for tat - violence was met with violence, bullet for bullet. People were terrorized by communists at night and police during day. There was a cry for help.
On April 15, 1951, on the Ramnavami day, in his evening meeting at Hyderabad, Vinoba said: All of us, you and I and every being, are indeed the forms of Rama. If we abandon our egoism (I-ness) and reduce ourselves to zero, we shall become one with Rama and could then function as instruments of the Lord."
On the early morning of April 18, 1951 Vinoba reached Pochampalli on foot. The village had a population of about three thousand. The Nalagonda District of Telangana was regarded as the Head Quarters of the Communists. In the previous two years, 20 to 22 murders had taken place there.
On reaching the village, Vinoba first went to the harijan (untouchables) colony. He visited each house and saw the conditions personally. The Harijans said, "We are very poor. We are jobless. If you give us some land, we could toil on it and earn our bread." Vinoba asked, "How much land would you need?" They said, " We are 40 families and it would be enough if we get 80 acres."
Vinoba went into deep contemplation, as he could not see any way out. He said, "I will talk to the Government authorities and try to get this land allotted to you." But then it somehow occurred to him to ask the many villagers in front of him; "Could some of you help these Harijan brethren? They are ready to work hard on the land."
One of them, Ramachandra Reddy, stood up to say, "My father desired that half of our 200 acres of land should be donated to a fitting person. For me, this is the auspicious opportunity. Kindly accept this gift of a hundred acres of my land."
This was the first spring of the Bhoodan Ganga, and the date was April 18, 1951. In the next thirteen years, 42,00,000 acres were gifted to Vinoba by villagers from all parts of India. All the State Governments in India put together, who confiscated by the law excess land beyond the ceiling limits, could not match this figure even in the next thirty years.
L. N. Godbole
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