IF THE US had the Boston Tea Party to break
free of the British, India held the salt satyagraha (struggle for
truth) for its independence. Exactly 76 years ago to the month, MK
Gandhi hit upon the idea to launch one of the most powerful protests
of the freedom movement that centred around salt.
sale or production of salt by anyone but the British government was
a criminal offence punishable by law. Salt was readily accessible to
labourers in the coastal areas, but they were instead forced to pay
money for a mineral which they could easily collect themselves for
February 1930, Gandhi decided to make the salt laws the focal point
of non-violent political protest. He organised what became known as
the Dandi March, wherein he marched to Dandi village in Gujarat with
a band of followers and symbolically made salt there, defying the
law. Thousands gathered to support him on the 240 mile route in
March, many organising similar protests across the country. Many
more thousands were jailed during the satyagraha that marked a
defining moment in India’s freedom struggle.
choice of salt was a master stroke. What could be more universal?
India with its long coastline is one of the largest producers of
salt. Today the state of Gujarat leads in salt production. Sea salt
forms a bulk of this. A drive down the coastline in many parts of
Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Orissa and other states reveals
long vistas of salt pans.
water is pumped into these shallow troughs and evaporated under the
sun in a centuries-old practice. The resultant salt residue is piled
into little hillocks that form an arresting picture.
has been in use for centuries before Christ. It was once valuable
enough to be used as currency. Today almost every country produces
salt in abundance and while it is no longer a rare commodity, it is
an absolutely essential one.