Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had landed in South Africa in 1893, a 23 year young barrister, on a one year assignment. A week after his arrival, while going from Durban to Pretoria, he was thrown out of a train, beaten in a stage coach, and faced other occasions of racial discrimination such as were commonly faced by British Indians in South Africa. That journey set the course of his future evolution from Mohandas to Mahatma during his 21 year stay in South Africa.
In 1893, at his initiative, Natal Indian Congress (NIC) was founded in order to safeguard Indian interests and to acquaint Englishmen in South Africa and England and the people and Government of India with the deteriorating condition of Indians in South Africa. Gandhiji had, in fact, returned to India in October 1901 and settled down in Bombay, but had been recalled and in November 1902 resumed his role of providing leadership to the Indians in resisting the growing racial discrimination. On return, he had settled down in Johannesburg and in 1903 helped found the British Indian Association (BIA), to protect the interests of Indians in Transvaal.
For some time, NIC had wanted a newspaper to put forward Indians' grievances, but early attempts in 1896 proved unsuccessful. The postBoer War situation had made the need for a newspaper urgent. Those days even microphone and radio did not exist and the existing press was mostly in the hands of vested interests. Earlier, P.S.Aiyar, a journalist from Madras, did found an Indian newspaper Indian World in 1898 but it was shortlived. In 1901 he started Colonial Indian News but that too appeared irregularly in 1903 and did not survive the year. [R2:51] It was under these circumstances that Gandhiji decided in 1903 to launch the weekly newspaper Indian Opinion in response to the growing need in South Africa to voice effectively the feelings of Indians against racial intolerance of the white regime.
As Gandhiji recorded later in his book, Satyagraha in South Africa, "I believe that a struggle which chiefly relies upon internal strength cannot be wholly carried on without a newspaper it is also my experience that we could not perhaps have educated the local Indian community, nor kept Indians all over the world in touch with the course of events in South Africa in any other way, with the same ease and success as through the Indian Opinion, which therefore was certainly a most useful and potent weapon in our struggle." [CW 29:117]
Madanjit Vyavaharik, an exschool teacher of Bombay and a political coworker of Gandhiji, had established 'The International Printing Press' at 113 Grey Street, Durban, in 1898. Much of the literature of NIC was printed there. Gandhiji was able to inspire Madanjit with the idea to start a weekly newspaper, the Indian Opinion, and the first issue was out on June 4, 1903, and hit the streets two days later. [Gandhiji has incorrectly mentioned the date as 1904 in his Autobiography (CW 39:228)] As manager, Madanjit had to secure the licence, the type for the different languages, prospective customers and advertisers. Its first editor was Mansukhlal Hiralal Nazar, a journalist from Bombay, known to Gandhiji since 1897, and had volunteered in the Indian Medical Corps under him in the Boer War. Nazar played an important role in strategizing the content and policy of the paper. While he was politically astute and made important interventions, he relied on Gandhiji in Johannesburg to do much of the significant writing. [R1:9 & R2:51]
As Gandhiji wrote in his Autobiography: "Sjt. Mansukhlal Naazar became the first editor. But I had to bear the brunt of the work, having for most of the time to be practically in charge of the journal. Not that Sjt. Mansukhlal could not carry it on but he would never venture to write on intricate South
African problems so long as I was there. He had the greatest confidence in my discernment, and therefore threw on me the responsibility of attending to the editorial columns." [CW 39:228]
The first editorial, 'Ourselves' [CW 3:313], unsigned but written by Gandhiji, is notable for its simple language and cogent expression, clear objectives and ethical appeal, and nationalistic fervour tempered with courtesy and harmony. It started with: "We need offer no apology for making an appearance. The Indian community in South Africa is a recognized factor in the body politic, and a newspaper, voicing its feelings, and specially devoted to its cause, would hardly be considered out of place; indeed, we think, it would supply a longfelt want." After explaining the position of Indians in South Africa as loyal subjects of the KingEmperor, it went on to state: "We are far from assuming that the Indians here are free from all the faults that are ascribed to them. Wherever we find them to be at fault, we will unhesitatingly point it out and suggest means for its removal. Our countrymen in South Africa are without the guiding influence of the institutions that exist in India and that impart the necessary tone when it is wanting. have no opportunity of studying the past history of the nation to which they belong, or of knowing its greatness.
We rely on generous support from our countrymen; may we hope for it from the great AngloSaxon race that hails His Majesty Edward VII as KingEmperor? For, there is nothing in our programme but a desire to promote harmony and goodwill between the different sections of the one mighty empire."
In the same issue, the next leading article, 'The British Indians in South Africa', as also five short notes, viz., 'Is It Fair?', 'Virtuous Inconsistency', 'Better Late Than Never', 'Words And Deeds', and 'Minutes By The Mayor', [CW 3:31420] were written by Gandhiji. Most of the articles written in Indian Opinion were unsigned.
Madanjit Vyavaharik, as proprietor of Indian Opinion (I.O.), gave following information, wherein Gandhiji's influence is obvious, on the first page of the first issue [R1:1011]:
"This weekly newspaper is published in four languages, namely English, Gujarati, Tamil and Hindi in the interests of the British Indians residing in South Africa.
The policy of the paper would be to advocate the cause of the British Indians in the subcontinent. But it would not be slow to point out to it [the community] its responsibilities also as members of a mighty empire. It would persistently endeavour to bring about proper understanding between the two communities." Then it recounted "The advantages to the Indian community in subscribing to and supporting this paper" and "The advantages to the European community", and continued: "To Europeans and Indians alike, it would serve as the best advertising medium in those branches of the trade in which Indians are especially concerned.
The rate of annual subscription is 12s 6d in the Colony, and outside the Colony 17s payable in advance. Single copies are sold at 3d each. Advertising charges can be had on application to the undersigned." Initially the paper received its funds from sales, advertisements, and commercial printing in the press.
Nazar's correspondence gives an insight into the efforts involved in bringing out the initial issues of I.O. He reported that, "The translators are not particularly clever, and they will not work at day time." Some translations were simply "shocking". The shortage of type was there, to the extent that the Gujarati compositor would ask Nazar not to use too many of the Gujarati letter 'a'. Staff and management at the press was skeletal. [R2:512]
The meetings of NIC and BIA were wellpublicized in Indian Opinion. These organizations sponsored the distribution of over 500 complimentary copies to the officials and prominent people in South Africa and in Britain and India. The paper sought to shape a national identity amongst Indians divided along various lines. It had boldly declared in an editorial during its first year: "We are not, and ought not to be, Tamils or Calcutta men, and Mohamedans or Hindus, Brahmans or Banyas, but simply and solely British Indians." [R2:52]
That was the period when Gandhiji firmly believed that the British empire was essentially and inherently good, and based on the values of justice, fairness, racial equality, and freedom, and whatever deficiencies were there, were aberrations introduced by colonial administrations. He had faith in Queen Victoria's promise in 1858, after the 'First War of Independence' in India, of equality of all British subjects irrespective of 'race or creed'. He wrote in Indian Opinion (9.7.1903) under the title 'The Proclamation of 1958': "This memorable Proclamation Magna Charta of the British Indians, is worthy of the attention and the study of the people of South Africa, especially at a like this, when a sustained agitation has been set up against British Indians." [CW 3:359] So, he was sure that justice could be achieved if it was sought through constitutional means, and hence his stress on representations, and petitions to press for redress of the difficulties faced by Indians in South Africa. The primary concern was the protection of Indians against injustice. For example, Indian Opinion (23.7.1903) wrote under the title 'The Lion and The Lamb': "In our days, the European lion wishes to repeat the feat on the Indian lamb. He therefore in fact says to the Indian, 'I will have none of you, for you swell in shanties, and live on the smell of an old rag' such is the gist of the minute presented by His Worship the Mayor of Durban on the proposed Indian Bazaars." [R4:18]
Indian Opinion started publishing news and views concerning South African Indians including reports on discriminatory law cases involving Indians, letters to editors of local press correcting adverse reports about Indians, important happenings in India, and contributions on social, moral and intellectual subjects. There was an article on 'Indian Art' [I.O. 17.9.1903; CW 3:447], an example of intellectual and aesthetic writing by Gandhiji as also of the fact that his ideological stance was still in the process of maturing: "The Times of India gives a very interesting description of the new palace which is being built at Mysore for the Maharajah. We reproduce portions of it for the edification of our South African readers, both European and Indian. The former will be able to realize what Indian art means, as also that India is not a place dotted merely with huts inhabited by savages. To the Indians who have never been in India, it would be a matter of national pride and satisfaction that the enlightened potentate of Mysore is bent on encouraging Indian art, and on reviving it in a most practical form." It also included a writeup on India art from the late Sir William Wilson Hunter's Indian Empire, giving a highly appreciative overview of multifaceted Indian architecture.
