Thousands relive Gandhi’s Dandi march

Agence France Presse

Ahmedabad, March 12:

Thousands of people began the long march across a vast expanse of arid western India today to honour the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, independence hero and apostle of non-violence. The re-enactment of Gandhi’s famous “salt march” of 1930 from Ahmedabad to coastal Dandi village in western Gujarat state, was flagged off amid much pomp and show by ruling Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi. Similar marches to mark the 75th anniversary of one of the first acts of defiance in India’s fight for independence from Britain were to be held in 15 cities around the world including in Durban, South Africa, where Gandhi took his first political steps. Amid the burst of camera flashes and the blare of prayer songs, Sonia Gandhi led the first batch of marchers, walking with them for a distance of about five km on a freshly washed road strewn with flowers in this major Gujarat city. She and her followers reached the city main square where she garlanded a statue of the freedom fighter before seeing off the batch of marchers who will trek all the way to Dandi.

The 388-km journey was undertaken by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to protest the monopoly of the British colonial authorities over the production of salt in India. After traveling through numerous villages and small towns, sleeping under the open sky and eating frugal meals, Gandhi, then aged 61, reached Dandi, a natural salt-producing beach, on April 6. Seventy-five years later, however, Congress leaders lamented that not much had changed since 1930. “Why do we need a Dandi march today? Because Gandhi’s dreams have yet to be fulfilled,” said federal Sports Minister Sunil Dutt. The 26-day journey will break overnight at all the same places where Gandhi stopped. Food will be simple and beds will be piles of hay under the open sky or on mats inside tents. But in a distinctly modern twist, a makeshift Internet cafe on a cart drawn by camels will accompany the marchers so they can send off emails and journalists can file stories, organisers said.