Chennai

Historic Salt March to be re-enacted

C.Rajagopalachari (seated in front) leading a delegation from Tiruchirapalli Junction to participate in Salt sathyagraha march at Vedaranyam in 1930. -File photo

C.Rajagopalachari (seated in front) leading a delegation from Tiruchirapalli Junction to participate in Salt sathyagraha march at Vedaranyam in 1930. -File photo  

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The overwhelming support the historic Vedaranyam Salt March received from the common man can be portrayed through this one anecdote: when the protest was announced by C. Rajagopalachari in April 1930, the Tanjore district administration banned it and warned of stern action. The then Collector, J.K. Throne, chose to inform the local population through heralds and leaflets that anyone helping the satyagrahis would be sentenced to six months in prison.

“When the herald was going around with his drum to convey the warning, Vairappan, a barber, who was giving a sepoy a shave, stopped his work abruptly and refused to continue. That was his way of protesting the Collector’s decision,” says C.R. Kesavan, the great-grandson of Rajaji.

Since the police completely cut off access to food for the satyagrahis, the local people came up with ingenious ways to help them. On the way, vessels with food were hung on trees in specific locations to feed the marchers, who were 100 in number. The marchers were handpicked by Rajaji himself after ascertaining their background and their commitment to the cause of civil disobedience.

Later, Rajaji famously remarked that “thrones and thistles cannot stem this tide of freedom”.

On Thursday, Mr. Kesavan will lead a re-enactment of the Vedaranyam salt march on its 85th anniversary, to be organised by the Kasturba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam, founded by freedom fighter Sardar Vedaratnam Pillai in 1946. He will be accompanied by the grandson of Pillai, who is also named Vedaratnam.

While the original march in 1930 covered 240 km, the re-enactment would involve a 15-km walk. “We will walk through the inner roads of Vedaranyam and pick up salt at Agastiyampalli, the exact spot where Rajaji made salt 85 years ago, defying all odds,” he says.

The attraction of the march was so much that some even faked their age to go to prison with the legends, which included former Chief Ministers K. Kamaraj and K. Bhaktavatsalam.

The late G.K. Sundaram recalled to Mr. Kesavan that though he was 20 when the event took place, he informed the police that his age was 22 so that he would not be treated as a juvenile as per laws which existed then.

The march was also emotional for Indians working for the British Raj, as they had to suppress their own nationalistic fervour to fulfil their official duties. Ponnusamy Pillai, the Magistrate of Vedaranyam, who eventually sentenced Rajaji for the “violation”, wept after signing the orders. In fact, being an eminent lawyer himself, Rajaji was asked by Ponnusamy what the sentence should be and it is said Rajaji recommended the most rigorous one.

Mr. Kesavan said for the first time the names of the 100 marchers who accompanied Rajaji would be read out.

“The names of those who were part of the Dandi march have been celebrated. This is a way of hailing the contribution of these 100 fearless people, who braved State repression to fight for freedom,” he says.



For the first time names of 100 marchers who accompanied Rajaji will be read out



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Printable version | Apr 23, 2019 10:42:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/historic-salt-march-to-be-reenacted/article7156277.ece

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