Work Of Mahatma Gandhi In South Africa

Work of Mahatma Gandhi In South Africa

In March 1919, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was already in his fiftieth year, called for a nationwide Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act, his first attempt at leading an all-India struggle. To understand the man who was about to take over the reins of the Indian national movement and lead it through its most climactic years, one must go back at least twenty-five years, to 1893, when he began the struggle of Indians against racial discrimination in South Africa as a twenty-four year old barrister.

The young barrister who arrived in Durban in 1893 on a one-year contract to help Gujarati merchant Dada Abdullah with his legal problems appeared to be an ordinary young man trying to make a living. He was, however, the first Indian barrister and the first Indian with a university education to come to South Africa.

GANDHI AS YOUNG BARRISTER IN SOUTH AFRICA:

WORK AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION:

• Indentured Indian labour, primarily from South India, was recruited by White settlers to work on the sugar plantations in South Africa beginning in 1890. Indian merchants, mostly Merman Muslims, had followed in their footsteps. The third group of Indians in South Africa prior to Gandhi’s arrival was indentured labourers who had settled down in South Africa after their contract had expired, as well as their children, many of whom were born in South Africa.

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• None of these groups of Indians had much access to education, especially in English; even wealthy merchants often only knew a smattering of the language required to conduct their business. Even if they despised the racial discrimination they faced on a daily basis, they had come to accept it as a way of life, and even if they did, they had no idea how to challenge it.

• Gandhi was the son of an Indian state’s Dewan (Minister), whose family, despite their financial difficulties, was well-liked in his hometown of Kathiawad. He’d also spent three years studying for the Bar in London. He had never encountered the overt racism that greeted him within days of his arrival in South Africa, neither in India nor in England.

• Gandhiji experience to racial discrimination: Journey from Durban to Pretoria, which he completed in less than a week after arriving on the continent, was riddled with racial humiliations. Apart from the famous incident in which a White man bundled him out of a first-class compartment and left him shivering in the waiting room, he was forced to travel in the driver’s box in a coach for which he had purchased a first-class ticket, and when he disobeyed the coach leader’s order to vacate even that seat and sit on the foot-board, he was thrashed soundly. When he arrived in Johannesburg, he discovered that all of the hotels were fully booked the moment he inquired about a room for the night. He was almost pushed out of his railway compartment after securing a first-class train ticket from Johannesburg to Pretoria and was only saved from this humiliation by the intervention of a European passenger.

• He immediately convened a meeting of the Indians in Pretoria, where he was to work on the civil suit that had brought him to South Africa. He offered to teach English to anyone who wanted to learn it and encouraged them to band together and protest oppression. He also used the press to express his displeasure.

POLITICAL ACTIVITY IN SOUTH AFRICA

• Gandhi ji was getting ready to leave for India after settling the law suit for which he had come. However, on the eve of his departure from Durban, he brought up the issue of the disenfranchisement bill that was about to be passed by the Natal legislature.

• The Indians in South Africa begged Gandhiji to stay for a month and organise their protest because they couldn’t do it on their own because they didn’t know enough English to draught petitions or anything like that.

• He was only 25 at the time, and he was 45 when he left. In one way, Gandhi’s time in South Africa was unique. He demanded many things as a matter of right because he was a British-educated barrister, such as first-class train tickets and hotel rooms, which other Indians had probably never had the courage to ask for. Maybe they thought they were being discriminated against because they weren’t “civilised,” or “westernised.”

• Gandhi’s first visit to South Africa as a westernised Indian demonstrated to him and others that the real cause lay elsewhere, in the White rulers’ assumption of racial superiority. Because he was the only Indian with a western education, he was also tasked with leading the Indians’ fight against rising racial discrimination.

• Wealthy Indian merchants appointed him as their leader because he was the only one who could speak to the rulers in their own language, the only one who understood the intricacies of their laws and system of government, the only one who could draught their petitions, form their organisations, and represent them before the rulers.

Moderate phase:

• From 1894 to 1906, Gandhi’s political activities can be classified as the “Moderate” phase of the South African Indians’ struggle. He focused on petitioning and sending memorials to the South African legislatures, the Colonial Secretary in London, and the British Parliament during this time.

• He believed that if all of the facts of the case were presented to the Imperial Government, the British sense of justice and fairness would be aroused, and the Imperial Government would intervene on behalf of the Indians, who were, after all, British subjects. His goal was to bring together various Indian groups and make their demands widely known.

• This he attempted to do by founding the Natal Indian Congress and publishing the Indian Opinion newspaper. During this time, Gandhi’s abilities as an organiser, fund-raiser, journalist, and propagandist all came to the fore.

• By 1906, however, Gandhiji had thoroughly tested the so-called “Moderate” methods of struggle and was convinced that they would fail.

Passive resistance:

• The use of passive resistance or civil disobedience, which Gandhiji named Satyagraha, characterised the second phase of the struggle in South Africa, which began in 1906.

• It was first used when the government passed legislation requiring Indians to obtain registration certificates that included their fingerprints. It was critical to keep these with you at all times.

• Indians resolved to refuse to submit to the law and face the consequences at a large public meeting held on September 11, 1906, in Johannesburg’s Empire Theatre.

• To carry out the campaign, Gandhiji established the Passive Resistance Association. The government began proceedings against Gandhiji and twenty-six others after the registration deadline passed.

• The passive resisters pleaded guilty, were ordered to leave the country, and were sentenced to prison when they refused. Others joined them, bringing the total number of people to 155. The fear of going to jail had vanished, and it became known as King Edward’s Hotel.

• General Smuts summoned Gandhiji for a meeting, promising to drop the legislation if Indians agreed to register voluntarily. Gandhiji accepted the invitation and was the first to sign up. Smuts, on the other hand, had pulled a fast one: he ordered the voluntary registrations to be ratified under the law. The Indians, led by Gandhiji, retaliated by burning their registration certificates in public.

