Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011

Salt Satyagraha, 1930

Britain's centuries-long rule over India was, in many ways, first and foremost a regime of monopolies over commodities like tea, textiles and even salt. Under colonial law, Indians were forbidden to extract and sell their own salt and instead were forced to pay the far higher price of salt processed in and imported from the U.K. In March 1930, Mohandas Gandhi, the charismatic and enigmatic independence leader, embarked on a 24-day march from the city of Ahmedabad to the small seaside town of Dandi, attracting followers along the way. The assembled throngs watched as he and dozens of others dipped into the sea to obtain salt. That act — for which more than 80,000 Indians would be arrested in the coming months — sparked years of mass civil disobedience that came to define both the Indian independence struggle and Gandhi himself. Known as the salt satyagraha — a Sanskrit term loosely meaning "truth-force" — it carried the emotional and moral weight to break an empire.