Little Bits of History

Salt March

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 5, 2013
Gandhi's Salt March

Gandhi’s Salt March

April 5, 1930: Mohandas Gandhi arrives at the coast in Dandi and picks up some salt. The British East India Company first got permission to trade with India from Emperor Jahangir in 1617. By 1717, the company’s increasing influence allowed them duty-free trade status. Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah resisted and the ensuing Battle of Plassey of 1757 gave the British company a territorial foothold in India. By 1850 the East India Company controlled most of India. They controlled the economy and governed the land, often with devastating results.

The first rebellion against the British came in 1857. Not only did they fail to oust the Company, India came under the rule of the British Crown. The Indians did not give up the quest for self-rule under a Western-style democracy. Gandhi began to push for separation in 1920. Gandhi was born into a political family. His mother was a devout Hindu and he learned much from her gentle teachings, influencing his entire life. He studied law in London. He was unsuccessful as a lawyer in India and accepted a post to South Africa.

It was in South Africa where he suffered the indignities of racism and prejudice, he first adopted Satyagraha – non-violent protest. The protesters spent years in civil disobedience, refusing to submit to unjust laws. They were jailed, beaten, and some were even shot without offering violence in return. Gandhi, himself, was jailed for a time. The government did not relent until the world’s condemnation was brought to bear. Gandhi negotiated a compromise and his system of Satyagraha solidified. He returned to India.

Unfair taxation has led to many revolts. The British Salt Tax made it illegal for Indians to sell or produce salt. They were not even permitted to collect salt along the coasts. Many could not afford to buy the necessary commodity from the British monopoly. Gandhi and 78 male Satyagrahis walked 241 miles over 24 days gaining the support of the masses. They picked up salt and brought it inland. Their peaceful march was met with violence. After processing the salt, over 50,000 Indians were imprisoned. There was little actual progress toward freedom from the March. It did, however, have a lasting effect on the attitude of Indians. The Republic of India came into being in 1947.

“If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.” – letter from Mohandas Gandhi to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin

“Gandhi’s men advanced in complete silence before stopping about one-hundred meters before the cordon. A selected team broke away from the main group, waded through the ditch and neared the barbed-wire fence. (…) Receiving the signal, a large group of local police officers suddenly moved towards the advancing protesters and subjected them to a hail of blows to the head delivered from steel-covered Lathis (truncheons).” – Webb Miller

“The Salt Satyagraha had demonstrated to the world the almost flawless use of a new instrument of peaceful militancy.” – Günther Gugel

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” – Mohandas Gandhi

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Satyagraha can be loosely translated as “insistence on truth” with satya meaning truth and the agraha meaning insistence. It is part of the broader means of protest called nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. The term was coined by Gandhi and was influential in Nelson Mandela’s struggle for ending apartheid in South Africa as well at Martin Luther King’s struggle for civil rights in the US. Gandhi’s understanding and use of the term he coined was far more than simple passive resistance, but instead was a non-violent method of bringing the force of truth or love to his form of civil disobedience and righting of unjust behaviors.

Also on this day: Joseph Lister – Joseph Lister was born.
Wedding Bells – In 1614, John Rolfe married Pocahontas.
Big Heads – In 1722, Easter Island was discovered by Europeans.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on April 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    The East India Company did NOT control any part of India- the East India Company had contracts with nearly all the small kingdoms for which they paid for each contract to that kingdom. The British army did NOT control any part of India but did have contracts for which they were paid to protect each particular kingdom- the Battle of Plassey was an example of the British army earning their money against the agressor Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah. As the United States army stopped native tribes killing each other in North America the British caused less fighting in India even though some say they caused fighting in India..

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