• Meanwhile, the government has introduced new legislation, this time aimed at limiting Indian immigration. To counter this, the campaign widened its horizons. A group of prominent Indians from Natal crossed the border into Transvaal in August 1908 to defy the new immigration laws and were apprehended.

• Other Transvaal Indians defied the laws by selling without a licence, and traders who did have licences refused to produce them. They were all imprisoned. In October 1908, Gandhiji was arrested and sentenced to a prison term involving hard physical labour and deplorable living conditions, along with the other Indians. However, imprisonment failed to quell the resistance’s spirit, and the government resorted to deportation to India, particularly of the poorer Indians. Threats to merchants’ economic interests put them under pressure.

• The movement had come to a halt at this point. The more devout Satyagrahis were still going in and out of jail, but the majority were showing signs of exhaustion. The fight was clearly going to be long, and the government had no intention of giving up.

• In 1909, Gandhiji travelled to London to meet with the authorities, but his visit was fruitless. The funds for supporting the Satyagrahis’ families and running Indian Opinion were rapidly depleting.

Formation of Tolstoy farm:

• Since 1906, when he began devoting all of his attention to the struggle, Gandhiji’s own legal practise had virtually ceased. At this point, Gandhiji established Tolstoy Farm, made possible by the generosity of his German architect friend Kallenbach, to house the Satyagrahis’ families and provide them with a means of subsistence.

• Tolstoy Farm served as a forerunner to the Gandhian ashrams that would later play such a pivotal role in the Indian national movement. India contributed as well, with Sir Ratan Tata sending Rs. 25,000 and contributions from the Congress, the Muslim League, and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

• An agreement was reached between the government and the Indians in 1911 to coincide with King George V’s coronation, but it only lasted until the end of 1912. Meanwhile, Gokhale visited South Africa, where he was treated like a VIP and promised that all discriminatory laws against Indians would be repealed.

• Satyagraha was resumed in 1913 after the promise was never kept. This time, the movement was expanded to include opposition to the three-pound poll tax levied on all ex-indentured Indians. The inclusion of a demand for the repeal of this tax, which was imposed disproportionately harshly on poor labourers whose monthly wages barely exceeded ten shillings, immediately drew indentured and ex-indentured labourers into the struggle, and Satyagraha could now take on a truly mass character.

• A Supreme Court ruling invalidated all marriages not conducted according to Christian rites and registered by the Registrar of Marriages, adding more fuel to the already raging fire. Marriages between Hindus, Muslims, and Paris’s were therefore illegal, and the children born as a result of these unions were illegitimate. The Indians saw this judgement as an insult to their women’s honour, and as a result, many women were drawn into the movement.

• Gandhiji decided that the time had come for the final struggle, and that all of the resisters’ resources should be directed toward it. The campaign began with the illegal crossing of the border by a group of sixteen Satyagrahis, including Gandhiji’s wife Kasturba, who marched from Phoenix Settlement in Natal to Transvaal and were arrested right away.

Agitation by mine’s worker: A group of eleven women marched from Tolstoy Farm in Transvaal to New Castle, a mining town in Natal, without obtaining a permit. They spoke with Indian mine workers, mostly Tamils, and persuaded them to go on strike before being arrested. Gandhiji arrived in New Castle and assumed command of the agitation. The employers retaliated by cutting off the workers’ water and electricity, forcing them to flee their homes.

• Gandhiji made the decision to march this army of over 2,000 men, women, and children across the border and imprison them in Transvaal jails. During the march, Gandhiji was arrested twice, released, and then arrested a third time and imprisoned.

• The workers’ morale was high, so they continued marching until they were loaded onto trains and transported back to Natal, where they were prosecuted and imprisoned. Starvation, whipping, and being forced to work in the mines by mounted military police were among the punishments meted out to these brave men and women in prison. Gandhiji was forced to sweep the compound and dig stones.

• The government’s actions enraged the entire Indian community, and workers on plantations and mines went on strike like lightning.

• Gokhale toured India to arouse public opinion, and even Viceroy Lord Hardinge condemned the repression as “one that would not be tolerated by any country that claims to be civilised” and called for an independent investigation into the allegations of atrocities. The use of lethal force against unarmed and peaceful men and women sparked outrage and condemnation.

• After a series of negotiations involving Gandhiji, the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, C.F. Andrews, and General Smuts, an agreement was reached in which the South African government conceded the major Indian demands relating to the poll tax, registration certificates, and marriages solemnised according to Indian rites, as well as promising to treat the issue of Indian immigration sympathetically.

Success in South Africa:

• Nonviolent civil disobedience had succeeded in bringing the movement’s opponents to the negotiating table and securing the substance of the movement’s demands.

• Gandhiji returned to his homeland after developing the blueprint for the ‘Gandhian’ method of struggle. On the Indian subcontinent, the South African “experiment” would now be tested on a much larger scale.

• The South African experiment also prepared Gandhiji for leadership of the Indian national struggle in other ways. He’d gained invaluable experience leading poor Indian labourers, witnessing their willingness to sacrifice and persevere in the face of adversity, as well as their morale in the face of oppression.

• South Africa strengthened his belief in the Indian masses’ ability to participate in and sacrifice for a cause that moved them.

In South Africa, Gandhiji had the opportunity to lead Indians of various religions: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis were all united under his leadership. They came from various parts of the country, primarily Gujaratis and Tamils. They came from various social classes, including wealthy merchants and poor indentured labourers.

• Another aspect of Gandhiji’s South African experience served him well. He learned the hard way that leadership entails facing not only the wrath of the enemy, but also the wrath of one’s own followers.

South Africa, then, provided Gandhiji with an opportunity to develop his own style of politics and leadership, as well as to experiment with new methods of struggle on a small scale, free of the opposition of competing political currents. He had already transitioned the movement from its ‘Moderate’ to its ‘Gandhian’ phase in South Africa. He was well-versed in the Gandhian method’s advantages and disadvantages, and he was convinced that it was the best method available. It was now up to him to introduce it to the Indian market.

