In the 1800’s, various European entities were eager to expand their reach The East India Company, a British company, made a lot of money selling spices, cotton, silk, tea, and opium from India. The Indian people were heavily taxed and became suspicious of the corruption and untrustworthiness of the company. They fought back in The Mutiny Rebellion of 1857. In 1858, the British took over the country and set up form of government in which they were the majority
Gandhi devoted much of his life to winning independence for India. He was arrested, jailed, and released. In 1930, a simple substance gave him the momentum he needed. Salt was processed and distributed by the British in India and heavily taxed. A year’s worth of tax could equal two weeks wages for a laborer. Gandhi saw this as an economic injustice. “Next to air and water,” Gandhi argued, “salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life.” Salt was important to all classes and the British had tight control of it.
Gandhi recruited followers from his ashram, asking them if they could face death without fear. Eighty agreed to support him and adhere to his philosophy of nonviolence. The average age of the original group was 26. Gandhi was 60 at the time. The plan was to walk 240 miles to the sea to gather salt illegally.
Gandhi carefully laid the foundation for the march.
- He notified Viceroy Lord Irwin that the march would be taking place. In a letter, he addressed the viceroy as “dear friend” and communicated with civility and respect.
- He stated the problem, British rule was sapping the foundation of Indian culture, reducing the people to serfdom, and degrading the country spiritually.
- He articulated the solution, self-determination and independence from British rule.
- Thousands appeared on the eve of the march to protect him. His cause rallied all facets of the India populous including the poor, women, and students.
- He used the media of the time. His march was covered in newspapers around the world with the simple slogan,”right against might”.
The group marched ten miles a day and tens of thousands of people joined in. They successfully reached the sea and over the next few years, this civil nonviolence movement grew and grew.
India became an independent country on August 15, 1947.
Long before I went to India and now that I have returned, I have been reading books and listening to YouTube lectures by Professor Dennis Dalton who lived in India for three years and studied Gandhi’s life. During one of his talks, he mentioned The Occupy Movement, an attempt in our country to use civil nonviolence to bring about change. In citing the approach of Gandi, he stated that our America attempts failed for three reasons.
- Lack of a strong leader
- Absence of a clear unifying goal
- Poor overall organization
It is very apparent why Gandhi, after all these years, is still a revered figure in India and all over the world.