It was a long march. The goal was just to pick up a fistful of salt from the sea! And for this, thousands had joined the march. When Mahatma Gandhi set out from Amdavad, he was given a farewell fit for a warrior!
Why was he on this march? The reason was to oppose the British who were charging heavy taxes on basic necessities like salt, which, in fact, was produced in India. Gandhi responded to this by asking, “Why pay so much for what is basically produced by us?” This was only a small portion of the bigger picture of India’s struggle for freedom. But, Gandhi fought this war in a different way. It was a war without weapons, a war without shedding blood, a war without killing the enemy, a war without physical damage. It was a war of non-violence. And millions joined him in this war. They were soldiers without weapons! Yet, they were armed – with tolerance, patience, and peace.
From Amdavad, Gandhi and his ‘warriors’ walked through the towns and villages of Gujarat towards the sea. After walking 220 km they reached Dandi, a small village along the shore of the Indian Ocean. The British Army was ready with its full might to stop them. Gandhi was determined. He walked fearlessly to the shore and picked up the salt from the beach. “Jai Hind!” cheered the thousands of people and then they too picked up the salt! It was a gesture of defiance to the British rule. Suddenly, down came the British soldiers running over the people with their horses, beating them with batons, and firing at the crowds. Despite the merciless beatings and killings, group after group of determined Indians came forward to pick up the salt. The British imprisoned Gandhi and hundreds more for breaking the law.
News of this incident flashed through all the newswires of the world. The world had never seen anything like this. People fighting for a cause without violence! People willing to get hurt while demanding their rights! A boycott of British products played a major role in Gandhi’s struggle against colonial rule. Gandhi was the first person to have the general concept of non-violent action, to declare it, and then to consciously apply it on a large scale.
Gandhi called his overall method of non-violent action Satyagrah – ‘the force that is generated through the adherence of truth.’ Nowadays, it is called nonviolence. But for Gandhi, non-violence was the word for a different, broader concept, namely, “A way of life based on love and compassion.” Satyagrah promoted nonviolence and civil disobedience as the most appropriate methods for achieving political and social goals.
He believed that the way people behave is more important than what they achieve.
War Without Weapons – Historical Stories