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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

lawyer, founder of the Natal Indian Congress, political prisoner, leader of the Indian community in South Africa, political activist against the White South African Government and the British Government in India

*Note: The focus of this biography is on Gandhi’s life and times in South Africa.

Early life and education

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born to a Hindu family on 2nd October 1869, in Porbandar, Gujarat, India. He was the last child of Karamchand Gandhi, his father and his father’s fourth wife Putlibai. His father, a lawyer and an important government official, belonged to the merchant caste .His early schooling was in nearby Rajkot, where his father served as the adviser or prime minister to the local ruler. India was then under British rule. His father died before Gandhi could finish his schooling. At thirteen, the young Gandhi was married to Kasturba [or Kasturbai], who was of the same age as himself. She bore him four sons. In September 1888 Gandhi set sail for England, to pursue a degree in law. Gandhi left behind his son Harilal, then a few months old. He spent three years stay in London being a serious student, living a very simple lifestyle. He became deeply interested in vegetarianism and study of different religions. His stay in England provided opportunities for widening horizons and better understanding of religions and cultures.Through meeting local vegetarians he had also develop an interest in books on philosophy,particularly those by Leo Tolstoy,John Ruskin and Henry David Thoreau.

Gandhi successfully completed his degree at the Inner Temple and was called to the Bar on 10 June 1891. He enrolled in the High Court of London; but later that year he left for India. For the next two years, Gandhi attempted to practice law in India, establishing himself in the legal profession in Bombay. Unfortunately, he found that he lacked both knowledge of Indian law and self-confidence at trial. His practice collapsed and he returned home to Porbandar. It was while he was contemplating his seemingly bleak future that a representative of an Indian business firm situated in the Transvaal (now Gauteng), South Africa offered him employment. He was to work in South Africa for a period of 12 months for a fee of £105.00.

Gandhi in South Africa

Gandhi arrived in Durban, Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal) in 1893 to serve as legal counsel to a merchant Dada Abdulla. In June, Dada Abdulla asked him to undertake a rail trip to Pretoria, Transvaal, a journey which first took Gandhi to Pietermaritzburg, Natal. There, Gandhi was seated in the first-class compartment, as he had purchased a first-class ticket. A White person who entered the compartment hastened to summon the White railway officials, who ordered Gandhi to remove himself to the van compartment, since ‘coolies’ (a racist term for Indians) and non-whites were not permitted in first-class compartments. Gandhi protested and produced his ticket, but was warned that he would be forcibly removed if he did not make a gracious exit. As Gandhi refused to comply with the order, a White police officer pushed him out of the train, and his luggage was tossed out on to the platform. The train steamed away, and Gandhi withdrew to the waiting room. “It was winter,” Gandhi was to write in his autobiography, and “the cold was extremely bitter. My overcoat was in my luggage, but I did not dare to ask for it lest I should be insulted again, so I sat and shivered”. He says he began to think of his “duty”: ought he to stay back and fight for his “rights”, or should he return to India? His own “hardship was superficial”, “only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice.”

The next evening he continued the train journey-this time without a mishap. But a bigger mishap awaited him on the journey from Charlestown to Johannesburg which had to be covered by stagecoach. He was made to sit with the coachman on the box outside, while the white conductor sat inside with the white passengers.Gandhi pocketed the insult for fear of missing the coach altogether. On the way the conductor who wanted a smoke spread a piece of dirty sack-cloth on the footboard and ordered Gandhi to sit there so that the conductor could have Gandhi’s seat and smoke. Gandhi refused. The conductor swore and rained blows on him, trying to throw him down. Gandhi clung to the brass rails of the coach box, refusing to yield and unwilling to retaliate. Some of the White passengers protested at this cowardly assault and the conductor was obliged to stop beating Gandhi who kept his seat.

The position of Indians in the Transvaal was worse than in Natal. They were compelled to pay a poll tax of £3; they were not allowed to own land except in specially allotted locations, a kind of ghetto; they had no franchise, and were not allowed to walk on the pavement or move out of doors after 9 p.m. without a special permit. One day Gandhi, who had received from the State Attorney a letter authorizing him to be out of doors all hours, was having his usual walk. As he passed near President Kruger’s house, the policeman on duty, suddenly and without any warning, pushed him off the pavement and kicked him into the street. A Mr. Coates, an English Quaker, who knew Gandhi, happened to pass by and saw the incident. He advised Gandhi to proceed against the man and offered himself as witness. But Gandhi declined the offer saying that he had made it a rule not to go to court in respect of a personal grievance.

During his stay in Pretoria, Gandhi read about 80 books on religion. He came under the influence of Christianity but refused to embrace it. During this period, Gandhi attended Bible classes.Within a week of his arrival there, Gandhi made his first public speech making truthfulness in business his theme. The meeting was called to awaken the Indian residents to a sense of the oppression they were suffering under. He took up the issue of Indians in regard to first class travel in railways. As a result, an assurance was given that first and second-class tickets would be issued to Indians “who were properly dressed”. This was a partial victory.These incidents lead Gandhi to develop the concept of Satyagraha. He united the Indians from different communities, languages and religions, who had settled in South Africa.By the time Gandhi arrived in South Africa the growing national- perpetuated by the White ruling authorities and the majority of the White citizenry – anti-Indian attitude had spread to Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal). The first discriminatory legislation directed at Indians, Law 3 of 1885, was passed in the South African Republic, or the Transvaal. The right to self-government had been granted to Natal in 1893 and politicians were increasing pressure to pass legislation aimed at containing the ‘merchant [Indian] menace’.

