“If for their set price (Andrews). This edict

“If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on
the 11th 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. As the
Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning
will be made with this evil.”

Mahatma Gandhi, letter to Lord Irwin, March 2, 1930




            In the year of 1858, the British
government claimed authority over India subsequently after the supremacy of the
East India Company, whose regulations spiked rebellion throughout the country
(Kuhn 11-12).  A vast empire was created
and the British government soon imposed a salt monopoly in which the people of
India were no longer allowed to collect, sell, or manufacture their own salt;
it could merely be acquired under the rule of the British for their set price
(Andrews). This edict resulted in widespread hysteria, for salt was a staple in
the Indian diet and needed to remain at an affordable price (Andrews). Yet, as
the dominance of the British Raj increased, one man refused to be overwhelmed
by the growing conflict presented by the regulations of the British; this man
was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a member of the Indian National Congress, and
the first Indian in history to ever oppose the pronouncement of the British
government (Adams 3). Though Gandhi’s effort to compromise peacefully with the
British regime would cost him his life, it profoundly influenced the rights of
the Indian citizens, leaving behind a name for himself and the rest of his
country. Despite the fact that India didn’t gain independence for the next
seventeen years, Gandhi’s legacy of non-violent protesting left behind by The
Salt March was proved effective to have brought India’s independence, and his
legacy paved way for the actions of succeeding world peace activists who found
inspiration from Gandhi’s credence in nonviolence.

Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2,
1859 in the city of Porbandar, Gujarat (M. Gandhi 3). When Gandhi was a boy,
the British ruled directly over just a part of India, while the rest of the
country was split into states, governed by a local Indian ruler (Kuhn 9). The
British Empire had originally arrived in India as traders with the British East
India company in the early 1600s, and over the next century, allied with Dutch,
Portuguese, and French traders for power in this vast, resourceful country
(Kuhn 9-10). By the late 1700s, the British East India company had complete
power over India; this however erupted in massive rebellion, to which Great
Britain responded by depriving the company of power and obtaining it for
themselves (Kuhn 10).

The British established a new empire in
India in efforts to gain new markets to sell the goods they produced. Salt
served as one of these valuable commodities because of the immense deposit of
salt in England (Kuhn 13). To sell the salt in this country, the British inflicted
a salt monopoly and tax which commanded the Indians to be forbidden to make or
sell their own salt; instead the salt bought must be manufactured by the
British (Adams 188). The citizens found this order to be extremely inequitable,
for they could collect their own salt on the coastal regions of India for a
fraction of the price; this lead to much conflict with both opposing sides.(Kuhn
12). Gandhi had shared equal resentment of the British as the rest of the
citizens, and longed to find a way to overcome the British Rule.


The Birth of Satyagraha

Gandhi traveled to London in 1888 to
study law, and had hopes of returning to his country to obtain a job in civil
service (M. Gandhi 32). However, in 1893, he was asked to represent a small
Indian community in South Africa (Adams 50). Many of the Indian settlers were
recruited by British and Dutch colonies to serve as laborers in the many
sugarcane fields; they were required to work tirelessly for five years before
returning to their homeland (Kuhn 23). Gandhi accepted this offer, but upon his
arrival, experienced discrimination when he was thrown out of a first-class
compartment at the Pietermaritzburg Train Station in South Africa (Kuhn 24). Despite
the first class ticket he held, Gandhi was Indian and a man of color, and
therefore could not travel in first class. Gandhi pledged to fight this
conflict by forming the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, an organization that aimed
to better the lives of Indians in South Africa (Adams, 53). Throughout these
years, Gandhi studied the Hindu and Christian religion, and researched the
teachings of many philosophers including Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy
(M. Gandhi 71-72). In the following years, Gandhi integrated his knowledge and research
from the East and West into a new philosophy of revolution called Satyagraha, a
type of nonviolent resistance that directly translated to ‘firmness in truth’
(Adams 98-99). It was created as a source of peacefulness that was based on a
sense of self determination, and would be the weapon to challenge the laws of
the British (Adams 98).


The Beginning of Civil

Using his new philosophy, Gandhi returned
to India in January of 1915 and decided to lead a group of supporters on a
march to the Arabian Sea in to protest the salt tax, starting at Ahmadabad and
ending at Dandi (R. Gandhi 303). Upon reaching the banks of the Arabian sea, he
would scoop up a handful of salt in defiance of civil disobedience (Chopra).

