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Platinum Jubilee of Salt Satyagraha
Dandi March: a pilgrimage to Swaraj

by Savita Singh

Young India offers this publication with a detailed historical accounting of the Dandi March and the events leading up to the March. An excerpt is included here. To read the entire 24 page piece, please download this PDF document (right-click and select Save-As)

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who was on a visit to Sabarmati Ashram on 18th January, 1930 enquired from the Mahatma. “What Gandhi had in store for the country in 1930”. “I am furiously thinking night and day,” Gandhiji replied, “and I do not see any light coming out of the surrounding darkness”.

Ever since his release from the prison in May 1924 Mahatma Gandhi had in all practical sense stepped out of the mainstream politics and turned his attention towards constructive programme aimed at what he called “a more important task of nation building from the bottom up.”

This was also the period when he traveled extensively through the length and breadth of the countryside. In his speeches and writings of these years five themes are recurrent: spinning-wheel, untouchability, basic education, upliftment of women and communal harmony - all pillars of a healthy and vibrant society.

He used his tours to liberate the people from an age-long inertia, fear and superstition. He would chide the people for wasting money on garlands for him. “For every rupee saved on these garlands you should give sixteen women one meal”. He was deeply disturbed by the filthy conditions obtaining in the villages, towns and cities. He would admonish the people for this. “So long as you do not take the broom and bucket in your hands you cannot make towns and cities clean”.

The Calcutta session of the Congress (December 1928) had given to the British Government, in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru ‘an offer of a year’s grace and a polite ultimatum’ to grant dominion status to India by 1929. Mahatma Gandhi was watching the situation keenly from the periphery. In December 1929 events were on the march, there was a promise of a struggle. At midnight on December 31, 1929 as the New Year dawned the Indian National Congress unfurled the flag of Independence at Lahore on the banks of the river Ravi. And on 26th January 1930 the pledge for Purna Swaraj (Complete Independence) was taken.

On the eve of Independence Day, Gandhiji wrote: “Remember that 26th is the day not to declare independence but to declare that we will be satisfied with nothing less than Complete Independence as opposed to dominion status so called.

He further said, “We believe that is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppress them, the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it. The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence….”

Two hundred years of British domination virtually ruined India’s traditional economy. “Village industries, such as hand-spinning, have been destroyed, leaving the peasantry idle for at least four months in the year, and dulling their intellect for want of handicrafts, and nothing has been substituted, as in other countries, for the crafts thus destroyed….”

“Culturally, the system of education has torn us from our mornings, our training has made us hug the very chains that binds us…”

Once again all eyes turned to Sabaramti, curious to know what Gandhiji would do next.

Read the rest of this piece by downloading the PDF document here (right-click and select Save-As)

Savita Singh is the Director of Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti in New Delhi