Within a short time of the issue of the report, the Government published in the Official Gazette of the Union the Indians Relief Bill, which was to effect a settlement of their long-standing dispute with the Indians; and I went at once to Cape Town where the Union Parliament sits. The Bill contained sections and would take up only two columns of a paper like Young India. One part of it dealt with the question of Indian marriages and validated in South Africa the marriages which were held legal in India, except that if a man had more wives than one, only one of them would any time be recognized as his legal wife in South Africa. The second part abolished the annual licence three pound of tax to be taken out by every indentured Indian Labourer who failed to return to India and settled in the country as a free man on the completion of his indenture. The third part provided that the domicile certificates issued by the Government to Indians in Natal and bearing the thumb impression of the holder of the permit should be recognized as conclusive evidence of the of the right of the holder to enter the Union as soon as his identity was established. There was a long and pleasant debate over the bill in the Union Parliament.
Administrative matters which did not come under the Indians Relief Bill
were settled by correspondence between General smuts and me, as for example,
safeguarding the educated Indians’ right of entry into the Cape
Colony, allowing ‘specially exempted’ educated Indians to
enter entered South Africa within the last three years, and permitting
existing plural wives to join their husbands in South Africa. After dealing
with all these points, General Smuts, in his letter of June 30, 1914,
‘With regard to the administration of existing laws, it has always
been and will continue to be the desire of the Government to see that
they are administered in a just manner and with due regard to vested rights.’
I replied to the above letter to this effect
‘I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of even date. I feel
deeply grateful for the patience and courtesy which you showed during
‘The passing of the Indians Relief Bill and this correspondence
finally closed the Satyagraha struggle which commenced in the September
of 1906 and which to the Indian community cost much physical suffering
and pecuniary loss and to the government much anxious thought and consideration.
‘As you are aware, some of my countrymen have wished me to go further.
They are dissatisfied that the Trade Licence laws of the different provinces,
the Transvaal Gold Law, the Transvaal townships Act, the Transvaal Law
3 of 1885 have not altered so as to give them full rights of residence,
trade and ownership of land. Some of them are dissatisfied that full interprovincial
migration is not permitted, and some are dissatisfied that on the marriage
question the Relief Bill goes no further than it does. They have asked
m e that all the above matters might be included in the Satyagraha struggle.
I have been unable to comply with their wishes. Whilst, therefore, they
have not been included in the programme of Satyagraha, it will not be
denied that some day or other these matters will require further and sympathetic
consideration by the Government. Complete satisfaction cannot be expected
until full civic rights have been conceded to the resident Indian population.
‘I have told my countrymen that they will have to exercise patience,
and by all honourable means at their disposal educate public opinion so
as to enable the Government of the day to go further than the present
correspondence does. I shall hope when the Europeans of South Africa fully
appreciate the fact that now the importation of indentured labour from
India is prohibited, and the Immigrants Regulation Act of last year has
in practice all but stopped further free Indian immigration, and that
my countrymen do not entertain any political ambition, they, the Europeans,
will see the justice and indeed the necessity of my countrymen being granted
the rights I have just referred to.
‘Meanwhile, if the generous spirit that the Government have applied
to the treatment of the problem during the past few months continues to
be applied, as promised in your letter, in the administration of the existing
laws, I am quite certain that the Indian community throughout the Union
will be able to enjoy some measure of peace and never be a source of trouble
to the Government.’