On the 12th March 1930, Mohandas Gandhi began the Salt March – a 240 mile (390 km) journey to the coastal village of Dandi. He intended to produce salt from seawater to avoid paying tax and thus undermine Britain’s salt monopoly. This act of civil disobedience gained the support of tens of thousands of Indians, and inspired millions more to join the movement.
The Salt March took place just two months after the Indian National Congress promulgated the Declaration of the Independence of India, which supported the idea of civil disobedience to achieve complete self-rule. Gandhi chose to focus on the 1882 Salt Act, claiming that, “next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life” but wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, ahead of time to negotiate. The Viceroy refused to meet him.
Gandhi and 79 supporters departed his base at Sabarmati Ashram on the 12th March, and by the end of the twenty-four day march had built a procession that reportedly stretched for two miles. After he broke the Salt Laws by picking up a piece of natural salt at Dandi on the 6th April, millions of people around the country did the same. Meanwhile, international media coverage of the march brought the issue of Indian independence to a worldwide audience.
The British authorities responded by arresting 60,000 people by the end of April. Gandhi himself was jailed on the 5th May. However, he called off the civil disobedience campaign in January 1931, leading to him attending the Round Table Conference in London where he began to discuss India’s demands for independence – as an equal.