Gandhiji also looked for correspondents in other countries. He wrote to Dadabhai Naoroji on Dec. 10, 1904: "It is now intended to have a weekly or a fortnightly letter from England. Could you recommend anyone and if so, at what rate?" [CW 4:311] And to G.K. Gokhale on Jan. 13, 1905: "I am also anxious to secure either honorary or paid correspondents who would contribute weekly notes in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil. Could you recommend any such correspondent or correspondents? The weekly notes should give an idea of what is being done on your side with reference to the Indian question." [CW 4:333] [R1:167]
Indian Opinion Shifts to 'Phoenix Settlement'
While Madanjit was in Johannesburg canvassing subscriptions for I.O., pneumonic plague had broken out there in an Indian location. As Madanjit got engaged there, Gandhiji had asked his friend Albert West to got to Durban and manage the press. The paper was running in loss and for some time Gandhiji had been sinking much of his own money to keep it going. As he later wrote to G.K. Gokhale on Jan. 13, 1905 [CW 4:332]: "When I saw that Mr. Madanjit could not carry on the paper without pecuniary motives I placed at his service the bulk of my savings I have already become responsible to the extent of nearly L3,500,. Three months ago (i.e., in October 1904), I took over the whole responsibility and management. Mr. Madanjit still remains nominally the proprietor and publisher,. My own office is at present being worked in the interests of the Indian Opinion.
West found things in poor shape. There were 887 subscribers by the end of its first year but subscriptions were not enough to meet costs, which included wages of 13 staff varying from 8 to 18L per month. [R2:57] Gandhiji writes in his Autobiography
: "Indian Opinion
was getting more and more expensive every day. The very first report from Mr. West was alarming. He wrote: 'I do not expect the concern to yield the profit that you had thought probable. there may be even a loss. The books are not in order. There are heavy arrears to be recovered, but one cannot make head or tail of them. Considerable overhauling will have to be done. I shall try to put things right as best as I can. I remain on, whether there is profit or not.'" [CW 39:238]
On receipt of West's letter, Gandhiji left for Durban. His friend, H.S.L. Polak who came to see him off at Johannesburg station, left with him John Ruskin's book 'Unto This Last
' to read during the 24hour journey. As recorded by Gandhiji in his Autobiography
: "I described to him (A. West) the effect Unto This Last
had produced on my mind, and proposed that Indian Opinion
should be removed to a farm, on which everyone should labour, drawing the same living wage, and attending to the press work in spare time. Mr. West approved of the proposal, and L3 was laid down as the monthly allowance per head, irrespective of colour or nationality." [CW 39:240]
Within a week, a 100 acre farmland was purchased for L1,000, 14 miles away from Durban and 2.5 miles from Phoenix railway station, and thus was set up the Phoenix Settlement, Gandhiji's first 'Ashram', in November 1904. Its motivation was both ideological and practical, its idea being inspired not only by Ruskin but also by the thinking of Tolstoy and the experience of the Trappist Monastery in Natal, and possibly of the presence of the John Dube's Ohlange Institute, located not far from Phoenix and founded in 1901 for providing industrial training to the Africans. John Dube, a member of Natal Native Congress, was also editor of a paper, Ilange lase Natal
, started a few months before Indian Opinion.
The proposal to shift Indian Opinion
to Phoenix Settlement, however, did not appeal to Madanjit. But he now was only nominally the proprietor and Gandhiji had become the full owner of the press. Madanjit left for India and Gandhiji's speech on the eve of his departure (Oct. 15, 1904) was reported under the title 'Tribute to Madanjit': "Mr. Gandhi gave a brief account of Mr. Madanjit's career since the latter landed in the country in 1894, and praised him for the patience and perseverance with which he had been conducting Indian Opinion
for the benefit of the Indian community, exerting himself physically, mentally and monetarily, and undergoing hardships arising from the financial difficulties of the press." [I.O. 22.10.1904; CW 4:279]
Nazar too chose to work from his own office in Durban. But, Chhaganlal, Gandhiji's nephew, who had been for some time in charge of the Gujarati section of the paper, supported the move to Phoenix. His younger brother, Maganlal also decided to join the press. Sam Govindswami, working in the press, also became a 'settler', being attracted by the promise of a twoacre piece of land. Albert West joined, seeing it an opportunity for the whites and Indians to live together. Gandhiji's old friend Herbert Kitchin and a few others too agreed to join. [R2:5859]
A 75ft*50ft simple corrugated iron sheet building was built. The equipment was shifted from Durban to the Settlement in four wagons pulled by 16 oxen each. West bought an oil engine to supply power and electricity. Only one issue of Indian Opinion
had to be printed outside in the Mercury Press [CW 39:241]; and all was set for the first issue of I.O. from Phoenix Settlement to come out on Dec. 24, 1904! Gandhiji describes the ordeal under the heading 'The First Night' in his Autobiography
thus: "It was no easy thing to issue the first number of Indian Opinion
from Phoenix. Had I not taken two precautions, the first issue would have to be dropped or delayed. to have something handy to fall back upon in case the engine failed. He (West) had therefore arranged a wheel which could be worked by hand. The size of the paper, that of a daily, was reduced to foolscap size, so that in case of emergency, copies might be struck off with he help of treadle. But the first night was unforgettable. The pages were locked, but the engine refused to work. We had got out an engineer from Durban. He and West tried their hardest, but in vain. West, in despair, at last came to me, with tears in his eyes, and said, ' I am afraid we cannot issue the paper in time.'
"I woke up the carpenters and requested their cooperation. Our own men were of course ready. West started singing a hymn as we set to work. I partnered the carpenters, all the rest joined turn by turn, and thus we went on until 7 a.m. There was still a good deal to do. West woke him (the engineer) up and he immediately went into the engine room. The engine worked almost as soon as he touched it.
"The copies were dispatched in time, and everyone was happy. The initial insistence ensured the regularity of the paper, and created an atmosphere of selfreliance in Phoenix. There came a time when we deliberately worked with handpower only. Those were, to my mind, the days of the highest moral uplift for Phoenix." [CW 39:2413]
How was the press run during those days? Writes Henry Polak in 'Incidents of Gandhiji's Life
' (ed. by C. Shukla, Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949, p.240): "The printing press, where the typesetting was done by hand, was run by a decrepit oil engine which frequently broke down. When this occurred, the settlers had to resort to handpower until the middle of the night. when this happened during one of his (of Gandhiji) occasional visits I can recall Gandhiji literally putting his shoulder to the wheel as energetically as any one of us." [R1:15] His wife, Millie G. Polak too wrote in her book 'Mr. Gandhi : The Man
' (Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949, p.40): "The printing press, at this time, had no mechanical means at its disposal, for the oilengine had broken down, and at first animal power was utilized, two donkeys being used. But Mr. Gandhi soon altered this, and four hefty Zulu girls were procured for a few hours on printing day. but every male ablebodied settler, Mr. Gandhi included, took his turn at the handle, and thus the copies of the paper were 'ground out'." [R1:15]
In the first issue that came out from Phoenix (24.12.1904), Gandhiji wrote under the repeat title 'Ourselves', describing the rationale of shifting the paper to Phoenix: "Indian Opinion
enters upon the third stage of its career in the short space of the eighteen months of its existence. The proprietor had to depend for the editing of the paper on purely voluntary and unpaid assistance. Although this journal supplied a real want, what may be termed a commercial demand had to be created. In other words, the paper had not only to find its matter, but its readers also. Moreover, the sending of over five hundred complimentary copies was a great drag. The Natal Indian Congress and the British Indian Association voted certain funds towards the complimentary copies.
"Still the paper continued, octopuslike, to devour all it received and wanted more. The situation could only be saved by heroic measures. Patchwork was useless. Palliatives were dangerous. There remained then an appeal to the devoted workers and friends in favour of adopting a novel and revolutionary project.
"If a piece of ground sufficiently large and far away from he hustle of the town could be secured for housing the plant and machinery, each one of the workers could have his plot of land on which he could live. The workers could receive per month an advance sufficient to cover necessary expenses, and the whole profits could be divided amongst them at the end of each year. The workers also could have the option of buying out their plot of land at the actual cost price. the workers could live a more simple and natural life, and the ideas of Ruskin and Tolstoy combined with strict business principles.
