Next

ONLINE BOOKS > THE MAKING OF A SOCIAL REFORMER : GANDHI IN SOUTH AFRICA, 1893-1914Gandhi And Community Resources, 1906 to 1912
 

Gandhi And Community Resources, 1906 to 1912  

"And if my countrymen believe in God and the existence of the soul, then, while they may admit that their bodies belong to the State to be imprisoned and deported, their minds, their wills and their souls must remain free like the birds of the air, and are beyond the reach of the swiftest arrow." Gandhi, 1908    

"In South Africa, I have only one duty: to bring the Hindus and the Muslims together to serve them as a single community." Gandhi, 1908 

"A man’s duty is to worship God. Telling one's beads is no symbol of that worship; neither is going to mosque or temple, nor is saying namaz or the gayatri. These things are all right as far as they go.... He alone truly adores God who finds his happiness is the happiness of others, speaks evil of none, does not waste his time in the pursuit of riches, does nothing immoral, who acquits himself with others as with a friend, does not fear the plague or any human being." Gandhi, 1911


In seeking to get Hindus and Muslims to work together closely, Gandhi drew upon the cultural and religious traditions of the two communities. He recognized how deeply both groups were invested in them, and urged them to grasp the “real significance” of their religion in sacrifice, duty, and fearlessness. Behavior that was not governed by these principles was cowardice.      

Gandhi’s repertoire was full of heroic imagery during the satyagraha campaign, and he used it especially during the periods when the campaign reached low points in 1908 and 1909 when he hoped to tap into the religious traditions of his supporters. By the end of 1910, there were only about 100 stalwarts who were prepared to make the kind of sacrifices Gandhi required. He spent a great deal of time at the Tolstoy Farm reaffirming his beliefs, and possibly rethinking his strategy. By the middle of 1913, he was ready to move boldly to harness the raging dissent among the indentured Indians relating to their work conditions, and an unfair, unjust tax that sought to keep them locked into the system.

In this chapter, we pay particular attention to Gandhi's reliance on the cultural and religious orientations of Indians in South Africa. Community organizations rallied to his call for support, but he framed the discourse on his own terms. He gave lead and direction to it through the Indian Opinion, but always responded to opposition by revising his strategy.

Religion for Gandhi formed the basis of ethical behavior. When Gandhi translated parts of  William MacIntyre's Ethical Religion (1889, 1905) into Gujarati for his readers, he used a quote that summed up his view,  "So long as the seed of morality is not watered by religion, it cannot sprout.”1  "And if my countrymen believe in God and the existence of the soul, then, while they may admit that their bodies belong to the State to be imprisoned and deported, their minds, their wills and their souls must remain free like the birds of the air, and are beyond the reach of the swiftest arrow." He likened the struggle to Rama's battle with Ravana. The cause of the Indians "was God's own cause." He was everywhere with them, and therefore there was no need to fear defeat.2 But "suffering" was essential for "purification" and humility, a process he explained by citing a Gujarati idiom, "The more the mango tree flourishes, the more it droops."3 Gandhi drew upon the bravery of Prophet Mahomed to illustrate the need for faith in God: when Mahomed and two others took refuge in a cave from hostile forces, the Prophet reminded one of them that there were not only three of them but four in the cave as God was also there with them.   

Adherence to the truth was in itself a victory. Truth as God was for him the essence of all religions. Those who serve God never lose; that was divine law. Gandhi quoted from the Bhagavad Gita, "Without even mind for happiness and unhappiness, gain and loss, victory and defeat, and so join battles..."5  After he was assaulted in January 1908, he wrote,  "We fear death needlessly; " "... there is suffering only as long as the soul is in intimate union with the body." Some know only "physical strength as a way of expressing disapproval;" it is the “duty of the wise man to bear in suffering and patience."6 Socrates was a "great satyagrahi." In urging Indians to "cleanse" themselves "within and without,” they could, like Socrates, prove that truth was worth dying for.  "We shall discover that, if we do not fear our enemy and do not show temper with him, he becomes our friend, for he then serves us like one."

