UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 02

02 March 1930

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous letter to Lord Irwin


What happened?

On 2 March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a long letter to India’s Viceroy Lord Irwin informing him about his intention to break the unjust salt laws imposed by the British government on India.

Background

  • On 2nd March, M K Gandhi wrote a letter to the then Viceroy of India, Edward Wood, known then as Lord Irwin, about the deplorable conditions of India under British rule, and also about his intention to start a Satyagraha to break the unjust salt laws of India at that time.
  • The law effectively forbid anyone other than the British government to produce salt in India.
  • This was an effective political ploy as salt was something so basic and necessary for everyone that it found echo among Indians of all classes.
  • The salt Satyagraha was also widely publicised that it was covered by the western media as well.
  • Gandhi’s use of non-violence and peaceful demonstration in showing defiance against injustice drew support from different quarters and put him and the Indian struggle for independence into the limelight all over the world.
  • The fact that no violence was used against the mighty British Empire drew appreciation for the courage and conviction of Indians led by a ‘frail’ figure.
  • In the famous letter, Gandhi addressed Irwin ‘Dear Friend’. He went on to demonstrate the pathetic state of Indians at that time and also showed how the British were responsible for it.
  • He explained his stand under the heading, ‘And why do I regard the British rule as a curse?’
  • He reiterated that he only considered British rule over India as a curse and not the British people as such.
  • He expressed his intention to not use violence against any Englishman. He said that he would not harm anyone but that on March 11, he and his associates would break the salt law.
  • The Viceroy did not reply to him but sent a message through his secretary in which he stated regret that Gandhi would resort to breaking a law.
  • Gandhi did give him a day’s allowance and started the Satyagraha from 12 March 1930 from Sabarmati Ashram with his followers.
  • Although initially there were 80 marchers, by the time the procession reached the coastal town of Dandi, there were lakhs of people in the procession and along the paths it took.
  • Leaders like Sarojini Naidu joined him on the way. On 5 April, 24 days after he started from his ashram, Gandhi reached Dandi and made salt illegally from the sea. He was followed by thousands of people.
  • Gandhi and many others were imprisoned.
  • This act made him a household name in the west and he was even named the ‘Man of the Year’ by Times magazine in 1930.
  • Although the Salt Satyagraha did not win any major concessions for India from the government, it did get considerable coverage in the media and the British did have to respond. Gandhi was released from prison in January 1931.
  • The Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, which was the first meeting between Gandhi and Irwin as equals rather than as between the colonial master and the subject.
Also on this day
1938: Death of Chandra Kumar Agarwala, eminent Assamese poet and journalist. 1949: Death of politician and poet Sarojini Naidu.

 

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.