India’s Struggle for Independence
The struggle for independence has been extensive throughout the world. Different countries adapted different ways to gain Independence. One such country is India, which adapted the civil disobedience movement in order to gain independence from the British. Civil disobedience refers to the refusal to obey the commands of someone having power such as a government without any violence. An important milestone in the Indian Nationalism is the civil disobedience. The British control of India began as a trade journey in the early seventeenth century with the English East India Company, playing the role as a managing agent for the British government. The British began to seize large sections of land after they fought the Battle of Plassey. The Battle of Plassey took place between the East India Company and Siraj ud Daulah, the nawab of Bengal.
Through the treasury obtained in the war, the East India Company expanded its business in large territories. The East India Company started to trade in cotton, tea, opium, silk and various other things. In every movement, their are guiding principles, values, and strategies followed by the people under a leader. A leader is the key to a successful movement, and the leader of the civil disobedience movement was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, social activist, politician and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule. He is also considered the father of the India. Mahatma Gandhi was important globally due to his doctrine of nonviolent protest to achieve social and political progress. To gain independence from the British, Mahatma Gandhi started the civil disobedience movement. The civil disobedience movement was not only about removing the British, but to demonstrate how ideal lives should be lived and what a non violent society should look like.
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First of all, the Salt March showed the aspect of an ideal non violent society, to be a satyagrahi. The salt march, also called Dandi March and Salt Satyagraha was a non violent protest action in India in March-April 1930. The march was done in order to demolish the salt laws. The British had established a monopoly in the distribution and production of salt. In a series of laws, the Indian population was prohibited from selling or producing salt, and Indians were required to buy the heavily taxed, expensive salt that was imported. The heavily taxed salt was a problem for many Indians, especially those who were poor and were not able to afford it. This created agitation among the people. As salt can be produced free of cost, Mahatma Gandhi decided to protest against the Britishers and believed that salt should be allowed to be produced by everyone as it involves no cost. Mahatma Gandhi started the protest in the western Indian state of Gujarat. He started the march from his religious retreat at Sabarmati to the town of Dandi on the Arabian sea coast. Mahatma Gandhi set out his foot along with several followers and stopped in different villages along the route. During his stops in villages, larger crowds would gather to hear him regarding the unfairness of the tax on the people of the country. Along the journey, many more people joined the march after hearing his speech.
After a journey of some two hundred and forty miles, the entourage reached Dandi. After reaching Dandi, Gandhi and his followers picked up the salt that was produced by the sea water along the shore and thereby breaking the law by producing the salt. The important thing of the march is that Gandhi continued this for a long time. Kenneth Pletcher in his article “Salt March” mentions, “Gandhi continued his satyagraha against the salt tax for the next two months, exhorting other Indians to break the salt laws by committing acts of civil disobedience” (Pletcher). There was a purpose behind the march was not only to break the salt laws but also to fight with the idea of satyagraha. Satya means truth and agraha means insistence. If the word is put together it means holding on to the truth. Gandhi believed in satyagraha and wanted the followers to preach to live in this way. Gandhi believed in the nonviolent resistance to the evil. To employ violence would be to lose insight for a satyagrahi. Along with the breaking of the salt law, Gandhi wanted people to learn that truth is bigger than brutal force and that everything can be achieved through the truth. The Salt March paved the way for people to encounter truth in the absolute. Satyagraha is something more than the civil disobedience movement as it involves the application of it in daily lives and the belief that there is no defeat or victory but rather a new harmony. The civil disobedience through the Salt March indicated what a nonviolent society should look like.
Furthermore, Mahatma Gandhi and the people who followed him practiced non violence despite of getting arrested. Satyagrahis always warn their opponents of their intentions and do not allow suggesting the use of secrecy to one’s advantage. Gandhi was a satyagrahi and followed the ideal of warning the opponents. Thousand of people were arrested and imprisoned, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi after Gandhi informed Lord Irwin, the viceroy of India about his intentions to continue the march on the Dharasana salt works. Kenneth Pletcher through the article shows that, “News of Gandhi’s detention spurred tens of thousands more to join the satyagraha. The march on the saltworks went ahead as planned on May 21, led by the poet Sarojini Naidu” (Pletcher). Almost around twenty five hundred marchers were attacked and beaten by police and the end of the year saw some sixty thousand people in jail.
Despite of the leader Mahatma Gandhi and his followers being arrested, the people followed the practice of nonviolence. If people are beaten, they always tend to attack the opponents but due to the nonviolent practice preached by Gandhi, him and his followers decided to not attack and keep on revolting through the truth that they believe in. Satyagrahis believe that holding onto the truth will get them results and achieve their goal. In January 1931, Gandhi was released from custody and then he began negotiations with Lord Irwin, which aimed at ending the satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin signed the Gandhi-Irwin pact. The Gandhi-Irwin pact marked the end of the period of civil disobedience, satyagraha against the British rule in India which was initiated with the salt march by Gandhi and his followers. Gandhi and Irwin came to an agreement in which Gandhi pledged to give up the satyagraha campaign, and Irwin pledged to release the people who were imprisoned and also allow the people to produce salt for domestic use. This showed that Gandhi and his followers approached the idea of nonviolence and got the results in the end by holding on to the truth by being an ideal satyagrahi.
