“It is difficult not to laugh, and we imagine that will be the mood of most thinking Indians.”
With that Gandhi’s plans for staging a Salt Satyagraha were dismissed by the Statesman of the time.
But what the pro-British paper did not realise was something that Gandhi knew; this was a revolt that would resonate with the teeming millions of India, its poor as well as its rich. Salt was used by every Indian, to flavour food if you had any and to replace the salt lost by sweating to earn enough money to buy food in the heat of Indian summers. Gandhi understood that something that was used by even the poorest of people each day could unite more people than an abstract political concept such as Purna Swaraj as had been announced in January 1930.
Through a series of laws, Indians were prohibited from producing or selling salt independently and had to buy salt that was often from overseas. For the British, it meant less than 10% of their revenues but for the Indians who used salt daily, the tax and its imposition could mean the difference between life and death.
He set out on his 24 day march from Sabarmati to Dandi on the Gujarat coast on this day in March 1930. 78 men walked with him as Satyagrahis or truth activists. The canny Gandhi realised that the British police might not be provoked to violence if women were to come with him. Along the march they listened to Gandhi’s favorite bhajan sung by Pandit Paluskar; the roads were watered and softened, and green leaves was thrown on the path. Gandhi spoke to each village they passed, and hundreds joined him on this first large scale nonviolent agitation for Indian independence. By the time the walk ended in April, it would set the stage for many other civil disobedience movements in other parts of the country. The world watched as the people of India rose against the might of Empire without resorting to violence. Over 80,000 people were jailed as a result of the Salt Satyagraha.
A link to the song sung by the younger Paluskar: