It was in the late 1920s. Indians were being ruled by the British Government for more than 70 years then. The discontent against the British Government was increasing. The Government appointed Simon Commission to decide about the grant of political rights of India. Indian Leaders had not been consulted. There was no Indian member in the Commission. The country boycotted Simon Commission.
Gandhi had regarded himself as a ‘Prisoner’ and refrained from political activities till 1928 when his jail term was to expire. He thereafter took the reins of Congress in his hands. Congress resolved in 1929 to fight for complete Independence. Confrontation with the Government became imminent. Gandhi launched civil Disobedience Campaign – the famous Salt Satyagraha.
The Salt Satyagraha
Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, listing eleven demands which, according to him, formed the substance of self-government. They were rejected. Gandhi then decided to start Civil Disobedience by breaking the Salt Law, which heavily taxed the salt, an article of daily consumption for the poorest of the poor. He started his epic Dandi March on 12 March 1930 from Ahmedabad.
A carefully selected band of 78 Satyagrahis accompanied Gandhi in this March to Dandi, a deserted village on the sea-coast, at about 240 miles from Ahmedabad. As the March progressed, the atmosphere in the country was electrified. Several village officials resigned their posts. Gandhi declared that he would not return to Sabarmati Ashram till Independence was won. Congress Committee met on the 21st March to plan the strategy.
Gandhi reached Dandi on 6th April and broke the Salt Law symbolically by picking up a pinch of salt. It was a signal for the nation. Civil Disobedience campaign was started throughout the country. Salt Law was broken at many places by illegal producing of salt and its sale. Gandhi went to the surrounding places and started a campaign to cut toddy trees. Picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops was started. Women were on the forefront in picketing the liquor shops. The whole country was stirred. Some other laws like Forest Laws were also taken up for disobedience at some places.
The government intensified the repression. Most of the important leaders including Gandhi were arrested. But the agitation grew in strength. People bravely faced police brutalities and even firing at many places. A wave of strikes and hartals swept the country. At Peshawar, soldiers of Garhwali regiment refused to fire on the unarmed people. They were court-martialled. Before his arrest, Gandhi hit upon a novel idea to raid salt depots. The Dharasana raid, in which several non-violent satyagrahis were mercilessly beaten, sent shock-waves throughout the world. It lowered the British Prestige. The movement progressed till January 1931. The boycott of foreign cloth, liquor, and British goods was almost complete. Gandhi and other leaders were subsequently released from jail. The government started negotiations. Gandhi-Irvin Pact was signed in March. The Satyagraha was discontinued. This was a major Satyagraha, during which 111 Satyagrahis died in firing and about one lakh Indians went to jail.
The entire nation participated in many Satyagrahas and movements following the Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence. Many people were beaten brutally and many were killed. Lakhs of people were imprisoned, which included many leaders of the country. Of all the movements, the Salt Satyagraha moved the whole world and the country gained the attention of world leaders.
Gandhi led the entire Satyagraha movement in peace, for which he is admired by people across the globe. Every satyagrahi who participated in the Satyagrahas, Civil Disobedience movement and every movement and effort put towards bringing Independence to the country is a hero and we salute their bravery and sacrifice. The freedom and Independence that 1.32 billion Indians are enjoying today is a result of the sacrifice and struggle that some lakhs of people put back then.
An ideal leader and torchbearer of the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi is truly an inspiration for the entire world. An epitome of selflessness and peace, Gandhi made truth and non-violence as his weapons and won the war against the powerful and brutal British Government. He showed the entire world that a war can be won not just with the use of guns and grenades but with peace and non-violence too.
Source: “Gandhian Thought” by Prof. A.B.S.V. Ranga Rao & Dr. P. Kishore Kumar, Gandhian Studies Centre, Andhra University.