"I have made sedition my dharma"

Following the footsteps of Mahatma: Gandhi's Dandi March speeches

GN Bureau | March 19, 2016


#sedition   #mahatma gandhi   #dandi march   #salt march  
Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

 SPEECH AT BORSAD

March 18, 1930
 
At one time I was wholly loyal to the Empire and taught others to be loyal. I sang "God Save the King" with zest and taught my friends and relations to do so. Finally, however, the scales fell from my eyes, and the spell broke. I realized that the Empire did not deserve loyalty. I felt that it deserved sedition. Hence I have made sedition my dharma. I try to explain it to others that while sedition is our dharma, to be loyal is a sin. To be loyal to this Government, that is to say to wish it well, is as good as wishing ill of the crores of people of India. We get nothing in return for the crores of rupees that are squeezed out of the country; if we get anything, it is the rags from Lancashire. To approve the policy of this Government is to commit treason against the poor. You should free yourselves from this latter offence. I believe I have done so. Hence I have become ready to wage a peaceful war against this Government. I am commencing it by violating the salt law. It is for this purpose that I am undertaking this march. At every place, thousands of men and women have conferred their blessings upon it. These blessings are not showered on me but on the struggle.
 
Our patience has been severely tried. We must free ourselves from the yoke of this Government and we are prepared to undergo any hardships that we may have to suffer in order to secure swaraj. It is our duty as well as our right to secure swaraj. 
 
I regard this as a religious movement since sedition is our dharma. Every moment I desire the end of the policies of this Government. I have no desire to touch even a single hair of our rulers. But we certainly shall not bow down to them. Kindly, therefore, become conscious of your responsibilities and wash away your sins against India. Today we are defying the salt law. Tomorrow we shall have to consign other laws to the waste-paper basket. Doing so we shall practise such severe non-co-operation that finally it will not be possible for the administration to be carried on at all. Let the Government then, to carry on its rule, use guns against us, send us to prison, hang us. But how many can be given such punishment? Try and calculate how much time it will take a lakh of Britishers to hang thirty crores of persons. 
 
But they are not so cruel. They are human beings like us and perhaps we would be doing the same things that they are doing if we had been in their position. Man does not have the strength to fight circumstances; the latter mould his actions. Hence I do not feel that they are to be blamed for this. But I find their policy so bitter, that I would destroy it today if I could. It will be destroyed regardless of whether I am put behind the bars or allowed to remain free. I breathe here before you and with every breath that I take, I desire this very thing. I am fully convinced that there is nothing base in it. I act exactly as I believe.
 
No one has been able to reply to the complaint I have registered before God and mentioned in my letter to the Viceroy. No one says that the salt tax is just. No one says that the expenditure on the army and the administration is justified. No one holds that the policy of collecting land revenue is justifiable, nor indeed that it is proper to extort 20 to 25 crores of rupees from the people after making drunkards and opium-addicts of them and breaking up their homes. Both foreigners and British officers testify to the fact that all this is true. However, what can be done about it? Money is required. For what purpose is it required? In order to repress the people.
 
Recently the Government has appointed all police officers above the rank of constables as officers dealing with salt. As a result of the authority vested in him, even a policeman can arrest me and perpetrate any indignity on me that he likes; if he fails to arrest me he would be guilty of the offence of cowardice. Here we find this offence of cowardice which does not exist in any other Act of the Government. Any constable who sees us making salt, who sees us heating a pan of salt water, can arrest us, snatch away the pan and throwaway the water. What can he feel in throwing away the salt? In Lansundra near Kapadvanj there is a mound of salt, which has been covered with dust. Why is this so? Why this injustice? It is our dharma to oppose such outrageous conduct and such inhuman policy.
 
If you feel that I should be grateful to you for the purse you have presented to me, I should say I am grateful. But my hunger will not be satisfied with money. I desire that all of you men and women should enrol yourselves in this sacrificial movement. It is my cherished desire that all students studying in this high school who are above the age of fifteen, and all teachers too, should enroll themselves. Wherever revolutions have taken place, that is, in Japan, China, Egypt, Italy, Ireland and in England, students and teachers have played a prominent role. In Europe, war broke out on the 4th of August in 1914, and when I reached England on the 6th of that same month, I found that students had left colleges and marched out with arms.
 
Here, in this righteous war, truth, non-violence and forgiveness are the weapons. The consequence of using such weapons can only be beneficial, and it is the duty of every student and teacher to take part in such a struggle. At a time when the final struggle is being waged in order to free India from slavery, any student or teacher who takes shelter in his home or in the school will be regarded as having acted as a traitor to his country. Will you be engaged in learning poems by heart or in doing sums at a time when a person like Sardar is behind the bars? Just as when a house is on fire everyone comes out to extinguish it, similarly you should all come out to put an end to these sufferings of our country. 
 
Those who say that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others have not united speak an untruth. This salt tax applies equally to all. If it is the case that whereas Hindus have to pay this tax, Muslims can get themselves exempted from it, they may very well do so. If anyone can save himself in this manner, I shall have to modify my dharma. I am prepared to get this tax abolished even if I have to prostrate myself on the ground in order to do so. Why should not everyone unite in order to have that tax abolished from which even a buffalo and a cow cannot escape?
 
My prostrating myself on the ground for the sake of removing the hardships of crores of people was of no avail. I have spared no efforts in drafting appeals. Everyone knows that I know how to use polite language. However, I have become a revolutionary when politeness and persuasion proved infructuous. I find peace in describing myself as a revolutionary and I practise my dharma to some extent. In a revolution which is calm, peaceful and truthful, you should get yourselves enrolled regardless of the religion to which you belong. If you enlist yourselves with sincerity and if you can keep up your courage, the salt tax will have been abolished, this administration will have come to an end and all the hardships enumerated in the letter to the Viceroy as well as those which have not been so enumerated will have to cease. Then when new administrative policies are to be formulated, the time will be ripe for solving communal disputes and satisfying everyone.
 
I invite you all in the name of God. Even the Britishers will join in this movement. Will they perpetrate many injustices in order to justify one? And will they put innocent men behind the bars, whip them and hang them?
 
God can never be identified with that which is untruth, that which is injustice. It is as plain as I am speaking to you here and now. I see equally clearly that the days of this administration are numbered and total swaraj is in sight. The Goddess of Independence is peeping in and wishes to garland us. If at such a time we run away, who will be as unworthy as we?
 
[From Gujarati]
Navajivan, 23-3-1930
Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 43, pp 100-103
 
 

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