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Sonia Gandhi flags off 'Dandi March'
Amberish K Diwanji in Ahmedabad
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March 12, 2005 11:12 IST
Last Updated: March 12, 2005 15:20 IST

The 75th anniversary 'Dandi March' began with much fanfare on Saturday in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, with hundreds of men and women, old and young, walking enthusiastically down the road that Mahatma Gandhi [Images] took in 1930 as he decided to oppose the British government's salt laws.

Also see: Dandi March with a touch of 2005

Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] flagged off the march and led the marchers for about  a kilometer from the Sabarmati Ashram to RTO Chowk where a statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands. She garlanded the statue and then left for New Delhi.

But the hundreds of marchers, among them Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, walked on, heading towards Jamalpur and onwards to a resting place adjoining the Chandola Talav.

In Mahatma Gandhi's time, this resting place would have been clearly outside the city; but in an increasingly urbanising India, the resting place is now just another suburb of the sprawling Ahmedabad city, India's seventh largest.

All along, the marchers were loudly cheered. Children lined up the roads waving flags and shouting Vande Mataram, clearly enjoying the break from their classroom routine.

Women left behind their morning chores to watch the hundreds who walked by. The men cheered the marchers and offered water to the thirsty.

The sprinkling of foreigners in the group clearly attracted the most attention, both from the observers and from the television crews seeking sound bytes. Whenever a television team waylaid a foreigner for an interview, crowds would collect around.

Tushar Gandhi was garlanded every half kilometer or so, and while he did stop to accept garlands and even climb up the many podiums constructed to receive him, he did not break his walk. The pace was quite good with the walkers taking advantage of the early morning coolness and the first day enthusiasm to reach the first halt next to the Chandola Talav lake.

This is going to be the routine for the next 23 days of the 26-day journey. The marchers will halt every afternoon for about four hours. It is too hot and enervating to walk in Gujarat's afternoons.

The marchers will resume their walk at 4 pm and stop around 7-8 pm every night at pre-designated spots. Tents have been put up for the marchers to sleep in; mobile toilets will also be available at such spots, as will be a mobile internet caf� from where this copy was emailed.

Earlier in the morning, even before the break of dawn, at Sabarmati Ashram, at a public event, the Dandi March and its historical significance was recalled.

From as early as 4 pm, when the stars were still out in the sky, people started gathering at Sabarmati Ashram. By 5 pm, the Sabarmati Ashram ground was packed with people, awaiting the arrival of Sonia Gandhi, Sunil Dutt, Tushar Gandhi and others.

Sonia arrived at 5.45 am, and after a short speech by Congress party member Mukul Wasnik, the event began with a rendition of Vande Mataram by Dr Monica Shah.

She then sang one of Mahatma Gandhi's most liked bhajans, Raghupati raghav raja ram. Later, sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, accompanied by his sons, played another bhajan known to be among the Mahatma's favourites: Vaishnav janato.

Sonia Gandhi did not speak, but asked the Congress workers who are re-enacting the 'Dandi March' and others to take an oath to fight injustice, poverty, and communal disharmony.

And at sharp 6.45 am, she started walking, leading the marchers. Even at the early hour, the streets were full with people.


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