Before executing his plans, Gandhi had means to compromise with the British. He
sent a letter to the Viceroy Lord Irwin in March of 1930 concerning his plans
to violate the salt laws, especially emphasizing the curse the British held
upon India (M. Gandhi “Letter to Lord Irwin”). Gandhi added that he would call
off his plan only if he would respond with a clear reason to cease his actions
(Kuhn 70). The Viceroy’s secretary responded with “regrets to learn that
Gandhi contemplateed a course of action which is clearly bound to involve
violation of the law and danger to the public peace” (R. Gandhi 305). The march
was to proceed, and many people all over India were eager to join Gandhi in his
act of nonviolent civil resistance that could bring the British down.

At 6:30 am on March 12, 1930, an enormous
crowd at the foot of Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram witnessed their leader and
seventy-eight other marchers leave their city of Ahmadabad and cover
two-hundred and forty miles to the city of Dandi on the Arabian Sea (Adams 189).

Many cried in fear for their leader who might not return, but Gandhi declared
that “He would rather die a dog’s death that return to the ashram a broken
man” (Kuhn 77). Once the march had taken shape, Gandhi kept his marchers on a
strict schedule. Everyone must cover roughly twelve miles a day, and should be
frugal with their needs; living extravagances, he believed, were displeasing in
the eyes of the British (Kuhn 78).  In
the face of violence or the police, they must prove no resistance. Gandhi’s
reasoning behind this was to illustrate the independent India he envisioned, where
every citizen was treated equally, regardless of class, religion, or the color
of their skin. With every town visited, he recited their predicament: “We shall
prepare salt, eat it, sell it to the people, and while doing so, court
imprisonment, if necessary” (Kuhn 79). These words indicated that the British
had no power over the Indians, and the resistance would just keep growing
regardless of their laws.

Gandhi’s words had done good to the
motive of the marchers, and each and every marcher displayed vigor, purpose and
determination throughout their journey. On April 5, the marchers set out on
their four-mile walk from Matwad to Dandi (Khun 84). Upon arrival, the word had
spread that many government leaders had traveled to Dandi the past week in
efforts to destroy the salt deposits on the banks of the Arabian Sea (Kuhn
87-88). However, it was impossible with the tide that washed in and out every
day. Many anticipated the arrests of the marchers, but Gandhi believed that the
British were afraid of the country’s opinions, enough to hold off the arrest (Adams
190). He urged his followers to continue civil disobedience even if he was
taken away, indicating that “The Salt March was based on the faith that when
a whole nation is roused and on the march, no leader is necessary” (Kuhn 89).  Everyone in India were united as one, but if
one left, the rest must go on. The British witnessed Gandhi’s movement, but were
the least bit concerned, for the educated class of India thought nothing of it
(R. Gandhi 305). They dismissed the march as a childish strategy to gain and took
no action, hoping that the protest would cease by itself (Adams 189). After
all, it was dubious that a small man dressed in a white loincloth had the
authority to bring British rule to curtail.

Early on April 6, 1930, Gandhi performed
the largest act of civil disobedience in India. He stood upon the banks of the
Arabian Sea, and scooped up a clump of mud full of salt, reciting the words
that the government feared: “With this salt I am shaking the foundations of the
British empire” (Kuhn 91). With this said, many volunteers began to draw
water from the sea, boiled it down to leave only the salt, and bundled it up to
later distribute it to those in their country (Adams 190). The British
responded by seizing the collected salt, and beating many workers; however, no
one was fazed (Kuhn 92). With Gandhi’s act of civil disobedience, many other
Indians along the coast were producing salt, and began selling their own
packages (Kuhn 93). The police, enraged, arrested many volunteers, Gandhi’s
son, secretary, and Jawaharlal Nehru (Kuhn 93-94). Many movement leaders were
also apprehended, children and women were evacuated, and many officers shot and
killed the protesters (R. Gandhi 310). Gandhi witnessed the upheaval, but asked
more people to participate in the movement; it was too early to back down.

Gandhi remained free until May 4, 1930, when he was arrested. He was charged
under Regulation XXXV of 1827, which denoted that Gandhi would be under the
government’s custody for as long as they wished (Kuhn 97-98).