Satyagraha’s political and social implications were clear to him. Politically, it inspired Gandhi to think that imperial rule had to be based on equality without the taint of racial discrimination. The British constitution had taught him that every subject was to be treated equally regardless of race, culture, or religion. This was the only thing that bound the empire. It was flawed in its implementation, and he did not hesitate to point out the weaknesses.  He viewed the anti-Asian policies in South Africa, Australia, and Canada as a violation of that principle.8 Natal's anti-Indian bills in 1908 drew this response from Gandhi, "Many imperialists in England include India as part of the Imperial federation, and I do not know that it is possible to have at all a British empire, leaving India out, seeing that according to Lord Curzon, India is the dome of the Imperial edifice and that it is India which makes the Empire possible."9   For Gandhi, South Africa and India were connected by empire. Hence, he never took his eyes off India while he was in South Africa. In December 1907, he warned the imperial government that it could not hold the affection of the people of India "at the point of a bayonet.”  And in 1908 he said, "Our vigilance will serve India well." There was bound to be indigenous response. England might have to choose between India and the self-governing White colonies. It is in this context that the discourse on swadeshi (patriotic self-reliance or promoting indigenous values) took place in South Africa.10 

Socially, satyagraha implied working for the common good or sarvodaya. This encompassed duty and service. Gandhi was influenced by the work of Christian missionaries among the poor in India, Ruskin, and several others. Gandhi came to the conclusion that the "exclusive quest for physical and material happiness ... ha[d] no sanction in divine law." He rejected the Western ideal of pursuing individual self-interest. It was a great "delusion" to make laws that disregarded their social impact. It was the duty of each -- soldier, physician, pastor, lawyer, and merchant -- "on due occasion to die [in service] for the people." Merchants should not only think about profit; they should do with less and work for the welfare of the people, bearing in mind that God lived in the home of the poor only. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few was undesirable.11

Whites in South Africa were selfish, Gandhi said. They confused Western civilization with Christian progress, and in their selfishness they overlooked that the colored people were hard-working and that the Africans were here when they came. Indeed, Blacks were an asset for the empire. If Indians and Africans were to leave, he believed there would be a civil war among the Whites.12 "If Jesus Christ came to Johannesburg and Pretoria and examined the hearts of General Botha and General Smuts and the others, he would notice something strange, something quite strange in the Christian spirit."13  Gandhi said, “Treat him [the Indian] as a real, live human being, and you will have no such thing as the Indian question in this country."14   

"... I refuse to believe in the infallibility of legislators,” Gandhi said. ”I do believe that they are not always guided by generous or even just sentiments in their dealings with unrepresented classes."  He continued, "I venture to say that if passive resistance is generally accepted, it will once and for ever avoid the contingency of a terrible death struggle and bloodshed in the event (not impossible) of the natives [in South Africa] being exasperated by a stupid mistake of our legislators."15 

For Gandhi, duty and sacrifice were the greatest of virtues in an individual. So he lauded people like Thambi Naidoo whose bravery made up for those like Ramsunder, the first satyagrahi prisoner who failed to live up to his expectations. As Gandhi saw it, the “body of the community [was] healthy enough to expel impurities from the system." Gujarati-speaking Indians would have understood well the idioms he used to describe people like Ramsunder:  no one can divine what lies in the heart of a man or in the hollow of a drum; the weak man will not turn manly through pressure; and glass will not turn into diamond.16  

These basic ideas propelled much of his actions. An examination of events up to 1912 shows how strongly he relied for support on the Indian communities in their culturally diverse forms. There was ebb and flow to the support he received from the various community organizations. Often there were disagreements, and he used culturally and religiously significant symbols to appeal for unity.

