Recently, the Prime Minister paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and all the eminent persons who Marched to Dandi (1930) in order to protest injustice and protect our nation’s self-esteem.
What is Dandi March?
- The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha or Dandi March , was an act of nonviolent civil disobedience in colonial India led by Mahatma Gandhi.
- The twenty-four day march lasted from 12 March 1930 to 6 April 1930 as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly.
- Another reason for this march was that the Civil Disobedience Movement needed a strong inauguration that would inspire more people to follow Gandhi’s example.
- Gandhi started this march with 78 of his trusted volunteers.
- At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt.
- The march spanned 239 miles (385 km), from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, which was called Navsari at that time (now in the state of Gujarat).
- Growing numbers of Indians joined them along the way. When Gandhi broke the British Raj salt laws at 8:30 am on 6 April 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the salt laws by millions of Indians
- Civil disobedience broke out all across India, soon involving millions of Indians, and British authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. Gandhiji himself was arrested on 5th May, but the satyagraha continued without him.
- In January 1931, Gandhiji was released from prison. He later met with Lord Irwin, the viceroy of India, and agreed to call off the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on India’s future.
- In August 1931, Gandhiji traveled to the conference as the sole representative of the nationalist Indian National Congress. The meeting was a disappointment, but British leaders had acknowledged him as a force they could not suppress or ignore.
Background of the Dandi March
The Indian National Congress had raised the tricolour on the banks of the Ravi river at Lahore publicly issuing the declaration of self-rule or Purna Swaraj. The declaration also included the readiness to withhold taxes and the belief that it is “the inalienable right of the Indian people to have the freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and the necessities of life.”
To drive home this point the Congress Working Committee tasked Gandhi the responsibility for organizing the first act of civil disobedience, with Congress itself ready to take charge after Gandhi’s inevitable arrest. Mahatma Gandhi chose to begin the civil disobedience campaign against the British salt tax.
Why did the Salt Law Become a Focus of Protest?
The 1882 Salt Act gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt, levying a tax in the process. The violation of this act was a criminal offense. Even though salt was freely available to those living on the coast, Indians were forced to buy it from the colonial government
Initially, Gandhi’s choice was met with incredulity from Congress. Even the British themselves were finding it hard to take such a measure seriously with the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, himself stating that “At present, the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night”.
Gandhi provided sound reasons for his decisions, however. He reasoned that an item of daily use would resonate better with citizens of all classes than a broad demand for greater political rights. Since the salt tax accounted for more than 8.2 % of the British Raj tax revenue and hurt the poorest Indians the most significantly. He reasoned that this would hurt the British even more significantly.
Gandhi felt that this protest would dramatize Purna Swaraj in a way that was meaningful to every Indian. He also reasoned that it would build unity between Hindus and Muslims by fighting a wrong that touched them equally.
Dandi March’s Significance in Indian Freedom Struggle
- The Dandi march’s popularity caused the British government to be shaken. By March 31, it had arrested more than 95,000 people. Gandhi went to the Dharasana salt plant the following month, where he was arrested and brought to the Yerawada Central Jail.
- Gandhi was released from prison in January 1931. Later, he met with India’s viceroy, Lord Irwin, and promised to call off the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on the country’s future.
- Similar acts of civil disobedience occurred in other parts of India after Gandhi breached the salt rules in Dandi.
- Volunteers led by Satish Chandra Dasgupta travelled from Sodepur Ashram to Mahisbathan village to produce salt, for example.
- Another group of marchers was led by K.F Nariman in Bombay to Haji Ali Point, where they produced salt in a neighbouring park.
- The boycott of imported fabric and wine was supplemented by the illegal manufacture and selling of salt. What began as a salt satyagraha quickly evolved into a mass satyagraha.
- In Maharashtra, Karnataka, and the Central Provinces, forest rules were broken. Land and chowkidari levies were not paid by peasants in Gujarat and Bengal.
- Acts of violence erupted in Calcutta, Karachi, and Gujarat as well, but unlike the non-cooperation movement, Gandhi refused to call a halt to the civil disobedience movement this time.
- Only in 1934 did the Congress Working Committee decide to put a stop to the Satyagraha. The Salt Satyagraha had several long-term implications, despite the fact that it did not immediately lead to self-rule or dominion status.
Consequences of the ‘Dandi Satyagraha’
- Mahatma Gandhi and his companions took 24 days to complete the Dandi March, also known as the Salt March or the Salt Satyagraha. They trekked 395 kilometres to get to Dandi.
- Bapu’s choice of salt as the protest’s focal point was dismissed by his own Congress advisers, notably Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel. Even Lord Irwin, the Viceroy at the time, thought Gandhi’s protest posed no threat.
- Salt, that essential simple component in every meal eaten by every common man, for which he was forced to pay an unduly exorbitant tax to the British government, would pique the interest of millions across undivided India.
Dandi March’s Global Impact
- The Salt March to Dandi inspired others as well. In various sections of the country, leaders like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Sarojini Naidu, and C Rajagopalachari spearheaded salt movements.
- The ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’ and the ‘Swadeshi Movement’ erupted as a result of these marches, and the clamour for ‘purna swaraj’ (full independence) grew stronger.
- People began resisting additional ‘unfair, unpopular’ British taxes soon after. Finally, the British had no choice but to submit and repeal the salt tax, as well as relinquish their monopoly on the manufacturing and sale of salt.
- The March to Dandi inspired American civil rights advocates Martin Luther King Jr, James Bevel, and others in their campaign for African Americans’ and other minority groups’ civil rights in the 1960s, 30 years later.
British Reactions to the Dandi March
- The government retaliated by launching a terror campaign. More than 95,000 people had been imprisoned by March 31.
- On April 14, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested and condemned to six months in prison. Violence erupted in Karachi, Calcutta, Peshawar, and Chittagong on a sporadic basis.
- In Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi, police opened fire, and cruelty was inflicted across the country. Throughout it all, Gandhi encouraged people to “respond to organised hooliganism with enormous anguish.”
- Gandhi was taken into custody. When Gandhiji prepared to start his march to Dharasana, the war against the “Black Regime” was at its peak.
- On June 30, the government detained acting president Pandit Motilal Nehru and declared the Congress Working Committee an illegal organisation. Thousands of individuals have been imprisoned. Ordinance-based government continued apace.
- The Press Ordinance had shut down 67 nationalist newspapers and around 55 printing factories by July.
- Young India and Navajivan began to appear in cyclostyle when the Navjivan Press was seized.
- The statutory commission’s long-awaited report was released in June. Its suggestions didn’t even go so far as to reaffirm the Viceroy’s ambiguous guarantee of dominion status. They aimed to strengthen the central government while allowing the provinces a few concessions.
- The extension of the notion of communal electorates pushed the “divide and rule” approach even farther.
- All stakeholders were deeply dissatisfied by these recommendations. Men like Malaviya and Aney joined the Congress and risked going to jail.
- As a result, a beautiful chapter in our Freedom Struggle came to a close.
- The Dandi March sparked a movement that spread across the country, eventually attaining what Gandhiji had hoped for at Dandi: ultimate independence for the people of his beloved India.
News Source: PIB