There’s a school of thought that before Gandhi, the Indian freedom movement was the preserve of the elite before Gandhi turned Satyagraha into a pan-India mass movement which also put the Indian freedom movement on the global map
In hindsight, it’s fascinating to see how much Gandhi triggered British leaders. Churchill’s saltiest avatar was witnessed when the British PM was informed that millions of Indians were dying in the famine to which the intermittent fasting enthusiast replied: “Then, why isn’t Gandhi dead yet?”
There’s a school of thought that before Gandhi, the Indian freedom movement was the preserve of the elite before Gandhi turned Satyagraha into a pan-India mass movement which also put the Indian freedom movement on the global map.
As Congress’ president Nehru recalls: “Salt suddenly became a mysterious word, a word of power.” On March 2, 1930 Gandhi wrote to Viceroy Lord Irwin that British Rule had impoverished millions by a ‘system of progressive exploitation’ and had reduced Indians to a ‘serfdom’.
He went on: “But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils, 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.”
When Irwin ghosted Gandhi, the Salt Satyagraha was born on March 12 at 6:30AM. For twenty-four days, the world followed Gandhi’s march, so much so that the British government didn’t dare arrest him him. In fact, an escalation matrix had been set up as well, where if a leader was arrested, another would take his place.
Finally, several leaders were arrested before Gandhi was taken to Yerwada jail, but his prison time was equally troublesome for the British. Country-wide protests broke out, and in 1931, the British finally had to release Gandhi.
Having realised the folly of his previous move, Irwin agreed to meet Gandhi and the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was born. What followed was a Round Table Congress in London a year later which included a round of high tea with the King and Queen. Showing some of his legendary humour, when asked if he was sartorially fit to dine with the royals, Gandhi replied: “The King had on enough for both of us.”
Of course, Churchill refused to meet him, and the Round Table didn’t pan out the way they thought it would, it did give the Indian freedom movement a leg up and also taught the world a new way to speak out against oppression. In fact, civil disobedience was adopted by leaders across the world, including Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela, and it all started with salt.
Happy Independence Day everyone and remember, freedom is what you do what is done to you. Make it count. Peace out.