The Salt Satyagraha

By Manjgu

The Salt Satyagraha, also known as the Dandi March, began on 12 March 1930 and was an important  part of the Indian independence movement. It was a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India, and triggered the wider Civil Disobedience Movement against the British colonialists.

Gandhi  set  out  from  his   ashram, or   religious   retreat,  at   Sabarmati near Ahmedabad ( Gujrat state) with several dozen Satyagrahis (activists of truth and resolution) on a trek of some 360 Kilometers  to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. There, Gandhi and his supporters were to defy British policy of Salt Tax by making salt from seawater. The Salt Tax essentially made it illegal to sell or produce salt, allowing a complete British monopoly.  Since salt is necessary in everyone’s daily diet, everyone in India was affected.  The Salt Tax made it illegal for workers to freely collect their own salt from the coasts of India, making them buy salt they couldn’t really afford.

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Before embarking on the journey Gandhi sent a letter to the Viceroy himself, forewarning their plans of civil disobedience:

If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws.  I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint.  As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.

Along the march, the satyagrahis listened to Gandhi’s favorite bhajan sung by Pandit Paluskar, a Hindustani vocalist; the roads were watered and softened, and fresh vegetation was thrown along the path.  Gandhi spoke to each village they passed, and more and more men joined the march.    On April 5, 1930 Gandhi and his satyagrahis reached the coast.  After prayers were offered, Gandhi spoke to the large crowd.  He picked up a tiny lump of salt, breaking the law.  Within moments, the satyagrahis followed Gandhi’s passive defiance, picking up salt everywhere along the coast.  A month later, Gandhi was arrested and thrown into prison, already full with fellow protestors.

The Salt March started a series of protests, closing many British shops and British mills.    The non-violent satyagrahis did not defend themselves against the clubs of policemen, and many were killed instantly.  The world embraced the satyagrahis and their non-violence, and eventually enabled India to gain their freedom from Britain.

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