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Monday, March 14, 2005

march to stardom

The Father of the Nation conducted his famous Dandi march to protest against the levy of salt tax by the British. The gist of the Salt Tax of 1930 was – ‘it was made illegal to sell or produce salt allowing total British monopoly…. it was illegal for workers to freely collect salt from the coasts, they had to buy them…’

Re-enactment of this Dandi march, originating from the Sabarmati ashram, is expected to go on for 24 days with entrants drawn from all walks of life and from other countries. But, having thrown the ideals of the father to the winds, we now use his name as a stepping stone to success, as we perceive it today. A really sorry state of affairs, if one may say so. We have lost our sense of direction. What we now need is another figure like the Mahatma, a figure who can wage a battle against rampant corruption and hooliganism that is sanctioned by society in the name of democracy. It would have been in the fitness of things if the march was re-enacted by youngsters who believe that Gandhism still has followers. Forcing old timers to participate may draw people purely out of curiosity but the very concept reeks of populist measures. Such feelings have to come from the heart.

Over the past 75 years, the very definition of salt has undergone a sea change. We now have ‘vacuum evaporated nimak’, we have free flowing salt, and we have medicated iodized salts. Large players are in the market, with ads that must have run into crores of rupees to hit the screens.

Sometimes last month, people ran a marathon in Mumbai. On Republic days, the Armed Forces march past in front of the President and other dignitaries. At times of communal disturbances, flag marches are conducted by the military and para-military forces to instill a sense of protection in the minds of the minorities. March is something close to our hearts. We love marches of all types. In fact, our financial year closes on the last day of March. The ‘ides of March’ was made famous by none other than William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. An astrologer had warned Caesar to ‘beware of the ides of March’, but Caesar ignored the advice saying ‘he is a dreamer, let us leave him.’ Whenever a chance comes their way, people form human chains to express their solidarity with whatever cause they may be supporting, and march their ways to stardom. The re-enactment of Dandi march appears to be of the same group, a gimmick to divert the people’s attentions.

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