"The incentive would be threefold to all: an ideal to work for in the shape of Indian Opinion
; perfectly healthy surroundings to live in, and an immediate prospect of owning a piece of land on the most advantageous terms; and a direct tangible interest and participation in he scheme. It has been translated into action. We can appeal to both the great communities that they will assist the management to bring the scheme to the successful issue that we believe it deserves." [CW 4:31921]
In the next issue of Dec. 31, 1904 (Gujarati), he gave brief notes on the three Englishmen actively involved in publication of Indian Opinion
under the title 'Our Trial', as under (within quotations):
- Albert H. West: Gandhiji had first met him at a vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg. He owned a printing press there but had joined the struggling group at 24 hours notice. He "gave up his own business and arrived here. [To start with, his salary was fixed at L10 a month with a share in the profits. However when it was found that the enterprise was not selfsupporting and was moved to Phoenix, L3 was the monthly allowance.] Now he takes from us just enough for his bare needs, but stays on with us in the faith that there will be profits eventually. He toils away from morning to evening looking upon the work as his own." [CW 4:3256]
- Herbert Kitchin: A theosophist, and an electrical engineer, he assisted Nazar and edited Indian Opinion after Nazar's premature death. "He felt that the objectives of Indian Opinion were worthy. As he does not seek mere money and will be satisfied with what he can get from the press for his upkeep, and also because living in Phoenix is simple, cheap and interesting, he has joined us having given up his own business." [CW 4:326]
- Henry S.L.Polak: Gandhiji had met him too in the vegetarian restaurant at Johannesburg. He qualified himself to be an attorney at Gandhiji's instance and joined him in his work. He succeeded Kitchin as editor of Indian Opinion. "He is at present the Assistant Editor of the newspaper Critic, and draws a good salary. Since he is a man of much simplicity and believes that he can express his feelings against oppression through Indian Opinion, he has informed his chief of his intention to resign, and he will arrive here towards the beginning of next year. Meanwhile he has started writing for this journal." [CW 4:326]
He added further: "To our knowledge all the three Englishmen are good, capable, and selfless men." [CW 4:326]
Indicative of the increasing concern for whatever affected the wellbeing of the Indian community, is a writeup on 'Plague in Johannesburg' [I.O. 21.1.1905] reporting the outbreak of plague and listing 21 steps for dealing with the epidemic. Gandhiji had organized a band of volunteers to fight against it and published editorials, newsitems and letters, drawing close attention of the Town Council and of the Indian community to the seriousness of plague and to various issues of sanitation in general. [R1:14]
The columns of Indian Opinion
were full of cases dealing with the many and varied disabilities suffered by Indians in South Africa and against which Gandhiji was continuously fighting, such as restrictions on immigration and trading, on traveling in trains and trams, on walking on footpaths, and against racial arrogance in other spheres. [R1:14] In every issue, two or more editorials, a few short comments dealing mostly with Indian problems or discriminatory law cases, and a correspondence column, were the weekly feature. It also gave relevant contents from other journals, and sometimes 'Our Weekly London Letter' was there. Photographs were also included sometimes. There were glimpses of the life at the Settlement, as also sports news. [R1:17] The first eulogistic reference of Sarojini Naidu in public was made in Indian Opinion
(2.3.1907) under a subheading 'An Indian Poetess'. [R1:21]
The journal had reported at length the highlypraised activities of the Indian Stretcher Bearer Corps (disbanded on July 19, 1906, after six weeks at the front) under Gandhiji's leadership in Zulu rebellion, and then the visit of the Indian delegation led by Gandhiji to London. [R1:21] By and by, Indian Opinion
took up not only issues concerning the trading and professional classes but also wrote extensively on behalf of the Indian indentured labour and occasionally also on the injustices to the Africans. (The extensive reporting in Indian Opinion
of the passive resistance or Satyagraha movements during 190614 and the lead role played by it, are presented under subsequent sections on these topics.)
At times Gandhiji has been criticized for ignoring the much greater extent of racial discrimination faced by the native Africans. That this is not true, is borne out by his intimate knowledge of and relationships with the African community and his references to the African cultural heritage in his Autobiography
and Satyagraha in South Africa
, as well as by the numerous reports in Indian Opinion
on the issues concerning the Africans and on the ideals of personalities such as Booker T. Washington and John Dube ("our friend and neighbour"). [R4:2831]
M.H. Nazar had continued as the first editor of Indian Opinion
till his death on January 20, 1906. Gandhiji wrote a long and moving obituary in the Indian Opinion
of Jan 27, 1906: "It was in the dark days of December, 1896, that Mansukhlal Hiralal Nazar landed in Durban, a perfect stranger. The Indian passengers on board the Naderi
and the Courtland
were threatened with dire results if they attempted to land on the shores of Natal. It was then that Mr. Nazar arrived on the scene, and was hailed as a deliverer by the Indian community. From that day to the date of his death, Mr. Nazar placed the public cause before his own Mr. Nazar has died a pauper.
"He was born in the early 'sixties. In 1897, he was sent to England as a special delegate to voice the grievances of the British Indians. Sir William Hunter was so struck with Mr. Nazar's ability and moderation that he devoted a special article in the columns of The Times
mentioning Mr. Nazar's work.
"Without him this journal would never have come into being. In the initial stages of its struggle, Mr. Nazar took up almost the whole of the editorial burden, and if it is known for its moderate policies and sound views, the fact is due, to a very large extent, to the part that Mr. Nazar played in connection with it.
" Time alone will show what the Indian community and, shall I say even the European community, has lost in Mr. Nazar." [CW 5:17981]
Functioning and Management of Indian Opinion
After the Zulu rebellion, in July 1906, Gandhiji and Polaks had returned to Johannesburg while Kasturba and children remained at Phoenix, which became a sort of 'permanent' home for them. Chhaganlal Gandhi managed the Gujarati section of Indian Opinion and translation of articles. He saw to the accounts, collected outstanding dues and visited Durban to solicit advertisements. Gandhiji remained in constant touch with him, his earnest and quiet nephew. Maganlal assisted with composing, in addition to being a competent carpenter and gardener. Sam Govindswami Raju maintained the press machinery and looked after printing and binding. Many worked as volunteers in the press, some of them being day workers rather than settlers. Herbert Kitchin edited the English section after Nazar's death, but resigned as editor in March 1906 and left Phoenix a year later. Then Polak took over as editor. As he was articled in Gandhiji's office, Indian Opinion was now planned there in Johannesburg, while the very committed West and Chhaganlal managed the press. West married in 1908 and Mrs. West would spend a few hours daily in the press and help with bookkeeping till 1909 when she became a mother. [R2:69]
On the functioning of the press room, Prabhudas Gandhi writes ['My Childhood with Gandhiji', Navajivan, 1957, p.45; R1:15]: "The material was composed by midday on Friday. It was evening by the time the paper went to the press. There were no servants, peons or other labour. The press workers themselves had to print the paper, fold it, paste the addresses, make bundles and take them to the station. The work would take whole night and there would still be something left to do after day break. Gandhiji along with others would keep awake all night."
In spite of the checks, sometimes mistakes crept in. For example, Gandhiji wrote to Chhaganlal in March 1907: "While reading the proofs, compare them with the original book. Do not depend for the spelling, etc., on the copy sent by me." [CW 6:368] There were also at times letters of protest such as when the journal published a life sketch of Prophet Mohammed. [R1:19] However, there was also proof that the journal was making an impact, such as the writing in the lead article in The Cape Argus of Jan. 1, 1907: "They (Natal Indians) have an able organ, Indian Opinion, printed in English and Gujarati, and it is from Natal that champions of South African Indians' interests mostly come." [R1:21]
Continuing with the Tamil and Hindi sections of Indian Opinion was becoming problematic. Gandhiji had written to Nazar on Jan. 5, 1906: "I have been discussing with Chhaganlal the question of Tamil and Hindi editing. The more I think, the more I feel that we ought for the present to do away both Tamil and Hindi. We do not give the right stuff. We are not in a position to do so. So long as we make a definite statement that it is our intention, as soon as we have a proper staff, to resume Tamil and Hindi, I do not think we need be afraid. " [CW 5:174] Then, Gandhiji made the announcement in Indian Opinion of Feb. 2, 1906: "We regret to announce that we are compelled to suspend our Tamil and Hindi columns for the time being owing to the difficulty in securing the permanent services of the necessary editors and compositors. until such time as members of our staff, who are training for the work, are ready and able to do justice to the two great languages." [CW 5:183] As he later recorded in his Autobiography: "I saw that the Tamil and Hindi sections were a makebelieve. so I discontinued them as I even felt that there would be a certain deception involved in their continuance." [CW 39:228]
However, it was only during the last period of Gandhiji's stay in South Africa, when mass satyagraha took place, that Tamil and Hindi sections were reintroduced. As he wrote in Indian Opinion of Dec. 31, 1913 under the title, 'Hindi and Tamil': "The satyagraha campaign, as carried on has hardly a parallel in history. The real credit for this goes to the Hindi and Tamil speaking brothers and sisters. Some of them have even lost their lives. As a tribute to their memory, we have decided to give Hindi and Tamil news in this paper for the duration of the struggle. Whether or not to continue the practice after the struggle is over we can only decide in the light of the circumstances then prevailing." [CW 12:311] These languages were again discontinued after the issue of April 18, 1914.
An idea of what Indian Opinion had really meant to Gandhiji and how he sought to build it up after his own image and as a role model of responsible journalism, social purposiveness and creative writing, may be had from his Autobiography: "But after all these years I feel that the journal has served the community well. It was never intended to be a commercial journal. So long as it was under my control, the changes in the journal were indicative of changes in my life. Indian Opinion was a mirror of part of my life. Week after week I poured out my soul in its columns, and expounded the principles and practice of satyagraha as I understood it. During ten years, that is, until 1914, excepting the intervals of my enforced rest in prison, there was hardly an issue of Indian Opinion without an article from me. I cannot recall a word in those articles set down without thought or deliberation, or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please. Indeed the journal became for me a training in selfrestraint, and for friends a medium through which to keeping touch with my thoughts. The critic found very little to which he could object. In fact the tone of Indian Opinion compelled the critic to put a curb on his own pen. Satyagraha would probably have been impossible without Indian Opinion. For me it became a means for the study of human nature in all its casts and shades. I was inundated with letters containing the outpourings of my correspondents' hearts. They were friendly, critical or bitter. It was a fine education for me to study, digest and answer all this correspondence. It made me thoroughly understand the responsibility of a journalist, and the hold I secured in this way over the community made the future campaign workable, dignified and irresistible.
