HC Deb 26 May 1930 vol 239 cc789-91

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has received official information respecting the disorders at the Dharasana salt depot; and the present condition of affairs in that area?


I will circulate a summary of the accounts I have received which are too long to read out.

Following is the summary:

On the morning of 15th May, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu with a party of 50 "volunteers" started to raid the salt works at Dharasana. They were stopped just outside the entrance by the police and thereupon sat on the road with the police watching them. This continued for over 24 hours during which Mrs. Naidu's party was joined by three other bands. Ultimately Mrs. Naidu and 200 volunteers were arrested on the 16th and taken back to their camp where they were released, Mrs. Naidu and her party giving an undertaking not to return. Subsequently a party of volunteers had to be repulsed by force when they made a dash on the salt works; and that evening 225 arrests were made.

On 21st May massed attacks on the salt works were delivered by thousands of volunteers. The police had to use their lathis to repulse them, and many of the volunteers received injuries in the process. A company of infantry was drafted to the spot from Bombay. The Bombay Government's report of this affair is as follows:

"All now quiet at Dharasana. One Company Hyderabadis arrived 18 hours. Two companies of Sikhs and Squadron of Cavalry from Baroda due arrive during night. Attack on Nava Zilla began about six hours by 2,600 volunteers, accompanied by large crowd spectators. Volunteers bore no arms, but had ropes to pull down uprights of fencing, and wire cutters. Police were inside wire, except line of men with lathis drawn up outside. Volunteers advanced up to line of lathi men who did not charge, but awaited them. Party of some 800 volunteers broke off and went towards office and another Zilla near it, which were similarly defended. During approach, repeated orders to disperse were given by magistrates and police, but disregarded. When volunteers pushed forward and tried to pull down wire, police beat them off with lathis and took from them as many ropes and cutters as they could seize. More police came up from other Zillas not then attacked and forced them back. After a while most of them retreated, but a few groups refused to move and had to be dragged away. More volunteers came up and scuffle went on for about an hour and half, after which attackers withdrew some distance where they were left undisturbed. Some of rowdiest volunteers remained near office till evening. From Congress sources it is estimated that 170 were wounded, more or less, only three or four seriously. Police sustained few contusions and scratches. Wire was broken in three places. Other Zillas at Dharasana, and those at Charwada were not attacked. Salt in pans was not touched. Day was quiet, but preparations were made for another attack about 18 hours. Before it had developed Hyderabadis arrived. Mob stayed in open ground near Zillas until police went out and drove them back to near their camp. Total police force at Dharasana under 400, of whom nearly half are salt police. Not a single round fired; no weapon except lathis used. Police and all officers dead beat. Mrs. Naidu, mam Saheb, Manilad Gandhi, Fouzdar, four other leaders and about four others arrested. Congress plans for morning unknown; believed show of attack will be made."

On the 22nd May, 1,500 volunteers were expelled from their camp by the police, who had to use force against the recalcitrant.