“If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, onthe 11th day of this month, I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashramas I can take, to disregard the provisions of the salt laws. As theIndependence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginningwill be made with this evil.”-Mahatma Gandhi, letter to Lord Irwin, March 2, 1930 Introduction In the year of 1858, the British administrationclaimed authority over India successively after the supremacy of the East IndiaCompany, whose regulations spiked rebellion throughout the country (Kuhn 11-12). A vast empire was created and the Britishgovernment soon levied a salt monopoly in which the people of India were nolonger allowed to collect, sell, or manufacture their own salt; it could merelybe acquired under the rule of the British for their set price (Andrews). This edictresulted in widespread panic, for salt was a essential to the Indian diet andneeded to remain at an inexpensive price (Andrews). Yet, as the dominance ofthe British Raj increased, one man refused to be overwhelmed by the growingconflict presented by the regulations of the British; this man was MohandasKaramchand Gandhi, a member of the Indian National Congress, and the firstIndian in history to ever oppose the pronouncement of the British government(Adams 3). Though Gandhi’s effort to compromise peacefully with the Britishregime would cost him his life, it profoundly influenced the rights of theIndian citizens, leaving behind a name for himself and the rest of his country.
Despite the fact that India didn’t gain independence for the next seventeenyears, Gandhi’s legacy of non-violent protesting left behind by The Salt Marchwas proved effective to have brought India’s independence, and his legacy pavedway for the actions of succeeding world peace activists who found inspirationfrom Gandhi’s credence in nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2,1859 in the city of Porbandar, Gujarat (M. Gandhi 3). When Gandhi was a boy,the British reigned over just a fragment of India, while the rest of thecountry was fragmented into states, governed by a native ruler (Kuhn 9). TheBritish Empire had formerly arrived in India as merchants alongside the BritishEast India company in the early 1600s, and over the next era, linked withDutch, Portuguese, and French traders for power in this massive, resourcefulcountry (Kuhn 9-10). By the late 1700s, the British East India company had widespreadinfluence over India; this however erupted in immense rebellion, to which GreatBritain reacted by depriving the company of control and attaining it forthemselves (Kuhn 10). The British founded a new empire in Indiain efforts to gain new marketplaces to sell the goods they produced.
Saltserved as one of these valuable commodities because of the immense deposit ofsalt in England (Kuhn 13). To retail the salt in this nation, the British perpetrateda salt monopoly and tax which commanded the Indians to be forbidden to make orsell their own salt; instead the salt acquired must be manufactured by theBritish (Adams 188). The citizens found this order to be particularlyinequitable, for they could amass their own salt on the coastal regions ofIndia for a fraction of the price; this lead to much conflict with bothopposing sides (Kuhn 12). Gandhi had shared equivalent antipathy of the Britishas the rest of the people, and yearned to find a way to overcome the British rule. The Birth of SatyagrahaGandhi journeyed to London in 1888 tostudy law, and had hopes of returning to his country to obtain a job in civilservice (M.
Gandhi 32). However, in 1893, he was requested to represent a smallIndian society in South Africa (Adams 50). Many of the Indian settlers wererecruited by British and Dutch colonies to function as laborers in sugarcanefields; they were required to work diligently for five years before returningto their homeland (Kuhn 23). Gandhi acknowledged this proposal, but upon hisarrival, experienced discrimination when he was thrown out of a first-class boothat the Pietermaritzburg Train Station in South Africa (Kuhn 24). Despite the firstclass ticket he seized, Gandhi was Indian and a man of color, and thereforecould not travel in first class. Gandhi plighted to fight this conflict byforming the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, an organization that was directed toimprove the lives of Indians in South Africa (Adams, 53). Throughout theseyears, Gandhi learned about the Hindu and Christian religion, and explored theteachings of many philosophers including Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy(M.
Gandhi 71-72). In the subsequent years, Gandhi unified his knowledge and researchfrom the East and West into a new philosophy of revolution called satyagraha, atype of nonviolent confrontation that directly translated to ‘firmness in truth'(Adams 98-99). It was created as a source of peacefulness that was based on asense of self determination, and would be the weapon to challenge the laws ofthe British (Adams 98). The Establishment of CivilDisobedience Using his new philosophy, Gandhi returnedto India in January of 1915 and suggested to lead a group of his devotees on amarch to the Arabian Sea in to dispute the salt tax, starting at Ahmadabad andending at Dandi (R. Gandhi 303). Upon reaching the banks of the Arabian sea, hewould scoop up a handful of salt in defiance regarding the salt laws (Chopra).Before fulfilling his plans, Gandhi had means to compromise with the British.
