Speech at Aslali

[March 12, 1930]

Do not be content with merely wearing khadi and plying the spinning. wheel, thinking that you have done all that you could do.

Take the case of your own village: For a population of 1,700, 850 maunds of salt will be required. For 200 bullocks, 300 maunds of salt will be required. That is, total of 1,150 maunds of salt will be required.

The Government levies a tax of Rs. 1-4 on one pukka maund of salt. Hence, on 1,150 maunds, which is equal to 575 pukka maunds, you pay a tax of Rs. 720.

A bullock must be given two maunds of salt. In addition, there are 800 cows, buffaloes and calves in your village. If you give them salt, or if the tanner uses salt for treating hides, or if you use salt as manure, you would be paying that amount of tax in excess of Rs. 720.

Can your village afford to pay this amount in taxes every year? In India, the average income of an individual is calculated at 7 pice or, in other words, hundreds of thousands of persons do not earn even a single pice and either die of starvation or live by begging. Even they cannot do without salt. What will be the plight of such persons if they can get no salt or get it at too high a price?

Salt, which sells at 9 pice a maund in the Punjab, salt of which heaps and heaps are being made on the coast of Kathiawar and Gujarat, cannot be had by the poor at less than Re. 1-8-0 a maund. What curses the Government may not be inviting upon itself from the poor for hiring men to throw this salt into mud!

The poor destitute villagers do not have the strength to get this tax repealed. We want to develop this strength.

A democratic State is one which has authority to abolish a tax which does not deserve to be paid. It is one in which the people can determine when a certain thing should or should not be paid.

We, however, do not possess such authority. Likewise, even our supposedly great representatives do not have it. In the Central Legislative Assembly, Pandit Malaviya said that the manner in which Sardar Vallabhbhai was arrested could not be called just; that it was unjust and high-handed. And this resolution was supported by Mr. Jinnah. To this the Government official replied that their magistrate had acted in a manner which befitted a loyal subject, if he had acted otherwise, he would have been regarded as a traitor. If, however, that is the case, this bearded person (Abbas Saheb) and I should also be arrested, because I on my part openly make speeches about preparing salt.

We want to establish a government which will be unable to arrest a single individual against the wishes of the people, which cannot extract ghee worth even a quarter pice from us, cannot take away our carts, cannot exhort money from us.

There are two ways of establishing such a government: that of the big stick or violence and that of nonviolence or civil disobedience. We have chosen the second alternative, regarding it as our dharma. And it is because of this that we have set out to prepare salt after serving notice on the Government to that effect.

I can understand there being a tax on such things as the hookah, bidis and liquor. And if I were an emperor, I would levy with your permission a tax of one pie on every bidi. And if bidis are found too expensive, those addicted to them may give them up. But should one levy a tax on salt?

Such taxes should now be repealed. We should make a resolve that we shall prepare salt, eat it, sell it to the people and, while doing so, court imprisonment, if necessary. If, out of Gujarat's population of 90 lakhs, we leave out women and children, and the remaining 30 lakhs get ready to violate the salt tax, the Government does not have enough accommodation in jails to house so many people. Of course, the Government can also beat up and shoot clown those who violate the law. But the governments of today are unable to got to this extent. We, however, are determined to let the Government kill us if it wishes.

The salt tax must be repealed now. The fact that a sea of humanity had gathered and showered blessings upon us-for a distance of seven miles from the Ashram to the Chandola lake-a sight for the gods to see -that is a good omen. And, if we climb even one step, we shall readily be able to climb the other steps leading to the place of Independence.

Navajivan, 16-3-30