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LJ Idol Week 28: Salt of the Earth
cap, captain miss america

On March the Twelfth, seventy-nine men began to walk.

It was 291 kilometers from the ashram in Sabarmati to the village of Dandi in Gujarat and the coastline there.

In every village, more and more walkers joined them.

One man bent down.  He picked up a pinch of earth.

That pinch of earth came from the salt flats that were plentiful around Dandi. The man who took it was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. That lone action signaled the beginning of one of the most successful nonviolent resistance movements the world has ever seen.

When Gandhi picked up that piece of salt-encrusted earth on April 6, 1930, he committed a crime under British law.

When he took that earth and boiled it to produce salt, he broke the law yet again.

In India in 1930, only the British government was legally allowed to harvest, refine, or sell salt. Even though many people along the coasts of India lived on land where salt was plentiful and easy to acquire, a person could be arrested even for gathering salt from the salt flats, even for his or her own consumption. The British maintained control over the salt trade in India, and had done so in one form or another since the eighteenth century. But beginning in the 1820s, the British government instituted a tax on salt that was so exorbitant that a year's supply of salt could cost the average Indian family half of their yearly wages. Then, in 1882, the Salt Act was passed, which made it illegal for ordinary people to make their own salt by boiling seawater. Everyone in India was forced to buy their salt from the British at exorbitant rates.

On April 1, 1930, at Surat, in the midst of his pilgrimage to Dandi, Gandhi said of the tax,

There is no alternative but for us to do something about our troubles and sufferings. And hences, we thought of the salt tax...

...I have gone through the holy books of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. All these state that women and the poor should at no time be taxed. Muslims, Hindus, Parsis-- all conume salt in equal quantities. The government has, however, found a device whereby all have been taxed. This is an inhuman law, a Satanic law. I have not heard of such justice anywhere in the world; where it prevails, I would call it inhuman, Satanic. To bow to an empire which dispenses such justice is not dharma but adharma. A man who prays to God every morning at dawn cannot, must not pray for the good of such an empire.

With this in mind, Gandhi had embarked upon his satyagraha, a phrase which he coined himself to describe his preferred form of nonviolent protest. Satyagraha is a combination of two Sanskrit words: Satya, or Truth, and Agraha, or Firmness.

Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or nonviolence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance”, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word “satyagraha.”

Many of the political issues in India at the time didn't affect people equally across all religious or ethnic groups. But everyone needs salt. It is not only a staple of any Indian diet, but it's necessary for livestock and for many common household purposes. It was because of this that Gandhi chose it as the focus for his first major satyagraha after the Declaration of Independence issued on December 31, 1929. And it was because of this that Gandhi's satyagraha gained broad support among many people across India. Salt was a common touchstone that could bring people together against the insidious and unjust policies of the British Empire.

On March 2, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, and appealed to his better nature, explaining that he and the disciples at his ashram in Sabarati would be enacting an exercise in civil resistance. He detailed the plans for the march from the ashram, and their plan to defy the Salt Act. Therein he said,

I know that in embarking on non-violence, I shall be running what might fairly be termed a mad risk, but the victories of truth have never been won without risks, often of the gravest character. Conversion of a nation that has consciously or unconciously, preyed upon another far more numerous, far more ancient and no less cultured than itself is worth any amount of risk.

I have deliberately used the word conversion, for my ambition is no less than to convert the British people through non-violence and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India. I do not seek to harm your people. I want to serve them even as I want to serve my own. I believe that I have always served them. I served them up to 1919 blindly...If I have equal love for your people with mine, it will not long remain hidden...If people join me as I expect they will, the sufferings they will undergo, unless the British nation sooner retraces its steps, will be enough to melt the stoniest hearts.

The plan through civil disobedience will be to combat such evils as I have sampled out.

But Lord Irwin did not even respond to Gandhi's appeal in person. And the Satyagraha went forward, and Gandhi spoke to the people in each village and city where the marchers rested, and at each stop, they gained more marchers. By the time they reached Dandi, over one hundred thousand people had stood at the road to watch them pass, to voice their support and solidarity for the Satyagraha. Over fifty thousand people met them in Dandi to join on the last leg of their journey.

When Gandhi lifted that piece of salt in Dandi, he rallied the people of India to boycott British-made salt and to make their own salt, or to buy salt from other Indians rather than give in to British tyranny.

Other regions began their own satyagraha against the British, and soon the Indian people were not only boycotting salt, but many other British-made goods. They broke not only the Salt Act, but other laws that hurt the Indian people at the benefit of the British government. Ordinary people refused to pay their taxes.

