Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Collected works of Gandhiji.

Vol. 2
Publications Division. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Govt. of India. (1958), Third ed. Reprint. 1994.

In this volume the main point is Gandhiji’s appeal to the Indian general, during his visit to India, about the grievances of Indians at SA. And on his return back the he was attacked by few fanatic whites and the memorial he wrote to Chamberlin. Most of the points which we already found about Indians and British also repeated in this volume too. But the most important thing is the he way responded to his attack and refuse to revenge on them is the highlight in this volume.


Insisting the rights of Indians as the ‘children of the Imperial family… having the same rights and privileges guaranteed to us as to the European children ….’ (pp.34-35)1 Gandhiji writes on the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign in The Natal Mercury, (3-6-1897):

In token of our joy at the approaching completion of the 60th year of your glorious and beneficent reign, we are proud to think that we are your subjects, the more so as we know that the peace we enjoy in India, and the confidence of security of life and prosperity which enables us to venture abroad, are due to that position. We can but re-echo the sentiments of loyalty and devotion which are finding expression among all your subjects and in all parts of your vast dominions on which the sun never sets. That the God Almighty may spare you in health and vigour for a long time to come to reign over us, in our devout wish and prayer.(p. 317)2

As usual he appeals to the British ‘love of justice and fairplay’, which according to him ‘are the sheet-anchor of our hope’.3 (p.46). Because, ‘It has always been the boast of Englishmen that they can take up a side without abandoning all fair play to their opponents….’(p. 282)4 And the opposition to Indian migration to SA is purely out of jealousy by the British merchants who cannot cope with the competition from Indians:

“Simply trade jealousy’. The Colony was desirous of securing all possible benefit from the Indians as labourers, because the natives of the country will not work in the fields, and the Europeans cannot. But the moment the Indian entered into competition with the European as a trader, he found himself thwarted, obstructed, and insulted by a system of organized persecution…..(p. 125)5

And when few white merchants used religious sentiment for their defence, Gandhiji also points out the same in his response:

… The Chambers of Commerce in the different States were the first movers. And they, of course, came out with the statements that we believed the Christians a natural prey, and that we believed our women to be soulless and were propagators of leprosy and syphilis and other diseases. The matters have now reached such a stage that, for a good Christian gentleman, it is as natural to see nothing unjust in the persecution of the Asiatics, as it was in the olden days for the bona-fide Christians to (p.42) see nothing wrong or unchristian in slavery. Mr. Henry Bale is the legislator in the Natal Assembly, …because he is a converted Christian and takes a prominent part in religious movements and brings his conscience often into play on the floor of the Assembly House. Yet, this gentleman is one of the most powerful and uncompromising opponents of Indians….(pp. 42-43)6

Further he quotes a British journalist in South Africa, who wrote in Cape Times, (13-04-1889):

‘…The very foundation of English commerce lies in the fact of our being able to compete more successfully with other nations. Surely, it is Protection running to madness when the more successful operations of their rivals [Indians]….’(p.50). And when he and other Indians were not allowed to disembark from the two ships, givin7g Interview to ….he said, ‘…It is an admitted fact that the Indian Empire is the brightest jewel in the British Crown. Most of the trade of the United Kingdom is carried on with the Indian Empire, and it furnishers some of the bravest soldiers to fight the wars of Great Britain in almost all parts of the world…. Every Britisher is agreed that the glory of the British Empire depends upon the retention of the Indian Empire….(p. 156)8

In support of his views he also quotes from The Natal Advertiser, Natal, 28th Feb. 1895:

‘…Our own natives ought to have been our labouring class, but the fact has to be faced that, in this respect, they are almost a dead failure. Consequently, coloured labour of a more active and reliable kind had to be procured from some other source, and India has offered the necessary supply….’(p.46)9…If India is to be retained as an advantageous part of the Empire, then it is absolutely necessary that means shall be found for relieving it of much of its present population, and it may be taken to be a part of the Imperial policy that India’s surplus population is to be encouraged, rather than discouraged, to find fresh outlets in those other portions of the Empire which are in need of a labouring population….’(p.45)10

At the same time he was not hesitant to quote the view of his opponents (The Natal Mercury, 9th January, 1897):