"In the very first month of Indian Opinion, I realized that the sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within." [CW 39:2289]
In spite of the paper having been shifted to Phoenix primarily as a means to avoid financial losses, financial problems had continued to trouble Gandhiji. He knew that the success of a paper did not depend on good editorials only; it depended very much also on efficient management. During the prolonged satyagraha movement, expenditure on Indian Opinion became a major item to be catered for. He contributed to the expenses of the journal in various ways. For example, voiceless Indian settlers in Johannesburg were paid compensation on removal from the segregated areas. "The municipality's offers were frequently so inadequate that the victims engaged Gandhi to take their claims to the appellate tribunal. He charged nominal fees and allocated half the costs allowed by the tribunal to the rising expenses of Indian Opinion." [H.S.L.Polak et al, 'Mahatma Gandhi', Odhams Press Ltd., London, 1949, p.47; quoted in R1:23]
Special Contents and the Style of Writings by Gandhiji in Indian Opinion
The editorials and the columns of letters apart, Indian Opinion carried several features of popular interest, such as 'Weekly Diary' and dispatches from correspondents. Biographical sketches of eminent persons in many parts of the world came mainly from Gandhiji's pen. The issues of 1905, for example, contained sketches of Tolstoy, Mazzini, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Fry, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and George Washington (in issues of Sep. 2, July 22, Aug. 26, Sep. 9, Aug. 19, Sep. 16, and Sep. 30, 1905 respectively). [R3:44] In the article on 'Elizabeth Fry', a pioneer of prison reform, he wrote: "There are many reasons why the British should be ruling over us. One of the reasons is that in modern times the British seem to have produced a larger number than we of brave and pious men and women of high principles. we are bound to benefit from a knowledge and constant contemplation of the lives of such devout men and women, and we therefore propose to give the stories of their lives from time to time. We hope that the readers follow them in practice and thus encourage us." [CW 5:45]
He wrote in strong protest against Bengal Partition (1905) and supported adoption of Bande Matram, 'The Heroic Song of Bengal' [I.O. 2.12.1905; CW 5:156], calling it 'a passionate prayer'. He wrote on 'Salt Tax in India' as early as in Indian Opinion of July 8, 1905. [CW 5:9]
In the first two years of its existence, Gandhiji's wrote nearly 500 articles and notes in Indian Opinion. 'His writing was neat, pointed and readable and while his articles in Gujarati (meant for the less educated section of the Indian community) were mainly informative, those in English had sometimes a wider range of themes and included abstract subjects and commentaries on international affairs.' [R3:45]
A brief selection of his articles on themes aside from the local political scene, is listed below [R3:4552]:
* 'The Grand Old Man of India' (Dadabhai Naoroji) (I.O. 19.11.1903).
* 'Mr. Gladstone's Biography' ( by Morley) (I.O. 14.1.1904, Guj.).
* 'SelfSacrifice' ("Sacrifice is the law of life.") (I.O. 21.1.1904).
* 'Sir Phirozshah' (I.O. 6.8.1904).
* 'The Value of Stray Moments' ("We regret that we do not get time; and yet, we idle away the stray minutes, which put together would make a whole day, just as the stray shillings make a Bank note." (I.O. 25.3.1905, Guj.).
* 'The Oriental Law of Truth' (includes quotations from Upanishads, Bhagvatapurana, Mahabharata, and Manusmriti) (I.O. 1.4.1905).
* 'Lectures on Religion' (gives summary of four lectures on Hinduism delivered by Gandhiji in Johannesburg) (I.O. 15.4.1905, Guj.).
* 'Japan and Russia' (on being strongly impressed by the Japanese victory in war with Russia in 19045).
*Commented on the growing unrest in India: "Amid the differences of creed and caste is one basic nationality." (I.O. 9.6.1906).
* Reviewed the books 'The Way of the Buddha' and 'Persian Mystics' (I.O. 15.6.1907) published in the 'Wisdom of East' series.
Gandhiji used Indian Opinion for propagating the writings of Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, John Ruskin and other great thinkers who had influenced his own evolution and the struggle that he was carrying on for the basic rights of the Indians in South Africa.
In the Indian Opinion of Sep. 7 & 14, 1907 (Guj.) [CW 7:2156, 22930], he gave a summary of Thoreau's famous essay on 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience' under the title 'Duty of Disobeying Laws'. Then in the issue of Oct. 26, 1907 (Eng.) [CW 7:3045], he gave extracts from the essay, prefaced with a quotation by Tolstoy. References to Thoreau continued even after the first wave of civil disobedience had passed (see, for instance, I.O. 6.2.1909; CW 9:183). In 1911, the paper carried extracts from 'Life Without Principles' under the title 'Thoughts from Thoreau' (I.O. 10.6.1911 and 22.7.1911).
When Tolstoy, who was the most admired by Gandhiji of the thinkers who had impacted on him, died on Nov. 20, 1910, hewrote: "There can be no death for Tolstoy's soul. His name will ever remain immortal." [I.O. 26.11.1910; CW 10:369] His earliest reference to Tolstoy in Indian Opinion was on Sep. 2, 1905 (Guj.). He gave Tolstoy's biographical data and listed his teachings and wrote: "It is believed that, in the Western world at any rate, there is no man so talented, learned and as ascetic as Count Tolstoy." [CW 5:56] While returning from England in Nov. 1909, on the ship itself he wrote his 'Preface to Leo Tolstoy's "Letter to a Hindoo"', published in I.O. of Dec. 25, 1909, in both English and Gujarati. He wrote in it: "Tolstoy's life has been devoted to replacing the method of violence for removing tyranny or securing reform by the method of nonresistance to evil. He would meet hatred expressed in violence by love expressed in selfsuffering." The 'Letter to a Hindoo' itself had appeared in I.O. on 25.12.1909, 1.1.1910, & 8.1.1910, in English and in Gujarati translation. [CW 10:25]
Gandhiji had paraphrased Ruskin's 'Unto This Last', the book which had inspired him to establish Phoenix Settlement and shift the press there, into Gujarati under the title 'Sarvodaya' ('welfare of all') and serialized it in Indian Opinion from May 16 to July 18, 1908 [CW 8]. Earlier, he had summarized into Gujarati, Ethical Religion by William MacIntyre Salter, the founder of the Society for Ethical Culture, Chicago, under eight articles appearing under the title 'Ethical Religion', in Indian Opinion from Jan. 5 to Feb. 23 1907 [CW 6].
While returning from England in 1909, Gandhiji also wrote in Gujarati his first seminal book 'Hind Swaraj', which is now treated as a quintessential statement of Gandhian philosophy of Satyagraha. It was serialized in Indian Opinion on 11.12.1909 (chapters 112) and 18.12.1909 (the rest) [CW 10:3fn]. Gandhiji's new preface to the second Gujarati edition issued in May 1914, was published in I.O. on 29.4.1914. [CW 10:6] After the 'Hind Swaraj' was proscribed in India, he translated it into Engliah under the title, 'Indian Home Rule', and stated in his Preface to it in I.O. on 2.4.1910: "Whilst the views expressed in Hind Swaraj are held by me, I have but endeavoured humbly to follow Tolstoy, Ruskin, Thoreau, Emerson and other writers, besides the masters of Indian philosophy." [CW 10:189]
Even while remaining in the thick of the Satyagraha struggle, he wrote a series of 34 articles on 'General Knowledge About Health' in Indian Opinion (Guj.) (4.1.1913 upto 16.8.1913). He started the series with: "I have had to reflect on the subject of health or the past twenty years. Having become used to a particular mode of living, I had to devise my own arrangements for food.. I write these chapters in the hope that they may be of some use to the readers of Indian Opinion." [CW 11:428] And, he ended the series with: "Morality consists in truth. That one may have a glimpse, if only occasional, of this truth in these chapters on health has been the underlying purpose of this effort." [CW 12:186] Its English adaptation was published by S.Ganesan, Madras, in 1921 under the title 'A Guide to Health'.
