On this day in history : 6th April 1930 – Mahatma Gandhi defies British law by raising a lump of salt and declaring ~ “With this I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire”….
The Salt March, or Salt Satyagraha, was an act of civil disobedience led by Gandhi between March to April 1930, in protest against British rule in India….
Britain’s Salt Act, 1882, forced the Indian people to buy salt – an important staple in the Indian diet – from the British instead of being able to collect it for themselves…. When asked why he chose to highlight salt Gandhi replied….”next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life”…. To make matters even worse for the people a heavy tax was also levied on the mineral, amounting to 8.2% of British tax revenue from the Raj….
Gandhi set off on his 240 mile march from his religious retreat at Sabarmati Ashram for Dandi, on the Arabian Sea coast, on the 12th of March 1930 with a few dozen followers…. The 24-day march was well planned….it passed through 4 districts and 48 villages…. 10 miles a day were covered and each stop was chosen for its recruitment potential…. Gandhi addressed the people and by doing so collected more and more followers on the way…. By the time he reached Dandi on the 5th of April tens of thousands accompanied him….
At 6.30am the following morning Gandhi arrived on the seashore to ‘make’ salt…. However, the police – knowing of his intention – had got there before him and had already crushed the salt deposits into the mud of the flats…. Undeterred, Gandhi leant down, picked up a small lump of the natural salt and made his declaration…. Upon his words thousands of his followers did the same – and civil disobedience was to break out all across India…. Some 60,000, including Gandhi himself, were arrested and imprisoned by the British authorities….
On the 21st of May a further march of 2,500 peaceful protesters, led by poet Sarojini Naidu, took place to the Dharasana Salt Works, 150 miles north of Bombay…. They were met by hundreds of policemen, who proceeded to beat them savagely…. Britain faced an international outcry….
In January 1931 Gandhi was released from prison…. At a meeting with the Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, he agreed to call off the protests – with the promise of equal negotiating power at a conference in London to discuss the future of India….
India eventually gained its independence from Britain in August 1947….