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Salt March – Then and Now
By Arun Gandhi

On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi set out with 78 hand-picked young people from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad for the Dandi Beach 241 miles away to make salt and defy the British monopoly. When Gandhiji suggested this to the Congress Working Committee the Indian leadership was as nonplussed as the British by Gandhiji’s desire to defy the Salt Laws to win India’s freedom. They almost said, “You must be joking!” However, that one event galvanized the Indian nation as never before. By the 24th day of the march the whole country was electrified so that historians later claimed the march struck several nails in the coffin of the British Empire. But there was more to this march than defying salt laws.

March 12, this year will mark the 75th anniversary of the event and though India is now independent, the world continues to be tormented by violence of every shade. Gandhiji believed in the duality of action as he believed in the duality of life itself. So, while focusing on defying the unjust salt laws he also attempted to make the people aware of the violence that was dominating their lives. On April 5, 1930, Gandhiji scribbled a significant message on a piece of paper and handed it over to a foreign correspondent: “I want world sympathy for this battle of Right against Might.”

This phrase is now used all over the world but not many of us have stopped to ponder over the profound meaning that lies buried in these words of wisdom. What did Gandhiji mean by “Right” and by “Might”? Why the battle? Was this simply motivated by political expediency? There are numerous questions that we should have asked ourselves, but we didn’t. The result is we are inexorably drawn deeper and deeper into a culture of violence.

To Gandhiji “Right” represented the Culture of Nonviolence and “Might” the Culture of Violence and both are in constant conflict within the individual and within a society. It is the Great War that we are always fighting to make our existence more meaningful. However, we have distorted the very “meaning of life” – emphasizing materialism more than morality. In order to achieve our material goals we have twisted the phrase from “Right against Might” to “Might is Right” giving rise to a whole culture of violence that now dominates every aspect of human life.

Gandhiji said materialism and morality have an inverse relationship – when one increases the other decreases. In other words, the more materialistic we become the less moral we have to be. Gandhiji believed it is possible for human beings to find an equitable balance between materialism and morality to make our existence more compassionate and meaningful rather than more hateful and greedy. We see turmoil all over the world between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” - not only those who are deprived material benefits but also those who are politically, socially and culturally oppressed by the culture of violence. Gandhiji attempted to draw our attention to this cancer that is eating away at our humanity.

Is the culture of violence the only way of life of civilized human beings? Is it so impossible for us to change? Gandhiji believed we can give up all the negativity – hate, prejudice, discrimination, greed, exploitation etc – which is an integral part of the culture of violence and replace it with love, respect, compassion, and understanding which are the hallmark of the culture of nonviolence.

On March 12, 2005, hundreds of people from all over the world will begin another 241-mile march for international peace and reconciliation led by Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. It is one more attempt to focus world attention on the need to change our culture of violence to a culture of nonviolence. It is true that we cannot all go and join the walkathon from Sabarmati to Dandi but we can all resolve to do what we can in our homes, neighborhoods and towns to lend our support to the marchers in India. We can hold rallies, marches, candle-light vigils, prayers, in our towns for peace and reconciliation. Let us show the world that peacemakers everywhere are united and that we are determined to see that Right prevails over Might.

Arun Gandhi is the Founder and President of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis TN. He can be reached at arun@totalnonviolence.org