THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. II - SATYAGRAHA IN SOUTH AFRICA > Further Internal Difficulties
24. Further Internal Difficulties
We have some idea of our internal difficulties in Chapter XXII. When I was assaulted in Johannesburg, my family lived in Phoenix and were naturally anxious about me. But it was not possible for them to expend money on the journey from Phoenix to Johannesburg. It was therefore necessary for me to see them after my recovery.
I was often on the move between the Transvaal and Natal in connection with my work. From the letters of Natal friends. I was aware that Natal too the settlement had been grossly misunderstood. And I had received a sheaf of correspondence addressed to Indian Opinion in which adverse criticism was passed on the settlement. Although the Satyagraha struggle was still confined to the Transvaal Indians, we must seek the support and enlist the sympathies of the Natal Indians also. The Transvaal struggle was not a mere local affair the battle on behalf of all the Indians in South Africa. And therefore also I must go to Durban and remove the misunderstandings prevalent there. So I took the first opportunity to run up to Durban.
A public meeting of the Indians was called in Durban. Some friends had warned me beforehand that I would be attacked at this meeting and that I should therefore not attend it at all or at least take steps for defending myself. But neither of the two coursed was open to me. If a servant when called by his master fails to respond through fear, he forfeits his title to the name of servant. Nor does he deserve the name if he is afraid of the master’s punishment. Service of the public for service’s sake is like walking on the sword’s edge. If a servant is ready enough for praise he may not flee in the face of blame. I therefore presented myself at the meeting at the appointed time. I explained to the meeting how the settlement had been effected, and also answered the questions put by the audience. The meeting was held at 8 o’clock in the evening. The proceedings were nearly over when a Pathan rushed to the platform with a big stick. The lights were put out at the same time. I grasped the situation at once. Sheth Daud Muhamad the chairman stood up on the chairman’s table and tried to quell the disturbance. Some of those on the platform surrounded me to defend my person. The friends who feared an assault had come to the place prepared for eventualities. One of them had a revolver in his pocket and he tried a blank shot. Meanwhile Parsi Rustomji who had noticed the gathering cloud and informed Superintendent Alexander, who sent a police party. The police made away for me through the crowd and took me to Parsi Rustomji’s place.
The next day Parsi Rustomji brought all the Pathans of Durban together in the morning, and asked them to place before me all their complaints against me. I met them and tried to conciliate them, but with little success. They had preconceived notion that I had betrayed it was useless reasoning with them. The canker of suspicion cannot be cured by arguments or explanations.
I left Durban for Phoenix the same day. The friends who had guarded me the previous night would not let me alone, and informed me that they intended to accompany me to Phoenix. I said, ‘I cannot prevent you if you will come in spite of me. But Phoenix is a jungle. And what will you do if we the only dwellers in it do not give you even food?’ One of the friends replied, ‘That won’t frighten us. We are well able to look after ourselves. And so long as we are a-soldiering, who is there to prevent us from robbing your pantry?’ We thus made a merry party for Phoenix.
The leader of this self-appointed guard was Jack Mooborn, a Natal-born Tamilian well known among the Indians as attained boxer. He and his companions believed that no man was a match for him in that branch of sport.
In South Africa I had for many years been in the habit of sleeping in the open at all times except when there was rain. I was not prepared now to change the habit, and the self-constituted guard decided to keep watch all night. Though I had tried to laugh these men out of their purpose, I must confess that I was weal enough to feel safer for their presence. I wonder if I could have slept with the same ease if the guard had not been there. I suppose I should have been startled by some noise or other. I believe that I have an unflinching faith in God. For many years I have accorded intellectual assent to the proposition that death is only a big change in life and nothing more, and should be welcome whenever it arrives. I have deliberately made a supreme attempt to cast out from my heart all fear whatsoever including the fear of death. Still I remember occasions in my life when I have not rejoiced at the thought of approaching death as one might rejoice at the thought of approaching death as one might rejoice at the prospect of meeting a long lost friend. Thus man often remains weal notwithstanding all his efforts to be strong, a knowledge which stops all the head and does not penetrate into the heart is of but little use in the critical times of living experience. Then again the strength of the spirit within mostly evaporates when a person gets and accepts support from outside. A Satyagrahi must be always on his guard against such temptations.
While in Phoenix I did jus done thing. I wrote a great deal with a view to removing misunderstandings’ about the compromise, including an imaginary dialogue for Indian Opinion in which I disposed of in ample detail the objections advanced and criticism passed against the settlement. I believe that this dialogue produced a good effect. It was found that the Transvaal Indians whose misunderstanding of the settlement, if persistent, would have led to really disastrous results, did not long misunderstand it. It was only for the Transvaal Indians to accept or to reject the settlement. They were on their trial as well as myself as their leader and servant. In the end there were hardly any Indians who had not registered themselves voluntarily. There was such a rush of the applications for registration that the officers concerned were hard pressed with work, and in a very short time the Indians had fulfilled to admit this, and I could see that misunderstanding, though of an acute nature, was quite limited in its extent. There was no doubt a great deal of stir when some Pathans violently took the law into their own hands. But such violent stir when analyzed, often turns out to have no bottom at all and is equally often turns out to have no bottom at all and is equally often only temporary. And yet it is a power in the world today as we are apt to be unnerved in the face of violence. If however we calmly think about it, we shall find that there is no reason for nervousness. Just suppose that Mir Alam and his friends, instead of only wounding, had actually destroyed my body. And suppose also that the community had deliberately remained calm and unperturbed, and forgiven the offenders perceiving that according to their lights they could not behave otherwise than they did. Far from injuring the community, such a noble attitude would have greatly benefited them. All misunderstanding would have had their eyes opened to the error of their ways. As for me, nothing better can happen to a Satyagrahi than meeting death all unsought in the very act of Satyagraha, i.e., pursing Truth. all these propositions are true only of a struggle like the Satyagraha movement, where there is no room for hatred, where self-reliance is the order of the day, where no one has to look expectantly at another, where there are no leaders and hence no followers, or where all are leaders and all are followers, so that the death of a fighter, however eminent, makes not for slackness but on the other hand intensifies the struggle.
Such is the pure and essential nature of Satyagraha, not realized in practice, because not every one of us has shed hatred. In actual practice the secret of Satyagraha is not understood by all, and the many are apt unintelligently to follow the few. Again as Tolstoy observed, the Transvaal struggle was the first attempt at applying the principle of Satyagraha to masses or bodies of men. I do not know any historical example of pure mass Satyagraha. I cannot however formulate of history is limited. But as a matter of fact we have nothing to do with historical precedents. Granted the fundamental principles of Satyagraha, it will be seen that the consequences I have described are bound to follow as night the day. It will not do to dismiss such a valuable force with the remark that it is difficult or impossible of application. Brute force has been the ruling factor in the world for thousands of years, and mankind has been reaping its bitter harvest all along, as he who runs may read. There is little hope of anything good coming out it in the future. If light can come out of darkness, then alone can love emerge from hatred.