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Dandi Salt Satyagraha stirs nation

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In 1924, Gandhi fell ill. He was suffering from appendicitis and was in great pain. The government was alarmed. What would happen if Gandhi died in prison? An urgent operation was arranged, and Gandhi agreed. The operation was successful, but his recovery was very slow. The government thought it best to release him, so he was set free. He went to Juhu, near Bombay, for recovery. Read on:

Gandhi’s activities made the BriCongress leaders were thinking of participating in the Municipal and Provincial Councils which Gandhi had advised them to boycott. Gandhi was not dismayed or discouraged. He decided to leave politics for the time being and spend his time in bringing about Hindu-Muslim unity and the removal of untouchability.
So for nearly six years Gandhi had little to do with politics. But he wrote, he lectured, and he prayed. He travelled all over India. His influence among the people was steadily growing. Gandhi had not given up the idea of nonviolent resistance to British rule. He was merely waiting for the right moment.
Jawaharlal Nehru joined Gandhi in many of his travels. Everywhere they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Nehru was the hope of the younger generation. In 1928 the Viceroy invited Gandhi to see him. He informed Gandhi of the appointment of an official British Commission, led by Sir John Simon, which would study Indian conditions and recommend political reforms.
“Will there be any Indians on the Commission?” asked Gandhi. “No,” replied the Viceroy. “That is absurd,” said Gandhi.
“We must boycott it.” Gandhi advised the people to boycott the Simon Commission, and when it arrived in Bombay a hartal (strike) was observed all over India. On its tour through the Indian cities the Commission was greeted with black-flag demonstrations. The people shouted, “Simon, go back!”
At many places there were cane charges and shooting. The same year the peasants of Bardoli, in Gujarat, were agitated by the enhancement of land taxes. Gandhi studied their grievances and advised them to resort to satyagraha and not pay taxes. But they must be nonviolent, he insisted. Vallabhbhai Patel took charge of organizing the resistance.
The government tried all its usual measures to terrorize the people, but had to climb down. An enquiry into the grievances was ordered. Vallabhbhai demanded certain concessions. Negotiations were going on when Gandhi arrived in Bardoli. Within a short period the government came to terms with the organizers and a settlement was reached.
Now political tension again gained momentum. People everywhere were preparing for a mass struggle.
The Viceroy called a meeting of the Indian leaders. He made the announcement that India would get dominion status, similar to that of Canada. Gandhi wanted an immediate plan for the framing of the Constitution. “Gentlemen,” the Viceroy said, “I have no power to promise such things.”
Everybody then realized that England was still marking time and was not really willing to part with power. A new determination to force the government to act filled the minds of the people.
Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the Congress at the instance of Gandhi. A Congress session was held in Lahore on December 31, 1929. A resolution announcing that full independence was India’s goal was passed at this session of the Congress. Disappointed at her failure to get dominion status, India now demanded full independence.
The whole country was excited. Everybody was waiting for the lead from Gandhi. After two months of suspense, a Salt Satyagraha was announced by Gandhi.
This would be the beginning of a civil disobedience campaign in which laws made by the State would be broken. Civil disobedience would begin by breaking the salt law. “Salt suddenly became a mysterious word, a word of power,” Nehru said.
The government had put an excise tax on salt which brought an enormous amount of money to the treasury . Moreover, the government had the monopoly of manufacturing salt. The salt tax was to be attacked and the salt laws were to be broken. The very simplicity of Gandhi’s choice made the issue more dramatic. On March 2, 1930, Gandhi wrote a long letter to the new Viceroy, Lord Irwin, about the deplorable condition of India under British rule. “British rule,” he said, has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation, and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford. It has reduced us politically to serfdom. It has sapped the foundations of our culture.”
He requested the Viceroy to see him and discuss the matter with him in person.
“But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils,” he went on, “and 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. “It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me.”
Lord Irwin did not answer Gandhi but sent a message through his secretary expressing regret that Gandhi had chosen a course which involved breaking the law of the land and which would be a danger to public peace.
The whole of India was agitated over Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha. On March 12, at 6.30 in the morning, thousands of people watched as Gandhi started from his ashrama with 78 volunteers on a march to Dandi, a village on the sea coast 241 miles away.
There, it was announced, the salt law would be broken. Gandhi led the march through village after village, stopping at each place to talk to the peasants and advise them on the necessity of social reforms.
For twenty-four days the eyes of India and the world followed Gandhi as he marched towards the sea. The government did not take the risk of arresting Gandhi. With each passing day the campaign grew. Hundreds and thousands of people joined the procession. Men, women, and children lined the route, offering flowers and shouting slogans for the victory of the march.
Newspaper reporters from every corner of the world were there to report the progress of Gandhi’s march. The salt march ended on April 5 at Dandi village.
Gandhi and his selected followers went to the sea shore and broke the salt law by picking up salt left on the shore by the sea. Gandhi then gave a signal to all Indians to break the salt law and prepare to resist the police action in a nonviolent manner.
— To be Continued


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