There was strong support from the various Indian communities in 1907 and 1908. Gandhi's arrest early in 1908 sparked off wide protest activities among the Indians. The NIC held a mass meeting in Durban at which 1500 were present at the Grey Street Market Mosque. Numerous other organizations adopted resolutions of support; Indian-owned shops closed in show of support, and funds were collected for the Transvaal passive resisters. There were mass meetings in other places like Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, London, and cities in India. The Surat Hindu Association in Durban adopted a resolution condemning his arrest. Other organizations that did the same were: East Rand Indians, Ladysmith Farmers Association, Durban Fruiterers Association, Wakkerstroom's residents, Indians in Stellenbosch, and N. N. Patel on behalf of Klerksdorp's Indians; the Natal Memon Community fund contributed financially to the struggle; the Durban Fruiterers Association sponsored a play "Dage Hajrat" in Hindi at Victoria Theater, performed by the Easy Indian Theatrical Company, while the Ladysmith Islamic Society met on January 11 to collect funds for Transvaal passive resisters.17

Gandhi was also to discover how quickly support could dissipate. He reached a compromise with Smuts in January 1908 without adequately preparing those who might disagree with him strategically. One individual assaulted him, while others questioned his leadership and considered inviting Mahomed Ali Jinnah, a Gujarati-speaking Muslim advocate from Mumbai who was then in London, to come to South Africa.18 Indians needed to show courage like the Spartans who held the pass at Thermopylae. In idiomatic Gujarati, he explained that it was sheer ignorance to be impatient like the dog under a moving cart which thinks it is drawing the cart.19 Indian Opinion argued at length that voluntary registration gave Indians "honour and responsibility." Gandhi saw the compromise as victory for truth. He used a Gujarati idiom to ask for unity: water cannot be cloven asunder by hitting it with a stick; similarly we cannot be separated from one another.20 An imaginary dialogue in the Gujarati section explained the advantage of voluntary (marjyat) over compulsory (farjyat) registration. The stigma of registration by law had gone. The community was always in favor of voluntary registration; and besides, it would be harmful if on occasion the leaders were not allowed freedom of action. "Confidence in the leaders is a sign of unity, of generosity, and an unflagging spirit among the people."21

In an open letter dated February 15, 1908, Gandhi pleaded for mittaas (sweetness) not khataas (bitterness) between Hindus and Muslims. He advised all Indians to give ten fingerprints. "I ask 'Khuda' to bless the community; to take it onto the path of Truth; and let my blood bind Hindu and Muslim." "What we have gained by satyagraha can be retained only through satyagraha."22 But Gandhi continued to receive abusive letters.  He regretted that Haji O. Ally could not trust him because he was a Hindu. Muslims, for their part, argued that the compromise had ruined them -- they were all traders while Hindus were mostly hawkers. They cabled complaints to SABIC in London, and some openly supported inviting Jinnah to South Africa. One Muslim suggested that HIS and the Pretoria Anjuman should sponsor the Muslim advocate's visit. Gandhi countered by warning his "Muslim brethren against those who are out to set people at variance with each other by saying these things." "In South Africa, I have only one duty: to bring the Hindus and the Muslims together to serve them as a single community."23

Leading Muslim leaders denied the split. They insisted that except for a few, "Mahomedans as a body have accepted it." That was the assertion by Muslim leaders like Imam Abdul Kader Bawazeer, M.P. Fancy, Essop Ismail Mia, Syed Mustafa, Allibhai Akoojee, and M. E. Nagdee, all of whom were members of HIS and BIA. Gandhi continued to defend the compromise, even invoking the authority of the Koran in the voluntary giving of finger impressions so long as it was not compulsory.24 "Bhago athwa jago" (run or awaken) wrote one Muslim in support of the compromise. However, the attack late in May on BIA's Essop Mia by two Pathans suggested that the fallout from the compromise was continuing.25  

In Natal, the Hindu-Muslim question surfaced in a different way. The split in the NIC came about because colonial-born Indians felt excluded from a Muslim-dominated NIC. Rumors of the split first surfaced in January 1907, and became a reality when a new body, the Natal Indian Political Union (NIPU), emerged a year later. It had branches in Durban, Isipingo, Sea Cow Lake, Springfield, and Clare Estate. It sought to promote, as its leader P.S. Aiyar wrote, the welfare of the poorer classes of Indians in such matters as greater police protection against crime, ownership of firearms, abolition of the £3 tax, licenses, disfranchisement, and exclusion from civil service jobs.26

