The Lahore session proved a momentous one. At Gandhis
instance, the All India Congress Committee had elected Jawaharlal Nehru as its president.
The Congress, instinct with new hope and energy, needed a young man at the helm. The
forty-year-old Jawaharlal whom Gandhi described "pure as crystal
a knight sans peur et sans reproche" was to be in fullness of
time the Mahatmas political heir. There was a bond of deep affection between the two
men in spite of the twenty years and widely differing intellectual backgrounds which
The year of grace which the Calcutta Congress
had granted had drawn to a close. Dominion Status had not been conceded; the offer of the
minimum national demand embodied in the Nehru Report lapsed. At midnight on December 31,
1929, as the new year dawned, the Indian National Congress unfurled the flag of
independence on the bank of the river Ravi. The Congress called upon its members in central and
provincial legislatures to resign their seats and authorized the launching of a civil
In January 1930, Gandhi wrote that he was "furiously thinking
night and day" The first step he took was to call for the celebration of an
"Independence Day" on January 26. On that day, in the towns and villages of
India, hundreds of thousands of people took a pledge that "it was a crime against man
and God to submit to British rule." Gandhi was encouraged by the latent enthusiasm in
the country revealed by the observance of the Independence Day; he felt the country was
ripe for a mass movement. He suggested the inauguration of the movement with the breach of
Salt Laws. The salt tax, though relatively light in incidence, hit the poorest in the
land. But salt did not quite seem to fit into the plan of a national struggle for
liberation. And when Gandhi announced that he would walk the 241 miles from his ashram in
Ahmedabad to Dandi on the Arabian Sea, the first impulse of the Government, as of the
Congress intellectual, was to ridicule the "kindergarten stage of political
revolution", and to laugh away the idea that the King-Emperor could be unseated by
boiling sea-water in a kettle.
Gandhi and Nehru
Newspaper report on the commencement of Dandi March 12, 1930
Events were to show that those who had scoffed at Salt
Satyagraha and failed to see any connection between salt and swaraj (independence) had
underrated Gandhis knack for organizing the Indian masses for corporate action.
Gandhi was arrested on May 5. Just before his arrest he had planned a more
"aggressive" phase of his non-violent rebellion by raiding and taking possession
of the salt depots at Dharasana. The raid took place a fortnight after Gandhis
arrest. There were 2500 volunteers. Before they advanced, Sarojini Naidu, the poetess, led
them in prayer and appealed to them to be true to Gandhis teaching and to abstain
from violence. Round the depot, a barrier of barbed wire had been erected and a ditch dug.
As the first column of volunteers advanced, police officers ordered them to disperse. The
volunteers advanced in silence even though scores of policemen fell on them and rained
blows upon them. Not one man so much as raised his arm to fend off the blows. Webb Miller,
an American correspondent, who witnessed the scene, wrote: "In eighteen years of
reporting in twenty two countries, FI have never witnessed such harrowing scenes as at
Dharasana. Sometimes the scenes were so painful that I had to turn away momentarily. One
surprising feature was the discipline of volunteers. It seemed they were thoroughly imbued
with Gandhis non-violent creed."
A message from Gandhi
Gandhi and fellow satyagrahis on the march.
Newspaper report of Gandhi's arrest and imprisonment without trail, May 5, 1930
The Satyagraha campaign was extended by the Congress to
include breach of salt as well as forest laws, the non-payment of taxes and the boycott of
foreign cloth, banks and shipping. The Government replied by issuing
"ordinances" which conferred extraordinary powers on the executive authority for
arrest and prosecution of Congress workers.