Salt Satyagraha

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it is the only thing that ever has

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Salt March is remembered as one of the most remarkable episodes of resistance in the twentieth century, a campaign that struck a powerful blow against British Imperialism. It has been 85 years since Gandhi launched his second big crusade/non-cooperation movement in British India, which began at his Ashram in Sabarmati and ended in Dandi on the Bombay coast. It was a twenty-four-day, 240-mile (390-kilometer) trip that took place from March 12 to April 6, 1930, as a direct action on tax resistance and peaceful protest against the British salt monopoly.

The rule made it illegal for Indians to produce or sell salt, which is a mainstay in their diet. As a result, the general populace was forced to purchase the important mineral from the British, who held a monopoly on its manufacture and sale.

The Salt March began on the morning of March 12th, led by Gandhi and his skilled core of 78 followers from his aashram. On April 5, three and a half weeks later, he was conjugated in front of tens of thousands of people. Gandhi paddled into the ocean and spaded a handful of salt onto the mud flats where evaporating water had created a thick layer of sediment. As a result of his disobedience to the law, more than 10,000 individuals were arrested. Salt March was both a crucial step forward for the cause of Indian independence and a mediocre campaign that yielded little tangible results, which felt like a strange dichotomy. It shed insight on how momentum-driven mass mobilizations influenced change in unexpected ways when compared to traditional political rules and preconceptions.

Gandhi perplexed the more conservative political strategists of his time from beginning to end, in both the way he formulated the demands of the Salt March and the manner he brought his campaign to a close. Nonetheless, the activities he led shook the foundations of British hegemony.

Gandhi’s nonviolent protest ideas, known as satyagraha, which he loosely interpreted as “truth-force,” guided the Salt Satyagraha campaign. It’s made up of the Sanskrit words satya, which means “truth,” and agraha, which means “insistence.” He tackled and defined the symbolic demands and symbolic victories in a vivid and clear manner. His activities, initiatives, and demands served as both contributing and iconic. During the Civil Rights Movement for civil rights for African Americans and other minority groups in the 1960s, American activists Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and others were heavily influenced by Gandhi’s satyagraha teachings and, as a result, the march to Dandi. The march was the most significant organized challenge to British authority since the Non-cooperation campaign of 1920–22, and it came on the heels of the Indian National Congress’s (INC) Purna Swaraj declaration of sovereignty and autonomy on January 26, 1930. It attracted international attention, which aided the Indian independence struggle and sparked a widespread civil disobedience movement that lasted until 1934.

In 1930, the Indian National Congress’s instrumentally absorbed planners were focused on constitutional issues, such as whether India would acquire greater autonomy by gaining “dominion status,” and what steps the British would take toward such an arrangement. At most, the salt laws were a mild annoyance. Gandhi’s use of salt as a campaign theme, according to biographer Geoffrey Ashe, was “the strangest and most ingenious political challenge of modern times.”

Because the battle over the salt rule was laden with symbolic importance, it was vibrant and dazzling. “Salt is arguably the best requirement of life,” Gandhi claimed, “next to air and water.” It was one of the simple goods that everyone was guaranteed to buy, and that the government taxed. The state’s sovereignty of salt has been a source of contention since the Mughal Empire. The fact that Indians were not allowed to freely harvest salt from natural deposits or pan for salt from the sea was a clear example of how a foreign force exploited the subcontinent’s people and resources in a discriminatory manner.

Mass non-compliance takes hold across a large territory in increasingly diversified forms. And it went on month after month, despite British officials’ best efforts at totalitarianism. Identifying issues that will “attract broad support and retain the movement’s unity.” Salt, on the other hand, was a perfect match. “The only marvel is that no one else ever thought of it,” Motilal Nehru, the future prime minister’s father, said appreciatively. Gandhi began negotiations with Lord Irwin in February 1931, and on March 5, the two announced the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Many historians debated on paper. The key elements of the deal did not appear to be in the Indian National Congress’ advantage. With the British making no guarantees to relinquish their grip on power, the accord postponed the debate of questions of independence in future talks. In the end, Gandhi consented to abandon the satyagraha movement, and Lord Irwin agreed to release those who had been imprisoned at the time, as well as allow Indians to produce salt for domestic consumption.

Louis Fischer, in Gandhi’s seminal 1930 biography, which is still widely read today, gives the most emphatic assessment of the Salt March’s legacy, declaring that “India was now free.”

Nothing had altered, precisely and legitimately. India remained a British colony at the time. Despite this, “it was inevitable that Britain would sometime refuse to control India and that India would sooner or later refuse to be ruled” after the salt satyagraha.

Martin Luther King, Jr. travelled to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to challenge unfair laws and take active efforts to bring Black and White people together in facilities that had previously been denied. In his own civil rights activity, he was influenced by Gandhi’s nonviolence principles, noting that “when the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the luminary of our approach of nonviolent social change.” Gandhi agreed to a deal that had little practical benefit but allowed the movement to claim a symbolic victory and emerge from a position of power. Gandhi’s win in 1931, like King’s victory in 1963, was not definitive. Social movements, on the other hand, are still fighting racism, prejudice, economic exploitation, and imperial aggression today.

Gandhi was finally released from prison in January 1931. He met with Lord Irwin, India’s viceroy at the time, and decided to end the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on the country’s future. Gandhi travelled to the meeting as the Indian National Congress’s sole envoy in August of that year. Despite the fact that the meeting was a failure, British authorities had recognized Gandhi as a force they could not destroy or ignore. It was established that in the current situation, middle-class and impoverished Indians are experiencing a variety of price-related issues. In a rising economy like ours, price increases or inflation may be a necessary evil. This could be tamed with appropriate and long-term treatment. It is the responsibility of the Indian government, as well as economists, to bring it under control. The only viable alternative is to abandon the neoliberal growth paradigm in favor of a people-centered development strategy. The application of Gandhian values in all aspects of our lives is today’s most important requirement.

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Published by livesforliteracy

A non-profit organization on a mission to ensure that youth everywhere have the opportunity to acquire literacy skills that help them reach their full potential academically and economically.

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