Gandhiji insisted on objective writing. He had started reading newspapers as a student in England, and strongly liked the way the Times was edited moderate in tone, accurate in presentation. His friend Polak has written ('Incidents of Gandhiji's Life', ed. by C. Shukla, Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949, p.236) that while running Indian Opinion, "He was always exact in his facts and he would never magnify his case for the sake of argument." Once when Polak commented vehemently on certain reports appearing in other papers, relating to the Indian community, Gandhiji advised him, " it would be much better for me, as a matter of professional selfdiscipline, and would have more desirable results for the cause, if I were to model my style rather upon the moderation and objectiveness of the London Times than upon the more picturesque if less accurate ways of the 'cheaper' press." In turn, he would not hesitate to accept good advice from a colleague. Polak recalls, "I remember telling him once, with mock editorial gravity, that I could not send his 'copy' to the printer unless he rewrote it, which he did with due humility and with an amused twinkle in his eye." [R1:71]
Gandhiji had not yet acquired that commendable a command over English which he developed in later years. But he was always against stunt, false or exaggerated reports, or discourtesy in writing. He was also direct and forthright in conveying things. Direct presentation was the beauty of his writings. He had a clear thinking and knew well what he was going to say. He would put forth his ideas in crisp and short sentences, pregnant with meaning. [R1:72, 77] The difficult circumstances attending the publication of Indian Opinion had 'helped him mould a businesslike prose style: simple, straightforward, orderly, precise, wellreasoned, lucid, adequately condensed, and above all else, singleminded, persuasive.' [R3:113]
In a note titled 'Journalistic Courtesy' in the Indian Opinion (3.11.1906), he criticized the Natal Advertiser thus: "There are times when mockery is permissible, when one is desirous of defeating another's argument, but there can never be an excuse for vulgarity. We fear very much that our contemporary has overstepped the limits of journalistic courtesy in what purports to be a reply to our article on 'Durban and its unemployed' published in the issue of the journal of 20th ultimo." [R1:72] Similarly in an unsigned short note - 'What is Journalism?' in Indian Opinion (19.1.1907), it was stated: "We have read with great pain our contemporary's remarks on Mr. James Godfrey's address to the London Indian Society. We have always necessitated that the one true test of journalism is that it gives facts to the public." [R1:72]
Again under the title 'Journalism of a Sort', in Indian Opinion (9.2.1907), it was written: "This week the Ladysmith Gazette refers to the Indian Opinion as being 'one of the mouthpieces of nasty, cheap, coloured labour of Natal.' This seems to show that the editor does not read this journal. But I suppose we must not expect an editor to read a journal which he vilifies." During Polak's visit to India in 190910, Gandhiji wrote: "Keep your standards right. Everything else will follow." That remained the essence of his writings. [R1:73]
What he wrote in Hind Swaraj, holds true even now: "One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand popular feeling and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects." [CW 10:8]
Start of Satyagraha (19061912)
Gandhiji's faith in the British Empire's inherent sense of justice and fairness had gradually waned and he progressively moved from the state of patient petitions and humble appeals towards the militant challenge of a prolonged resistance movement in South Africa. The files of Indian Opinion fully reflected this change. The early issues carried petitions, prayers, appeal to reason and expostulation. At this stage he had "firm faith in the British Constitution. That being so, we should fail in our duty if we wrote anything with a view to hurt. Facts we would always place before our readers." [I.O. 7.1.1904; CW 4:100]. Slowly the attitude hardened.
The turning point came when, on Sep. 11, 1906, a "mammoth meeting was held at the Empire Theatre, in connection with the agitation at present going on in the Transvaal against the Asiatic law (Draft Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance). About three thousand Indians attended." Resolution IV, out of five Resolutions passed at the meeting, marked the start of the resistance movement, later given the name 'Satyagraha' by Gandhiji. The Resolution stated: "In the event of the Legislative Council, the local Government, and the Imperial Government rejecting the humble prayer of the British Indian community of Transvaal in connection with the Draft Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, this mass meeting of British Indians here assembled solemnly and regretfully resolves that, rather than submit to the galling, tyrannous, and unBritish requirements laid down in the above Draft Ordinance, every British Indian in the Transvaal will submit himself to imprisonment and shall continue to do so until it shall please His Most Gracious Majesty the KingEmperor to grant relief." ['The Mass Meeting', & 'Johannesburg Letter', I.O., 15.9.1906; CW 5:423, 4246] But The Transvaal Act received (Royal) assent. Then Gandhiji wrote under the title 'Will Indians Be Slaves?' in I.O. (11.5.1907): "The Imperial Government has chosen to take the first step of binding the Indian community with chains. It now remains to be seen whether the community will carry this yoke." [CW 6:456]
Satyagraha or 'passive resistance' was started in response to Government's insistence on the registration of Indians and other Asians through a very humiliating procedure under this 'Black Act'. By a fixed date, all had to register their names or to forfeit their right to residence and be liable to be fined or imprisoned. South Africa. The Indian Opinion published Gujarati translation of the Ordinance. Gandhiji had already started writing a regular column, 'Johannesburg Letter', in Gujarati from Feb. 26, 1906. It became the mouthpiece of the resistance movement, which continued for long, with intermediate lull. Initially some sort of agreement was reached with the Government but it soon broke its pledges.
Being written now from Gandhiji's office in Johannesburg, Indian Opinion played a singularly important role in keeping the spirit of resistance alive. It now reminded readers that "resistance is a duty". Its policy was redirected to show the "general utility of the doctrine of passive resistance". [I.O. 9.11.1907; CW 7:510] The Indian Opinion (26.10.1907)hailed Socrates as a great passive resister who stood by conscience and truth and Gandhiji gave his life sketch under the title 'Story of a Soldier of Truth' in a 7part series in I.O. from 4.4.1908 to 9.5.1908. [CW 8]. Extracts from Thoreau's 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience' were also published. Only 545 Indians out of the eligible 7000 applied for registration certificates. By end January, 1908, 2000 Indians and Chinese were in prison as resisters. Gandhiji was imprisoned on Jan. 10, 1908, for two months but was released after 21 days; was in prison again from Oct. 14, 1908 to Dec. 12, 1908, and then from Feb. 25, 1909 to May 24, 1909. [R2:767]
Indian Opinion (9.11.1907, repeated in 30.11.1907) launched an essay contest on 'The Ethics of Passive Resistance', the essay to "contain an examination of Thoreau's classic, 'On the Duty of Civil Disobedience', Tolstoy's works - more especially 'The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You' - and it should give Biblical and other religious authorities and illustrations; and also the application of the 'Apology of Socrates' to the question. The essay should give illustrations from modern history in support of the doctrine." [CW 7:510]. The entries were judged by Rev. J.J.Doke, the first biographer of Gandhiji. [I.O. 25.1.1908]
As the resistance movement grew, Gandhiji wrote under the title, 'Some English Terms' (I.O. 28.10.1907): "To respect our own language, speak it well and use in it as few foreign words as possible - this is also a part of patriotism. We have been using English terms given below. We hope that our readers will take the trouble of suggesting suitable [Gujarati] equivalents not for the sake of the prize but out of patriotism." The terms given included 'Passive Resistance' and 'Civil Disobedience'. [CW 7:455] Then he wrote under the column 'Johannesburg Letter' (Passive Resistance): "The editor invited a Gujarati equivalent for 'passive resistance'. I have received one which is not bad though it does not render the original in its full connotation. The word is sadagraha. I think satyagraha is better than sadagraha. 'Resistance' means determined opposition. The correspondent has rendered it as agraha. Agraha in a right cause is sat or satya agraha. we shall use satyagraha till a word is available which deserves the prize.
"Satyagraha, then, is at high tide at present. The Indian satyagrahi is getting worldwide publicity." [I.O. 11.1.1908; CW 8:223]
The final announcement was made under the title 'Gujarati Equivalent for Passive Resistance': "Only four persons took the trouble of sending in suggestions we have therefore only one word available to us for the present, that is satyagraha. The person [Maganlal Gandhi] who suggested this word would not like his name published neither does he want the prize." [I.O. 7.3.1908; CW 8:312]
The paper too had to cope with the situation arising out of the Satyagraha movement. It was arranged that a few of the workers did not join the struggle and ran Indian Opinion instead. Its size was reduced from 16 to 8 pages. It was issued on Wednesdays instead of Saturdays so as to catch the English mail at Cape Town. [R1:24] Gandhiji wrote to Maganlal on Nov. 27, 1909: "Phoenix will be put to test now. Our pledge is that we shall bring out at least onepage issue of Indian Opinion and distribute it as long as there is one person in Phoenix." [CW 11:81] And, then on Dec. 2, 1909: "It is the duty of those who have devoted themselves to Phoenix to do their best to develop Indian Opinion; for through Indian Opinion we have been imparting education and doing public good. [CW 11:87]
To A.H.West, he wrote (on or before 29.12.1909): "The size (of I.O.) should be changed as suggested English columns should be reduced. No leading matter of opinion given for the present except explanatory notes. All matter should be severely condensed. The English columns then should simply give news on the disabilities throughout South Africa and about matters we are interested in. The Gujarati columns ought not to be reduced, but if the Gujarati subscribers fall off, even that may be reduced almost to any extent." [CW 10:107] The next issue itself (I.O. 1.1.1910) wrote in the editorial 'Ourselves': "With the present issue, this journal appears under a somewhat changed dress. The size, too, has been reduced. The Transvaal struggle has put a very severe strain on our resources. we hope that we shall be able by means of condensation to give the same amount of information. Our readers who are interested in the ideals we endeavour to promote can render useful service by finding subscribers." [CW 10:110]
The problem of finances worsened. On Dec. 6, 1909, he wrote to G,K,Gokhale, recounting the current "minimum monthly expenses" as "Office here L50, Office London L40, Indian Opinion L50, Distressed families L25". Further, "Almost all connected with Indian Opinion are working practically under a vow of poverty but, as the paying subscribers are very few, it is necessary to give help. if contributions do not (arrive from India), it is my intention to cut down much of the expense of Indian Opinion, thus depriving the struggle of one of its greatest supports." [CW 10:96] Soon thereafter he reported the "generous gift" of Rs. 25,000 from Ratanji Tata. [I.O. 11.12.1909; CW 10:98] He wrote to A.H.west on Dec. 24, 1909: "If there is not sufficient to pay wages, I being the manager of the Trust, must make provision. The moral position is this: We do not make two ends meet; I fail to find money; we close down the Press, try other means; if we do not succeed we disperse or those who are dissatisfied will disperse." [CW 10:105] He wrote to Maganlal on Jan. 20, 1910: "It is desirable not to give more than a month's credit for Indian Opinion. You should only take a limited risk. You should never take liability for more than ten subscribers. We will have to carry many (fresh) burdens; it is, therefore, better to cut down these. We pay the license fee in advance because of compulsion, i.e., physical force. That we shall take the subscriptions in advance will be on the strength of soulforce. That soulforce consists in making Indian Opinion interesting to put in maximum effort." [CW 10:132]
Again, he wrote to G.K.Gokhale on April 25, 1910, recounting what he had written in his earlier letter of Dec. 6, 1909, and giving details of various expenses being met out of the amount received from India, and also stating: "The Phoenix debt represented a personal debt incurred by me from European friends and clients by reason of the necessity of having to continue Indian Opinion under somewhat adverse circumstances and at a loss in the interests of the struggle. I have devoted to the continuance of Indian Opinion and the establishment of phoenix all my savings nearly L5,000." He ended the letter with: "I hope that the Motherland will not rest so long as the insult offered to her in the Transvaal legislation has not been removed, and that we shall continue to receive the support." [I.O. 7.5.1910 (Guj. tr.); CW 10:22933]
Gandhiji even began to sell his law books and other valuable items. Only after funds were raised in India after a national appeal and Polak's visit did the financial situation improve. Yet, in order to emphasize the noncommercial character of the paper, the press ceased to do jobwork and commercial printing from January 1910! [I.O., 8.1.1910; R2:78]. To further stress the 'public service' character of Indian Opinion, now books of ethical or spiritual nature wee also sold through the International Printing Press. [R2:99]
By April 1911, Gandhiji had called halt to Satyagraha pending negotiations with the Government.