…Our (p.221) forefathers won this country at the point of the sword, and left us the country as our birthright and heritage. That birthright we have to hand down to our sons and daughters, as it was handed down to us. It was left to us an entailed estate for all of British and European blood, and we should be false to the trust we have received were we to allow this fair land to be overrun with a people alien to us in blood, in habits, in traditions, in religion, and in everything that goes to make up national life. We have also a very serious responsibility as guardians of the welfare of the aboriginal inhabitants of the land. In Natal there are half-a-million of natives who look to the white man as the child looks to his father, and as a matter of fair dealing, to put the matter in its mildest aspect, we must safeguard, as far as possible, the rights of the natives of Natal, as the legitimate labourers of the Colony. Then, there are the Indians already in the Colony. We brought most of them here, and it is only our duty to see that they are not subjected to the disabilities and disadvantages that would follow on such an influx of the countrymen as would make it a difficult matter for them to make an honest living ….(pp. 221-222) 11


In an appeal to the Indian public, Gandhiji shares the grievances of Indians at SA:

…The police use their discretion and do not, as a rule, trouble those who are dressed in the Memon costume, as that dress is supposed to be the Indian trader’s dress. Mr. Aboobaker, now deceased, was the foremost Indian trader in Natal and much respected by the European community. He, with his friend, was once arrested by the police. When he was brought to the police station for being out after 9 p.m., the authorities knew at once that they had committed a mistake. They told Mr. Aboobaker that they did not want to arrest gentlemen like himself, and asked him if he could point out any distinguishing mark between a trader and a labourer. Mr. Aboobaker pointed to his robe, and, ever since, it has been a tacit understanding between the police and the public that those wearing the flowing robe should not be arrested, even though they may be out after 9 p.m. But there are Tamil and Bengali traders, equally respectable, who do not wear the robes. There are, again, the Christian Indian educated youths—a most sensitive class—who do not wear robes. They are constantly molested ….(p. 9)12…it is not political power that we want but it is degradation which these Franchise Bills involve that we resist ….(p. 17)13…The Indians cannot, as of right, walk on the foot- path in Pretoria and Johannesburg ….(p. 31)14……A starving man, generally, would stand any amount of rough treatment to get a crumb of bread. (p. 34)15……The Europeans say that the habits of the Indians are insanitary, they spend nothing and that they are untruthful and immoral. These are the objections according to the most moderate journals. Others, of course, simply abuse us. The charge as to insanitary habits and untruthfulness, is partially true ….(p. 40)16… Too much stress cannot be laid on the fact that there can be no comparison between the conditions of the Indians in India and that of those in South Africa. Here it is political persecution and very little class legislation. There it is class legislation pure and simple and degradation of the Indian to the level of a pariah.( p. 58)17

However his defence of Indians looks bit strange to me:

…As to untruthfulness, the charge, to a certain extent, is true, with regard to the indentured Indians, utterly exaggerated with regard to the traders….However, the moment they leave India, they are free from the healthy checks that keep them on the narrow path. In South Africa, they are without any religious instruction, though they need it badly. They are called upon to give evidence against their masters for the sake of a fellow brother. This duty they often shirk. Gradually, therefore, their faculty for adhering to the truth, under all circumstances, becomes perverted and they become helpless afterwards.(p. 41)18

To support his views he even quotes what a British journalist in South Africa, in Cape Times, (13-4-1889)

‘…Those who, for a few moments, have stayed to converse with the Indian trader, have been, perhaps, surprised to find they are speaking to a scholar and a gentleman. In the schools of Bombay, Madras, and even from under the very shadows of the Himalayas and from the plains of the Punjab, these unassuming individuals have drunk deep of the springs of knowledge, it may be, unsuited to our requirements, foreign to our taste, and savouring too much of the mythical to be of use in our practical lives, but, nevertheless, a knowledge the acquisition of which requires as much application, as much literary application, and a far more sensitive and poetic nature than is required in the highest schools of Oxford or Cambridge. The philosophy of India, obscured by the dust of ages and the traditions of generations, was taught with delight, when the ancestors of the Superior Boer and the Superior Englishman were content to find their highest pleasures in the pursuit of bear and the wolf over the marshes and through the forests of their native lands. When these same ancestors had had no thought of a higher life, when self-preservation was their first law, and the destruction of their neighbour’s village and the capture of his wife and infant their keenest enjoyment, the philosophers of India had grown weary with a thousand years’ conflict with the problems of existence ….’(p. 49)19

