Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From Dandi to Dantewada. A study in contrast

April 6. 1930

Millions of Indians led by Gandhiji made salt illegally defying the law as a non- violent form of protest against exploitation and injustice of the ruling British empire.

April 6, 2010.

 Maoists killed 72 jawans of the CRPF in an ambush in Dantiwada in a grossly violent form of 'protest' against alleged exploitation and injustice of the rulers.

 Methods of agitation cannot be as dissimilar as the above two. Ironically both happened on the same date 80 years apart.

Salt Sathygraha

Civil disobedience by symbolically breaking the Salt law was the strategy adopted my Gandhiji to create a political awakening in India and there by bring pressure on British to leave India.Salt he knew is essential for all communities, rich and poor alike. He announced his intention to the British through this letter.

                                  LETTER TO LORD IRWIN
                                                                 SATYAGRHA ASHRAM, SABARMATI,

                                                                                                           March 2, 1930
Dear Friend,
I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less fellow human beings, even though they may do the greatest wrong to me and mine. Whilst, therefore, I hold
the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India.

And why do I regard the British rule as a curse?

It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford.
It has reduced us politically to serfdom.

It is common cause that, however disorganized and, for the time being, insignificant it may be, the party of violence is gaining ground and making itself felt. Its end is the same as mine. But I am convinced that it cannot bring the desired relief to the dumb millions. And the conviction is growing deeper and deeper in me that nothing but unadulterated non-violence can check the organized violence of the British Government. Many think that non-violence is not an active force. My experience, limited though it undoubtedly is, shows that non-violence can be an intensely active force. It is my purpose to set
in motion that force as well against the organized violent force of the British rule as [against] the unorganized violent force of the growing party of violence. To sit still would be to give rein to both the forces above mentioned. Having an unquestioning and immovable faith in the efficacy of non-violence as I know it, it would be sinful on my
part to wait any longer.
But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils and my letter makes no
appeal to your heart, on the 11th day of this month,1 I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard theprovisions of the salt laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land the beginning will
be made with this evil. The wonder is that we have submitted to the cruel monopoly for so long. It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me, and, in the act of disobeying the Salt Act to lay themselves open to the penalties of a law that should never have disfigured the Statute-book.
This letter is not in any way intended as a threat but is a simple and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. Therefore I am having it specially delivered by a young English friend who believes in the Indian cause and is a full believer in non-violence and whom Providence seems to have sent to me, as it were, for the very purpose.
I remain,
Your sincere friend,

Gandhiji started the march along with 78 satyagrahis, well trained in strict discipline and adherence to satyagraha and non violence on March 12. Walking around 15-20 kms a day through 4 districts covering scores of villages he reached Dandi and broke the Salt law on April 6, along with millions of Indians through out  the country.
Here is how United Press reporter Webb Miller described the Darsana Salt Work Satyagraha which was broke up by the British Police.

Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down

Maoist violence

Maoists believe Indian State should be overthrown by an armed revolution. They are of the opinion that the exploitation of poor of the Country can only end by a violent revolution. For them each and every person representing the State or the Capitalist class is a legitimate target to kill.Thats why they killed in cold blood 72 jawans of CRPF.

Study in contrast
Maoist believes the end justifies the means by which it is achieved. In contrast Gandhiji believed violence begets violence and an illegitimate way of achieving an end makes the end meaningless. Violence for a good cause makes the cause bad.Non-violence unites while violence divides people.

Is Gandhiji's strategy and beliefs outdated? I do not think so. All over the World it is getting more and more acceptance. You can see such strategies working in anti-war movements and in agitations of environmental groups.

Looking back at the history of the World I am sure that this mindless violence produced by Maoist fundamentalist ideology is bound to fail.

But how many more lives will it take before its inevitable failure?


  1. 'Looking back at the history of the World I am sure that this mindless violence produced by Maoist fundamentalist ideology is bound to fail'

    I agree.

    No matter how terrible I feel about the way their cause has been neglected (saw Karan Thapar interviewed Arundati Roy in Devil's advocate, on this issue) - can't imagine how can this horrific violence is going to help that cause!! This is simply mindless, but then all terrorism is mindless :(

  2. 'Looking back at the history of the World I am sure that this mindless violence produced by Maoist fundamentalist ideology is bound to fail'

    I agree.

    No matter how terrible I feel about the way their cause has been neglected (saw Karan Thapar interviewed Arundati Roy in Devil's advocate, on this issue) - can't imagine how can this horrific violence is going to help that cause!! This is simply mindless, but then all terrorism is mindless :(

  3. Ma'am,

    You've very well established the contrasts between two modes of protest.

    But I do believe what Maoists talk of welfare of poor is only their purported purpose & not the real one.

    One more difference: British left India - a country foreign to them as their own English people had themselves taken to democracy & voted the Labor Party with the hope they would free all the colonies, which they eventually did; will Indian politicians 'leave' India?

    So, in that sense nonviolence was a revolutionary thought, but it did not succeed in freeing India. British left India on their own accord.

    Nonviolent protests succeed only when governments perceive them to be threat to their popularity, not otherwise (case in point: nonviolent protests by students against extension of reservations in postgraduation courses with the only result of their being put in jail). But on the other hand violent protests have also little chance of succeeding except for if they assume huge proportions.

    You might like reading this article demonstrating how we cannot oversimplify the causes and driving forces of Maoist violence:

    Violence anywhere has many contributors. Someone with ulterior motives usually benefits from it (most prominently, arms manufacturers 'cuz both 'terrorists' and 'defenders' need to buy them!). If it would only be subjugation & marginalization of people, that are responsible, Kashmiri Pandits too should've evolved a violent movement!

    Some of the environmentalists are people with most violent psychology I know. They point out problems caused by modern technology, deforestation, biotechnology, but provide no viable solutions to support the immense population of countries like India. The unspoken corollary of all their thoughts is: "let them die".

    Take Arundhati Roy, for example, some of the issues she has pointed out are genuine, but which anyway people had been aware of. But is there a single attempt at providing viable solution? Is anarchy that solution? Or is she suggesting that terror-affected areas should be "freed" from the clutches of Indian 'state'? And that then all the violence will stop and terrorists will turn a new lead & live happilly ever after? Will China not use the same regions for mining & growing opium, like Afghanistan? Ms. Roy talks but offers no sensible solutions. What's the use of such wanton protests?

  4. Ketan,
    Gandhiji's agitational methods were revolutionary and paid rich dividens for our freedom movement. It resulted in a big awakening of India's psyche and spirit of Nationalism which could never be stopped again. A large number of peasants,merchants,labourers,Govt officials and students jumped into the freedom struggle arena. Women in large numbers for the first time in history of India came out in open to join the agitation.
    When we look back one can surely say that it was the Dandi march which made Indian freedom struggle truly a mass movement.
    All over the World India's freedom struggle and its leader Gandhiji became a legend.Many movements and agitations including that of South Africa and the Civil rights movement of USA were inspired by Gandhiji's methods.
    Non violent agitations need very strong will power.It may not bring dividends immediately. It is a long struggle were the will power of the opponent is slowly eroded.
    Gandhiji never asked for big things in his agitations.For him the method of agitation was also a way of cleansing the polity.


Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.