India was confronting many forms of oppression under colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi found in salt a powerful symbol that could unite the nation. On 31 January 1930, he sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands to be fulfilled by 11 March. But Irwin didn’t negotiate.
Consequently, M. K. Gandhi started salt march from his ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi with 78 volunteers. They walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day. Meanwhile, parallel salt marches were being conducted in other parts of the country. On 6 April, Gandhi ji violated salt law, manufacturing it by boiling sea water.
Why the Salt Satyagraha?
The Salt tax was wickedly designed. The government destroyed the salt it could not sell profitably. Mounds of salt were destroyed on the Konkan coast and Dandi. Salt officers were deployed to destroy salt extracted by local people for their personal use.
Salt Monopoly – A Fourfold Curse
- Village industries collapsed.
- Destruction of natural property.
- More national expenditure.
- Tax of more than 1000% was exacted from starving people.
Peasants breached the hated colonial forest laws that kept them and their cattle out of the woods in which they had once roamed freely. In some towns, factory workers went on strike while lawyers boycotted British courts and students refused to attend government run educational institutions.
- The march was widely covered by European and American press which brought Mahatma Gandhi to world attention.
- It was the first nationalist activity in which women participated in large numbers.
- British realized that their reign would not last forever and they would have to give some powers to the Indians.
People realized that they would not get Swaraj merely by repeal of the salt taxes or other taxes. For Swaraj they must make amends for the wrongs which they had done to the untouchables. Same apply to the present scenario. One can’t progress at the cost of some sections of society. Inclusive and sustainable growth is necessary for maintaining peace.
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 49
India and the Contemporary World -II, NCERT, Class X
Themes in Indian History Part III, NCERT, Class XII
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