…The United Kingdom owns, as its greatest and brightest dependency, that enormous Empire of India, with 300,000,000 of subjects, who are as loyal to the Crown as you are yourselves, and among them there are hundreds and thousands of men who are every whit as civilized as we are ourselves, who are, if that is anything, better born in the sense that they have older traditions and older families, who are men of wealth, men of cultivation, men of distinguished valour, men who have brought whole armies and placed them at the service of the queen, and have, in times of great difficulty and trouble, such, for instance, as on the occasion of the Indian Mutiny saved the Empire by their loyalty…. (p. 355)20

At the same time the integrity of Indians, though real at his time, needs to be taken with a pinch of slat:

…the Banks give Indians almost unlimited credit, while the merchants and bankers would not trust Europeans to that extent….(p.41) A European gentleman, known to the Bank and a friend of this Indian, wanted L 300 credit for speculation. The Bank refused to give him credit without guarantee. The Indian friend pledged his honour, and that was all he had to pledge, and the Bank accepted that security, although, at the time, too, he was heavily in debt to the Bank. The result is, the European friend has failed to refund the L 300 to the Bank, and the Indian friend, for the present, has lost the money ….(41-42)21

Regarding his method for the rights of Indians, Gandhiji remain firm in his principle of ahimsa:

Our method in South Africa is to conquer this hatred by love. At any rate, that is our goal. We would often fall short of that ideal, but we can adduce innumerable instances to show that we have acted in that spirit. We do not attempt to have individuals punished but, as a rule, patiently suffer wrongs at their hands. Generally, our prayers are not to demand compensation for past injuries, but to render a repletion of those injuries impossible and to remove the causes ….(p. 43)22

At the same time Gandhiji admitted that this suffering of wrongs also have its other side of selfish motive and inability to oppose:

… In all the cases of assault, our mode of action, as a rule, is not to take any notice of them. We follow the principle, so far as we can, of going two miles when we are asked to go one. Sufferance is, really and sincerely, the badge of the Indians in South Africa, especially in Natal. I may sate, however, that we follow this policy not from philanthropic but from purely selfish motives. We have found by painful experiences that to bring the offenders to justice is a tedious and expensive process. The result is often contrary to our expectations. The offender would either be discharged with a caution or fined “five shillings or one day”. The very man, after getting out of the box, assumes a more threatening attitude and puts the complainant in an awkward position. And the publication of such acts incites others to similar ones. We, therefore, do not, as a rule, even mention them before the public in Natal. (p. 8)23

And the object of the agitation is to decide the status of Indians outside India in British Colonies:

…The object of our agitation is not to swamp the Colony {of SA} with Indians or to have the status of the Indian in the Colony of Natal defined, but to have the Imperial question decided once for all; namely: ‘What status will the Indians outside British India have?’….(p. 157)24


The following remarks by The Natal Advertiser of January 16 [1897] about the behaviour of the Indian community during the crisis are worthy or record:

The behaviour of the Indian population of Durban during the excitement of the week was all that could be desired. They must have felt sore at the attitude of the townspeople towards their fellow countrymen. But there was no attempt at retaliation; and by their quiet, peaceable behaviour, and faith in Government, they certainly contributed to the preservation of public order.(p. 231)25

On Gandhiji

When Gandhiji returned back to SA, he along with other Indians in two ships were not allowed to disembark. There was mass protection against Indian’s immigration at Natal by whites and when he got down and was escorted by police he was attacked. But he refuse to take the matter to the court. There were also wide spread appreciation about Gandhiji by News Papers and individuals among the whites. Like wise Gandhi was very economical and remain to honest in money matter. This we find in the expenses he recorded during his visit to India. There is nothing for me to add any personal comment, I them as it is in this volume:

