The Salt March

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Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi (also called “Mahatma”, a Sanskrit term meaning “great soul”) called on Indians in 1930 to refuse to pay taxes, especially the tax on salt. Gandhi protested against the British monopoly on salt in India by organizing a peaceful march to the sea, where he and his followers symbolically made salt by evaporating sea water. Gandhi was then arrested. The march marked the start of a new campaign of non-violent protest against British rule in India and boosted the growing Indian independence movement. This account is taken from an American newspaper of the time.

 

AHMADABAD, India, March 12—Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Nationalist leader, and 79 of his disciples today completed the first leg of their 20-day march to Jalalpur, opening their civil disobedience campaign for complete Indian independence.About 20,000 persons were gathered at the entrance of Gandhi’s quarters here when the Mahatma and his followers set out, but most of those who had followed the procession turned back at the boundary and returned to their homes.The procession then traversed the road to the village of Asiali, which was reached after a four-hour march. There were about 126 in the group which reached the village. Here about 100 townsmen with flags, garlands and music received the marchers.Speech at Asiali 
Two places have been set aside in the village for the party, one a rest house and the other a place for meals.Gandhi in a speech at Asiali called the “message of salt,” defied the Government to arrest him. Gandhi said the Government had arrested his lieutenant, Valla-Bhai Patel, for his intention of addressing a public meeting.

“Let the Government arrest me for actually doing so,” said Gandhi.

Gandhi said the salt tax was collected stealthily and therefore amounted to theft. His followers must be prepared for the worst, even death, in their campaign for the removal of the salt tax. Concluding, Gandhi said he hoped he had left his seminary at Ahmadabad for good and that possibly he was addressing them for the last time.Tomorrow morning a halt will be made at Bareja and then at Navagaon, where the procession will halt for the night. Several movie men accompanied the party.The secretary of the Guj. Provincial Congress Committee, in a message to Pandit Jawaharial Nehru, president of the All-India Congress, said Gandhi began his march amidst unforgettable scenes unprecedented in the history of Gandhi’s seminary.Millionaires and laborers, he said, vied with each other in wishing godspeed to the marching column. Thousands of men, women and children followed the procession in orderly array, while thousands lined the route and showered coins, currency notes, flowers and saffron on the Mahatma. The Government’s plans for coping with Gandhi’s agitation never have been disclosed. There were reports today from Poona, headquarters of the British army in the Deccan, that the Eleventh Sikh Regiment of the Indian regular army had been ordered to proceed Monday to Baroda, through which Gandhi and his volunteers will pass.Gandhi Guarded Overnight 
Persistent rumors of imminent arrest of Gandhi last night caused considerable stir in the city and about 1000 persons kept an all-night vigil outside the gates of Gandhi’s university, which was guarded by woman pickets.Daybreak disclosed a huge mass of humanity moving toward the college and by 5 o’clock the entire route from the college to the heart of the city was lined with crowds, and in several places decorated with flags and foliage.Gandhi, after his morning prayers, paid a final visit to the sick members of the university and bade them farewell. Included among them are several smallpox patients.At 6:30 a.m., Gandhi stepped out in front of his devotees and took the lead of the procession. Each volunteer carried a staff and kit-bag containing only what was absolutely necessary for the trip. When the procession reached the Sabarmati River its members forded the stream in pioneer style. Hundreds of persons marched in their wake and police contented themselves with maintaining control of traffic. Everything thus far has passed off peacefully. Moslems of the community abstained from demonstrations.Many gifts, including a horse, from a woman, were given to Gandhi as he started his pilgrimage. Several Hindus carried out the old superstition of breaking coconuts to ward off evil spirits. His 79 volunteers come from all parts of India. Two of them are Moslems and one a Christian; the rest are Hindus. Nine are teachers, 25 are students and 12 are graduates.

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