Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Saturday, March 12, 2005
 
Commemorating Gandhi's March to the Sea



Thanks to Sepia Mutiny for the reminder that today is the start of the 75th anniversary commemorartions of Gandhi's Salt March. 75 years ago Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and 77 other marchers set out from his ashram at Sabarmati, and over the course of 25 days they marched 241 miles to the sea. When they got to the sea at Dandi, on April 6, 1930, he held up a lump of natural sea salt and defied an empire.

What was so important about salt? In our era of processed-food and sodium cutting, it's hard to remember that plain fresh food doesn't have a lot of salt, and that humans do need some salt, every day, to replenish the sodium they lose from perspiration. This is even more true in the hot climate of South Asia, and salt is also vital for preserving food if you don't have refrigeration. For millenia Indians have been making sea salt, even the most impoverished having that right to the ocean. The British saw this need and used their might to create a salt monopoly, dictating that only they could make and sell salt, thereby making aristocrat and peasant beholden to foreigners in their own land. Thus simply boiling ocean water to collect a basic necessity of life became one of the greatest acts of civil disobedience.

Salt-march.org.in, which created the banner above, has a nice collection of historical documents,
in particular a set of political cartoons about the salt march. A lot of information is hiding under the deceptivily simple moniker of "trivia." Today in India thousands set out on a commemoration march, which is also organized by salt-march.org. I was particularly moved by the story of an 83 year old Gandhi look-alike, himself a freedom fighter, who is going on the march:
‘‘Look, that’s Mahatma Gandhi,’’ cries out someone from the crowd at Gandhi Ashram, pointing to 83-year-old Bokka Appa Rao. As he enters the ashram dressed in dhoti, Gandhi spectacles, and carrying a lathi, children rush to him, people look on with amazement, and cameras don’t stop clicking. Rao says he lives the life Gandhian — in thought, in conduct, and, in a way few can, in appearance too. He’s here from his native Bhimavaram village in Andhra Pradesh to take part in the re-enactment of the Dandi march.
Gandhi's movement was called Satyagraha (the fight and determination to establish the truth), and the participants Satyagrahis: warriors of truth. We've been having a lot of discussion of pacifism, Gandhian non-violence, effective knowledge and effective political action. As we forge our own paths, let's take a moment to recall the struggles of the Satyagrahis.

Satyam Evam Jayate. The Truth Shall Be Victorious.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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