Even as Indian Opinion proclaimed the success of voluntary registration,27 there were signs that the compromise would not hold. By the end of May 1908, the breach became a reality. The Indian leaders publicly called for the return of their certificates. Gandhi said in an open letter that he felt no shame in asking them to resume the struggle because he did not betray the cause. Those who blamed him, if they were sincere, should join satyagraha; those who supported him must redouble their efforts. He said, "... the more the other side attempts foul play, the better to advantage will our truth be set off."  Mass meetings took place. One was under HIS's auspices in Johannesburg. Resolutions were adopted. Rustenberg's United Assembly called for resumption of the struggle.28 In Cape Town, E. Noordien, president of the SAIA (South African Indian Association) who had been actively seeking to bring local Indians together on immigration and trade issues, organized a meeting of several bodies on June 24 to call for support in the Transvaal fight.29

Smuts and Botha set out to foment division by suggesting that Muslims were opposed to passive resistance. The BIA was quick to respond by holding a mass meeting. No, said the leaders, Hindus and Muslims were not divided. BIA President Cachalia countered the charge that passive resistance was agitating the "native minds." On the contrary, he said, satyagraha was about self-control and patient suffering. If Blacks were unhappy, it was the result of intolerable injustice as in the case of the 1906 Zulu rebellion.30  

The measure of support for satyagraha for the six-month period after the campaign was resumed can be found in the telegrams that were received from places like Ventersdorp, Warmbaths, Volksrust, Vereeniniging, Pietersburg, Lydenberg, Roodepoort, Standerton, Lichtenberg, Nylstroom, Middleburg, Pretoria, Christiana, Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom, Zeerust, Fortune, Boksburg, Heidelberg, Durban, Verulam, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberly, and even Rhodesian towns.  Indian shops closed to show support.31 The NIC donated £100, some of it coming from proceeds of a play performed (“Dage Hajrat no khel”) by the Grand Theatrical company.32 Other bodies that showed support were the Durban Fruiterers Indian Association at a meeting attended by 500 people, the Cape Town British India League, and Ladysmith’s Indians.33  After the certificates were burned at the famous mass meeting at Hamidia mosque,34 Indian organizations began preparing for the resumption of the campaign. The South African Indian Association in Cape Town, NIC, HIS, and the Cape Indian League organized mass meetings to show support. The Tamil community showed great tenacity.35 In Durban, Gandhi addressed an NIC gathering of 900 to 1000 people on September 26.

On his return to Johannesburg, Gandhi was arrested along with fifteen others. Prisoner Gandhi called himself the "happiest man in the Transvaal" as he dug roads in Johannesburg's Market Square.36 He was released in December after seventy days in prison at Volksrust. En route to Johannesburg, he was greeted by Indians in Standerton, Heidelberg, and Germiston. Several hundred people enthusiastically received him at the Johannesburg station. From there he was carried shoulder high to the horse-driven cab that took him to the Hamidia mosque, where a much larger crowd of supporters was waiting for him. Some of them sang "Vande Materam."37  

Important political developments within South Africa overshadowed the campaign. Britain was encouraging the unification of the four colonies. Indians had been following the deliberations for closer union since 1908. They rightly saw it as a consolidation of White interests, and as such the issues that concerned them were sidelined. This protection of White interests was seen as part of the same anti-Asian phenomenon then prevailing in the United States, Canada, and Australia.38 Indian Opinion commented on the impending Union of South Africa Draft Act. It was "a frank declaration of the White South African policy ... to keep the native, the coloured, and the Asiatic races in bondage if they cannot be exterminated or expelled." It noted one nonracial response to these events. A meeting took place in Kimberley among Africans, Indians, Coloreds, and Malays to unite. It decided to send delegates to the African conference planned in Bloemfontein.39

