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Friday, April 23, 2021

The moral of Dandi yatra

The farmers struggle on Delhi’s borders is the Salt Satyagraha of our time.


Updated: March 18, 2021 7:56:57 pm
Dandi March, Mahatma Gandhi, Salt Satyagraha, Delhi border, farmers protest, Sabarmati Ashram, delhi famer's protest, indian express opinion, K Aravindakashan opinion, indian express opinionFarmers at protest on Delhi border. (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

Written by K Aravindakashan

While flagging off the foot march to re-enact the historic Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi, the Prime Minister recalled that the salt then represented honesty, trust, loyalty, labour, equality and self-reliance.

To Gandhi, his life was his message. He never uttered a single word that had no relevance to his own deed, trivial or otherwise. His every action was soaked in humility, a deep sense of humanism, self-reliance of the individual, the nation and the whole planet.

Our present day politicians speak normative words at public functions and international forums. But in every deed, they betray their own words: They beat the drums and generate high decibel sounds, but signify nothing.

The historic salt march that started on March 12, 1930 from the Sabarmati Ashram covered 390 km to reach the Dandi seashore. Led by Gandhi, the satyagrahis included his 81 disciples. Gandhi described the march as “an act of dedication to God” and said, “this pilgrimage to Dandi is undertaken in order to receive the blessing of God and the blessing of man so that I may return to Ashram with Swaraj in the palm of my hand.”

The provocation for Gandhi to undertake the march was the obnoxious salt law imposed by the British government. Gandhi’s satyagraha was in obedience to the voice of his inner self: The inner self was the will of Indian people and Swaraj, the freedom of the people. The Salt Satyagraha led to the nation-wide non-cooperation movement, which shook the moral foundations of the British empire.

While flagging off the Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav, the Prime Minister forgot the thousands of peasants and farmers protesting at the borders of Delhi for over hundred days seeking repeal of the anti-farmer laws that his government enacted without any democratic discussion or consultation.

The farmer is the salt of the earth. About 70 per cent of Indians are directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture. Without them, the whole of India will starve. But for the last three decades, the farmers are suffering a lot. Many have ended their lives to protest the sheer insensitive attitude of the authorities.

The non-violent satyagraha of the farmers against the farm laws is the Salt Satyagraha of our time. It is a non-violent protest against the state, its authoritarian laws, dishonesty, distrust and the megalomaniacal demeanour of contemporary India’s leaders.

During the Salt Satyagraha, the Indian middle-class was with Gandhi. In 2021, it is colluding with the state at the expense of the peasants and farmers. For them, freedom or Swaraj is a mere opportunity to amass consumer goods to satisfy their greed. The media, except a very few, only provide comic relief on behalf of the state. And the state itself has become a pawn in the hands of corporate capital.

A blind and deaf state that never cares for diversity, dialogue and democracy engage all agencies including the social media to vilify, tarnish and intimidate the farmers. Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha has a panacea for a real citizen and a conscientious society, according to M N Roy, the radical humanist who turned to Gandhi in his last years. On the Salt Satyagraha, Roy wrote: “When a man really wants freedom and to live in a democratic society he may not be able to free the whole world… but he can to a large extent at least free himself by behaving as a rational and moral being, and if he can do this, others around him can do the same, and these again will spread freedom by their example.”

That is the real road to realise the nectar of azadi.

Aravindakshan is a Malayalam novelist and the author of Gandhiyude Jeevitavum Darshanavum, a study of Gandhi

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