Two bills were passed in the following two years restricting the freedom of Indians severely. The Immigration Law Amendment Bill stated that any Indian had to return to India at the end of a five-year indenture period or had to be re-indentured for a further two years. If he refused an amount of £3 annual tax had to be paid. The bill came into law in 1895. A Franchise Amendment Bill was introduced in 1894. It was designed to limit the franchise to Indians who had the vote. Although there were only 300 of them, in comparison to 10 000 white voters, the Bill caused outrage among Indian leadership. They decided to contest the measure by any means available to them.Having completed his work in Pretoria, Gandhi returned to Durban and prepared to sail home. At a farewell dinner, in April 1894, given in his honour someone showed him a news item in the Natal Mercury that the Natal Government proposed to introduce a bill to disfranchise Indians. Gandhi immediately understood the ominous implications of this bill which, as he said, “is the first nail into our coffin” and advised his compatriots to resist it by concerned action. But they pleaded their helplessness without him and begged him to stay on for another month. He agreed little realizing that this one month would grow into twenty years.

Gandhi immediately turned the farewell dinner into a meeting and an action committee was formed. This committee then drafted a petition to the Natal Legislative Assembly. Volunteers came forward to make copies of the petition and to collect signatures – all during the night. The petition received much favourable publicity in the press the following morning. The bill was however passed. Undeterred, Gandhi set to work on another petition to Lord Ripon, the Secretary of State for Colonies. Within a month the mammoth petition with ten thousand signatures was sent to Lord Ripon and a thousand copies printed for distribution. Even The Times admitted the justice of the Indian claim and for the first time the people in India came to know of the oppressive lot of their compatriots in South Africa.

Gandhi insisted that if he had to extend his stay in South Africa he would accept no remuneration for his public services and since he still thought it necessary to live as befitted a barrister he needed about £300 to meet his expenses. He therefore enrolled as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Natal. On 25 June 1894, at the residence of Sheth Abdulla, with Sheth Haji Muhammad, the foremost Indian leader of Natal in the chair, a meeting of Indians was held and it was resolved to offer opposition to the Franchise Bill. Here Gandhi outlined his plan of action to oppose this bill.Gandhi played a prominent role in the planned campaign. As a talented letter-writer and meticulous planner, he was assigned the task of compiling all petitions, arranging meetings with politicians and addressing letters to newspapers. He also campaigned in India and made an, initially, successful appeal to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Ripon. He was instrumental in the formation of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) on 22 August 1894, which marked the birth of the first permanent political organisation to strive to maintain and protect the rights of Indians in South Africa.

By 1896 Gandhi had established himself as a political leader in South Africa. In this year, he undertook a journey to India to launch a protest campaign on behalf of Indians in South Africa. It took the form of letters written to newspapers, interviews with leading nationalist leaders and a number of public meetings. His mission caused great uproar in India and consternation among British authorities in England and Natal. Gandhi embarrassed the British Government enough to cause it to block the Franchise Bill in an unprecedented move, which resulted in anti-Indian feelings in Natal reaching dangerous new levels.While in India, an urgent telegram from the Indian community in Natal obliged him to cut short his stay. He set sail for Durban with his wife and children on 30 November 1896. Gandhi did not realize that while he had been away from South Africa, his pamphlet of Indian grievances, known as the Green Pamphlet, had been exaggerated and distorted. When the ship reached Durban harbour, it was for held for 23 days in quarantine. The European community, misled by garbled versions of Gandhi’s activities in India and by a rumour that he was bringing shiploads of Indians to settle in Natal, were wild with anger and threatened to drown all the passengers.

News of this cowardly assault received wide publicity and Joseph Chamberlain, the British Secretary of States for the Colonies, cabled an order to Natal to prosecute all those who were responsible for the attempted lynching. However, Gandhi refused to identify and prosecute his assailants, saying that they were misled and that he was sure that when they came to know the truth they would be sorry for what they had done.It was during this second period in South Africa that Gandhi’s underwent a gradual change. Previously he was anxious to maintain the standard of an English barrister. Now he began, to methodically reduce his wants and his expenses. He began to do his own laundry and clean out his own chamber-pots but often his guests as well.Not satisfied with self-help, he volunteered, despite his busy practice as a lawyer and demand of public work, his free service for two hours a day at a charitable hospital. He also undertook the education at home of his two sons and a nephew. He read books on nursing and midwifery and in fact served as midwife when his fourth and last son was born in Natal.

In 1899 the Second Anglo-Boer (South African War) war broke out. Though Gandhi’s sympathies were with the Boers who were fighting for their independence, he advised the Indian community to support the British cause, on the ground that since they claimed their rights as British subjects, it was their duty to defend the Empire when it was threatened. He organized and, with the help of a Dr. Booth, trained an Indian Ambulance Corps of 1,100 volunteers and offered its services to the Government. The corps under Gandhi’s leadership rendered valuable service and was mentioned in dispatches.In 1901, at the end of the war, Gandhi wanted to return to India. His professional success in South Africa might, he feared turn him into a “money-maker”. With great difficulty he persuaded his friends to let him go and promised to return should the community need him within a year.He reached India in time to attend the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress and had the satisfaction of seeing his resolution on South Africa pass with acclamation. He was however disappointed with the congress. He felt that Indian politicians talked too much but did little.Hardly had he set up in practice in Bombay when a cablegram from the Indian community in Natal recalled him. He had given them his word that he would return if needed. Leaving his family in India he sailed again.

He had been called to put the Indian case before Joseph Chamberlain who was visiting South Africa. But the Colonial Secretary who had come to receive a gift of thirty-five million pounds from South Africa had no intention to alienate the European community. Gandhi failed in his mission to win Chamberlain’s sympathy and discovered in the process that the situation in the Transvaal had become ominous for the Indians. He therefore decided to stay on in Johannesburg and enrolled as an advocate of the Supreme Court.Though he stayed on specifically to challenge White arrogance and to resist injustice, he harboured no hatred in his heart and was in fact always ready to help when they were in distress. It was this rare combination of readiness to resist wrong and capacity to love his opponent which baffled his enemies and compelled their admiration.When the Zulu rebellion broke out, he again offered his help to the Government and raised an Indian Ambulance Corps. He was happy that he and his men had to nurse the sick and dying Zulus whom the White doctors and nurses were unwilling to touch.Gandhi was involved in the formation British Indian Association (BIA) in 1903. The movement was to prevent proposed evictions of Indians in the Transvaal under British leadership. According to Arthur Lawley, the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor Lord Alfred Milner said that Whites were to be protected against Indians in what he called a ‘struggle between East and West for the inheritance of the semi-vacant territories of South Africa’.

