Kılıçdaroğlu might break Gandhi’s ‘Salt March’ record
Mohandas “Mahatma-Venerable” Gandhi embarked on his “Salt March” in order to protest an unfair British salt tax system on March 12, 1930. On the 24th day of his march, which he had started with 78 companions, and despite British attempts to stop it, Gandhi reached the town of Dandi by the ocean and pinched a handful of un-taxed salt of his own country. That was the start of a non-violent direct action campaign and a civil-disobedience movement that ended up in the independence of India from the United Kingdom in 1947.
When elected as the chairman of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2010, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was nicknamed as Gandhi not only because of the physical resemblance but also the modest, but stubborn, approach he brought to Turkish politics. Kılıçdaroğlu has been the target of many criticisms so far for not being able to lead an effective opposition movement and campaign against landslide wins of President Tayyip Erdoğan, despite being able to increase his party’s vote potential from 21-22 level to 25-26 and keeping it there. That was until June 14, when an Istanbul court sentenced a CHP deputy, Enis Berberoğlu, to 25 years in jail on charges of terrorism and espionage for providing news material to a newspaper.
The next day, on June 15, he started a march from central Ankara, near the offices of the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister on the 450-km trail to where Berberoğlu was put in prison, calling it a “Justice March.” Erdoğan has denounced it as being not much different than the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt, which is believed to be masterminded by Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-resident Islamist preacher. “The coup plotters used F-16s and tanks, and he [Kılıçdaroğlu] has this march,” Erdoğan had said. Kılıçdaroğlu replied to him: “We mean no harm to anyone, and we won’t fall into provocation traps.”
The CHP leader did not permit his supporters to use party flags, emblems and slogans other than placards with only “justice” written on them. The result is that not only CHP supporters, but many others from different walks of life of politics have started to show solidarity by walking with Kılıçdaroğlu, from former ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) ministers, to smaller left-wing parties rejecting violence. Kılıçdaroğlu on June 28 said according to a survey they carried out, almost all naysayers in the April 16 referendum, which asked citizens whether or not to shift to an executive presidency, supported the march, and a majority of Erdoğan supporters considered it with tolerance.
The march has left behind its second week on June 29, growing a line of kilometers-long participation of more than ten thousand people, amid an approaching heat wave in Turkey. The march is scheduled to end with a rally in Istanbul on July 9, on its 25th day, walking approximately 20 kilometers every day as Gandhi did.
Gandhi was 61 years old when he walked the “Salt March.” If 69-year-old Kılıçdaroğlu will complete his “Justice March,” he will break Gandhi’s "Salt March" record with only one day.