A Peaceful Mass Movement – Salt Satyagraha

Understanding the Indian struggle for Independence is incomplete without mentioning and going through certain incidents, movements and revolts that profoundly impacted the common man as well as the British government in India. Some of the movements achieved a great success in bringing and uniting the Indians. Salt satyagraha, that is also known as Dandi March or Salt March was an important event in the Indian struggle for freedom. This was a massive but very peaceful protest led by Mahatma Gandhi.

The march for salt satyagraha set out on March 12, 1930 from the ashram of Gandhiji at Sabarmati near Ahmedabad. The followers of Gandhiji were to cover the distance of about 240 miles to reach at the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. At that place, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers were to resist the British Salt Act. Gandhiji reached Dandi on 5th April with tens of thousands of followers. Next day, early morning, he walked down to the sea to create salt.

Britain’s long-rule over India had successfully gained control over day-to-day commodities like textile, tea and salt. Under British rule, Indians were abstained to produce their own salt and they were forced to buy salt that was produced and imported from Britain at a far higher price. This was done under Britain’s Salt Act that levied heavy salt taxes and also confirmed Britain’s monopoly over the manufacturing and sale of the salt that was the most common commodity in every Indian kitchen.

Salt satyagraha was a direct but non-violent revolt against this Act. The most enigmatic independence leader, Mahatama Gandhi started a 24-day march from Ahmedabad to the small seaside town of Dandi. The whole march was based on his philosophy of non-violence. This mass movement had attracted thousands of people who took a dip into the sea to obtain their own salt. To prevent his act of making salt, the police had crushed the salt deposits into the mud. But Gandhiji resisted the British Act by picking up a small lump of natural salt out of mud. For this act more than 80,000 people were arrested in the coming month. Gandhiji got arrested on 5th May but then too the movement continued. The peaceful demonstrators were also beaten up by the British police.

Soon, similar civil disobedience movements broke out in the entire country and now millions of Indians were part of this movement. In Peshawar, Ghaffar Khan, a disciple of Gandhiji led the satyagraha. His trained activists were known as Khudai Khitmatgar. Ghaffar Khan got arrested on 23rd April, 1930. Police even opened fire on unarmed crowd and activists from Khudai Khitmatgar at Peshawar’s popular Kissa Khani Bazaar. But the activists were so trained in non-violence that they did not react to the fire. As people at front were falling, another set of people used to come forward and expose themselves to the firing. This continued from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Then, one of the British Army regiment even refused to fire at the crowds.

This was followed by a total boycott of British made things such as cloth and goods. Thousands of Indians started making salt. The idea behind the Salt March was not only to get Independence, but also to show that what an ideal non-violent society and such movements could do. With the Dandi March, many new followers were created from all across India as it became a national movement and even got the attention of the rest of the world. The Dandi March can be called a turning point of the Indian freedom struggle.

Today as well a  non-violence movement is taking place in India under the leadership of Anna Hazare against corruption. Though the movement has not received its part of success, it is helping in uniting the people of India with peaceful means.


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