Today on March 12th 1930, Gandhi begins his daunting 240 mile long march in defiance of British rule over India.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, simply known as Gandhi, led the Indian Independence Movement against the British Empire during the mid nineteenth century. His followers called him ‘Mahatma’, which in Sanskrit translates to ‘the great soul’. In the 1920s, the British passed the new Salt Acts that prevented Indians from producing or selling salt. Salt was an important staple of the Indian diet, as many used it for preserving food. In addition to holding a strong monopoly over the salt industry, the British began imposing new taxes and levies. The price of salt skyrocketed and civil unrest was brewing across the country. In an act of defiance, Gandhi told the Indian people to start making their own salt from the ocean seawater.
On March 12, 1930, Gandhi began his bold Salt March in protest against their British overlords. He declared his non-violent resistance to be the unifying theme for “satyagraha”, meaning mass civil disobedience. Gandhi left his religious retreat near Ahmedabad with less than a hundred followers and ventured towards the Arabian Sea. During his 240 mile march to the coast, thousands of Indians joined Gandhi in his quest for peaceful independence from Britain. He delivered several speeches along the way and prayed with his followers. Before long, acts of civil disobedience sprung up across the entire country from Bombay to Karachi. Millions of Indian nationalists were now in open defiance of British authority.
Over the next two months, more than 60,000 people were arrested. On May 5, Gandhi was also imprisoned but the satyagraha continued without him. A few weeks later, British police unleashed violent acts of suppression on thousands of protesters in the Dharasana Salt Works. This horrific event made international headlines and the world turned against British policies in India. Gandhi was released from prison less than a year later and subsequently led negotiations with the Viceroy of India. It would take another seventeen years before India was finally granted independence in 1947.