Thus the great Satyagraha struggle closed eight years, and it appeared that the Indians in South Africa were now at peace. On July 18, 1914, I sailed from England, to meet Gokhale, on my way back to India, with mixed feelings of pleasure and regret, pleasure because I was returning home after many years and eagerly looked forward to serving the country under Gokhale’s guidance, regret because it was a great wrench for me to leave South Africa, where I had passed twenty-one years of my life sharing to the full in the sweets and bitters of human experience, and where I had realized my vocation in life.
When one considers the painful contrast between the happy ending of the
Satyagraha struggle and the present condition of the Indians in South
Africa, one feels for the moment as if all this suffering had gone for
nothing, or is inclined to question the efficacy of Satyagraha as a solvent
of the problems of mankind. Let us here consider this point for a little
while. There is a law of nature that a thing can be retained by the same
means by which it has been acquired. A thing acquired by violence can
be retained only by truth. The Indians in South Africa, therefore, can
ensure their safety today if they can wield the weapon of Satyagraha.
There are no such miraculous properties in Satyagraha, that a thing acquired
by truth could be retained even when truth was given up. It would not
be desirable even if it was possible. If therefore the position of Indians
in South Africa has now suffering deterioration, that argues the absence
of Satyagrahis among them. There is no question here of finding fault
with the present generation of South African Indians, but of merely stating
the facts of the case. Individuals or bodies of individuals cannot borrow
from others qualities, which they themselves do not possess. The Satyagrahi
veterans passed away one after another. Sorabji, Kachhalia, Thambi Naidoo,
Parsi Rustomji and others are no more, and they are very few now who passed
through the fire of Satyagraha. The few that remain are still in the fighting
line, and I have not a shadow of a doubt that they will be the saviors
of the community on the day of its trial if the light of Satyagraha is
burning bright within them.
Finally, the reader of these pages has seen that had it not been for this
great struggle and for the untold sufferings which many Indians invited
upon their devoted heads, the Indians today would have been bounded out
of South Africa Nay, the victory achieved by Indians in South Africa more
or less served as a shield for Indian emigrants in other parts of the
British Empire, who, if they are suppressed, will be suppressed thanks
to the absence of Satyagraha among themselves, and to India’s inability
to protect them, and not because of any flaw in the weapon of Satyagraha.
I will consider myself amply repaid if I have in these pages demonstrated
with some success that Satyagraha is a priceless and matchless weapon,
and that those who wield it are strangers to disappointment and defeat.