The Issue of Advertisements
The Indian Opinion had in its first issue made an allout effort to secure advertisements, as it had announced on its first page itself: "To Europeans and Indians alike, it would serve as the best advertising medium in those branches of the trade in which Indians are especially concerned. Advertising charges can be had on application." [R1:11]
However, irrespective of the financial problems which had continued to plague the Indian Opinion, Gandhiji had always been uneasy about having advertisements in the journal or doing job work in the press, as these made it a 'commercial' or 'business' concern, thus taking away from it the character of being purely an instrument for the service of the community. The jobwork had been given up in January 1910, itself. The change in the policy regarding advertisements was announced by him in Indian Opinion of Sep. 14, 1912 thus: "We have also come to the conclusion that, consistently with our ideals, we could not accept advertisements for paying our way. We believe that the system of advertisement is bad in itself, in that it sets up insidious competition and often lends itself to misrepresentation on a large scale. We have always used our discrimination and rejected many advertisements which we could not conscientiously take. Our friends and wellwishers, who have hitherto extended their support to us, will not, we hope, take it amiss if we discontinue the practice of inserting advertisements. The object of this paper is twofold: to voice and work to remove the grievances of the British Indians of South Africa, and to do educative work, by publishing matter of an elevating character." [CW 11:326]
The Trust Deed & Final Phase of Satyagraha (Sep. 1912 - July 1914)
The Phoenix Settlement was made into a Trust, and the Trust Deed was published in Indian Opinion of 14.9.1912. The same issue stated in the editorial titled 'Ourselves': "The Trust Deed which is under the course of registration, marks a step forward in our work. Mr. Gandhi ceases to be the sole legal owner of the International Printing Press. Nearly eight years ago we migrated to Phoenix, the idea being that the workers might be able to look more to the land for their sustenance than to the proceeds of the sale of Indian Opinion and the advertisements inserted in it. we have essentially not been able to pay our way by means of agriculture the journal itself has not been selfsupporting assistance from Mr. Tata's gift of 1909 enabled it to tide over a crisis in its career." [CW 11:3256]
In September 1912, Kasturba and Devdas had returned to Phoenix from the Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg, and Devdas joined his brother in the press and started learning typesetting. In January 1913, Gandhiji too returned to Phoenix after G.K.Gokhale's visit, after which adequate provision was expected to be made in the forthcoming Immigration Bill. [R2:104] In the meantime additional issue of nonrecognition of Indian marriages came up in March 1913. Further, the promise given during G.K.Gokhale's visit to abolish the L3 tax on exindentured Indians had not been fulfilled. (I.O. 31.5.1913) The Immigration Act of 1913 was a great disappointment. Polak and remained as editor of Indian Opinion, but he now lived in Durban where he had started law practice. [R2:1067]
On Sep. 13, 1913, Gandhiji announced in Indian Opinion that the negotiations had "proved abortive". On Sep. 15, 1913, passive resistance was revived, and twelve men and four women including Kastuba left for Volkrust to illegally cross border into Transvaal. On Sep. 23, Kasturba was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, and others of one to three months. There was strike by Indian labour in the mines and Gandhiji led the mass Satyagraha. On November 11, he was awarded nine months' imprisonment. Devdas remained the only member of the family out of jail. A.H.West and Maganlal had the task now of publishing Indian Opinion with many helpers gone. Deviben and Prabhudas helped in the press. Gandhiji was released on December 18, 1913, and C.F.Andrews and W.W.Pearson arrived from India on January 2, 1914 to help in negotiations. The negotiations resulted in the passing of the Indian Relief Act.
The Satyagraha continued till middle of 1914, after which Gandhiji left for India. Throughout the movement from 1906 to 1914, Indian Opinion had functioned as its inseparable part. Directives were issued to the resisters, news of the boycott of registration and other acts of civil disobedience and views on different aspects of Satyagraha were published, and it was eagerly awaited. During Satyagraha, number of subscribers had grown from about 1200 to 3500. [R1:23]
Mahatma Gandhi leaves South Africa (July 1914 1916)
Gandhiji left South Africa on July 18, 1914. He wrote under the title 'The End', in Indian Opinion of 8.7.1914: "A struggle of eight years' duration has at last finally closed. The Indians' Relief Bill and the correspondence between the Government and Mr. Gandhi embody a complete and mutually satisfactory and honourable settlement of the problems that were affected by the passive resistance movement." [CW 12:447] In the same issue he gave a more detailed account under the title 'The End of the Struggle'. [CW 12:44852] He left Phoenix on July 11, 1914, and on the same day he wrote an article, 'The Theory and Practice of Passive Resistance'. It was published in the 'Golden Number' of Indian Opinion, dealing with the Indian struggle in South Africa, released on Dec. 1, 1914. [CW 12:4602] His speeches at numerous farewell functions too appeared in the issues of Indian Opinion.
The first issue of Indian Opinion had been issued on June 4, 1903, and thus up to Dec. 30, 1914, 605 issues of the paper had appeared (581 issues up to his departure on July 18, 1914), in a total of 15, 544 printed pages. While all issues had English and Gujarati sections, Hindi and Tamil sections had appeared only from June 4, 1903 to Jan. 27, 1906, and again from Dec. 31, 1913, till April 8, 1914. Till the issue of Jan. 28, 1914, the journal contained the information, "Printed and published by M.K. Gandhi". Thereafter it replaced his name with "A.H.West and Maganlal K. Gandhi". The paper had started in Durban in about 36*29 cm size page with 6 columns to a page. On shifting to Phoenix the size was reduced to A4 (foolscap) with 3 columns.
As an example of how much Gandhiji had all along thought about the form or format as well as contents of Indian Opinion, this is what he had written under the title 'To Readers of Indian Opinion' in the issue of Jan. 4, 1913 (Guj.): "In this issue readers will notice a few changes. We believe these to be an improvement; if a journal was printed in two columns instead of three, it would look better. more convenient if the articles had to be published in book form. It is our intention to continue providing the same matter, but in as short a form as possible. we have reduced the number of Gujarati and English pages, but we wish to provide more information, though not more words. It is our hope to reduce the work of the compositor while increasing that of the writer. Matter varying from four to twenty two pages in length has appeared in the Gujarati section of Indian Opinion. We now hope to print, for the most part, writings of two kinds: those which will provide the community with full information of the hardships we suffer, and we will consider and suggest remedies; secondly, those that deal with an ethic of public conduct or thoughts of great men on this problem. We hope that Indian Opinion will thus become an instrument of education." [CW 11:4223]
Gandhiji left Phoenix in the care of the Trust created in 1912. He relinquished ownership of the Press and the Phoenix Settlement to the Trust comprising himself and close associates. One of the eight "objectives and purposes and under following conditions" of those settled at Phoenix, under 'The Phoenix Trust Deed', was: "To conduct the said Indian Opinion for the advancement of the ideals mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs." [I.O. 14.9.1912; CW 11:322] A.H. west assumed the designation of 'Manager'. Indian Opinion had always taken note of the African concerns even though its primary concern had been the Indian struggle, as located within the larger question of the British colonial rule in India. By and by the attention to the African issues now increased.
