With a population of over 1.2 billion, the South Asian country of India is not only the world's largest democracy, but also, the third largest economic power. It is therefore hard to believe that from 1850-1947, this powerhouse had been a British colony. Though there had been some isolated regional struggles for independence, it was a seemingly insignificant 'March To The Sea' protest organized 83 years ago by civil rights leader Mohandas Gandhi, that instigated a countrywide nationalist movement. This eventually, led to the birth of India as an independent nation.
Like most Indians, Gandhi believed that India should be freed from British rule. However, unlike other civil rights leaders this quiet bespectacled man did not challenge the colonists with acts of violence. Instead, he began a movement called 'Satyagraha' or 'soul force', that encouraged people to challenge unjust laws in a peaceful manner.
Over the years, Gandhi led numerous peaceful protests. However, the one that invigorated the entire nation, was the Salt March of 1930.
The chain of events leading to the historic march began when the British decided to impose a hefty tax on salt that had hitherto been obtained free from the sea. This meant that the poorest people, who had barely enough money to feed themselves, could now not even afford to season their food.
Their plight spurred Gandhi to organize the Salt Satyagraha - A 240-mile, non-violent protest march, that began from Gandhi's religious retreat near Ahmedabad and ended at Dandi on the Arabian Sea Coast. Once there, the civil rights leader planned to show his disobedience to the unjust law by picking up some grains of the salty sand.
On March 12th, 1930, Gandhi and about seventy protesters embarked on the historical journey. Along the way, he made numerous stops to assure the villagers that he would succeed in getting the unjust taxes repealed and also, to urge them to set aside caste and religious differences and unite as a nation, against the common enemy. While he was initially greeted with much enthusiasm, as days went by, both the weary marchers and unsure villagers, appeared to lose interest.
Undeterred, Gandhi continued his quest and on April 5th 1930, the much diminished group reached the coastal village of Dandi. The following morning as Gandhi was making his way to the Arabian seashore to carry out his symbolic act of disobedience, to his surprise, he was greeted by a large crowd of supporters and journalists from all over the world.
As promised, the fearless civil rights leader knelt down and scooped up some salty sandy mud for all to see. This simple gesture gave Indians all over the country, the courage to finally unite and stand up against the oppressive British 'Raj'. The gentle wave of defiance that Gandhi had started, soon turned into a tsunami, that even the mighty British were unable to quell. In 1947, 17 years after the historic 'March to the Sea', Gandhi finally realized his dream of seeing an independent India.
If this article has you thirsting for more information about this interesting event, you are in luck. That's because, acclaimed children's author Alice McGinty's most recent book Gandhi: A March To The Sea, is written especially with the younger audience in mind. Not only is it fun to read, but also, spectacular to look at, thanks to the beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist, Thomas Gonzalez.
Educators, incorporate this historic event into your common core curriculum, with this comprehensive classroom guide.
Resource: Gandhi: A March to the Sea