The Star, the leading newspaper in Johannesburg, says:
Mr. Gandhi writes forcibly, moderately and well. He has himself suffered some slight measure of injustice since he came into the Colony, but that fact does not seem to have coloured his sentiment, and it must be confessed that to the tone of the ‘Open Letter’ (p.35) no objection can reasonably be taken. Mr. Gandhi discusses the questions he has raised with conspicuous moderation.
The Natal Mercury, the Government organ in Natal, says:
Mr. Gandhi writes with calmness and moderation. He is an impartial as any one could expect him to be, and probably a little more so than might have been expected, considering that he did not receive very just treatment at the hands of the Law Society# when he first came to the Colony. (pp. 35-36)26
#.The Law Society of Natal had opposed Ganjiji’s admission as an Advocate to the Supreme Court. (p. 36)

Gandhiji was given a draft for L 75 to cover the traveling, printing and other out-of-pocket expenses in connection with his tour in India. The detailed account of expenditure, which Gandhiji maintained and submitted to the Natal Indian Congress after his return from India, is reproduced below. Incidentally, it throws light on some aspects of his personality, manifest even at that early age.(p.139)27 {This is true. In the following pages one can find the detailed account of the expenses from July 5th 1896 to 29th Nov. 1896—dayanand]}.

Shortly after landing from the Courland {name of the ship}, on Wednesday, January 13, 1897, Gandhiji was mobbed by a section of the crowd which had demonstrated at the harbour. He escaped being lynched, first through the brave intervention of Mrs. Alexander, the wife of the Police Superintendent, and, alter, through that Officer’s resourcefulness when the house in which Gandhiji had taken shelter was besieged. The Secretary of Sate for the Colonies, Mr. Chamberlain, cabled the Natal Government to prosecute Gandhiji’s assailants, but when the Attorney-General, Mr. Escombe, approached Gandhiji for assistance in indicating them, Gandhiji desired that (p.165) no action should be taken against them. Asked to put this in writing, Gandhiji readily gave the letter, which was subsequently forwarded to Mr. Chamberlain.
January 20, 1987.
The Honourable Harry Escome

I beg to thank you and the Government for the kind enquiries made about me and the kindness shown to me by the officials of Durban after the incident that happened on Wednesday last.
I beg to state that I do not wish that any notice should be taken of the behaviour of some people towards me last Wednesday, which I have no doubt was due to misapprehension on their part as to what I did in India with reference to the Asiatic question.
It is due to the Government to state that, although, under instructions from you, the Superintendent of Water Police offered to take me to town quietly at night, I proceeded to the shore with Mr. Laughton on my own responsibility without informing the Water Police of my departure.

I have, etc.,
M. K. Gandhi.(pp. 164-65)28

…these speeches were being made {by the members of the Committee, opposing landing of Indians from the two ships ‘Naderi’ and “Courland’}:

…Now about that man Gandhi. (applause). They might shout about him. He was a particular friend of his, they might depend upon it. (laughter). Gandhi was on board one of the boats and the greatest service they could do him would be to do him an injury. He believed Gandhi was very anxious to become a hero and a martyr to his cause. The greatest punishment which could be inflicted upon him was to allow him to live amongst them. If he lived amongst them, they would have an opportunity of spitting on him (laughter and applause), which they would not have if they wiped him out….(p. 209)29

…Mr. Laughton was separated from him; Mr. Gandhi was kicked, whipped, stale fish and other missiles were thrown at him, which hurt his eye and cut his ear, and his hat was taken off his head. While this was going on, the wife of the Superintendent of Police, who happened to be passing by, bravely afforded protection with her umbrella, and the police, on hearing the yells and the cries, came to the rescue, and escorted him safely to an Indian house….The Superintendent of Police, fearing serious disturbance, and forcible entry into the house, had Mr. Gandhi removed to the Police Station disguised as a police constable. Your Memorialists do not wish to take any advantage of this incident; it is mentioned here as a part of the events. They are prepared to admit that the assault was the work of irresponsible persons, and as such unworthy of notice….(p. 210)30