Under the circumstances, Gandhi’s endeavors to highlight the campaign’s importance fell on deaf ears in official circles.40 Rumors of the tensions between some Muslim traders and the mostly Hindu hawkers kept surfacing. The Star reported that Pathans, unhappy with BIA leadership, had broken away. They did not like the picket system. A person writing to the Star called the picket volunteers "bullies," given to making "derogatory remarks about our religion and pass[ing] insulting remarks against our Prophet."41 The campaign was losing steam early in 1909, and newspapers like the Star, Rand Daily Mail, and the Sunday Times were quick to point this out. Increasingly, Gandhi called for the need to make sacrifices. He said, "No religion believes it possible to worship God and Mammon at the same time." Devotion to God required giving up wealth, he continued. He hoped that the battle could be widened to include Natal. The January 23 issue of Indian Opinion suggested that in Natal a passive resistance body should be formed to oppose the payment of the £3 tax.42  

In March and April of 1909, the BIA and individuals connected to the movement hoped to rally the Indians. They held a series of mass meetings and honored the prisoners when they were released. God's name was invoked; there was no honor, as Dildar Khan suggested, to walk around with certificates "like Kaffirs."43 The support of leading Jewish individuals was strong.44 The Indian Opinion published poems in Gujarati and Urdu glorifying those who were making sacrifices. A Muslim writer urged Indians to have faith in God in the way Ebrahim had faith when he jumped into fire on the advice of the angel Gabriel. Mahomed Khan wrote to say that he went to jail rather than follow the advice of his parents who had ordered him to flee to India; and fourteen-year old Mohanlal Manjee Ghelani from Johannesburg informed the readers about his father's arrest.45

When Botha claimed that the Indians were content with the state of affairs, BIA organized a response on April 11. Some 1500 delegates from all parts of the Transvaal met to refute the statement. While the meeting was intended to show Indian support, it also revealed the weakness of the movement. For example, Ali Mahomed Khamissa admitted that as a trustee of a company, his first duty was to look after his business interests, and he had therefore registered. Indians in positions of leadership secretly applied for duplicates; traders especially were guilty of this.46 A group of seventy individuals in Standerton wrote to say that they had taken out duplicate certificates although they fully sympathized with the campaign. It was not because of weakness but because of personal and business reasons, and they hoped to rejoin when circumstances were different. And a supporter like Advocate James Godfrey had applied for a permit to be sent to him at the height of the campaign.47

Freed on May 24, 1909, Gandhi returned to Johannesburg to a hero's welcome. Beyond the warm reception he got, he was troubled by the absence of strong commitment, especially on the part of the merchants who were more concerned about their material interests. In "Who Can be a Satyagrahi," he spelled out that commitment implied giving up even family attachment if this became necessary. He used the Gujarati idiom he that a supporter could not have one foot in curd and the other in milk; words should match action; individuals could not have the name of Rama on their lips and carry a dagger under their arm.  In another article, "Who Can Go to Jail," he listed six conditions that were essential to be a satyagrahi: non-addiction to alcohol or tobacco, disciplined body, disregard for comfort, simple diet, humility, and patience. He drew upon heroic religious figures like Prahlad, Sudhanva, Nala-Damayanti, and Harischandra to illustrate the idea of selfless sacrifice. Gandhi stressed "soul force" as the key ingredient of the campaign.48 

Gandhi, however, realized that leaders in the BIA and HIS were not prepared to make these kinds of sacrifices. A British Indian Conciliation Committee was set up to reach some kind of settlement. At the meeting in June 6, 1909, at which Gandhi was present, Habib Motan criticized Gandhi for not having the compromise with Smuts in writing. He also resented the label "blacklegs" for people who refused to go to jail. Motan accused Indian Opinion of often publishing "tendentious articles and reports." Somebody like Khanderia, he said, did not go to jail, but he encouraged others to do so. Hajee O. Ally was also critical of Gandhi.49

