To turn now to the Asiatic Department.
Johannesburg was the stronghold of the Asiatic officers. I had been
observing that, far from protecting the Indians, Chinese and others,
these officers were grinding them down. Every day I had complaints
like this: 'The rightful ones are not admitted, whilst those who
have no right are smuggled in on payment of £ 100. If you will not
remedy this state of things, who will?' I shared the feeling. If I
did not succeed in stamping out this evil, I should be living in the
Transvaal in vain.
So I began to collect evidence, and as soon as I had gathered a fair
Amount, I approached the Police Commissioner. He appeared to be a
just man. Far from giving me the cold shoulder, he listened to me
patiently and asked me to show him all the evidence in my
possession. He examined the witnesses himself and was satisfied, but
he knew as well as I that it was difficult in South Africa to get a
white jury to convict a white offender against coloured men. 'But,'
said he, 'let us try at any rate. It is not proper, either, to let
such criminals go scot-free for fear of the jury acquitting them. I
must get them arrested. I assure you I shall leave no stone
I did not need the assurance. I suspected quite a number of
officers, but as I had no unchallengeable evidence against them all,
warrants of arrest were issued against the two about whose guilt I
had not the slightest doubt.
My movements could never be kept secret. Many knew that I was going
to the Police Commissioner practically daily. The two officers
against whom warrants had been issued had spies more or less
efficient. They used to patrol my office and report my movements to
the officers. I must admit, however, that these officers were so bad
that they could not have had many spies. Had the Indians and the
Chinese not helped me, they would never have been arrested.
One of these absconded. The Police Commissioner obtained an
extradition warrant against him and got him arrested and brought to
the Transvaal. They were tried, and although there was strong
evidence against them, and in spite of the fact that the jury had
evidence of one of them having absconded, both were declared to be
not guilty and acquitted.
I was sorely disappointed. The Police Commissioner also was very
sorry. I was disgusted with the legal profession. The very intellect
became an abomination to me inasmuch as it could be prostituted for
However, the guilt of both these officers was so patent that in
spite of their acquittal the Government could not harbour them. Both
were cashiered, and the Asiatic department became comparatively
clean, and the Indian community was somewhat reassured.
The event enhanced my prestige and brought me more business. The
bulk, though not all, of the hundreds of pounds that the community
was monthly squandering in peculation, was saved. All could not be
saved, for the dishonest still plied their trade. But it was now
possible for the honest man to preserve his honesty.
I must say that, though these officers were so bad, I had nothing
against them personally. They were aware of this themselves, and
when in their straits they approached me, I helped them too. They
had a chance of getting employed by the Johannesburg Municipality in
case I did not oppose the proposal. A friend of theirs saw me in
this connection and I agreed not to thwart them, and they succeeded.
This attitude of mine put the officials with whom I came in contact
perfectly at ease, and though I had often to fight with their
department and use strong language, they remained quite friendly
with me. I was not then quite conscious that such behaviour was part
of my nature. I learnt later that it was an essential part of
Satyagraha, and an attribute of ahimsa.
Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should
call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of
the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as
the case may be. 'Hate the sin and not the sinner' is a precept
which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practised, and
that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
This ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing every day that
the search is in vain unless it is founded on ahimsa
as the basis. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but
to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and
attacking oneself. For we are all tarred with the same brush, and
are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine
powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being is to
slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but
with him the whole world.