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Satyagraha

Influenced by the Hindu religious book, the Bhagvad Gita, Gandhi wanted to purify his life by following the concepts of aparigraha (non-possession) and samabhava (equability). A friend gave him the book, Unto This Last, by John Ruskin; Gandhi became excited about the ideals proffered by Ruskin. The book inspired Gandhi to establish a communal living community called Phoenix Settlement just outside of Durban in June 1904. The Settlement was an experiment in communal living, a way to eliminate one’s needless possessions and to live in a society with full equality. Gandhi moved his newspaper, the Indian Opinion , established in June 1903 and its workers to the Phoenix Settlement as well as his own family a bit later. Besides a building for the press, each community member was allotted three acres of land on which to build a dwelling made of corrugated iron. In addition to farming, all members of the community were to be trained and expected to help with the newspaper.

In 1906, believing that family life was taking away from his full potential as a public advocate, Gandhi took the vow of brahmacharya (a vow of abstinence against sexual relations, even with one’s own wife). This was not an easy vow for him to follow, but one that he worked diligently to keep for the rest of his life. Thinking that one passion fed others, Gandhi decided to restrict his diet in order to remove passion from his palette. To aid him in this endeavour, Gandhi simplified his diet from strict vegetarianism to foods that were unspiced and usually uncooked, with fruits and nuts being a large portion of his food choices. Fasting, he believed, would also help still the urges of the flesh.Gandhi believed that his taking the vow of brahmacharya had allowed him the focus to come up with the concept of Satyagraha in late 1906. In the very simplest sense, Satyagraha is passive resistance. However, Gandhi believed the English phrase of “passive resistance” did not represent the true spirit of Indian resistance since passive resistance was often thought to be used by the weak and was a tactic that could potentially be conducted in anger.

Needing a new term for the Indian resistance, Gandhi chose the term “satyagraha,” which literally means “truth force.” Since Gandhi believed that exploitation was only possible if both the exploited and the exploiter accepted it, if one could see above the current situation and see the universal truth, then one had the power to make change. (Truth, in this manner, could mean “natural right,” a right granted by nature and the universe that should not be impeded on by man.)In practice, Satyagraha was a focused and forceful nonviolent resistance to a particular injustice. A Satyagrahi (a person using Satyagraha) would resist the injustice by refusing to follow an unjust law. In doing so, he would not be angry, would put up freely with physical assaults to his person and the confiscation of his property, and would not use foul language to smear his opponent. A practitioner of Satyagraha also would never take advantage of an opponent’s problems. The goal was not for there to be a winner and loser of the battle, but rather, that all would eventually see and understand the “truth” and agree to rescind the unjust law.

On 28 December 1907 the first arrests of Indians refusing to register were made, and by the end of January 1908, 2000 Asians had been jailed. Gandhi had also been jailed several times, but many key figures in the movement fled the colony rather than be arrested. The first time Gandhi officially used Satyagraha was in South Africa beginning in 1907 when he organised opposition to the Asiatic Registration Law (the Black Act). In March 1907, the Black Act was passed, requiring all Indians – young and old, men and women – to get fingerprinted and to keep registration documents on them at all times. Gandhi advised the Indian community to refuse to submit to this indignity and to court imprisonment by defying the law. Indians refused to get fingerprinted and picketed the documentation offices. Mass protests were organised, miners went on strike, and masses of Indians travelled, illegally, from Natal to the Transvaal in opposition to the Black Act. Many of the protesters were beaten and arrested. In January 1908, he was arrested and sentenced to two months’ simple imprisonment. He was followed by other Satyagrahis. This was the first of Gandhi’s many jail sentences. It took seven years of protest, before the Black Act was repealed in June 1914. Gandhi had proved that nonviolent protest could be immensely successful.

The Indians made a bonfire of their registration certificates and decided to defy the ban on immigration to the Transvaal. Jails began to be filled. Gandhi was arrested a second time in September 1908 and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, this time hard labour. The struggle continued. In February 1909 he was arrested a third time and sentenced to three months’ hard labour. He made such good use of his time in jail with study and prayer that he was able to declare that “the real road to ultimate happiness lies in going to jail and undergoing sufferings and privations there in the interest of one’s own country and religion”.Before the prison term was over General Jan Smuts sent him an emissary proposed that if the Indians voluntarily registered themselves he promised to repeal the Act. Gandhi and the leader of the Chinese population in South Africa, Leung Quin, agreed to the compromise. He always believed in trusting the opponent, but other Indians were not so trusting. One burly Indian, a Pathan, even charged Gandhi with having betrayed them and threatened to kill him if he registered. On the day Gandhi went out to register he was waylaid and attacked by this and other Pathans and severely injured. When he recovered consciousness and was told that his assailants had been arrested he insisted on them being released.

Gandhi registered, but his disappointment was great when Smuts went back on his word and refused to repeal the Black Act along with denying any promises were made. The Indians made a bonfire of their registration certificates and decided to defy the ban. In June 1909, he left for London after having defended his position as leader of the Transvaal merchant community.Gandhi returned to South Africa in December 1909 to find that members of the NIC were openly plotting against him. He was fighting for his political survival and withdrew to Tolstoy, a farm he had purchased in 1910 to support the families of jailed passive resisters. Gandhi only came under the public eye again in 1912 as a result of a visit to South Africa by Indian statesman Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He was accused of preventing opponents of his policies to speak with the visitor and finally, on 26 April 1913 Gandhi and his rivals in the NIC went their separate ways.

