He was staying in a village in India on April 18, 1951. The village was inhabited by the Untouchables, who belong to the lowest caste in India. One day, people in the village came to him and told him that they wished they could get small acres of land so that they could cultivate. There was nothing the man could do other than promising them he would deliver their petition to the state government. Suddenly, someone from the crowd offered to give them 100 acres of land. It was something totally unexpected. It was so moving that it almost felt like a revelation from heaven. The man could not go to sleep that night. He wanted to carry on that momentum.
From the next day, Indian nonviolence activist Vinoba Bhave started walking through the country, begging those who welcomed him for donations of land instead of giving him a bouquet of flowers. This is how the Bhoodan Movement began. Bhave was 55 at that time. Bhoodan, in Hindi, is a combination of land and sharing. Bhave walked from village to village to persuade people for land donations.
Bhave thought of the poor as “a god who came in the form of a poor man.” So he would tell the crowd that if they have a family of four, consider the poor the fifth member of their family and give them god’s share since they should not starve god. “There is a starving god before us. He milks cows but cannot drink milk, he works on a fruit farm but cannot eat fruit, and he works on a wheat field but he is still hungry. There is no roof to cover his head. A starving, thirsty and homeless god stands before us.”
The movement started by Bhave was spreading the words of a poor god, “Feed me and give me clothes. I am shivering in the cold,” to the people. The pain of the Untouchables, who were not treated as human beings despite taking care of all the unpleasant work in the world, was the pain of a god, and their tears were the tears of a god. The reason Bhave walked and walked until his feet were all blistered was to dry god’s tears.