Additionally, the practice of nonviolence and satyagraha was learned by Gandhi in his Africa tour. Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Durban on 24 May,1893. Gandhi came to South Africa to resolve the case for Dada Abdulla which required someone to speak Gujarati to settle a commercial dispute with a family member.. When Gandhi reached the local court for the case, the local magistrate asked Gandhi to remove the turban. Being a sign of disrespect to remove the headgear in India, Gandhi refused to remove the turban and left the court. His strong sense of dignity drew attention to people. After his arrival, Gandhi had to travel to Pretoria for the court case, and base on his race, the conductor order him to move from the first class to the third class compartment despite of having the first class ticket. Having a valid ticket, Gandhi refused to move and was then kicked out of the train. This instances became the part of truth for Gandhi and decided to not accept the injustices. When Gandhi was moving back to India, a few Indian merchants reached out to Gandhi and asked him to fight for them. Gandhi had also become the subject of abuse, He was beaten by a mob while returning in SS Courtland on 13 January 1897. Gandhi decided to move his legal business to South Africa in 1903. With the need to spread the message across in writing, Gandhi started writing weekly Indian opinion on June 6,1903.
The new paper helped Gandhi coin the term satyagraha. In the article Gandhi in Africa the formation of satyagraha is hown, “A meeting in Johannesburg on 11 September 1906 marked the start of the resistance campaign, which ultimately became known as satyagraha” (Gandhi in South Africa). This meeting gathered 3000 people in Johannesburg in order to protest against the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance of 1906. This required all the male Asians to carry a form of pass and be fingerprinted in a transvaal. On 16 August 1908, Gandhi encouraged people to burn their identity document. In 1913, a second major satyagraha campaign was launched in protest against the tax that was imposed on the ex indentured Indians and because the states denied the recognition of Hindu and Muslim marriages. Along the Durban-Johannesburg railway line, Gandhi led a large group of railway strikers to protest on 6 November 1913. The protests of 1913 led to General Jan Smuts setting up a commission that would pass the Indian Relief Act. The non violent resistance was so powerful that Gandhi described it as the mightiest instrument on earth. Following the ideals of non violence, Gandhi and the Indians in the South Africa were able to achieve their goal. This paved the way for Gandhi to carry a similar satyagraha movement in Dandi in 1930.
Finally, the message that the Salt March gave was to live an ideal life through reformation. Mahatma Gandhi’s life addressed the eternal questions: How do we deal with our opponents so they don’t become our enemies? How can we be the change that we are trying to bring about? How do we fight for justice in a way that does not result in further injustice? How can we fight for peace without violence? The Salt March functioned as a living sermon to the people of the country and it changed many and was heard by many. The Salt March was a social revolution that Gandhi sought to achieve and not just a mere political revolution. The revolution for Gandhi was something more than the independence of nation, the revolution was for the independence of the person. The Salt March was about the empowerment of the people. The Salt March taught the people that they are stronger than they thought and their opponents are weaker than they imagined. The Salt March that was a part of the civil disobedience movement was “not designed for independence but to arm the people with the power to do so” (Weber 50). Gandhi believed that, “reform yourself and you have started to reform the world, re- form the world nonviolently and you will have reformed the self. (Weber 50). Starting with ourselves, we can can change the society. To conclude, the Salt March was about both reforming the society and self-reformation of an individual. Along with reformation, the Salt March taught the kind of life that is worth living and the type of life that makes one free through the act of nonviolence.
To sum all up, the civil disobedience movement teaches people to reform and shows the ideal life a person should be living. For Gandhi, along with Salt March being a social,political and national event, he was a man who did what he had to do due to the inner beliefs that he had that it was right through working his own existence. The purpose of the movement was to empower the people. The Salt March showed that there is nothing that is considered low or nothing that is considered high but only to live on truth and openness. All the satyagraha movements showed that there is place for harmony and not for win or defeat. The idea enforced here is that truth is greater than brutal force and will always be. Things can be achieved through the nonviolent methods and it helps you to hold on to the truth, give you the insight of truth. Whenever violence is used, we lack to develop the insight of truth. The bigger idea of remembering who you are is also demonstrated. The movement proves as an example of how to stand up for the things that you innerself believes are right. Reformation is the way to change our society, if we reform ourselves then the things in the world would also change. To bring a change, everyone needs to reform and the best examples for those are the civil disobedience movements. The movement enabled millions of people to live in peace and harmony. People should remember who they are and should focus on the truth.