It is difficult not to laugh, and we imagine that will be the mood of most thinking Indians. There is something almost childishly theatrical in challenging in this way the salt monopoly of the Government.
Said Calcutta’s British-owned newspaper, “The Statesman”.
The year was 1930 and Gandhi had just sent a letter to lord Irwin, the Viceroy on his 11 point demands, which, if agreed and implemented, would make him stop his non-violent agitation against the British rule.
Earlier that year, on being questioned by Rabindranath Tagore, as to what his strategy and direction would be henceforth, Gandhi had said dejectedly:
I am furiously thinking night and day and I do not see light.
He knew the movement henceforth, from his side, had to be non-violent but strong enough. When later that year, on January 26, Congress intervened and discussed on this issue, many ideas came forth:
Subhash Bose: Creation of a Parallel Government
Jamnalal Bajaj: march to Viceroy’s House in New Delhi
Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel: fight over land revenue (because of the Bardoli incidents)
Rajagopalchari: attach on sale of liquor.
In any case, the decision to plan and direct the main assault was left with Gandhi by the Congress Working Committee. In mid-February, Gandhi finally got the idea that he was “furiously” searching for. Salt.
He pictured himself heading a sea of humanity to the sea on the coastline to make salt. Something that was extremely important for everyone – from rich to poor. Police action could be against one person, but not against millions marching against the tyrannical British army.
Gandhi let the idea marinate in his mind and informed very few. In late February the framework for the disobedience movement was readied. And on March 2, Gandhi wrote the letter to Lord Irwin, where he wrote of his 11 demands, without singling out Salt. The letter was taken to the Viceroy by a Brit staying in the Ashram, Reginald Reynolds.
The 11 points of his demands were:
- Total Prohibition
- A better Rupee-Sterling rate
- 50% reduction in Land Revenue
- Abolition of Salt tax
- 50% reduction in military expenditure
- Reduction in Official Salaries
- Tariffs on foreign cloth
- Reservation of coastal shipping for Indian ships
- Release of political prisoners except those convicted for murder or attempted murder
- Abolition of Criminal Intelligence Department (and control over it by elected representatives)
- Right of Indians to licensed firearms
On March 5th, Gandhi announced that Salt would be the object of his Satyagraha.
It was a major shock for everyone. Jawaharlal and his father were disappointed and Patel didn’t want to associate with any of the plannings. Indulal Yagnik said of the idea that it was like “Striking the fly of Salt Act with the Sledge hammer of Satyagaraha”.
The British reaction, as described earlier, was no less dismissive.
Yet, the Salt Satyagraha was able to bring together a sea of humanity and drove the point of Independence into the minds of common people. It wasn’t able to deliver anything in concrete terms to Indians – neither freedom, neither their own representative, nor any concessions. But, it woke the Indians up – specially in the rural areas – from slumber.
Anna Hazare’ Jan Lokpal bill
When Anna Hazare goes on his hunger strike on August 16th, it will be the second Dandi March moment in our history.
I see Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal bill as the Salt of the the Dandi March. To stop the corruption.. plunder really, what is needed is something totally different. We need to throw the politicians in jail and have a completely new system of Governance. People like P. Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi should be tried in court and summarily sentenced. And that is not where Jan Lokpal bill will do anything.
The blight is deep and the plunder is at a new level facilitated by a combination of politicians, media and businessmen that is unprecedented. Never before have the country’s own denuded it with such impudence since the days of Mughals and Nawabs. But the system isn’t the same, nor is the level of educated so low. It is time that such education and awareness MAKES A DIFFERENCE!
Jan Lokpal bill will not solve the problems anymore than Salt Satyagraha couldn’t. But it is critical. In a country where even the educated and intellectual have lost the ability to discriminate and even understand their own present and future, it is critical that someone can give that message in a simple way but telling enough to make them stand up.
In a world of viral Youtube videos, Facebook campaigns and succinct tweets – the power of a SYMBOLIC idea, however trite and simple looking it may be – just as Gandhi used to the horror of Patel and Nehru in 1930 – cannot be over-rated!
Ironical as it may seem, educated will have to be taught a lesson in self interest by a 7th standard drop out. It is time we at least have the same humility that the villagers who walked the Dandi March, which began on March 12, 1930. Anna Hazare is no Gandhi, but the education and the intellect of Indians, for which they are known the world over, will hopefully fill in for the gap.
Jan Lokpal Bill should be followed up
Jan Lokpal Bill will set into motion a movement which will be difficult to predict or control. That is why it can also wane off unceremoniously as well. It has to be followed by something that is more concrete and a strong alternative to the present governance.
As much as the urban masses find issues with Baba Ramdev’s campaign, he neverheless – for all his faults in sophistication – appeals to rural masses like no other. Anna Hazare, on the other hand, has more appeal to the urban masses, who most often have a rudimentary and uninformed opinions and ideas of “purity”, Spirituality and “Good” – counched in very self confident words.
Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev will go down in history as those who did the equivalent of the Dandi March. But this time, we cannot let a dynastic foundation to take shape. The successors of Hazare-Ramdev combine have to be people of better judgment and integrity than people like Nehru and Azad. And that is where Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal come in. They both have impeccable credentials of intellectual ability and social good attempted by very few in India in the last many decades!