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Remembering the Forgotten Gandhi

Summary:
The Dandi March, which started 90 years ago, inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. Unfortunately, while the originality of Gandhi’s thought and the example of his life still inspire people around the world, one must wonder if we really have learned what he meant by truth. NEW DELHI – March 12 marks the 90th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in India’s nationalist struggle: the start of the Dandi March, which inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. With India’s pluralism and democracy under greater threat today than at any time since independence, the lessons of the march have never been more

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The Dandi March, which started 90 years ago, inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. Unfortunately, while the originality of Gandhi’s thought and the example of his life still inspire people around the world, one must wonder if we really have learned what he meant by truth.

NEW DELHI – March 12 marks the 90th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in India’s nationalist struggle: the start of the Dandi March, which inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. With India’s pluralism and democracy under greater threat today than at any time since independence, the lessons of the march have never been more relevant.

The Dandi March was rooted in a longstanding grievance. The British had turned salt production and distribution into a lucrative monopoly. Indians were prohibited from producing or selling salt independently, and were required to buy expensive, heavily taxed, and often imported salt. Indian protests against the salt tax had begun in the nineteenth century, but Gandhi’s decision in 1930 to demonstrate against it was a breakthrough moment.

Gandhi started marching from his ashram near Ahmedabad to the town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea, some 385 kilometers (239 miles) away. Along the way, his group stopped in villages, wherever larger crowds gathered to hear the Mahatma denounce the tax. Hundreds joined as the marchers made their way to the coast.

On April 5, they reached Dandi. The next morning, Gandhi and his followers picked up handfuls of salt along the shore, thus technically “producing” salt and breaking the law – a visually compelling and profoundly effective act of civil disobedience.

This dramatic event seized the imagination of India and the world. Gandhi continued his protest against the salt tax for the next two months, exhorting other Indians to break the salt laws. Thousands were arrested and imprisoned; the Mahatma was imprisoned in early May, after he informed Viceroy Lord Irwin of his intention to lead a march on the Dharasana saltworks.

News of Gandhi’s detention spurred tens of thousands more to join the march, which went ahead on May 21. Some 2,500 peaceful marchers were attacked and beaten by police. By the end of 1930, roughly 60,000 people had been jailed.

Shashi Tharoor
MP for Thiruvananthapuram. Author of 17 books. Former Minister of State,Govt.of India. Former UnderSecretaryGeneral,UnitedNations. RTs do not imply endorsement

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