Since the passive resistance campaign had failed to yield the desired results, BIA leadership adopted a more conciliatory approach, and fell back on organizing deputations. Three of them came from among its own ranks; the fourth was from Natal. That the Natal deputation should happen at the same time suggests that there were individuals who also had doubts about passive resistance.  The first of the deputations was the British Indian Conciliation Committee. George Godfrey, Gussub Ebrahim Gardee, Habib Motan, Ali Mohamed, Khamissa, S. V. Thomas, H.O. Ally, Abdul Ganie, and Adam Desai met Smuts at the end of June 1909, but had no success getting the law repealed.50 Two other deputations were named at a BIA meeting to proceed to England and India. The first consisted of Habib and Gandhi; two others who had been named, Cachalia and Chettiar, were jailed by the Transvaal government. The second was made up of Polak after three others, Nadir Ardeshir Cama, Ebrahim Saleji Coovadia, and Gopal Naidoo, were arrested and thus prevented from going. The Natal deputation to England consisted of M. C. Anglia, Amod Bhayat, Hoosen Mahomed Badat, and Abdul Kadir who was already in England.51

Unfortunately for them, the deputations to London came about the time Sir Curzon Wylie was murdered by an Indian militant. Many in the British government were suspicious of the Indian delegates even though Gandhi and local Indian groups such as BIA, Ved Dharma Sabha in Pietermaritzburg, and Durban Hindu Temple condemned the assassination.52 Gandhi was personally not very hopeful of achieving any success. He was "disgusted" by the behavior of the so-called “big men.” “All such efforts are no better than pounding chaff,” because those in power showed "little inclination to do justice."53 He had even less hope for the Natal deputation since it had come too late to raise a “very old” issue, namely trade.54 Gandhi wrote after September 3, 1909, "The more I observe things, the more I realize that deputations, petitions, etc., are all in vain if there are no real sanctions behind them." He quoted Meerabhen's song to steel himself about the obstacles ahead. At the same time his disillusionment with the West had deepened, "... unless its whole machinery is thrown overboard, people will destroy themselves like so many moths."55 Such changes in his thinking are reflected in Hind Swaraj which Gandhi wrote in Gujarati on board the Kildonan Castle between November 13 and 22, 1909, on his return trip from England to South Africa. At the core of the pamphlet, as discussed earlier, was the idea that true self-rule or self-control required that modern civilization’s values had to be discarded.

The Polak deputation to India was successful. Thanks to the support of Gopal K. Gokhale,56 the leading Indian nationalist within the INC who was also a member of the Viceroy's Legislative Council from 1902, Polak was able to excite great interest and support in India for the struggle in South Africa. Chhaganlal Gandhi who comanaged the press at Phoenix joined at some stage to help. Local and national politicians in such places as Mumbai, Surat, Chennai (Madras), Ahmedabad, Poona, Navsari, Kholvad, and Kathor organized meetings. In Kathor, the Mehfil Ronkul Islam helped to organize the meeting. Polak also addressed gatherings in Lucknow, Kanpur, and Agra. In Lahore he addressed the INC. C. R. Naidu from Durban speaking as a special delegate representing colonial-born Indians in South Africa described the lives of Indians "hell upon earth."  In his presentation, Latchman Panday, who had served with Gandhi in the Ambulance Corps during the South African War (1899-1902), focused on the Natal Government's "deliberate attempt to crush Indian education out of existence." Polak's visit also coincided with the widespread opposition to the indentured labor system led by Gokhale. And Mir Alam Khan, who had reconciled with Gandhi after assaulting him, and who had been deported as a satyagrahi, worked actively to speak against South Africa's racial policies when he was in India. He wrote articles in newspapers and appeared at the Anjuman Islam in Lahore to relate first hand his own experiences.57 Polak was widely honored when he returned to South Africa after his fifteen-month stay in India.58  

