Non-violent Resistance - Section Sixth: Salt Satyagraha Summary & Analysis

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Section Sixth: Salt Satyagraha Summary and Analysis

In 1930, Gandhi engages in civil disobedience to stop some of the evils of British rule by revolting against the Salt Laws. These laws tax salt and salt is the only flavoring for rice and other grain that the poorest in the land can afford. In the first sub-section, Gandhi's Working Committee defends civil disobedience in the case of the salt laws and gives Gandhi permission to lead a peaceful revolt. Gandhi maintains that he has a heavy duty of promoting ahimsa but that civil disobedience is often demanded by love and is one of the only escapes from the "soul-destroying heat" of violence.

Gandhi expects to be arrested and acknowledges that he must prepare for it. He must remain absolutely non-violent yet absolutely active. Everyone around him must be inspired to do the same. Gandhi believes that he must never mentally submit to imprisonment and start Satyagraha even among the inmates of the Ashram.

Next a letter of Gandhi's to the Viceroy is printed; the letter demands the end of the evils of the British Government. In it, he argues that it is sinful to wait any longer to relieve the poor of suffering. Gandhi announces his ambition to convert the British people to non-violence and uses the word conversion deliberately because only through conversion can British hearts be melted. If the Viceroy will not see the truth, then Civil Disobedience is the only way forward. Gandhi claims that he is not issuing a threat but announcing his sacred duty.

Gandhi addresses the criticism of his movement that it leads to violence, although not because his followers are violent. Gandhi denies that the violence is due to non-violence, that this is absurd and that the violence is already implicit in society and within people's hearts. In a speech on the eve of the march, Gandhi exhorts his followers to take care of themselves when Gandhi is arrested and to never break the peace. The Congress of non-violence must tend to the movement. Pandit Jawaharlal will be their guide. He then argues for Ashram discipline during the march.

In many cases, those interested in truth and justice have a duty to disobey. However, those who disobey should not seek to destroy those who work for the state. Later when the embargo is lifted, Gandhi considers other possible laws to revolt against but relevant laws are hard to find.

Next comes the Dandi March on March 20th, 1930. Gandhi maintains the right to criticize the Viceroy and insists the government must be held accountable for its duty to the people. The sight of the impoverished is humiliating to all. In another sub-section, Gandhi encourages his followers to remember the 6th of April and the important lessons about civil disobedience that were learned from it.

Gandhi often speaks on Hindu-Muslim relations, and always maintains that the two need each other to fight against oppression. He wants the help of all races and peoples. In the next sub-section, Gandhi announces the right of the government to arrest those who are disobedient to the law; however, they are wrong to confiscate salt from those who resist. Blood is drawn as well. Gandhi wants a trial between "strength" and the people.

Gandhi goes on to rail against the inhumanity of the Salt tax, particularly now that the government has drawn blood on its behalf. However, later he is happy to announce that the mass protest has exceeded expectations in Gujarat but there is saddening news from Chittagong where violence has broken out. However, the Satyagrahis press on. He hopes that all the protestors will retain their strength. He then reviews various new reports. Following this he discusses various other resisters and their imprisonment, such as Mahadev Desai. Gandhi argues that the people must resist savage and unjust imprisonment with "great suffering."

The next sub-sections contain Gandhi's message to the nation of the eve of his arrest, his second letter to the Viceroy and a report from one of Gandhi's followers about his arrest. Gandhi maintains that he is obliged to follow his philosophy of non-violence to the end and that he wants India's self-respect to be symbolized in the handful of salt that they fight for. God guides the movement and the movement will not give up until the Salt Tax is repealed, everyone is arrested, or everyone is beaten or killed. He hopes the government will be civilized. Gandhi is arrested on the morning of May 12th, 1930. He is taken away peacefully, although he is very frail.

Gandhi is released in 1931 to negotiate a settlement with the Viceroy; in his writing he speaks of turning from a mentality of war to peace with the government and obedience to the settlement. Gandhi encourages his followers to be grateful for the settlement. The chapter ends as the Indian Congress meets to discuss Gandhi and his followers' demands. Gandhi defends the power of ahimsa, and criticizes the violence or "goondaism" of the Congress. He defends conquest over the body in order to resist.

This section contains 848 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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