Saturday, 6 June 2015

Vedaranyam salt march (April 30,1930) - hurdles on the way

Vedaranyam salt march memorial ,TN.April,1930.kavyarmenon.wordpress.

Vedaranyam Salt March led by Rajaji April 30, 1930.www.pinterest.com


During India's  long-drawn and strenuous independence struggle, Gandhi launched the Dandi March (April 06,1930) to the coastal village of Dandi, now in Gujarat on  India's west coast to collect salt  as a mark of protest against the higher sales tax levied  by the British rulers in India under the Crown on salt extracted  from the sea water. The British government continued to collect unwanted  salt tax reintroduced by Governor General Warren Hastings  long ago in spite of several protests by prominent leaders and freedom fighters. Ignoring India's better quality salt resources, the rulers imported salt from Liverpool, England at a higher rate to help the English salt producers. The higher salt tax very much affected the  entire  Indian natives. Being a tropical country, almost every regular Indian food item needs indispensable salt. 

Rajaji with Madurai Vaidyanatha Iyer .www.maduraiavaidyanathaiyer.com
Whenever the British government was facing financial crunch or crisis at home,  they would find novel methods to exploit the British colonies and the people. Not satisfied  with mindless exploitation and squandering of the Indian subcontinent, including its natural and forest resources since the takeover of the composite Bengal state, the greedy British rulers further pushed the Indian people to the edge of the  rock cliff, by imposing  higher taxes on salt that comes from ubiquitous sea water.


Map showing Dandi,Gujarat,.bluejayblog.wordpress.com

One may recall, the English  Parliament gave the East India Company a monopoly on the importation of tea in 1698 and later to jack up the money starved British India company and its debacle in tea trade overseas, they imposed tax (the Tea Act of May 10, 1773) on tea imported into the British colonies on the east coast of present USA. This finally led to the famous Boston tea party on December 16, 1773. Subsequently  the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775. 

Boston Tea Party 1773. Quest Garden
Mahatma  Gandhiji's  close associate  and a  well-known lawyer from present day Tamil Nadu  C.Rajagopalachari (nick named Rajaji or C.R.)), who would later become independent India's first Governor-General, led a salt march in parallel, on the east coast, starting off from Trichonopoly (modern day Tiruchirappalli) to Vedaranyam (old Thanjavur Dist.), a long stretch of 150 miles (240 km). Along with Gandhiji, he also already took an active role in the Dandi Salt march. 

His carefully chosen group, included great patriots like Sardar Vedaratnam, a salt merchant and patriot  K. Kamaraj (former CM of Tamil Nadu), K. Baktavachalam (former CM, TN), Kakkan (former minister in TN), Madurai Vaidyanatha Iyer, a prominent lawyer of Madurai, T.S.S.Rajan  and many other well-known persons - roughly 100 people.

 The highly motivated  people with true patriotic zeal started off from Tiruchirappalli, in Madras Presidency (now part of Tamil Nadu), to the coastal town. After making illegal salt there on 30 April, 1930, the group was arrested by the British. Vedaranyam, after 1991 became part of the newly created Nagapattinam district.

The march, coinciding with the Tamil New year commenced on 13 April,1930 from  from the house  of T,S.S. Rajan, a well-known congress worker in Trichinopoly Cantonment. As the march proceeded toward  adjacent Tanjore  district, its tough  District Collector J. A. Thorne, ICS tried to stop it at any cost. Through  newspapers, Tamil handbills etc, Thorne warned that anyone offering food or shelter to the marchers was liable to six-months' imprisonment and a fine. Upon hearing Collector Thorne's severe, but inimical  warning, Rajaji in his crisp style replied, ''Thorne and thistles cannot stem this tide of freedom." However,  the patriotic supporters of the march came up with a novel way of feeding the  marchers to go ahead with their difficult journey in Thanjavur district to the salt pans in the coastal area.

Food packets and water containers were found tied  secretly to branches of roadside trees on their per-determined path, and when the group rested for a break  by the Cauvery river bank, they found markers where water and food containers were buried or hidden. The marchers continued their journey without feeling thirsty and  pangs of hunger with recharged energy. 


On the other hand, the British police and the administration  faced  a different situation. It was simply pathetic and they found it difficult to wiggle out of their predicament.  They were haunted by starvation  and parched mouth when local residents  refused them food or even water. Indians  employed by the British stopped  their work, barbers, washer men and janitors and a host of other service people joined the band wagon and  refused service to the government. It was an embarrassing situation for the public servants who had begun to stink like skunk. The government offices and British masters' residencies had heaps of uncleared stinking garbage.

Rajaji declared that the salt laws would be broken on 30 April, 1930 and called for more participants.   Rajaji and other patriots  reached a salt swamp called  Edanthevar about two miles from  Vedaranyam. Rajaji was arrested and sentenced to six-months' imprisonment, so were other marchers. One woman participant Rukmini Lakshmipathy was arrested and jailed for one year; she was the first woman to serve a jail term for participating in the Salt Satyagraha movement. 

Imagine  what kind of ordeal the sathayagrahis would have gone through, marching long distance under scorching April Sun  under various restrictions and finally breaking salt laws at Vedaranyam, unmindful of tough punishment. Hats off to their bravery and indomitable spirit.
 

 The Vedaranyam salt march in Tamil Nadu  was an important milestone in India's spirited freedom struggle to put an end to British imperialism. Yet another death knell was tolled on the coastal area of Vedaranyam, Tamil Nadu  to pack  the British rulers off back to England.

 Ref:

 "An epic march". The Hindu. 22 April 2001. Retrieved 7 October 2013.

Gandhi, Rajmohan (1997). Rajaji: A Life. Penguin Books India.
 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedaranyam_March