Hesent a letter to the Viceroy Lord Irwin in March of 1930 regarding his plans toinfringe the salt laws, especially emphasizing the curse the British held uponIndia (M. Gandhi “Letter to Lord Irwin”). Gandhi added that he would call offhis plan only if he would respond with a clear reason to cease his actions(Kuhn 70).
The Viceroy’s secretary responded with “regrets to learn thatGandhi contemplateed a course of action which is clearly bound to involveviolation of the law and danger to the public peace” (R. Gandhi 305). The marchwas to advance, and many people all over India were willing to join Gandhi inhis act of nonviolent civil resistance that could bring the British down. At 6:30 am on March 12, 1930, an enormouscrowd at the foot of Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram witnessed their leader andseventy-eight other marchers leave their city of Ahmadabad and covertwo-hundred and forty miles to the city of Dandi on the Arabian Sea (Adams 189).Many sobbed in distress for their leader who might not return, but Gandhi statedthat “He would rather die a dog’s death that return to the ashram a brokenman” (Kuhn 77).
Once the march had taken form, Gandhi kept his marchers on an austereagenda. Everyone must cover roughly twelve miles a day, and should be sparingwith their needs; living extravagances, he believed, were displeasing in theeyes of the British (Kuhn 78). In theface of violence or the police, they must prove no defiance. Gandhi’s reasoningbehind this was to elucidate the sovereign India he envisioned, where everycitizen was treated equally, regardless of class, religion, or the color oftheir skin. With every town visited, he recited their predicament: “We shallprepare salt, eat it, sell it to the people, and while doing so, courtimprisonment, if necessary” (Kuhn 79). These words indicated that the Britishhad no power over the Indians, and the resistance would just keep growingregardless of their laws. Gandhi’s disputes had done good to themotives of the marchers, and each and every protester displayed vigor, tenacityand willpower throughout their journey.
On April 5, the marchers set out ontheir four-mile walk from Matwad to Dandi (Khun 84). Upon arrival, the word hadspread that many government leaders had voyaged to Dandi the previous week inefforts to extinguish the salt residues on the banks of the Arabian Sea (Kuhn87-88). However, it was impossible with the tide that washed in and out everyday. Many anticipated the arrests of the marchers, but Gandhi believed that theBritish were scared of the country’s opinions, enough to hold off the arrests (Adams190). He insisted his disciples to continue civil disobedience even if he wastaken away, indicating that “The Salt March was based on the faith that whena whole nation is roused and on the march, no leader is necessary” (Kuhn 89). Everyone in India were unified as one, but ifone left, the rest must go on.
The British observed Gandhi’s crusade, but werethe slightest bit concerned, for the knowledgeable class of India thoughtnothing of it (R. Gandhi 305). They dismissed the march as a childish strategyto gain independence and took no action, hoping that the protest would cease byitself (Adams 189). After all, it was dubious that a small man dressed in awhite loincloth had the authority to bring British rule to curtail.
Early on April 6, 1930, Gandhi executedthe biggest act of civil disobedience in India. He stood on the banks of theArabian Sea, and scooped up a clump of salt, reciting the words that thegovernment feared: “With this salt I am shaking the foundations of the Britishempire” (Kuhn 91). With this said, many volunteers began to draw water from thesea, simmered it down to leave only the salt, and bundled it up to laterdistribute it to those in their country (Adams 190). The British responded by confiscatingthe collected salt, and whipping many workers; however, no one was daunted(Kuhn 92). With Gandhi’s act of civil disobedience, many other Indians alongthe coast were producing salt, and began selling their own packages of it (Kuhn93).
The police, infuriated, detained many helpers, Gandhi’s son, administrator,and Jawaharlal Nehru (Kuhn 93-94). Many movement leaders were also apprehended,children and women were expatriated, and many protesters were killed (R. Gandhi310). Gandhi witnessed the upheaval, but asked more people to contribute in themovement; it was too early to back down. Gandhi remained free until May 4, 1930,when he was arrested. He was charged under Regulation XXXV of 1827, which designatedthat Gandhi would be under the government’s supervision for as long as they demanded(Kuhn 97-98). The End of the British RajGandhi was freed from jail on January 25,1931 after the first Round Table Conference (Kuhn 106).