In 1911, a provisional settlement of the Asiatic question in the Transvaal brought about a suspension of the Satyagraha campaign. In the following year, Gokhale visited South Africa and on the eve of his departure assured Gandhi that the Union Government had promised to repeal the Black Act, to remove the racial bar from the immigration law and to abolish the £3 tax. But Gandhi had his fears which were soon borne out. The Union Government went back on its promise, and to this fire was added a very powerful fuel when a judgment of the Supreme Court ruled that only Christian marriages were legal in South Africa, turning at one stroke all Indian marriages in South Africa invalid and all Indian wives into concubines. This provoked Indian women, including, Kasturbai, to join the struggle.It was illegal for the Indians to cross the border from the Transvaal into Natal, and vice versa, without a permit. Indian women from the Tolstoy Ashram, which Gandhi set up in the Transvaal, crossed the border without permits and proceeded to Newcastle to persuade the Indian miners there to strike. They succeeded and were arrested. The strike spread and thousands of miners and other Indians prepared, under Gandhi’s leadership, to march to the Transvaal border in a concerted act of non-violent defiance.

On the 29th October, 1913, hundreds of men, women and children led by Gandhi marched from Newcastle, Natal Colony (now KwaZulu Natal) into the Transvaal to purposefully defy the Immigrants Regulation Act of 1913 (Act no. 22). Gandhi was followed by two parties led by Thambi Naidoo and Albert Christopher. This marked one of the greatest episodes in South African history. He was arrested the following day at Palmford. Prior to this march, Thambi Naidoo mobilised the Indian community at Newcastle to start the Satyagraha Campaign (Passive Resistance Campaign).Gandhi made strict rules for the conduct of the Satyagrahis who were to submit patiently and without retaliation to insult, flogging or arrest. While leading a march on 6 November 1913, which included 127 women, 57 children and 2037 men, Gandhi was arrested. He was released on bail, rejoined the march and was re-arrested. The Indian Relief Bill was finally scrapped.

At one time there were about fifty thousand indentured labourers on strike and several thousand other Indians in jail. The Government tried repression and even shooting, and many lives were lost. “In the end”, as an American biographer has put it, “General Smuts did what every Government that ever opposed Gandhi had to do – he yielded.” A spontaneous strike by Indians in Natal altered the situation radically. Here violent confrontation ruled and several strikers were killed and injured in clashes with the police and more protesters joined. By the end of November 1913 produce markets in Durban and Pietermaritzburg had come to a standstill, sugar mills were closed and hotels, restaurants and homes were left without domestic workers. Reports in India relating the arrest of Gandhi and police brutality caused uproar and the British government was forced to form an agreement with the strikers. Gandhi was released in order to negotiate with Smuts over the Indian Relief Bill, a law that scrapped the £3 tax on ex-indentured workers. The law was scrapped.Gandhi was released and, in January 1914, a provisional agreement was arrived at between him and General Smuts and the main Indian demands were conceded. Gandhi’s work in South Africa was now over and, in July 1914, he sailed with his wife for England. Before sailing, he sent a pair of sandals he had made in jail to General Smuts as a gift.

Recalling the gift twenty-five years later, the General wrote:

I have worn these sandals for many a summer since then, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”

Return to India

Having spent twenty years in South Africa helping fight discrimination, Gandhi decided it was time to head back to India in July 1914. On his way home, Gandhi was scheduled to make a short stop in England. However, when World War I broke out during his journey, Gandhi decided to stay in England and form another ambulance corps of Indians to help the British. When the British air caused Gandhi to take ill, he sailed to India in January 1915.Gandhi’s struggles and triumphs in South Africa had been reported in the worldwide press. By the time he reached home, in India, he was a national hero. Although he was eager to begin reforms in India, a friend advised him to wait a year and spend the time travelling around India to acquaint himself with the people and their tribulations.Yet Gandhi soon found his fame getting in the way of accurately seeing the conditions that the poorer people lived in day to day. In an attempt to travel more anonymously, Gandhi began wearing a loincloth (dhoti) and sandals (the average dress of the masses) during this journey. If it was cold out, he would add a shawl. This became his wardrobe for the rest of his life.Also during this year of observation, Gandhi founded another communal settlement, this time in Ahmadabad and called the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi lived on the Ashram for the next sixteen years, along with his family and several members who had once been part of the Phoenix Settlement.

The title ‘Mahatma’

It was during his first year back in India that Gandhi was given the honorary title of Mahatma (“Great Soul”). Many credit Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature, for both awarding Gandhi of this name and of publicising it. The title represented the feelings of the millions of Indian peasants who viewed Gandhi as a holy man. However, Gandhi never liked the title because it seemed to mean he was special while he viewed himself as ordinary. However other sources claim it was Nagar Sheth of Jetpur, Shri Nautamlal B. Mehta (Kamdar), who was the first to use and bestow “Mahatma” for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 21 January 1915 at Kamri Bai School, Jetpur, India. From then on, Gandhi was known as Mahatma Gandhi. It is commonly believed that Rabindranath Tagore first bestowed the name. However, this is incorrect.

On 30 January 1948, Gandhi hurriedly went up the few steps of the prayer ground in a large park in Delhi. He had been detained by a conference with the Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and was late by a few minutes. He loved punctuality and was worried that he had kept the congregation waiting. “I am late by ten minutes,” he murmured. “I should be here at the stroke of five.” He raised his hands and touched the palms together to greet the crowd that was waiting. Every one returned the greeting. Many came forward wanting to touch his feet. They were not allowed to do so, as Gandhi was already late. But a young Hindu from Poona, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, forced his way forward and while seeming to do obeisance fired three point-blank shots from a small automatic pistol aimed at the heart. Gandhi fell, his lips uttering the name of God (He Ram). Before medical aid could arrive the heart had ceased to beat.

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Work Of Mahatma Gandhi In South Africa

Work of Mahatma Gandhi In South Africa

In March 1919, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was already in his fiftieth year, called for a nationwide Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act, his first attempt at leading an all-India struggle. To understand the man who was about to take over the reins of the Indian national movement and lead it through its most climactic years, one must go back at least twenty-five years, to 1893, when he began the struggle of Indians against racial discrimination in South Africa as a twenty-four year old barrister.

