The Salt March is considered the apex of Mahatma Gandhi's political appeal for India’s independence. His initiative and courage brought him to lead his country to autonomy from control by Great Britain. The Salt March was part of Gandhi’s Satyagraha campaign of civil disobedience towards the British rulers.
Opposition leader Gandhi started his protest march with some followers on March 12, 1930. He disapproved of the British control of salt, an invaluable mineral in the Indian climate. The British monopoly on the salt tax in India ordained that the sale or production of the mineral by anyone but the British administration was a criminal felony punishable by law. By choosing the salt tax as an injustice to the people of India, Gandhi employed cunning tactics because every peasant and every lord understood the necessity of salt in everyday life.
“I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning will be made with this evil.”
Accompanied by 79 men and women, Gandhi left Sabarmati to travel 400 km on foot to the coastal town Dandi. Because of the destination, the march is sometimes referred to as the Dandi March as well. Gandhi wanted to arrive there on April 5 to unlawfully make salt from the sea. Everywhere along the route, thousands of people gathered in expectation of the opposition leader. Admirers threw themselves on their knees in devout appreciation of his protest.
When Gandhi arrived in Dandi on April 6, he had collected a procession of three kilometres length. Upon boiling the seawater, the leader said:
”God be thanked for what may be termed the happy ending of the first stage in this, for me at least, the final struggle of freedom. I cannot withhold my compliments from the government for the policy of complete non-interference adopted by them throughout the march. I wish I could believe this non-interference was due to any real change of heart or policy. The wanton disregard shown by them to popular feeling in the Legislative Assembly and their high-handed action leave no room for doubt that the policy of heartless exploitation of India is to be persisted in at any cost, and so the only interpretation I can put upon this non-interference is that the British Government, powerful though it is, is sensitive to world opinion which will not tolerate repression of extreme political agitation which civil disobedience undoubtedly is, so long as disobedience remains civil and therefore necessarily non-violent. It remains to be seen whether the Government will tolerate as they have tolerated the march, the actual breach of the salt laws by countless people from tomorrow.”
After his success, Gandhi himself announced to occupy the salt depot in Dharlana in the province Surat. As usual he had published his aspiration in a letter to the authorities, in which he again demanded that the British would abandon their taxes and monopoly on salt. The British actually did not worry too much about Gandhi’s disobedience, until they realized his protest march had lit a torch of enthusiasm and nationalism under the Indian people. Everywhere the locals started to make salt themselves or break other colonizer’s rules on purpose.
Along with sixty thousand others in this period, Gandhi was arrested by night “while sleeping under a mango tree” on May 4. After his release from detention he continued to work towards Indian independence. In the end it was achieved in 1947 with the Salt March to Dandi being a key turning point in that struggle.