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Salt- a commoner's struggle, a rich man's luxury, a peasant's lunch, an aristocrat's supper. Salt is something that is quite common and mediocre for most of us, but at the same time, it is a necessity that could neither be ignored nor eliminated. It bound people in the form of a chain that could tug the patriot hearts along with feeble ones.
Instruments of India's Freedom Struggle
"In all probability, this will be my last speech to you. Even if the Government allows me to march tomorrow morning, this will be my last speech on the sacred banks of the Sabarmati. Possibly, these may be the last words of my life here." These were indeed Gandhiji's last words on the banks of Sabarmati Ashram. The salt in the air enveloped the entire area. Men and women wore white, pristine khadi clothes, Gandhiji's upper torso was bare, and a white dhoti was wrapped around his lower torso.
Holding his iconic stick, he came out of the Sabarmati ashram. He knew that the day was going to be a long one. He knew that he had to fight for the rights of the commoner. But he realized that gathering the ordinary people would indeed change the entire scenario. These people would bear the flag of human rights and crush the Britishers with confidence and willpower.
Gandhi, along with other people, kept on marching for days together. On April 5, 1930, the march finally came to a halt. Gandhiji bent forward and picked a handful of salt, ultimately defying a law that was "the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's standpoint." This was not the end as all the protestors finally bent forward to grab a handful of freedom and happiness.
After breaking the salt law, Gandhiji gave a beautiful speech that spread the fire of disobedience among the masses- "Now that the technical or ceremonial breach of the salt law has been committed, it is now open to anyone who would take the risk of prosecution under the salt law to manufacture salt, wherever he wishes and wherever it is convenient."
There were consequences of this action. The British officers arrested more than 95,000 people involved in this march. Gandhiji did not stop as he went on to make salt at various locations, including the Dharasana salt works. Later on, he too was arrested and taken to Yerwada central prison. But these imprisonments did not stop the Satyagraha movement from spreading across the country. This was the first call for initiating the Civil Disobedience Movement, thus transforming the movement into one of the most substantial and vibrant chapters of the Indian Independence Movement.
But why did Gandhiji choose salt as a tool to initiate this movement? Let's find out.
When Gandhiji pitched an 11-point demand before the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, one demand caught the attention and emotion of thousands. This demand was regarding the abolition of salt tax and the Government's monopoly over salt production. Doesn't this law sound ridiculous?
Salt was an ingredient that could be found in every household- from a pauper's dinner to a king's brunch. Salt was a standard item of consumption, and putting taxes on such a common ingredient meant snatching away the rights of everyday people. Salt was produced naturally from saline water that was available in abundance. Thus, imposing taxes on salt would indirectly mean imposing a tax on seawater, which is immoral and unfair to the poor.
Those who dared to defy these laws tried to make salt from the seawater. But this did not go unnoticed by British officials deployed at various sites to invigilate whether the ordinary people were breaking the salt law. Those people who were found guilty of breaking the law were punished severely.
Thus, Gandhiji thought that salt would be the right tool to represent the plight and defiance of an ordinary man against the firangis and their laws that were becoming unethical and cruel.
The movement brought together people from all walks of life, starting from affluent families to poor ones. It was also the first movement in which the merchant and manufacturing communities joined and gave large sums of money to Congress to support the movement. The movement's wide variety of support helped India achieve its first triumph over the English, paving the door for new political ideas and means to intensify their revolt against them.
This was the beauty and uniqueness of this movement. A few pinches of salt could shake the entire British Empire. People knew that salt would unite everyone against the British- our common enemy- and it worked like wonders. These few sprinkles of salt were not just food items but a tool for our independence!
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