Even after Gandhiji had arrived in India in January 1915, Indian Opinion, particularly its precarious financial position,remained very much on his mind. He wrote to J.B.Petit, Secretary, South African Indian Fund on June 16, 1915 [CW 13:108]: "The journal Indian Opinion can never be an entirely selfsupporting proposition. The English portion is mainly of an educative character for the European public amongst whom it is distributed gratis. It was a powerful weapon in the armoury of Passive Resistance. It is in no sense a commercial enterprise." Then, to A.H.West on Aug. 3, 1915 [CW 13:123]: "Allocation of L3,000 to Phoenix settlement includes assistance to Indian Opinion. This enables you to report cases of hardship and to help such cases also. You may even open a branch office in Durban." And, on Oct. 10, 1915 [CW 13:1367]: "All I know that you must continue I.O. even if you have to labour in the streets and if you burn your boats, so much the better. If you cannot, you and your family, so long as you are at Phoenix turning out the paper, will be supported at all costs." An yet again, on Dec. 12,1915: "The Committee here will at the most just tolerate the withdrawal of funds (from donations) for sustaining Indian Opinion, and the Public there will also look upon such support with strong disfavour. In the circumstances we can only fall back upon local support or failing that, reduce the paper to any extent we choose." [R1:301]
While leaving South Africa, Gandhiji had left Indian Opinion in able hands of Polak. By end 1916, West and Sam were the only ones remaining of the 'Phoenix' community. Polaks had left South Africa in October 1916. The number of subscribers that had peaked at 3500 during the Satyagraha, came down to 500 in 1915. The price of Indian Opinion was reduced from three pennies to one and its size from 16 pages to eight. [R2:142] He wrote to Maganlal Gandhi (before Sep. 9, 1915) [CW 13:108]: "The price of Indian Opinion has been reduced to one penny. It seems he (Chhaganlal) has been hasty." [R1:301]
Pragji Desai's departure raised problems in continuing the Gujarati section and West approached Gandhiji for help. So, in 1916, he sent his second son Manilal Gandhi, aged 23, to take charge of the edition and assured him constant guidance from India. By April 1917, Manilal settled down into the life at Phoenix. [R2:142]
Indian Opinion under Manilal Gandhi (19161958)
Manilal was tasked with translating West's articles into Gujarati. On A.H.West's suggestion to shift Indian Opinion from Phoenix to Durban, Gandhiji wrote to him on Dec. 10, 1917 [CW 14:104]: "My view is that if you can turn out Indian Opinion only by removing to Town, you should suspend publication. I do not like the idea of your competing for jobs or advertisements. I think that when that time comes, we shall have outlived our purpose." Next day, he wrote similarly to Govindaswamy, the engineer [CW 14:1056]: "I would feel deeply hurt if you cannot keep up Indian Opinion in Phoenix. If you cannot it must be stopped. You should then try to get a living from agriculture alone. I have suggested to Manilal that he should turn out the Gujarati part only. I do not care even if two sheets only are turned out in Gujarati every week."
But matters were not resolved, and West wired back: "Agriculture impossible. Will you lend Sam, myself, jobbing plant, papers, each living Durban? Ultimately complete independence. Paper published English. Gujarati Phoenix. Management editorship same time being." [R1:312] Gandhiji cabled in reply on about Feb. 24, 1918 [CW 14:212]: "You may enforce your plan. Good luck." However, the situation remained as before.
As reported in I.O. (29.3.1918) under the title 'Ourselves', West too was leaving Phoenix to establish his own business in Durban but would continue to be the editor of Indian Opinion. By October 1918, the paper had the sign, "Printed and published by Manilal M. Gandhi", indicating that Manilal had taken over the managership. West and Sam wanted the press to be shifted to Durban but Gandhiji had vetoed any such move, or taking up commercial printing. [R2:143]
The option of advertisements in Indian Opinion and job printing in the press to overcome financial crunch continued to come up. On July 17, 1919, he wrote to West: "He (Manilal) asked me to supply him with funds or let him revert to advertisement and business printing. I still retain the view I held there how these advertisements etc., are nothing but an insidious method of indirect voluntary taxation, how all this debases journalism and how it makes of it largely a business concern. Either you must make Indian Opinion a business concern and then not expect the public to take a philanthropic or a patriotic interest in it, or to make it merely an organ representative of Indian aspirations in South Africa. I have dissuaded Manilal from making it a business concern but to render public service." [CW 15:464] Manilal wrote to Gandhiji on Aug. 18, 1919: "The only reason for us wanting to continue is to uphold the name of Phoenix and the newspaper that has been published for you that is the reason why I do not want to stop publication."[R2:144]
C.F. Andrews wrote after his visit to Phoenix in Feb. 1920: " the whole place almost deserted - except for the workers of the Press who live there still, carrying through, so simply and beautifully their daily task of printing Indian Opinion in English and Gujarati." [I.O., 20.2.1920; R2:142] It was announced in the issue of Sep. 10, 1920, that West was no longer the editor and Manilal who had sought to control the editorial policy in the context of the then going on political struggle, was the new editor. [R2: 147] Both west and Rustomjee advised Gandhiji to close down Indian Opinion but Manilal wrote to him on Dec. 7, 1920, giving an impassioned defence for it to continue. He found an ally in Kallenbach who had now returned to Johannesburg after World War I and was, over next two decades one of the most influential trustees. Ritch too helped by writing articles. The number of subscribers also increased to 1800. Young Alpha Ngeobo helped Manilal for managing the Press for over three decades. [R2:1535]
Manilal developed a direct, careful and simple, if slightly pedestrian style of writing as editor. He reintroduced news from India, especially of the Satyagraha movement. In South Africa, the rights of Indians had never been under greater attack than in 1920s, and Indian Opinion reported all events to keep Indians vigilant and to defend them against various charges. It reported immigration and trading cases, draft municipal ordinances, Parliament Bills, etc. Manilal thus continued the tradition of editors being political activists who shaped opinion. [R2:15761]
Over the next few years, Indian Opinion highlighted the injustices involved in the scheme of repatriation of Indians. It played a major role in the campaign led by South African Indian Congress (SAIC) against the Class Areas Bill of 1924. West's idea of a penny paper was abandoned and the price increased from 5s 6d per year to 10s 0d and then, in 1926, to 20s. This too was inadequate and Manilal resorted to farming to supplement the income though that too gave little. Hence, from August 1924, advertisements were reintroduced. A typical Indian Opinion copy in 1926 had 6 pages of English, 9 of Gujarati, and 5 of advertisements. [R2:16770]
Manilal married Sushila and after marriage returned from India in April 1927. Regarding the agreement announced between the Government and some Indian groups, after which the 'assisted migration' scheme was mooted, Manilal wrote in I.O. (23.9.1927): "We all know that the Agreement is not one that we would have liked it to be, but it is the best that could be arrived at in the circumstances." [R2:194]
That Gandhiji continued to pursue the original logic behind starting Indian Opinion even while he was in the thick of the struggle in India, may be seen from his letter (of Aug. 14, 1927) to Manilal and Sushila Gandhi: "Any work which we do for people's welfare and with sincere motives is social service. Going further, if your aim in helping the press is merely to save money, that is service of self. If, however, your aim is to learn that work and spend the money saved by your work for some public purpose, if it is that you should bring out the paper even at the cost of hardship to yourself, that is social service. If Manilal lives in South Africa to enjoy the pleasures which that country offers, that is selfishness. If, believing that the paper conducted by his father was good and that his country stood to gain by running it, he forces you to live in exile without the aim of amassing wealth, he is rendering a great social service and you, too are making a contribution to it." [CW 34:351] He had also advised Manilal: "You should write what is truth in Indian Opinion; but do not be impolite and do not give way to anger. Be moderate in your language. If you err, do not hesitate to confess it." [Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Number, Indian Opinion, March 1948; R1:42]
From 1927 to 1929, Indian Opinion showed all signs of being a successful newspaper. It serialized Gandhiji's Autobiography over several years. It started covering news of Indian diaspora in other countries, and gave more space to sports, women's issues, cultural and social news, tips on health, jokes and riddles. The paper now had 8 pages each of English, Gujarati, and advertisements. Yet Manilal thought of closing it down for personal reasons. Gandhiji opposed it. Relief came when Pragji agreed to take over Phoenix for a few months. Manilal left for India in December 1929 but returned to Durban only on May 13, 1931, as he was in jail itself for over nine months on account of Salt Satyagraha. [R2:197205]
By 1932, Indians were disillusioned with the 'assisted migration' scheme and wanted an end to it and the Transvaal Bill against Indian traders. Manilal too came round to this view and Indian Opinion gave a call "to fight to the last." He wrote in the issue of Sep. 9, 1932: "We pledge ourselves to suffer and endure without retaliation, whatever consequences may result to ourselves through the passive resistance." Articles on 'Ethics of Passive Resistance' were published in Indian Opinion. [R2:220]
As Manilal got involved in the divisive politics of the South Afican Indians, Indian Opinion obviously reflected his own views. Gandhiji too had had many detractors and opponents while he was in South Africa. But he never used Indian Opinion to vilify them. Gandhiji now gave him cautious advice on ethics of good journalism. [R2:231] When, Manilal wanted to move the Press to Durban so that his daughter Sita could have proper education, Gandhiji wrote to him and Sushila on April 15, 1933: "I don't like at all your request to be allowed to shift the press to a city." [CW 54:41921] That ended the idea. [R2:233]
In November 1934, Hindi and Tamil sections were revived, practically after 28 years. The page size increased from 34*20cm to 36*24cm. Features such as, 'A Poet's Corner', 'Things We Have Forgotten - Twenty Years Ago in Indian Opinion', Diwali numbers, and 'A Rhodesian Newsletter' were introduced. The paper now had 13 pages of advertisements, 10 of English and 12 of Gujarati, and yet it faced acute financial troubles. In 1936, therefore, Manilal again proposed, unsuccessfully though, its closure to Gandhiji. [R2:2379] From early 1938 to June 1938, again Manilal went to India, and Ramdas Gandhi looked after the Gujarati section, management and production, while P.R.Pather and Ritch helped with editorials and articles. [R2:248] To sustain Indian Opinion, Gandhiji suggested finding a core of special subscribers @ L25 each, or selling a part of the land, and if nothing availed, closing down the paper. [R2:250]
After World War II started, Indian Opinion was again caught in the intraIndian group differences. Its issue of Aug. 16, 1940, published the full pamphlet of D.A.Seedat, saying: "Don't Support War! - Don't Contribute to the War Funds - Don't Join in the Defence Force." For such reasons, some of its issues were held up by the authorities. [R2:363] The differences between Indian Opinion, reflecting the views of Indian National Congress, and Indian Views (editor M.I.Meer) too grew. Manilal was also involved in a defamation case against him on account of the editorial under the title 'The Transvaal Muddle' written by him in I.O. (on 22.1.1939 & 29.1.1939) on an intraIndian group rivalry in an election. [R2:27780]
As Manilal's children grew, the whole family worked for the successful production of Indian Opinion. On Kasturba's death, the journal issued a 'Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Number' on March 22, 1944. Leaving Sushila in charge and Christopher as acting editor, Manilal again went to India on a long visit. [R2:2916]
Manilal's daughter, Ela Gandhi, gives a graphic account about the total commitment and idealism involved in bringing out Indian Opinion [R4:224]: "As simplicity was a key feature of our lives and funds were difficult to come by, the printing was confined to old fashioned machinery and type setting equipment. Yet all the people working in the press were like a family.