…It was owing only to the alertness of the police that Mr. Gandhi escaped without serious injury, and perhaps with his life…. But South Africa is evidently passing through a stage in its transition which evolves abortive demonstrations as one of its characteristics. The whole country is still in its boyhood, and there is nothing a boy loves more than to refer his disputes to the gory arbitrament of physical force. Looked at in that way, this week’s doings at Durban may be excused with an indulgent smile. But regarded from any other standpoint, it is open to severe condemnation, as tending to retard rather than to advance the ultimate solution of a most complex political and economic question, not merely of importance of Natal, but to England, India and the whole of South Africa.[Star, Johannesburg, January, 1897]. (p. 224)31

…No doubt, all this proved grand fun for the canaille, but apart from the morals of law and order, the British love of fair play must be rapidly on the wane in Durban, when Englishmen resort to such ungentlemanly behaviour and brutality towards an unconvicted free man [Ganndhiji]. Downing Street and the Indian Government cannot be (p.225) apathetic towards the violent attitude which has been adopted by Natalians towards a lawful subject of Britain’s “magnificent dependency”,--India—a land which is spoken of as the brightest territorial jewel in the English diadem.{The Johannesburg Times, January, 1897.].(pp. 225-26)32

endeavouring to injure opponents at the Bar, but only by so qualifying one’s self as to be equal or superior to such opponents. So, in political matters, we must give fair play to an opponent, and answer his argument by counter argument, and not by heaving half a brick at his head. I have found Mr. Gandhi, both in legal matters and on the Asiatic question, a fair and honourable opponent, obnoxious to us as his contentions may be, who would scorn to hit below the belt…. I accompanied him simply as a member of the Bar, to testify, by so doing, that Mr. Gandhi was an honourable member of (p.280) an honourable profession, in order that I might raise my voice in protest against the way in which he had been treated, and in the hope that my presence might save him from insult…. Throughout the trying procession, his manliness and pluck could not have been surpassed, and I can assure Natal that he is a man who must be treated as a man. Intimidation is out of the question, because, if he knew the Town hall were going to be thrown at him, I believe, from what I saw, that he would not quail…. {F. A. Laughton, The Natal Mercury, 16th January, 1897}. (pp. 280-81)33

…It was once said by an eminent judge that success at the Bar was not attained by
… Frankly, it may be admitted that Mr. Gandhi’s pamphlet is not an unfair statement of the position of the Indian in South Africa from an Indian’s point of view. The European refuses to recognize the Indian as an equal; and the Indian, as a British subject, considers he has a right to all the privileges of the British subjects of European birth in the Colony, and under the Proclamation of 1858, he is legally entitled to that claim. That there is a prejudice in South Africa against the Indian, it would be folly to deny…. [The Natal Mercury, 18, January, 1897].—(p. 281)34


Gandhiji’s view on Hinduism only reflected the view of his time. As we read other volumes, we might get different picture:

…I only wish that such institutions will crop up all over India and be the means of preserving the Aryan religion in its purity. (p. 93)35


How irrelevant this ideal now considering the amount of corruption, in spite of the public post one holds now in India:

We submit that no matter who he is, his duties should be clearly defined as are those of Judges, Advocates, Solicitors, and others. Certain things, for the sake of avoiding temptations, he should not be able to do in spite of himself…. (p. 22)36


2.. ADDRESS TO QUEEN VICTORIA. [Prior to June 3, 1897]
4. Appendix Y in 29. Memorial to Mr. Chamberlain, [The Natal Mercury, 18, January, 1897].
5. {12 INTERVIEW TO “THE STATESMAN”. November 10, 1896.}
7. ibid.
8. INTERVIEW ON BOARD THE “COURLAND”. January [13], 1897.
10. ibid.
13. ibid.
14. ibid.
15. ibid.
16. ibid.
19. ibid.
20. [Appendix]— MR. CHAMBERLAIN’S ADDRESS TO PREMIERS. [Sep. 18, 1897]
22. ibid.
23. ibid.
24. INTERVIEW ON BOARD THE “COURLAND”. January [13], 1897

28. Letter to attorney-general.
30. ibid.
31. ibid.
32. ibid.
33. Appendix Y in Memorial to Mr. Chamberlain,
34. ibid.
35. IN VISITORS’ BOOK [of Hindu Theological High School in Madras]. October 26, 1896.

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