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Why did Gandhiji choose to break the salt law?

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  • Last Updated : 23 Sep, 2022
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The salt law was suggested in the year 1882, according to which, the British government has the monopoly on the manufacturing and the collection of the salt. Because of this, the handling of the salt was limited to the depots governed by the British government, and the violation of the law was considered an act of criminal offense. Gandhiji choose to break the salt law, as according to him, it was a sinful act to tax the salt since it was an essential item for regular use and also for the health of the people in the country. 

In this article, we will be discussing the main reasons, why Gandhi Ji choose to violate the salt law and how much it affected the civil disobedient movement, and overall the whole freedom struggle.

Dandi March or Salt March

Well, Gandhiji choose to violate the salt ordinance, but he did so through nonviolence rather than violence. As a result, this act falls under Gandhiji’s nonviolent civil disobedience action, which was started in response to the British government’s unjust policies.

The salt march was famously known as the Dandi March or the Dandi Satyagraha. It was started on 12 March 1930 and lasts till 6 April 1930. It was a 24 days long march, which was a direct-action campaign of tax resistance, where people refused to pay tax for an essential item like salt for humans, and protested against the British salt monopoly. There’s also another reason to start the march was to inspire more people to fight for their rights and connect with the civil disobedience movement. The march was started by Gandhi Ji along with his 78 trusted volunteers. They started the march from the Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. Which was an almost 239 miles long path. At that time, the place was Navsari, which is now part of the state of Gujarat. Slowly, a large number of people joined the march along the way. At last, Gandhi Ji broke the British Raj salt law on 6 April 1930, in the morning at 8:30. This act proved to be the stepping stone for the civil disobedience action, which was supported by the millions of Indians. To break the salt law, Gandhi Ji encourages the people to make the salt themselves with the evaporation technique. For this, he started making salt by himself first. Along the way, he continued to meet people and encouraged them to participate in the civil disobedience act.

Originally, the Congress party had planned to stage the satyagraha at the place named Dharasana Salt Works, which was situated 25 miles south of Dandi. However, before the act could take place, Gandhi Ji got arrested. as a result, the Dandi movement drew the attention of the people worldwide through the newspapers and many other sources. At this point, the satyagraha against the salt law continued for almost a year. And ended with negotiation with Viceroy Lord Irwin at the Second Round Table Conference, along with the release of Gandhi Ji from the jail.

Reasons Behind the Decision of Mahatma Gandhi to choose the Salt Law

In the beginning, the idea to resist the salt tax was seemingly not a threat to the British government. The viceroy, Lord Irwin, who was a British officer at that time, didn’t take this protest seriously. However, Gandhi Ji had reasons to choose salt the law as his protest focus. 

The main reason to choose the salt law was that it is an item of daily use, which can relate to the people of all classes, rather than demanding some political right. Initially, according to the salt law, people have to pay an 8.2% tax to the British government for the salt, which was badly affecting the lower-class Indians the most. To explain the reason for choosing the salt law as the main focus, Gandhi Ji said, “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life.” Although other leaders were not much satisfied with Gandhiji’s decision at first, However, Mr. C. Rajagopalachari, who was a prominent Congress statesman at that time, was understanding Gandhi’s point of view. In his words, “Suppose, a people rise in revolt. But they cannot attack the constitution nor lead an army against proclamations and statutes … Civil disobedience has to be directed against the salt tax or the land tax or some other particular point – not that; that is our end, but for the time being it is our aim, and we must shoot straight”, 

In Gandhi’s view, this protest can be a stepping stone for the civil disobedience action, which will later lead to the Purna Swaraj, as it is an essential matter for every Indian.  Another big reason to choose the slat law instead of anything else was to build unity between the people. Any protest can only be successful if the people have unity and they have the same goal. Since salt was an essential and common factor among the people of all classes. it created unity between people. Who took part in the protest without any discrimination of caste, religion, or class.

Effects of Breaking Salt Law

  • As the effect of the Dandi march, millions of people come together for the sake of the same goal, which created unity between citizens. Which is the important factor for any protest to be a success.
  • Although, it resulted in around 60,000 people being arrested including Gandhi Ji himself. Still, this March became the stepping stone for the path ahead. 
  • During the march, Gandhi Ji got a chance to meet people along the path and communicate with them, which helped increase their awareness about the unjust policies made by the British government. This act made it easy for Gandhi Ji to convince the people to work under the same flag to get freedom.
  • Another effect caused by the Dandi march was, along with the salt act, people got aware of other tax laws that were affecting the people, like forest laws, chowkidar tax, land tax, and more.
  • The British government got furious about the movement and tried to suppress it by putting more laws and restrictions on the people.
  • The government declared the congress party illegal and tried to suppress it, but they continued the satyagraha movement. 
  • Apart from this, there were also some incidents of violence among the people in Karachi and Calcutta, but it didn’t affect the movement much. 
  • C Rajagopalachari was also arrested for the act of making salt on the way on the south coast from Trichy to Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu.
  • Along with all these, thousands of women also took part in the act of satyagraha.
  • On May 21, 1930, a non-violent act was conducted by Sarojini Naidu, against the Dharasana Salt Works. The British police attacked the protestors to suppress the act, which resulted in the death of two persons and injured several people. This event attracted the attention of international media, and because of this, the British policies in India were criticized.
  • Also, because of the salt act, the citizen of India got aware and they willingly boycotted other foreign products like Clothes, Liqueur, and many more. 
  • Because of the Satyagraha, there were strikes all over the country.
  • Because of the non-violent nature of the Satyagraha movement, it becomes difficult for the government to suppress it with the act of Violence.
  • The acts sparked by the Satyagraha movement in India drew the attention of western media to the freedom struggle in India. 
  • Along with all these, not only India but many other countries, who were struggling for freedom, got to know the power of non-violence satyagraha against Imperialism.
  • In 1931, Gandhi Ji was released from jail as a result of the second Round Table meeting with Lord Irwin, who was determined to end the civil disobedient movement at any cost. which caught the attention of the media.
  • In the end, both agreed and signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, which stated that the civil disobedient movement will be ended and that Gandhiji and other Indians who were imprisoned as a result of the movement would be released. Furthermore, Indians will be permitted to produce salt for domestic use.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What was the salt law of 1930?


 According to the Salt Act, the British government controls the salt manufacturing process, and civilians are not permitted to produce salt on their own. The government even forbade the collection of natural dispositions. In other words, the British government controlled the manufacturing and sale of salt, and residents were required to pay a heavy tax on it.

Question 2: Why is there a tax on salt?


Because salt is a necessity for everyone, taxing it indicates the assertion of authority. The fact that salt was once used to preserve food further adds to its significance. Since the British government was on its approach to conquering all of India, taxing salt was a symbol of the British government’s authority in India. For the same reason, Mahatma Gandhi choose the salt law as the focus of his civil disobedience movement.

Question 3: What is the significance of Dandi March?


The Dandi March was historically an important movement, Which turned out as the stepping stone for the civil-disobedient movement. Hence, it played an important role in India’s fight for freedom. It was an act of non-violence, so the British government can’t stop it using the violent act, which was an advantage for the satyagraha movement. Hence, they continued the March and encouraged a large number of people to come together for the same goal. Which created unity between the people of India. Which was the most important aspect of the freedom struggle.

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