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49. A Humiliating Spectacle

During the historical Dandi March in March 1930, Gandhiji delivered an introspective speech at Bhatgam (Dt. Surat), confessing the lapses to which some of the pilgrims of the March had fallen. In the course of the speech Gandhiji made a touching reference to a labourer who was made to carry a Kitson burner for the night marches :

"We may not consider anybody as low. I observed that you had provided for the night journey a heavy Kitson burner mounted on a stool which the poor labourer carried on his head. This was a humiliating sight. This man was being goaded to walk fast. I could not bear the sight. I, therefore, put on speed and outraced the whole company. But it was no use. The man was made to run after me. The humiliation was complete. If the weight had to be carried, I should have loved to see someone among our­selves carrying it. We would then soon dispense both with the stool and the burner. No labourer would carry such a load on his head. We rightly object to begar (forced labour). But what was this if it was not begar ? If then we do not quickly mend our ways, there is no Swaraj such as you and I have put before the people.