Now non-violence is violent

If Gandhi's Salt March is the paradigm of non-violence, then the 1-O referendum was also non-violent

From 1920 onwards, the British granted India a certain degree of autonomy, with parliaments and periodic elections. However, the National Indian Congress party (symbolically) declared independence in January 1930. It decided that the most effective way to make it a reality was through satyagraha and ordered Gandhi to see to its implementation. Satyagraha is a combination of two Sanskrit words meaning truth and persistence, which in the West is often translated as non-violent civil disobedience or simply non-violence.

Non-violence became popular in the West following the Salt March, which took place in 1930. The British Empire declared the production of salt a public monopoly, making homemade production, a common practice on the coast at the time, illegal. As a result, Gandhi publicly announced that he would walk the 390 kilometres separating his ashram from the coast and that, once there, he would produce salt. When Gandhi arrived, he was accompanied by thousands of his compatriots and a swarm of journalists from around the world. Starting on April 6, Gandhi and his followers began to produce salt symbolically, with the police powerless to intervene.

A month later, Gandhi sent a letter to the viceroy announcing that the next action would take place in the Dharasana saltworks. He was immediately arrested by the police, although thousands of people marched on the saltworks, breaking down the fence and entering the premises, whereupon the police used violence to stop them. The demonstrators —with extensive media coverage— put up a dogged resistance. Hundreds were hospitalized and at least two people died. In the following weeks there were numerous resistance movements protesting laws throughout India, including several episodes of violence.

This form of political struggle, consisting of breaking the law and resisting police violence, made an enormous impact on the West. Time magazine declared Gandhi Man of the Year and ever since he has been associated with nonviolence.

Now let us consider the previous information in light of the Supreme Court’s interlocutory judgement against the release of Oriol Junqueras from prison. The SC has decided that there is evidence that Junqueras committed a crime of rebellion and, therefore, of violence. In respect of this matter, the court's reasoning is based on two arguments. The first, that "the appellant [...] in order to unilaterally declare the independence of Catalonia [...] has carried out the execution of a plan" that included an illegal act: specifically, ”holding a referendum that the Constitutional Court had declared lay outside the Constitution and the Law ". The second argument: "It is true that the appellant does not appear to have participated personally in conducting specific violent acts. Nor does it appear that he gave direct orders to that effect. However, [...] both the appellant and the others knew that the state could not and cannot consent to such acts [...] and that it would act through the means at its disposal, including the legitimate, and as such, proportional and justified, use of force. It was foreseeable, given the situation, that, with a high probability, there would be confrontations in which violence occurred".

Such reasoning is perfectly applicable to the Salt March: it was part of a plan to achieve independence, it was illegal and, although neither Gandhi personally executed any violent act nor ordered it to happen, it was clear that the rule of law could not consent to it and that it would act "with every means at its disposal, including the legitimate use of force". There are clear parallels and I fail to see what significant difference exists between the Salt March and the 1-O (or 20-S and 21-S) with regard to violence (except that in the former there was a great deal more).

Both Junqueras and Gandhi may be accused of promoting illegal acts, but the actions of the former cannot be described as violent without entering into practices straight out of 1984, where those in charge were dedicated to distorting the meaning of words in order to manipulate the population. If Gandhi's Salt March is the paradigm of non-violence, then the 1-O referendum was also non-violent, and the SC's reasoning is vulgar sophistry.

A final note intended for those who are impatient. Gandhi was not put on trial, though he remained in custody for ten months, and India did not gain independence until seventeen years after the Salt March. When the Indian congressmen chose the word agraha (persistence), they knew what they were dealing with.