As the nation celebrates Gandhi Jayanti, it would not be amiss here to recollect the connection that Mahatma Gandhi had with Uttarakhand. He had visited Dehradun in October 1929 when Mahavir Tyagi who went on to become the Minister for Defence Organisation in the late 1950s, had promised him a purse of `500 for the Daridra Narayan fund. Eighty four years ago when Indians led by Gandhi broke the British salt laws as part of the Salt Satyagraha which later set off the Civil Disobedience Movement, the colonial salt law was broken by citizens led by Tyagi at Kharakhet where ‘Indian’ salt packs were also sold.
According to Doon library and Research Centre research staff member Manoj Panjani, in October 1929 when Gandhi visited Dehradun, Tyagi promised him a purse of `500 for the Daridra Narayan fund. Tyagi asked his wife Sharmada Tyagi if she could help in collection and she ended up collecting Rs 50 daily and insisted that the money collected by the women should be given to Gandhi separately. Considering this, Tyagi felt men would feel embarrassed if they collected less so he approached forest contractors Chaudhary Inamullah (after whom the heritage structure Inamullah building in Dehradun is named) and Sunder Singh Rawat for help.
Two research projects of DlRC on Gandhi and Uttarakhand and the ideological progression of women’s question in colonial India (1820-1947) revealed interesting facts about what happened in Dehradun and elsewhere in Uttarakhand during the Salt Satyagraha and consequent Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhi had also stayed in Mussoorie during 1946 motivating many to participate in the struggle for Indian independence.
Earlier, during the Salt Satyagraha, when Tyagi was arrested for manufacturing contraband salt and tried in the court of deputy collector Beni Prasad, Tyagi asked him to make sure that the confiscated substance was salt and not something else. After Prasad tasted it, Tyagi said, “Aaj tak aapne British sarkar ka namak khaya, aaj keh sakte hain ki aapne Gandhi ka namak khaya”. So impressed was Prasad that he subsequently resigned from his job.