The young barrister who arrived in Durban in 1893 on a one-year contract to help Gujarati merchant Dada Abdullah with his legal problems appeared to be an ordinary young man trying to make a living. He was, however, the first Indian barrister and the first Indian with a university education to come to South Africa.

GANDHI AS YOUNG BARRISTER IN SOUTH AFRICA:

WORK AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION:

• Indentured Indian labour, primarily from South India, was recruited by White settlers to work on the sugar plantations in South Africa beginning in 1890. Indian merchants, mostly Merman Muslims, had followed in their footsteps. The third group of Indians in South Africa prior to Gandhi’s arrival was indentured labourers who had settled down in South Africa after their contract had expired, as well as their children, many of whom were born in South Africa.

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• None of these groups of Indians had much access to education, especially in English; even wealthy merchants often only knew a smattering of the language required to conduct their business. Even if they despised the racial discrimination they faced on a daily basis, they had come to accept it as a way of life, and even if they did, they had no idea how to challenge it.

• Gandhi was the son of an Indian state’s Dewan (Minister), whose family, despite their financial difficulties, was well-liked in his hometown of Kathiawad. He’d also spent three years studying for the Bar in London. He had never encountered the overt racism that greeted him within days of his arrival in South Africa, neither in India nor in England.

• Gandhiji experience to racial discrimination: Journey from Durban to Pretoria, which he completed in less than a week after arriving on the continent, was riddled with racial humiliations. Apart from the famous incident in which a White man bundled him out of a first-class compartment and left him shivering in the waiting room, he was forced to travel in the driver’s box in a coach for which he had purchased a first-class ticket, and when he disobeyed the coach leader’s order to vacate even that seat and sit on the foot-board, he was thrashed soundly. When he arrived in Johannesburg, he discovered that all of the hotels were fully booked the moment he inquired about a room for the night. He was almost pushed out of his railway compartment after securing a first-class train ticket from Johannesburg to Pretoria and was only saved from this humiliation by the intervention of a European passenger.

• He immediately convened a meeting of the Indians in Pretoria, where he was to work on the civil suit that had brought him to South Africa. He offered to teach English to anyone who wanted to learn it and encouraged them to band together and protest oppression. He also used the press to express his displeasure.

POLITICAL ACTIVITY IN SOUTH AFRICA

• Gandhi ji was getting ready to leave for India after settling the law suit for which he had come. However, on the eve of his departure from Durban, he brought up the issue of the disenfranchisement bill that was about to be passed by the Natal legislature.

• The Indians in South Africa begged Gandhiji to stay for a month and organise their protest because they couldn’t do it on their own because they didn’t know enough English to draught petitions or anything like that.

• He was only 25 at the time, and he was 45 when he left. In one way, Gandhi’s time in South Africa was unique. He demanded many things as a matter of right because he was a British-educated barrister, such as first-class train tickets and hotel rooms, which other Indians had probably never had the courage to ask for. Maybe they thought they were being discriminated against because they weren’t “civilised,” or “westernised.”

• Gandhi’s first visit to South Africa as a westernised Indian demonstrated to him and others that the real cause lay elsewhere, in the White rulers’ assumption of racial superiority. Because he was the only Indian with a western education, he was also tasked with leading the Indians’ fight against rising racial discrimination.

• Wealthy Indian merchants appointed him as their leader because he was the only one who could speak to the rulers in their own language, the only one who understood the intricacies of their laws and system of government, the only one who could draught their petitions, form their organisations, and represent them before the rulers.

Moderate phase:

• From 1894 to 1906, Gandhi’s political activities can be classified as the “Moderate” phase of the South African Indians’ struggle. He focused on petitioning and sending memorials to the South African legislatures, the Colonial Secretary in London, and the British Parliament during this time.

• He believed that if all of the facts of the case were presented to the Imperial Government, the British sense of justice and fairness would be aroused, and the Imperial Government would intervene on behalf of the Indians, who were, after all, British subjects. His goal was to bring together various Indian groups and make their demands widely known.

• This he attempted to do by founding the Natal Indian Congress and publishing the Indian Opinion newspaper. During this time, Gandhi’s abilities as an organiser, fund-raiser, journalist, and propagandist all came to the fore.

• By 1906, however, Gandhiji had thoroughly tested the so-called “Moderate” methods of struggle and was convinced that they would fail.

Passive resistance:

• The use of passive resistance or civil disobedience, which Gandhiji named Satyagraha, characterised the second phase of the struggle in South Africa, which began in 1906.

• It was first used when the government passed legislation requiring Indians to obtain registration certificates that included their fingerprints. It was critical to keep these with you at all times.

• Indians resolved to refuse to submit to the law and face the consequences at a large public meeting held on September 11, 1906, in Johannesburg’s Empire Theatre.

• To carry out the campaign, Gandhiji established the Passive Resistance Association. The government began proceedings against Gandhiji and twenty-six others after the registration deadline passed.

• The passive resisters pleaded guilty, were ordered to leave the country, and were sentenced to prison when they refused. Others joined them, bringing the total number of people to 155. The fear of going to jail had vanished, and it became known as King Edward’s Hotel.

• General Smuts summoned Gandhiji for a meeting, promising to drop the legislation if Indians agreed to register voluntarily. Gandhiji accepted the invitation and was the first to sign up. Smuts, on the other hand, had pulled a fast one: he ordered the voluntary registrations to be ratified under the law. The Indians, led by Gandhiji, retaliated by burning their registration certificates in public.

• Meanwhile, the government has introduced new legislation, this time aimed at limiting Indian immigration. To counter this, the campaign widened its horizons. A group of prominent Indians from Natal crossed the border into Transvaal in August 1908 to defy the new immigration laws and were apprehended.

