(This story was first published on 12 March 2021. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark Mahatma Gandhi's death anniversary.)
On 12 March 1930, Gandhi ji led a historic 24-day Dandi March from his Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to Dandi, a village on the Arabian Sea, against the British government’s unfair Salt Tax. The Salt March that started with 78 satyagrahis, gradually grew to 50,000 followers, and within weeks, motivated millions across India.
The Salt Satyagraha spiralled into the Civil Disobedience movement, truly shaking the foundations of the British Empire – forcing them to finally bow down. Here's how.
The Power of 'Satygraha'
The Dandi March, also known as the Salt March or the Salt Satyagraha, took Bapu and his followers 24 days. On their way to Dandi, they walked 395 kilometres.
Bapu’s choice of salt as the focus of the protest was not taken seriously by his own aides in the Congress, including Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel. Even the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin felt that Gandhi's protest was no threat at all.
But who knew salt, that basic humble ingredient in every meal eaten by every common man, for which he had to pay an unfairly high tax to the British government, would fire the imagination of millions across undivided India.
As Bapu marched, thousands followed. Even leaders like Sarojini Naidu joined him. As the Satyagrahis entered each village, crowds greeted them – beating drums and cymbals. Gandhi gave speeches attacking the salt tax as inhuman, and called the salt satyagraha a “poor man’s struggle”.
And Its Global Impact...
The Salt March to Dandi inspired others too. Leaders like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Sarojini Naidu and C Rajagopalachari led salt movements in other parts of the country. These marches ignited ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ and the ‘Swadeshi Movement’ in the country, and the call for ‘purna swaraj’ (complete independence) grew louder.
Soon, people started defying other ‘unfair, unpopular’ taxes levied by the British. And ultimately, the British had to bow down and revoke the salt tax and give up its monopoly over the production and sale of salt.
30 years later, the March to Dandi inspired American civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr, James Bevel, and others, in their fight for the civil rights of African Americans and other minority groups in the 1960s.
Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.Martin Luther King Jr
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