ARTICLES : Satyagraha / Civil Disobedience

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Dandi... A Turning Point of Freedom Struggle

History of Dandi March
After proclaiming the Declaration of Independence of India on January 26, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi realized that a new anti-government Campaign was imperative for mobilizing Indians of all hues in the fight against British Raj. He contemplated the most appropriate course of action to take and came to the conclusion that non-violent civil disobedience was the ideal path. In February 1930, Gandhi decided that the British salt tax one of the many taxes used to generate revenue to support British rule – would be the focal point of non-violence political protest. The British monopoly on salt meant that the sale or production of salt by anyone but the British government was a criminal offence punishable by law. Salt was invaluable to Indians, many of whom were agricultural labourers and required it in an environment of immense heat and humanity where sweating was profuse. Salt occurred in low-lying coastal zones of India and was readily accessible to labourers who were instead forced to pay money for a mineral that they could easily collected for a mineral that they could easily collect themselves for free. Gandhi also realized that protest against the salt tax would appeal across regions, classes, and ethnic boundaries.
The Provisions
The penal sections of the Salt Act, dated 1882 stated that any person convicted of an official under section 9 – dealing with illegal production of salt – would be punished with imprisonment for a term which could extend to six months. All contraband salt, and every vessel, animal or conveyance used in carrying contraband salt would be liable to confiscation.
Intentions of Gandhi
In an effort to amend the salt tax without breaking the law. On March 2, 1930 Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, “If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provision 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”. The Viceroy promptly wrote back to express his regret that Gandhi was again “contemplating a course of action which is clearly bound to involve violation of the law and danger to public peace”.
On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and around 78 male satyagraha set out, on foot, fort the coastal village of Dandi some 380 kms from their starting point in sabarmati, a journey which was to last 23 day. Virtually every resident of each city along this journey watched the great procession, which was at least two miles in length. On April 6th, he picked up a lump of mud and salt. Gandhi termed the march as the first implored his thousands of followers to begin to make salt wherever, along the seashore, “war” on the salt tax was to be continued during the National Week, that is, up to April 13.
Reaction of the British Government
The British government incarcerated over sixty thousand Indians by the end of March. On the night of May 4, Gandhi was sleeping on a cot under a mango tree, at a village near Dandi. A little after midnight, the district magistrate of Surat drove up with two Indian Officers and thirty heavily –armed constables. He woke Gandhi by shinning a torch in his face, and arrested him. Outcome
The effect of the salt march was felt across India. Thousands of people made salt, or bought illegal salt. This period is considered the apex of Gandhi’s political appeal, as the march mobilized many new followers from all of Indian society and the march grabbed the world’s attention. Most historians see Dandi as a key turning point in India’s struggle for freedom.

Source : The Times of India, dated March 14,2005, page 12