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ASSOCIATES & DISCIPLES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > TRIBUTES BY MAHATMA GANDHI > Cachalia, Ahmed Mohamed
Cachalia, Ahmed Mohamed
It is my mournful duty to bring to public notice another South African Indian whose death has been just cabled to me. He bore the honored name of Ahmed Mohamed Cachalia. He was for a number of years President of the British Indian Association of the Transvaal. It was during the passive resistance campaign that Mr. Cachalia suddenly leapt to fame and acquired among the Indians of South Africa a prestige unequalled by any other Indian. It was on the 31st day of July 1907, under the shadow of a tree in the holy mosque of Pretoria, that Mr. Cachalia hurled defiance at the might of General Botha and his Government. Mr. Hosken had brought a message from the General to be delivered to the great mass meeting that was held in the mosque compound, to the effect that in resisting the Transvaal Government, the Indians were breaking their heads against a stone. Mr. Cachalia was one of the speakers. As I am dictating these few words of humble tribute, his voice rings in my ears. He said: "In the name of Allah, I wish to state that though my head may be severed from the trunk, I shall never obey the Asiatic Registration Act. I consider it unmanly and dishonorable to subscribe to a law which virtually reduces me to slavery." And he was among the very few who never flinched through those long and weary eight years of untold sufferings. Mr. Cachalia was by no means amongst the least of the sufferers. He felt that as a leader his sacrifice should be striking, and that he should stop at nothing if thereby the honor of this country might be saved. He reduced himself to poverty. He said good-bye to all the comforts of life to which he was used, and night and day worked for a cause he held sacred. Naturally he acquired a wonderful hold over the Indian community throughout South Africa and his was a name to conjure with amongst them. As may be imagined, there were often disputes among Mohammedans and Hindus and other sections of the community. Mr. Cachalia held the scales even between the conflicting interests and everyone knew that his decisions would be absolutely just and sound. Mr. Cachalia was practically illiterate, He was a self-made man. But his common sense was of the rarest order. It always stood him in good stead and he was able to command the confidence and respect of many Europeans who came in contact with him.
The loss is irreparable and it would be doubly felt by the community, coming as it does, closely after Mr. Sorabji`s death. May God Almighty give this noble soul the rest and peace which, I am sure, he fully deserves.