உப்பு சத்தியாகிரகம்: வெப் மில்லர்

இன்று காந்தியின் 152-ஆவது பிறந்த நாள். காந்தி வெற்றி பெற்றாரா? என் கண்ணில் அவரது புற உலக வெற்றிகள் – இந்திய விடுதலை உட்பட – சாரமற்றவை (hollow) . இன்று உள்ள இந்தியா அவரது ராமராஜ்யம் அல்ல. நேரு காலத்து இந்தியாவே அவரிடமிருந்து விலகிவிட்டது. ஆனால் அப்படி ஒரு மனிதர் வாழ்ந்ததே பெருவெற்றிதான். அவரது தவறுகளும் கூட அவரது வெற்றியில் அடங்கும். அவரது வெற்றியை அவர் தன் இலக்குகளை அடைந்தாரா என்பதை வைத்து அல்ல, அவர் தன் இலக்குகளை நோக்கி சென்ற பாதையை வைத்துத்தான் தீர்மானிக்க வேண்டும்.

சரி அவர் தோல்வியே அடைந்திருக்கட்டும். அவர் வெற்றி பெற்ற உன்னதத் தருணங்களில் ஒன்றைப் பற்றி அவர் பிறந்த நாளில்…

வெப் மில்லர் புகழ் பெற்ற பத்திரிகையாளர். முதல் உலகப் போர் உள்ளிட்ட பல நிகழ்ச்சிகளைப் பார்த்து பத்திரிகைகளில் எழுதியவர். உப்பு சத்தியாகிரகத்தைப் பார்த்து கலங்கிவிட்டார். இதைப் போன்ற கொடுமையையும் வீரத்தையும் எங்கும் கண்டதில்லை என்று அவர் அனுப்பிய பத்திரிகை குறிப்பு உலக நாடுகளில் இந்திய விடுதலைப் போராட்டத்துக்கு பெரும் ஆதரவைப் பெற்றுத் தந்தது. காந்தி அவரது பத்திரிகைக் குறிப்புகளை இந்திய விடுதலைக்கு ஒரு காரணி என்று குறிப்பிட்டிருக்கிறார்.

என் சிறு வயதில் படித்த, கே.ஏ. அப்பாஸ் எழுதிய இன்குலாப் என்ற புத்தகத்தில் வெப் மில்லர் ஒரு பாத்திரமாக வருவார். மில்லர் உப்பு சத்தியாகிரகத்தைப் பார்ப்பதும் எழுதுவதும் – குறிப்பாக முதல் குழு அடிபட்டு விழுந்ததும் அவர்கள் அகற்றப்பட்டு அடுத்த குழு அடி வாங்க முன்வரும் காட்சி – மனதில் ஆழமாகப் பதிந்த பகுதி. அந்தப் புத்தகத்தைப் படித்தபோதுதான் காந்தியின் தாக்கம் என்ன, உண்மையான வீரம் என்றால் என்ன என்பதை முதல் முறையாக உணர்ந்தேன். வயதான பிறகு அந்தப் புத்தகத்தைத் தேடுகிறேன், கிடைப்பேனா என்கிறது.

அவரது பத்திரிகைக் குறிப்பை இங்கே காணலாம். வசதிக்காக கீழே பதித்திருக்கிறேன்.


The Dharsana Salt Works Demonstration

From John Carey (ed), Eyewitness to History, New York: Avon, l987, pp. 501-504

In l930, Gandhi began a protest against the Salt Tax as part of his civil disobedience campaign. He was arrested and jailed in May of l930, so his followers marched on the salt works at Dharsana without him. Gandhi advocated a total non-violent form of protest, and noted that while the marches would be beaten at Dharsana, he urged them not to resist, not to even raise a hand to ward off the blows. The following is an eyewitness account of the first day’s events at the Dharsana Salt Works as described by journalist Webb Miller.

Slowly and in silence the throng commenced the half-mile march to the salt deposits. About a score who were assigned to act as stretcher-bearers wore crude, hand-painted red crosses pinned to their breasts; their stretchers consisted of blankets. Manilal Gandhi, second son of Gandhi, walked among the foremost of the marchers. As the throng drew near the salt pans they commenced chanting the revolutionary slogan, Inquilab Zindabad.

The salt deposits were surrounded by ditches filled with water and guarded by 400 native Surat police. Half-a-dozen British officials commanded them. The police carried lathis – five-foot clubs tipped with steel. Inside the stockade twenty-five native riflemen were drawn up.

In complete silence the Gandhi men drew up and halted a hundred yards from the stockade. A picked column advanced from the crowd, waded the ditches, and approached the barbed-wire stockade, which the Surat police surrounded, holding their clubs at the ready. Police officials ordered the marchers to disperse under a recently imposed regulation which prohibited gatherings of more than five persons in any one place. The column silently ignored the warning and slowly walked forward. I stayed with the main body about a hundred yards from the stockade.

Suddenly, at a word of command, scores of native police rushed upon the advancing marchers and rained blows on their heads with their steel-shod lathis. Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow.

Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down. When every one of the first column had been knocked down stretcher-bearers rushed up unmolested by the police and carried off the injured to a thatched hut which had been arranged as a temporary hospital.

Then another column formed while the leaders pleaded with them to retain their self-control. They marched slowly toward the police. Although every one knew that within a few minutes he would be beaten down, perhaps killed, I could detect no signs of wavering or fear. They marched steadily with heads up, without the encouragement of music or cheering or any possibility that they might escape serious injury or death. The police rushed out and methodically and mechanically beat down the second column. There was no fight, no struggle; the marchers simply walked forward until struck down. There were no outcries, only groans after they fell. There were not enough stretcher-bearers to carry off the wounded; I saw eighteen injured being carried off simultaneously, while forty-two still lay bleeding on the ground awaiting stretcher-bearers. The blankets used as stretchers were sodden with blood…

In the middle of the morning V.J. Patel (Vitthalbhai Patel, elder brother of Vallabhbhai) arrived. He had been leading the Swaraj movement since Gandhi’s arrest, and had just resigned as President of the Indian Legislative Assembly in protest against the British. Scores surrounded him, knelt, and kissed his feet. He was a venerable gentleman of about sixty with white flowing beard and moustache, dressed in the usual undyed, coarse homespun smock. Sitting on the ground under a mango tree, Patel said, ‘All hope of reconciling India with the British Empire is lost for ever. I can understand any government’s taking people into custody and punishing them for breaches of the law, but I cannot understand how any government that calls itself civilized could deal as savagely and brutally with non-violent, unresisting men as the British have this morning.’

By eleven the heat reached 116 degrees in the shade and the activities of the Gandhi volunteers subsided. I went back to the temporary hospital to examine the wounded. They lay in rows on the bare ground in the shade of an open, palm-thatched shed. I counted 320 injured, many still insensible with fractured skulls, others writhing in agony from kicks in the testicles and stomach. The Gandhi men had been able to gather only a few native doctors, who were doing the best they could with the inadequate facilities. Scores of the injured had received no treatment for hours and two had died. The demonstration was finished for the day on the account of the heat.

தொகுக்கப்பட்ட பக்கம்: விடுதலைப் போராட்டம்