Around India, the British government responded with censorship, violence, and oppressive force: firing into crowds of nonviolent protesters, beating and arresting people engaged in peaceful protesters. Gandhi himself was arrested on May 4. And while the efforts of the Satyagraha did not bring forth any change in policy from the British, the struggles of the Indian people through the Satyagraha gained monumental international attention. There was no one who could rightly justify the British laws in India. There was no going back to the time before the Satyagraha.

Gandhi's words proved prophetic.

This post was written for therealljidol Week 28: Salt of the Earth

This is a very different approach to your usual entries. I love the font, I love the artwork and it's a very interesting tale well told.

Have you been to the Ghandi museum in India *scratches head and desperately tries to remember which city it was I was in, since there's bound to be more than one*? I think it may be in Mumbai. It's very interesting, particularly the Christ-like feel to the final room where the clothes he was wearing when he died are displayed. He's held in such reverence there and with good reason.

Thanks! Ooh, I meant to tack on a process note! I will do that here.

I was away all weekend for work and didn't have access to my usual art supplies. I use dip ink, which I was not using in a hotel room, so instead I used a cartridge brush pen that holds the ink inside it and is much neater, but a bit more awkward as I'm not that facile with it. or to the internet while I was working on the main body of it (I got a couple links and quotes off the 'net once I was back at home). Last week when I saw when the deadline would be compared to when I'd be around, I came up with something to do that would work in that timeframe. I knew I couldn't draw traditional full comics, so I debated whether to try something with photographs or something more like a picture book and settled on picture book. Then once I'd figured out what I wanted to do, I took Nonviolent Power in Action and a collection of Gandhi's speeches out of the library to use as sources.

I have never been to India, I am sorry to say! I would love to travel more at some point, though. My godfather's parents have been to India twice and have told me a lot about it.

I really loved the way you mixed imagery, quotes, and summary in to tell the story of Ghandi's march to the sea. I think this might be my favorite entry you've posted :)

Thank you! Like I said to theafaye, I don't know how many people are interested in this stuff but I used a brush pen with a replaceable cartridge instead of my usual stuff because I was in a hotel all weekend and didn't want to get ink everywhere.

You know, I never learned the details of why Ghandi was so important. This was very engaging, and I think an excellent choice of story for the topic.

Yeah. I don't know how it is in Australia but here, unless you specifically take classes in things like civil liberties or humanitarian history or colonialism outside the Americas, you don't really learn Indian history, and you might only learn about Gandhi in reference to how he inspired the leaders of the black civil rights movement here in the US. Which is frustrating because you don't learn about how British government and British business systematically and systemically oppressed the people of pretty much any country they colonized in the name of money. And I think it's important to have that perspective and context.

YES! OMG I love your art with this, and you went so much more in depth than I did in my entry.

Seriously. Love this piece to pieces.

And the style... mmm....

Thank you! I think we went into depth in different things. The other thing I think is interesting is that I focused on love and you focused on fear, which kind of creates this Machiavellian dichotomy.

I love this, it reminds me of Keith Haring.

Wow, that is some high praise. I felt like it was disrespectful to portray someone like Mahatma Gandhi as a cartoon character, so I went for a simpler approach. I also thought it would be interesting to introduce the story without specific names since like comedychick said above, there are a lot of people who don't know why Gandhi is important, just that he is.

Wow, this is just awesome! The ink, the history...just wow!

Oh, thank you so much! I really had a lot of fun reading Gandhi. He's a really excellent writer and while he didn't translate all of his own work, he did edit many of the translations once they were complete.

Very well done! Great lesson, great style, informative... It's got it all!

I just want to say that the ink and artwork here is beautiful and incredible. It is a beautiful tribute to an already amazing story.

Oh thank you! I love trying out new styles. I liked being a little bit more abstracted for this one.

I really enjoyed this. I love how you are always branching out and approaching your comics - the look, the content, the tone - from new angles.

Thanks so much! I really like to experiment with stuff, and I was glad I found something less messy I could do while I was away from home!

Your ink drawings were beautiful and I love how you wrote about the struggles of Ghandi. He was an incredibly strong and determined man.

Thanks! I think Gandhi's writings in general are amazing. He's one of those people who not only knew a lot about a lot of different subjects, but was also able to weave it seamlessly together.

I liked this style of art, particularly for the content of this entry.

Thank you! I thought a lot about what style would be appropriate.

Great entry. You make this story come alive.

This was awesome - it actually made history interesing, and as usual your artwork is fabulous!

Haha, thanks! I always think history is interesting, of course!

Very different from your usual style of drawing. I'm totally clueless when it comes to art, but I really enjoyed what you did with this piece. It's really fantastic. This crosses with rattsu's piece nicely... though it's not an intersection round. ;-)

Nicely, nicely done, Tea.

Yeah. Like I said to theafaye, I couldn't use my usual materials, so I came up with something I could do in a hotel room and be a little experimental with!

I thought the very different directions Beth and I took the same starting point was kind of interesting.