The Satyagraha March, which triggered the wider Civil Disobedience Movement, was an important part of the Indian independence movement. It was a campaign of nonviolent protest against the British salt tax in colonial India which began with the Salt March to Dandi on March 12, 1930. It was the most significant organized challenge to British authority since the Non-cooperation movement of 1920-22, and the Purna Swaraj declaration of independence by the Indian National Congress on December 31, 1929.
Mahatma Gandhi led the Dandi march from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, Gujarat to produce salt without paying the tax, with growing numbers of Indians joining him along the way. When Gandhi broke the salt laws in Dandi at the conclusion of the march on April 6, 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians.
Gandhi was arrested on May 5, 1930, just days before his planned raid on the Dharasana Salt Works. The Dandi March and the ensuing Dharasana Satyagraha drew worldwide attention to the Indian independence movement through extensive newspaper and newsreel coverage. The satyagraha against the salt tax continued for almost a year, ending with Gandhi’s release from jail and negotiations with Viceroy Lord Irwin at the Second Round Table Conference.
Over 80,000 Indians were jailed as a result of the Salt Satyagraha. The campaign had a significant effect on changing world and British attitudes toward Indian independence and caused large numbers of Indians to actively join the fight for the first time.
However, it failed to result in major concessions from the British. The Salt Satyagraha campaign was based upon Gandhi’s principles of nonviolent protest called satyagraha, which he loosely translated as “truth-force. ” (Literally, it is formed from the Sanskrit words satya, “truth”, and aagraha, “asking for. ” ) In early 1930 the Indian National Congress chose satyagraha as their main tactic for winning Indian independence from British rule and appointed Gandhi to organize the campaign. Gandhi chose the 1882 British Salt Act as the first target of satyagraha.
The Salt March to Dandi, and the beating by British police of hundreds of nonviolent protesters in Dharasana, which received worldwide news coverage, demonstrated the effective use of civil disobedience as a technique for fighting social and political injustice. The satyagraha teachings of Gandhi and the March to Dandi had a significant influence on American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. , and his fight for civil rights for blacks and other minority groups in the 1960s. Mass civil disobedience Gandhi at a public rally during the Salt Satyagraha. Ghaffar Khan with Mahatma Gandhi.?
Mass civil disobedience spread throughout India as millions broke the salt laws by making salt or buying illegal salt.  Salt was sold illegally all over the coast of India. A pinch of salt made by Gandhi himself sold for 1,600 rupees (equivalent to $750 dollars at the time). In reaction, the British government incarcerated over sixty thousand people by the end of the month. What had begun as a Salt Satyagraha quickly grew into a mass Satyagraha. British cloth and goods were boycotted. Unpopular forest laws were defied in the Maharashtra, Carnatic (now Karnataka), and Central Provinces.
Gujarati peasants refused to pay tax, under threat of losing their crops and land. In Midnapore, Bengalis took part by refusing to pay the chowkidar tax. The British responded with more laws, including censorship of correspondence and declaring the Congress and its associate organizations illegal. None of those measures slowed the civil disobedience movement.
In Peshawar, satyagraha was led by a Muslim Pashto disciple of Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, who had trained a 50,000 member army of nonviolent activists called Khudai Khidmatgar. On April 23, 1930, Ghaffar Khan was arrested. A crowd of Khudai Khidmatgar gathered in Peshawar’s Kissa Khani (Storytellers) Bazaar. The British ordered troops to open fire with machine guns on the unarmed crowd, killing an estimated 200-250.
The Pashtun satyagrahis acted in accord with their training in nonviolence, willingly facing bullets as the troops fired on them.  One British Indian Army regiment, troops of the renowned Royal Garhwal Rifles, refused to fire at the crowds. The entire platoon was arrested and many received heavy penalties, including life imprisonment.
The civil disobedience in 1930 marked the first time women became mass participants in the struggle for freedom. Thousands of women, from large cities to small villages, became active participants in satyagraha. Gandhi had asked that only men take part in the salt march, but eventually women began manufacturing and selling salt throughout India. Usha Mehta, an early Gandhian activist, remarked that “Even our old aunts and great-aunts and grandmothers used to bring pitchers of salt water to their houses and manufacture illegal salt.
And then they would shout at the top of their voices: ‘We have broken the salt law! ‘” The growing number of women in the fight for independence was a “new and serious feature” according to Lord Irwin. A government report on the involvement of women stated “thousands of them emerged…. from the seclusion of their homes… in order to join Congress demonstrations and assist in picketing: and their presence on these occasions made the work the police was required to perform particularly unpleasant.
There were outbreaks of violence in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Karachi, and Gujarat. Unlike his suspension of satyagraha after violence broke out during the Non-cooperation movement, this time Gandhi was “unmoved”. Appealing for violence to end, at the same time Gandhi honoured those killed in Chittagong and congratulated their parents “for the finished sacrifices of their sons…. A warrior’s death is never a matter for sorrow. “British documents show that the British government was shaken by satyagraha.
Nonviolent protest left the British confused about whether or not to jail Gandhi. John Court Curry, a British police officer stationed in India, wrote in his memoirs that he felt nausea every time he dealt with Congress demonstrations in 1930. Curry and others in British government, including Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India, preferred fighting violent rather than nonviolent opponents. Long term impact Salt Satyagraha produced scant progress toward dominion status or independence for India, and did not win any major concessions from the British.
It also failed to attract Muslim support—many Muslims actively boycotted the satyagraha. Congress leaders decided to end satyagraha as official policy in 1934. Nehru and other Congress members drifted further apart from Gandhi, who withdrew from Congress to concentrate on his Constructive Programme, which included his efforts to end untouchability. Even though British authorities were again in control by the mid 1930s, Indian, British, and world opinion increasingly began to recognize the legitimacy of claims by Gandhi and the Congress Party for independence.
The Satyagraha campaign of the 1930s also forced the British to recognize that their control of India depended entirely on the consent of the Indians — Salt Satyagraha was a significant step in the British losing that consent. Nehru considered Salt Satyagraha the high water mark of his association with Gandhi, and felt that its lasting importance was in changing the attitudes of Indians: Of course these movements exercised tremendous pressure on the British Government and shook the government machinery.
But the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people, and especially the village masses…. Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance…. They acted courageously and did not submit so easily to unjust oppression; their outlook widened and they began to think a little in terms of India as a whole…. It was a remarkable transformation and the Congress, under Gandhi’s leadership, must have the credit for it.
More than thirty years later, Satyagraha and the March to Dandi exercised a strong influence on American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. , and his fight for civil rights for blacks in the 1960s: Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me.