The End of the British Raj

Gandhi was released from prison on January
25, 1931 after the first Round Table Conference (Kuhn 106). The Indian
delegates compromised with the British and claimed that they were willing to
join a confederacy of sovereign states in British India; under this, Britain
would control India’s military, foreign communications, and finances, while
India would control the rest (Adams 192). Although India still were placed
under a low status against the British, they agreed (The Open University). On
January 19, 1931, Prime Minister Macdonald of Britain announced that a second
Round Table Conference would occur, and due to governmental requests, and Gandhi
was released from prison (Kuhn 107).  He
soon developed a relationship with Lord Irwin in efforts to be able to attend
the conference and provide his reasoning behind his principle of satyagraha to
Britain (R. Gandhi 323). Irwin proposed that in exchange for the end of civil
disobedience, the British would release prisoners, and return any confiscated
belongings (Kuhn 107). They however didn’t agree to annihilate the salt tax
completely, but agreed to let Indians collect and sell their own salt in
villages. It was added that Gandhi would attend the conferences, being the sole
delegate for the Indian National Congress (The Open University). The end of
this negotiation created the Gandhi-Irwin pact, which was signed on March 5,
1931 (R. Gandhi 323). Many Indians were disappointed by the pact, believing
that the British would have at least, suspended the salt laws (Kuhn 110). But, this
compromise could heavily signify India breaking free from British dictatorship.

On August 29, 1931, Gandhi sailed to
London to attend the Second Round Table Conferences (The Open University).

Although the British were welcoming, they restrained from granting India
ascendancy (Kuhn 112-113). Gandhi argued that an independent India indicated
that everyone would be treated equally, but the conference ended in no such
agreement (Adams 200). By the time Gandhi returned to India, the British
declared the Indian National Congress to be illegal, and therefore, many congress
members were imprisoned (Kuhn 113). Soon, global struggles escalated which lead
to Britain’s involvement with Germany, and later, Japan during the outbreak of
the Second World War (Kuhn 114-115). India, under British rule, was also
receiving threats from these countries. To save his country, Gandhi launched
the Quit India movement, a campaign directing the British to leave India (R.

Gandhi 452-453). Britain responded brutally, and Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and
many other movement leaders were jailed (Adams 234-235). Throughout the next
decade, India continued to use nonviolent methods to protest against the
British rule, and on August 15, 1947, India gained her independence, proving to
the rest of the world that satyagraha is an effective form of resistance (Kuhn

Shortly after Gandhi was released from
jail in 1948, he was shot three times on the chest while traveling to New Delhi
by a brutal Hindu who was infuriated by Gandhi’s claims for a unified India
(Adams 268). In the killer’s mind, a world where everyone of every rank and
religion was treated equally was unideal. Gandhi died instantly, without
fulfilling all his goals for India, but he did inspire many people around the
advocate nonviolently to bring peace and harmony to the world.


A Message for the World

Gandhi’s death sent much of the nation
dejection, but his legacy had reached out all over the world, inspiring
activists such as Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Dr. King (Kuhn 126-127).  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American
minister and activist heavily based his principles off of Gandhi’s (“The Global
Freedom Struggle”). This was reflected in Dr. King’s many civil rights
movements, one of them being the March on Washington of 1963, a march aimed to
provide improved job opportunities for African Americans and diminish black
discrimination (Kuhn 132-133). Afterwards, Dr. King presented his “I Have a
Dream” speech, which drew in more Americans to be involved with Gandhi’s
original satyagraha campaign (The Global Freedom Struggle). After Dr. King’s
efforts and moving speech, the U.S. Congress established the Civil Rights Act,
making segregation, especially against African Americans, illegal (Kuhn 134).

Although the term ‘satyagraha’ didn’t catch on, Gandhi’s beliefs on nonviolent
resistance was paving its way in the United States.

Over the last century, Gandhi’s belief of
satyagraha has been a great inspiration and changed the world both politically
and socially. The world saw that the Salt March made the cruelty of the British
very apparent, and displayed that a moral force can stand up against a mighty
empire. Even though Gandhi’s beliefs were a radical form of protest for the
times, it was embraced and seen effective and immensely infulenced society’s
view of nonviolent resistance.  Gandhi’s
legacy was so far reaching that it seems like he is still marching on dusty
roads today. He will continue to be well known, mostly for picking up a handful
of salt on the coast of Dandi that weakened and eventually brought down an