God willing, it is my intention ... to set out for Dharasana and reach
there with my companions . . . and demand possession of the Salt Works.
The public have been told that Dharasana is a private property. This
is mere camouflage. It is as effectively under Government control
as the Viceroy's house. Not a pinch of salt can be removed without
the previous sanction of the authorities.
It is possible for you to prevent this raid, as it has been playfully
and mischievously called, in three ways:
By removing the Salt Tax;
By arresting me and my party, unless the country can, as I hope it
will, replace every one taken away;
By sheer goondaism unless every head broken is replaced, as I hope
It is not without hesitation .that the step has been decided upon.
I had hoped that the Government would fight the civil resisters in
a civilized manner. I could have had nothing to say if, in dealing
with the civil resisters, the Government has satisfied itself with
applying the ordinary processes of law. Instead, whilst the known
leaders have been dealt with more or less according to the legal formality,
the rank and file has been often savagely and in some cases even indecently
assaulted. Had there been isolated cases, they might have been overlooked.
But accounts have come to me from Bengal, Bihar, Utkal, U.E, Delhi
and Bombay confirming the experiences of Gujarat of which I have ample
evidence at my disposal. In Karachi, Peshawar and Madras the firing
would appear to have been unprovoked and unnecessary. Bones have been
broken, private parts have been squeezed for the purpose of making
volunteers give up, to the Government valueless, to the volunteers
precious salt. At Muthra an Assistant Magistrate is said to have snatched
the National Flag from a ten-year-old boy. The crowd demanding restoration
of the Flag thus illegally seized is reported to have been mercilessly
beaten back. That the Flag was subsequently restored betrayed a guilty
conscience. In Bengal there seem to have been only a few prosecutions
and assaults about salt, but unthinkable cruelties are said to have
been practised in the act of snatching flags from volunteers. Paddy
fields are reported to have been burnt, eatables forcibly taken. A
vegetable market in Gujarat has been raided, because the dealers would
not sell vegetables to officials. These acts have taken place in front
of crowds who, for the sake of Congress mandate, have submitted without
retaliation. I ask you to believe the accounts given by men pledged
to truth. Repudiation even by high officials has, as in the Bardoli
case, often proved false. The officials I regret to have to say, have
not hesitated to publish falsehoods to the people even during the
last five weeks. I take the following samples from Government notices
issued from Collectors' offices in Gujarat:
"1. Adults use five pounds of salt per year, therefore pay three
annas per year as tax. If Government removed the monopoly, people
will have to pay higher prices and in addition make good to the Government
the loss sustained by the removal of the monopoly. The salt you take
from the sea-shore is not eatable, therefore the Government destroys
"2. Mr. Gandhi says that Government has destroyed hand-spinning
in this country, whereas everybody knows that this is not true, because
throughout the country there is not a village where hand-spinning
of cotton is not going on. Moreover in every province cotton spinners
are shown superior methods and are provided with better instruments
at less prices and are thus helped by Government."
"3. Out of every five rupees of the debt that the Government
has incurred, rupees four have been ben¬eficially spent."
I have taken these three sets of statements from three different leaflets.
I venture to suggest that every¬one of these statements is demonstrably
false. The daily consumption of salt by an adult is three times the
amount stated and therefore the poll tax and the salt tax undoubtedly
is at least 9 as. per head per year. And this tax is levied from man,
woman, child and domestic cattle irrespective of age and health.
It is a wicked falsehood to say that every village has a spinning
wheel and that the spinning movement is in any shape or form encouraged
or supported by the Government. Financiers can better dispose of the
falsehood that four out of every five rupees of the public debt is
used for benefit of the public. But those falsehoods are mere samples
of what people know is going on in every day contact with the Government.
Only the other day a Gujarati poet, a brave man, was convicted on
prejudged official evidence in spite of his emphatic statement that
at the time mentioned he was sleeping soundly in another Place.
Now for instances of official inactivities. Liquor dealers have assaulted
pickets admitted by officials to have been peaceful and sold liquor
in contravention of regulations. The officials have taken no notice
either of the assaults or the illegal sales of liquor. As to the assaults,
though they are known to everybody, they may take shelter under the
plea that they have received no complaints.
And now you have sprung upon the country a Press Ordinance surpassing
any hitherto known in India. You have found a short cut through the
law's delay in the matter of the trial of Bhagat Singh and others
by doing away with the ordinary procedure. Is it any wonder if I call
all these official activities and inactivities a veiled form of Martial
Law? Yet this is only the fifth week of the struggle.
Before then the reign of terrorism that has just begun overwhelms
India, I feel that I must take a bolder step and if possible divert
your wrath in a cleaner if more drastic channel. You may not know
the things that I have described. You may not even now believe in
them. I can but invite your serious attention to them.
Anyway I feel that it would be cowardly on my part not to invite you
to disclose to the full the leonine paws of authority, so that the
people who are suffering tortures and destruction of their property
may not feel that I, who had perhaps been the chief party inspiring
them to action that has brought to right light the Government in its
true colours, had left any stone unturned to work out the Satyagraha
programme as fully as it was possible under given circumstances.
According to the science of Satyagraha, the greater the repression
and lawlessness on the part of authority, the greater should be the
suffering courted by the victims. Success is the certain result of
suffering of the extremest character voluntarily undergone.
I know the dangers attendant upon the methods adopted by me. But the
country is not likely to mistake my meaning. I say what I mean and
think. And I have been saying for the last fifteen years in India,
and outside for twenty years more, and repeat now that the only way
to conquer violence is through non-violence pure and undefiled. I
have said also that every violent act, word and even thought interferes
with the progress of non¬violent action. If in spite of such repeated
warnings, people will resort to violence, I must own responsibility
save such as inevitably attaches to every human being for the acts
of every other human being. But the question of responsibility apart,
I dare not postpone action on any cause whatsoever if non-violence
is the force the seers of the world have claimed .it to be and if
I am not to belie my own extensive experience of its working.
But I would fain avoid the further steps. I would therefore ask you
to remove the tax which many of your illustrious countrymen have condemned
in unmeasured terms and which, as you could not have failed to observe,
has evoked universal protest and resentment expressed in civil disobedience.
You may condemn civil disobedience as much as you like. Will you prefer
violent revolt to civil disobedience? If you say, as you have said,
that the civil disobedience must end in violence, history will pronounce
the verdict that the British Government not bearing because not understanding
non-violence, goaded human nature to violence, which it could understand
and deal with. But in spite of the goading, I shall hope that God
will give the people of India wisdom and strength to withstand every
temptation and provocation to violence.
If, therefore, you cannot see your way to remove the Salt Tax and
remove the prohibitions on private salt- making I must reluctantly
commence the march adum¬brated in the opening paragraph of my