The Indian delegatescompromised with the British and claimed that they were willing to join a confederacyof sovereign states in British India, which indicated that Britain wouldcontrol India’s military, distant communications, and stocks, while India wouldmaintain the rest (Adams 192). Although India still were placed under a lowstatus against the British, they agreed (The Open University). On January 19,1931, Prime Minister Macdonald of Britain broadcasted an announcement of thesecond Round Table Conference. Due to governmental requests, and Gandhi was liberatedfrom prison (Kuhn 107). He soon establishedan affiliation with Lord Irwin in efforts to be able to join the conference andprovide his thoughts behind his principle of satyagraha to Britain (R.
Gandhi323). Irwin suggested that in exchange for the end of civil disobedience, the Britishwould release prisoners, and return any confiscated belongings (Kuhn 107). Theyhowever didn’t agree to annihilate the salt tax completely, but agreed to letIndians collect and sell their own salt in villages.
It was added that Gandhiwould attend the conferences, being the sole delegate for the Indian NationalCongress (The Open University). The end of this intervention formed the Gandhi-Irwinpact, which was endorsed on March 5, 1931 (R. Gandhi 323). Many Indians were dissatisfiedwith the treaty, believing that the British would have at least, adjourned thesalt laws (Kuhn 110).
This compromise, however, heavily signified Indiabreaking free from British autocracy. On August 29, 1931, Gandhi navigated toLondon to attend the Second Round Table Conferences (The Open University).Although the British were hospitable, they discreetly abstained from grantingIndia ascendancy (Kuhn 112-113). Gandhi argued that an independent Indiaindicated that everyone would be treated equally, but the conference ended inno such arrangement (Adams 200). By the time Gandhi returned to India, theBritish declared the Indian National Congress to be unlawful, and therefore, manycongress members were imprisoned (Kuhn 113). Soon, global struggles intensifiedwhich lead to Britain’s connection with Germany, and later, Japan during the outburstof the Second World War (Kuhn 114-115).
India, under British rule, was alsoreceiving threats from these countries. To save the republic, Gandhi launchedthe Quit India movement, a campaign targeting the British to depart India (R.Gandhi 452-453). Britain reacted viciously, and Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, andmany other movement leaders were imprisoned (Adams 234-235). Throughout thenext decade, the inhabitants of India continued to use nonaggressive methods toprotest against the British rule, and on August 15, 1947, India gained herindependence, proving to the rest of the world that satyagraha is an effectiveform of resistance (Kuhn 119). Shortly after Gandhi was released fromjail in 1948, he was shot three times on the chest while traveling to New Delhiby a ruthless Hindu who was infuriated by Gandhi’s claims for a unified India(Adams 268). In the killer’s mind, a world where everyone of every rank andreligion was treated equally was unideal. Gandhi died instantly, withoutfulfilling all his ambitions for India, but he did encourage many people aroundthe advocate nonviolently to bring peace and harmony to the world.
A Message for the World Gandhi’s death sent much of the nationdejection, but his legacy had stretched out all over the world, inspiringactivists such as Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Dr. King (Kuhn 126-127). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
, an Americanminister and activist heavily based his philosophies off of Gandhi’s (TheGlobal Freedom Struggle). This was imitated in Dr. King’s many civil rightsmovements, one of them being the March on Washington of 1963, a march aimed toprovide enhanced job opportunities for African Americans and lessen blackdiscrimination (Kuhn 132-133). Afterwards, Dr. King presented his “I Have aDream” speech, which pulled in more Americans to be involved with Gandhi’soriginal satyagraha campaign (The Global Freedom Struggle). After Dr. King’s poignantspeech, the U.
S. Congress established the Civil Rights Act, making segregation,especially against African Americans, illegal (Kuhn 134). Although the word ‘satyagraha’didn’t catch on, Gandhi’s belief of diplomatic resistance was paving its way inthe United States. Over the last century, Gandhi’s faith ofsatyagraha has been a great inspiration and changed the world both politicallyand socially. The world saw that the Salt March made the cruelty of the Britishvery evident, and demonstrated that an ethical force can stand up against a colossalempire. Even though Gandhi’s beliefs were a fundamental form of protest for thetimes, it was encompassed and seen effective and immensely infulenced society’sview of nonviolent resistance.
Gandhi’s legacy was so far reaching that itseems like he is still trooping on dusty paths today. He will continue to be acknowledged,mostly for picking up a handful of salt on the coast of Dandi that deterioratedand ultimately brought down an empire.