"All the bags were then taken by car to the Durban central post office early on Friday mornings. It was an exhausting process.
"My sister (Sita), my brother (Arun) and I grew up in the press Our education comprised of training in all the activities of the press. I recall my father wading through the stacks of newspapers and South African Press Agency reports selecting items for publication and writing rise at 2 a.m. and work until 5 a.m.
"My father replaced the original press building with a new block a more sturdy block construction. This was because borers had eaten up the old wooden floors and poles and the iron was rusting badly."
While taking part in civil resistance, which had been growing against racialist colonial rule in South Africa, Manilal got one month in jail in October 1946, and all through Indian Opinion supported the movement advocating Satyagraha on Gandhian lines. [R2:309] After Gandhiji's death, Manilal wrote in I.O. (6.2.1948): "Let us continue his work until the lamp within is burnt out." The 'Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Number' was published. Five months later when Sorabjee brought Gandhiji's ashes from India, I.O. reported about the immersion ceremony in which Manilal recited from Tagore's Gitanjali. [R2:326]
Manilal again went to India and other places and from December 1949 to March 1950, Sushila controlled the Press while Sita worked as subeditor in English and Gujarati, and put out a special issue on India's Republic Day. [R2:336] While Manilal wrote against communism, like Gandhiji he appreciated their objectives and could not support the Suppression of Communism Act. (I.O., 23.5.1951) He continued to advocate the Gandhian nonviolent approach. Indian Opinion favourably covered the defiance campaign by African National Congress and praised it for adherence to nonviolence. [R2:34352] Manilal was again imprisoned for 38 days on Oct. 24, 1953. He wrote a damning indictment of the penal system in four issues of Indian Opinion (5., 12., 19., & 26.2.1954), which was widely circulated in other journals. Throughout this struggle, Indian Opinion showed itself to be a paper for all Africans. [R2:356, 369]
Manilal had certain ideas for the future of Indian Opinion, including its publication in an African language. He had earlier discussed this with Gandhiji in 1945, and now included it in Phoenix Settlement's new Trust Deed of 1953 (Deed copy, 13.11.1953) [Draft of Revised Phoenix Trust Deed, 2.7.1905 at CW 80:3945]. The first of the 'conditions' prescribed in it stated: "As long as possible to conduct the newspaper, Indian Opinion, in English and Gujarati and other Indian and even African languages according to felt necessity and convenience including resources but never at a loss.."
Since the paper now had its focus on human rights of all South Africans, he invited proposals for a changed name. [I.O., 23.1.1953] Inclusion of Jordan Ngubame, editor of an African nationalist paper, as a member of the Indian Opinion team gave it an African perspective. However, financial troubles continued to grow and in June 1955, Manilal again thought of closing down the paper. Only the donations were saving the paper and the Settlement. [R2:36979]
On November 19, 1955, Manilal suffered a stroke, and on April 5, 1956, he died. [R2:383]
After Manilal became ill, it had been a struggle to keep the Indian Opinion going. Sita, Arun, Ngubame and others assisted and wrote articles. It became more difficult after his death. Manilal had been the editor of Indian Opinion for thirty six years under trying circumstances and had kept it going against all odds, a fact not usually recognized. After his death, in a meeting held on May 13, 1956, Sushila was appointed the manager of Phoenix Settlement and editor of Indian Opinion. She approved the English section being renamed as 'Opinion' (in editorial of 21.6.1957) to reflect the "Oneness of Man" and the belief in "a new sense of nationhood". Sita, who was already an old hand in the printing press, helped by Sushila Gandhi, rose to the challenge of running the paper, despite having to look after a toddler and an infant.[R2:15, 22, 395]
But the financial problems could not be managed, and on August 4, 1961, to all intents and purposes, the Opinion died, though a few issues did come out next year to hold on to the printing licence. [R2:3957]
Mewa Ramgobin, chairperson of the Phoenix Settlement Trust, during his visit to India, informed that in South Africa, the Settlement had been gutted during the apartheid violence of 1985. It was restored and officially reopened by Nelson Mandela in 2000, and 'The Opinion' (the earlier Indian Opinion) was revived on Oct. 11, 2000, by the deputy president, Jacob Zuma, 39 years after it stopped publication, as a symbolic attempt to restore the Settlement. The Trust is publishing The Opinion in English and Zulu. Revenue would remain a problem, for the Trust will not publish advertisements on liquor, cigarettes, meat or sex. Hence, as advised by Mewa Ramgobin, the first three issues would be monthly, then bimonthly and may be thereafter weekly. As he said: "Apart from being a voice to the poorest of the poor, the newspaper is attempting to bridge the gap between an apartheiddevastated society and a democratic order in the making." [R6] As reported, it was being published but not as a regular newspaper. [R4:22]
This is the story of Indian Opinion, an inspiring saga in the history of selfless and idealistic journalism, a blend of political activism with ethical and intellectual commitment. Phoenix Settlement and Indian Opinion were the primary instruments of Gandhiji for conducting satyagraha with mass participation through nonviolent resistance to racial discrimination and injustice against British Indians in South Africa. From 1903 to 1961, the paper survived against heavy odds, varying in size, the languages in which it appeared, and the policy on advertisements. It survived by the sheer dedication of the volunteers who sacrificed so much to keep it going, and above all the resolve and involvement of Gandhiji, and then Manilal and his family. Manilal carried forward the flame of Gandhiji's idealism, patriotism and service till his death in 1956.
The Indian community in South Africa and assistance from India helped the paper to continue despite constant financial deficits. Gandhiji sank bulk of his savings in it. From its inception till he left for India in 1914, he was its real editor, manager and financier. He nursed it as his patriotic duty for the service of the Indian community. It became an image of his own evolution in both public and personal life. It provided him with an opportunity to develop his ethics and style as a journalist and a writer, the qualities used by him later in India for bringing out Young India, Navajivan, Harijan and in the vast corpus of his other writings.
The concept of satyagraha was propounded by Gandhiji first on September 11, 1906, in the mass meeting of Indians at Johannesburg. In this centenary year of satyagraha, we need to study deeply the files of Indian Opinion for the period 1903 to 1914 to discover the immensely rich and varied catalogue of its contents, and to learn about the fundamentals and origins of Gandhian precepts, and particularly his philosophy of satyagraha. This was the unique weapon he gave to the weak and the poor, the 'Unto This Last', to resist injustice and exploitation anywhere in the whole world and for all time to come.
- 'Mahatma Gandhi: The Journalist', by S.N. Bhattacharyya, National Gandhi Museum & Manak Publ., New Delhi, 2000 (1st edn. in 1965). Referred as [R1:page no.]
- 'GANDHI'S PRISONER? The Life of Gandhi's Son MANILAL', by Uma Dhupelia Mesthrie, Kwela Books, Cape Town & Permanent Black, Delhi, 2004. Referred as - [R2:page no.]
- 'Gandhi, The Writer (The Image As It Grew) ', by Bhabani Bhattacharya, National Book Trust, 1969.Referred as - [R3:page no.]
- 'Gandhi's Encounter with the Fourth Estate', by Ela Gandhi, SatyagrahainPursuit of Truth, Durban.Referred as - [R4]
- 'Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi' (Volumes 1 - 100), Publications Division, New Delhi, 1958. Referred as - [CW vol. no: page no.]
- 'Paternity of Peace: Gandhi's view finds new takers in South Africa & Bangladesh', (article), 'OUTLOOK', New Delhi, Oct. 2000, p.43. Referred as - [R6]
- 'Gandhi, the Journalist', (article), by Ramachandra Guha, The Hindu, New Delhi, June 8, 2003. Referred as - [R7]
- 'Indian Opinion', weekly journal, various issues. Referred as - (I.O., with date of issue)
This Paper has been prepared by taking material from the above references, and mainly from R1, R2, and R3. The contribution of these sources is gratefully acknowledged.
1. Presented by Dr. Y.P. Anand, at the Seminar held by National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi, on December 18, 2006, at New Delhi.