Chapter 21: My Message: A Matter of Life and Death
It was a tremendous job of almost impossible proportions. Who was going to listen to him? It was perfectly good to carry the flag and go on shouting against the British kingdom; it was fun. And particularly with Mahatma Gandhi it was absolutely fun because he was non-violent, so the British government could not be violent with his people; otherwise it would be condemned throughout the whole world: How can you fire at people who have come bare handed, with their chests open, saying, “If you want to you can kill us, but we don’t want to remain slaves anymore”?
It was real fun! The British government was simply confused because never before had such a thing happened. You can hit somebody, shoot somebody if he is doing something criminal, but Gandhi was not doing something criminal. Just shouting slogans against those who have made his country a slave cannot be called criminal; carrying his own country’s flag cannot be called criminal.
And Gandhi started inventing small things which nobody can call criminal, but legally they were criminal. For example, he started a movement, the “Salt Movement.” Now, in India, salt is the cheapest thing in existence, and the poorest man can afford it because the poorest man’s food consists of bread, salt, chutney - a little sauce. But salt is everybody’s need.
Gandhi started a movement.”It is our country, it is our ocean, and we are going to make salt.” Now, the British government was keeping control on salt production because it was one of the most consumed commodities in the country. So they were manufacturing salt from the sea. The sea was Indian, the people were Indian, but they were manufacturing the salt. And it was the cheapest thing, but still considering the population of India, it counted much.
Gandhi was not going to start factories, and on a large scale.. He simply started marching towards the sea and told people to go anywhere and start making salt from the sea - just to break the law.
And such a law was absolutely meaningless, because it is our water; if we cannot take our own water, then who are you to take our water? It is our salt, it is our land. Today you prevent us from making salt, tomorrow you will prevent us from sowing our seeds on our own land - because just as the sea.. If the sea is yours, the land is yours too: you should be harvesting, you should be cultivating. So what are we going to do - just be spectators here?”
It was such a small legal point that nobody in the world would have thought that it was anything illegal but it was illegal as far as their constitution was concerned. It was in their constitution that nobody was allowed to make salt except the government; it was a government-owned production.
But when just a poor man is making salt by the side of the sea, you cannot shoot him; it is not such a crime, and the whole world will condemn you. It was real fun, so everybody in India enjoyed it; but the real problem came when the country became independent.
Then Gandhi was shouting, “Do this, do that,” but nobody was interested even in listening to him, because that mob was not capable of creation. And this is what I say was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s blindnesses: he believed in the mass, not knowing that this mass is only a mob; this is not the people.