Circumstances Leading to the Dandi March
The political and social milieu of India was in turmoil following the formation of the Simon Commission for drawing up a constitution for India, and the subsequent rejection of the Nehru Report. Gandhi requested the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, to mellow his stance in dealing with the constitutional crisis. On 2 March 1930, Gandhi wrote a letter to the Viceroy, wherein he highlighted an 11-point Charter of Demands.
This included a considerable reduction in the Pound-Sterling-Rupee exchange rate, curtailing of military budget, a 50 percent reduction in land revenue, preservation of indigenous textile machinery, abolition of salt tax, and releasing political prisoners. The British government did not react favorably to any of the propositions made by the Congress. The political segment of the country took no time to realize that the British government would not relent to any kind of persuasions. The anti-British sentiments flared up as never before, and the launch of the civil disobedience movement became inevitable. On 15 February, the Congress Working Committee gave the authority to Gandhi and his followers to initiate the civil disobedience. The first step in this direction was the Dandi March.
Violation of British laws constituted an integral part of the civil disobedience. The British salt tax law captured the attention of Gandhi, and soon became the center of his anti-British agendas. According to the British salt tax law, the sale or manufacture of salt by any other source barring the British government would be adjudged as a criminal offense, liable for punishment by law. Salt was extremely essential for the people of India, particularly for its temperate climate. The low-lying coastal regions of the country had extensive reserves of the mineral that were easily available to the labourers. The new salt tax law, however, impelled them to purchase the mineral that could be collected free of cost. In Gandhi's words, "There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. The tax constitutes, therefore, the most in human poll tax, the ingenuity of man can devise." Moreover, the issue of salt cuts across class, caste, regional and ethnic distinctions, and Gandhi could unite the entire country bound by a single cause. This oppressive salt tax law thus became the pivot around which the program of civil disobedience was designed. The British salt tax law provided the apt background against which a massive Satyagraha struggle could be launched throughout the country.
The Commencement of the Dandi March
When the Viceroy turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Gandhi, a disheartened Mahatma said, "On bended knees I asked for bread, and I have received stone instead". In the letter to Lord Irwin, Gandhi had mentioned, "If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of his month, I shall proceed with such co-workers of the ashram as I can take, to disregard the provision of the salt law." To give effect to this promise made by Gandhi in his letter to Lord Irwin, on the historic day of 12 March, he embarked on his Dandi March. Gandhi's entourage consisted of 79 members of his Sabarmati Ashram, who were well trained in the principles of Satyagraha.
As part of the preparation of this massive Satyagraha campaign, Gandhi addressed a mass meeting on 10 March attended by the inmates of the Sabarmati Ashram. At the prayer meeting on 11 March at Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi invoked the inner strength of the satyagrahis, and resolved to continue their non-violent means of passive resistance until Swaraj could be achieved in India. Finally, on 12 March at 6:30 a.m., Gandhi set out on his 200 miles long journey, from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in the company of his few chosen followers. In this journey to Dandi, Gandhi's trail increased in size as thousands of inspired followers joined him in his march.
The route for Dandi march was from the Sabarmati Ashram, and carried on towards Aslall - Naagam - Matar - Nadlad (Santaram Temple) - Anand - Borsad - Kanakpura - Karell - Ankahi - Amod - Samine - Dehrol - Ankleshwar - Mangrol - Umarchh - Bhaktam - Delad - Surat - Vaz - Navsari - Mewat - Dandi (ending point), which the government now embarks as the 'Heritage Path'.
On 13 March, Gandhi delivered a speech at Bareja, where he invited the villagers among whom there were a considerable number of Christians and Muslims to join hands in supporting the cause of India's freedom. In his 14 March speech at Vasana, Gandhi asked the amassed audience whether they would believe him, if he made a prediction that a day would dawn when the British would apologize to the Indians. Gandhi addressed the people of Dabhan on 15 March. In this speech, he appealed to the people that if they have the armour of inner strength, they should boycott government jobs, endorse khadi, reject foreign-made goods, and abandon alcohol. Armed with an innate commitment to the eternal spirit of truth and self righteousness, they should join the army of salt satyagrahis.
On 26, 28 and 29 March, Gandhi delivered speeches at Ankleshwar, the bank of River Keem and Bhatgam, respectively. In Bhatgam, Gandhi condemned indulgence and extravagance, and said that there is no place for these in a Satyagraha campaign. Addressing the cloth merchants of Bombay, who attended his speech at Sandihiyer on 30 March, Gandhi said that the involvement of the merchant class in the Satyagraha struggle signifies their commitment to the cause of Indian's struggle for freedom.
On 5 April, Gandhi addressed the associated press at Dandi. He appreciated the government for resorting to absolute non-interference, while he was on his march to Dandi. With the blessings of God, he communicated his noble intention to initiate civil disobedience in the company of his followers on 6 April. Since the incident of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, 6 April had come to symbolize a day of self abasement and purging of the soul. The day declared Gandhi would begin with fasting and prayer. On 6 March, Gandhi, on the Dandi beach, breached the British salt laws. He picked up a fistful of salt and mud, and manufactured salt by boiling it in sea water. He urged his followers to violate the British salt tax law by manufacturing salt all along the sea coast. It was decided that the crusade against the salt tax would be carried on till 13 April that marks the National Week.
Last Updated on : August 6, 2014