• Other Transvaal Indians defied the laws by selling without a licence, and traders who did have licences refused to produce them. They were all imprisoned. In October 1908, Gandhiji was arrested and sentenced to a prison term involving hard physical labour and deplorable living conditions, along with the other Indians. However, imprisonment failed to quell the resistance’s spirit, and the government resorted to deportation to India, particularly of the poorer Indians. Threats to merchants’ economic interests put them under pressure.

• The movement had come to a halt at this point. The more devout Satyagrahis were still going in and out of jail, but the majority were showing signs of exhaustion. The fight was clearly going to be long, and the government had no intention of giving up.

• In 1909, Gandhiji travelled to London to meet with the authorities, but his visit was fruitless. The funds for supporting the Satyagrahis’ families and running Indian Opinion were rapidly depleting.

Formation of Tolstoy farm:

• Since 1906, when he began devoting all of his attention to the struggle, Gandhiji’s own legal practise had virtually ceased. At this point, Gandhiji established Tolstoy Farm, made possible by the generosity of his German architect friend Kallenbach, to house the Satyagrahis’ families and provide them with a means of subsistence.

• Tolstoy Farm served as a forerunner to the Gandhian ashrams that would later play such a pivotal role in the Indian national movement. India contributed as well, with Sir Ratan Tata sending Rs. 25,000 and contributions from the Congress, the Muslim League, and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

• An agreement was reached between the government and the Indians in 1911 to coincide with King George V’s coronation, but it only lasted until the end of 1912. Meanwhile, Gokhale visited South Africa, where he was treated like a VIP and promised that all discriminatory laws against Indians would be repealed.

• Satyagraha was resumed in 1913 after the promise was never kept. This time, the movement was expanded to include opposition to the three-pound poll tax levied on all ex-indentured Indians. The inclusion of a demand for the repeal of this tax, which was imposed disproportionately harshly on poor labourers whose monthly wages barely exceeded ten shillings, immediately drew indentured and ex-indentured labourers into the struggle, and Satyagraha could now take on a truly mass character.

• A Supreme Court ruling invalidated all marriages not conducted according to Christian rites and registered by the Registrar of Marriages, adding more fuel to the already raging fire. Marriages between Hindus, Muslims, and Paris’s were therefore illegal, and the children born as a result of these unions were illegitimate. The Indians saw this judgement as an insult to their women’s honour, and as a result, many women were drawn into the movement.

• Gandhiji decided that the time had come for the final struggle, and that all of the resisters’ resources should be directed toward it. The campaign began with the illegal crossing of the border by a group of sixteen Satyagrahis, including Gandhiji’s wife Kasturba, who marched from Phoenix Settlement in Natal to Transvaal and were arrested right away.

Agitation by mine’s worker: A group of eleven women marched from Tolstoy Farm in Transvaal to New Castle, a mining town in Natal, without obtaining a permit. They spoke with Indian mine workers, mostly Tamils, and persuaded them to go on strike before being arrested. Gandhiji arrived in New Castle and assumed command of the agitation. The employers retaliated by cutting off the workers’ water and electricity, forcing them to flee their homes.

• Gandhiji made the decision to march this army of over 2,000 men, women, and children across the border and imprison them in Transvaal jails. During the march, Gandhiji was arrested twice, released, and then arrested a third time and imprisoned.

• The workers’ morale was high, so they continued marching until they were loaded onto trains and transported back to Natal, where they were prosecuted and imprisoned. Starvation, whipping, and being forced to work in the mines by mounted military police were among the punishments meted out to these brave men and women in prison. Gandhiji was forced to sweep the compound and dig stones.

• The government’s actions enraged the entire Indian community, and workers on plantations and mines went on strike like lightning.

• Gokhale toured India to arouse public opinion, and even Viceroy Lord Hardinge condemned the repression as “one that would not be tolerated by any country that claims to be civilised” and called for an independent investigation into the allegations of atrocities. The use of lethal force against unarmed and peaceful men and women sparked outrage and condemnation.

• After a series of negotiations involving Gandhiji, the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, C.F. Andrews, and General Smuts, an agreement was reached in which the South African government conceded the major Indian demands relating to the poll tax, registration certificates, and marriages solemnised according to Indian rites, as well as promising to treat the issue of Indian immigration sympathetically.

Success in South Africa:

• Nonviolent civil disobedience had succeeded in bringing the movement’s opponents to the negotiating table and securing the substance of the movement’s demands.

• Gandhiji returned to his homeland after developing the blueprint for the ‘Gandhian’ method of struggle. On the Indian subcontinent, the South African “experiment” would now be tested on a much larger scale.

• The South African experiment also prepared Gandhiji for leadership of the Indian national struggle in other ways. He’d gained invaluable experience leading poor Indian labourers, witnessing their willingness to sacrifice and persevere in the face of adversity, as well as their morale in the face of oppression.

• South Africa strengthened his belief in the Indian masses’ ability to participate in and sacrifice for a cause that moved them.

In South Africa, Gandhiji had the opportunity to lead Indians of various religions: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis were all united under his leadership. They came from various parts of the country, primarily Gujaratis and Tamils. They came from various social classes, including wealthy merchants and poor indentured labourers.

• Another aspect of Gandhiji’s South African experience served him well. He learned the hard way that leadership entails facing not only the wrath of the enemy, but also the wrath of one’s own followers.

South Africa, then, provided Gandhiji with an opportunity to develop his own style of politics and leadership, as well as to experiment with new methods of struggle on a small scale, free of the opposition of competing political currents. He had already transitioned the movement from its ‘Moderate’ to its ‘Gandhian’ phase in South Africa. He was well-versed in the Gandhian method’s advantages and disadvantages, and he was convinced that it was the best method available. It was now up to him to introduce it to the Indian market.

Source https://upscwithnikhil.com/article/history/work-of-mahatma-gandhi-in-south-africa

Source https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/mohandas-karamchand-gandhi

Source https://upscwithnikhil.com/article/history/work-of-mahatma-gandhi-in-south-africa

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