Salt Satyagraha,1930

  • Salt in India had been taxed since Mauryan times. During British rule, it was increased, and other charges were added to it which became a big burden on the common man. 
  • After the battle of Plassey, the British increased the land rent (where salt was produced in Bengal) and transient charges on the transportation of salt.
  • After the Battle of Buxar, they made the manufacture of salt the sole monopoly of the British.
  • Later by the Salt Act, India and in particular, Bengal and its surrounding provinces were rendered dependent upon imported salt from Liverpool and elsewhere. This imported salt was of inferior quality to Indian salt. The indigenous industry was oppressed with the burden of extravagant charges and was unable to compete with its English rival. The salt tax/duties on the annual requirement of a family amounted at one time up to nearly two months’ wages of a labourer.
  • The salt tax bought enormous amounts of money to the treasury.

Gandhi’s Agitation Against The Salt Tax

  • One of the earliest demands of the INC was the abolition of the salt tax, and in the Congress session of 1885 (First Congress Session) it was strongly put forward by a member that the salt tax was a big burden on the common Indian.
  • Gandhi started writing against the salt tax when he was in South Africa in papers like The Vegetable and Hind Swaraj.
  • In the 1929 Lahore session of the INC, Jawaharlal Nehru was made the President because of Gandhi’s support. In this session, a program of civil disobedience was authorized, which included the non-payment of taxes and the slogan of ‘Poorna Swaraj.’ This gave Mahatma Gandhi full authority to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Gandhiji then sent to the Viceroy Lord Irwin an 11-point ultimatum threatening Civil Disobedience if these demands were not met. Lord Irwin ignored these demands. These demands were :
    • Issues of General Interest
      • Reduce expenditure on army and civil services by 50 per cent.
      • Introduce total prohibition.
      • Carry out reforms in Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
      • Change the Arms Act allowing popular control of the issue of firearms licences.
      • Release political prisoners.
      • Accept Postal Reservation Bill.
    • Specific Bourgeois Demands
      • Reduce the rupee-sterling exchange ratio to 1s 4d
      • Introduce textile protection.
      • Reserve coastal shipping for Indians.
    • Specific Peasant Demands
      • Reduce land revenue by 50 per cent.
      • Abolish salt tax and the government’s salt monopoly.
    • With no positive response forthcoming from the government on these demands, the Congress Working Committee invested Gandhi with full powers to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement.
    • Gandhiji, along with a group of 78 volunteers from the Sabarmati Ashram, began a march from Sabarmati to Dandi, covering 240 miles. He had announced that on reaching the coast of Dandi, he would break the salt laws by collecting salt from the beach. Thus, the Salt Satyagraha began.

    Reason for Choosing Salt

    • As per Gandhi, salt is the most inhuman poll tax the ingenuity of man can devise.·    Salt afforded a very small but psychologically important income.·    It is an opportunity for a symbolic identification with mass suffering.
    • Thousands of people came out to support him, and Gandhiji urged the people to violate the salt laws in a nonviolent manner. Upon reaching Dandi, Gandhiji picked up a handful of salt, thus launching the Civil Disobedience Movement.
    • Many people were being recruited into Congress so that grass root level Congress Committees would be made. This would enable Satyagraha to start from the villages too. Funds were being collected, sites for satyagraha were chosen, and volunteers were being prepared. Salt law violations began all over India.
      • In Malabar, K Kelappan (hero of Vaikom Satyagraha) started the revolt.
      • In Tamil Nadu, C Rajagopalachari led a salt march from Tiruchirapally to Vedaranniyam.
      • In Assam, people walked from Sylhet to Noakhali (Bengal coast) to break the salt law.
      • In Orissa, Gandhian leader led the first batch of salt satyagrahis from Cuttack to Inchudi in Balasore.  
      • In Andhra, sibirams (military camps) were set up in different districts as headquarters of salt satyagrahas.
    • In NWFP, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, through his organization, Khudai Khidmatgars or Red Shirt Organization, revolted against colonial rule. After the arrest of Ghaffar Khan, there was a massive upsurge, a Garhwal regiment (mostly Hindu) refused to fire over the crowd of rioters displaying patriotic self-sacrifice, non-violence and communal amity. 
    • Gandhiji announced that they would raid the Dharasana Salt Works, which was administered by the British Government. This led to his arrest, and revolts against it broke out across India.
    •  Dharasana Cruelty: Sarojini Naidu (1st Indian woman as Congress President), Imam Saheb and Manilal (Gandhiji’s son), along with 2000 volunteers, marched towards Dharsana Salt Works (Gujarat). Police violently charged the non-resisting Satyagrahis. The first line of Satyagrahis would be injured badly, and be carried away in stretchers, and a fresh line would come forward and take their place, ready to be beaten up. This continued for quite some time, which resulted in 320 people being injured and two dead. This incident of resolute heroism of Dharsana Satyagrahis became a symbol everywhere.
    • This led to Satyagraha in many places: Bombay, Karnataka, Madras, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, and Orissa.
    • Satyagraha against the salt tax continued for almost a year, ending with Gandhi’s release from jail and negotiations with Viceroy Lord Irwin at the Second Round Table Conference. Over 60,000 Indians were jailed because of the Salt Satyagraha. However, it failed to result in significant concessions from the British.
    • This movement had three main effects:
      • Pushed the Indian freedom struggle into the limelight in western media and brought a variety of forms of defiance and vigorous boycott with it.
      • Brought a lot of people, including women and depressed classes, directly in touch with the freedom movement. They actively participated in drug and alcohol use.
      • Showed the power of non-violent Satyagraha as a tool in fighting imperialism.
    • Lord Irwin met Gandhiji, and after days of negotiation, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed.
    Free UPSC MasterClass
    This is default text for notification bar