With about 100 passive resisters in jail at Diepkloof by January 1910 and 36 more awaiting deportation, Gandhi's strategy was to keep the movement alive symbolically. He  hand-picked new resisters to court arrest by crossing into the Transvaal from Natal.59 Bodies such as BIA, TBS, NIC, KAM, DIS, Indian Farmers Association, Ved Dharma Sabha in Johannesburg and Durban routinely organized mass meetings to pass resolutions about a variety of emotive issues. One such issue was the death of Naryansamy, a thirty-year old returning deportee who was not allowed to land in Durban, Port Elizabeth, or Cape Town. He never got off the boat, and died as it headed back to India via Delagoa Bay.60 Another revolved around the statement by Johannesburg’s Police Superintendent Vernon who said that it was a White man's duty to hunt Indians out of the country. A third issue was the refusal by prison authorities to allow Muslim prisoners special arrangement during the fasting month of Ramadan.61 A fourth issue related to Rambhabai Sodha who was arrested when she crossed the Natal border to join her passive resister husband who had been in jail for eighteen months. She had no means of supporting herself and planned to live on Tolstoy Farm where others like her were being maintained from the Passive Resistance Fund.62 The case involving the residency rights of A. E. Chotabhai's sixteen-year old son, Mahomed, who was a legal resident of the Transvaal,  got a great deal of coverage because of its ominous implication, namely that even individuals with valid registration certificates could be deemed illegal under the 1908 law.63 Indian Opinion kept up a steady stream of heroic poems and songs by people like Ambaram Maharaj and Sheik Mehtab, while also highlighting the jail experiences of passive resisters.64

While most Indians were ambivalent about the newly created Union of South Africa, various groups were probing the new system to see what rights and privileges they could negotiate for the Indians. Such was the case of a Pietermaritzburg deputation consisting of local leaders who went to see the provincial administrator on such issues as care for the aged, £3 tax on women, education, technical training, interprovincial restrictions, uniform immigration requirements, indentured working conditions, railway travel conditions (about "herding" them with "raw natives"), trade licenses, firearm restrictions, liquor laws, removal of farm land ownership restrictions, adequately trained court interpreters, and the exclusion Indian children from the Union Day celebration. A second deputation consisting of some of the same people saw the mayor to raise issues such as municipal franchise, need for public lighting, street repair, the provision of playground and sports facilities, the city's nonhiring of Indians, and so on.65

The lack of enthusiasm for pushing on with the campaign was evident. In April 1911, Smuts as Minister of the Interior introduced a new immigration bill.  A literacy test was proposed without reference to race, but the bill was ambiguous on domicile rights. While it was to replace Act 2 of 1907, the proposed new law did not spell out the rights of Indian minors which the old law had done. Since the bill had no chance of passage in the early 1911 session, it was to be re-introduced in the parliamentary session in 1912. Gandhi saw in the bill some effort to accommodate campaign demands, and believed that a dialogue could resolve some of the issues by the time the bill was reintroduced.  He wrote to Smuts on April 19, 1912, asking for a truce. Gandhi met Smuts in Cape Town and returned to Johannesburg on April 26 where he persuaded Indian political bodies to agree to suspension of the campaign.66 The second compromise was scrutinized by BIA leaders in a meeting marked by “heated discussion.” Although there were five dissenters, most of those present accepted the compromise.67

With the compromise in place, Gandhi hoped to tap into the community’s connection with India. Most Indian leaders were disillusioned by the British government's support of White rule, but they retained faith in imperial politics. Gandhi’s own faith in the empire was sustained by those who held the liberal view that imperial interests bound Indians and Whites as equals. Joseph Doke (1861-1913) is illustrative of the liberal White South African view. As Gandhi’s first biographer, Doke’s persective appealed to those in the colonies whose parochial views threatened the larger imperial interests. He stressed Gandhi’s refined character, his education, culture, and unfailing courtesy as a fine example of the liberal impact of empire. The subtitle of Doke’s book,  An Indian Patriot, did not specify a country.68

Gandhi hoped to invite Gokhale to South Africa as part of his strategy to get India more directly involved in deliberations in South Africa. As we saw earlier, Gokhale was a strong supporter of the rights of South Africa Indians. He represented India symbolically as the champion of Indian rights.  The visit, announced in January 1912 and scheduled for the second half of 1912, was not official, but it had the blessing of the Government of India. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, born in 1866, rose quickly to serve in important administrative positions. In 1895, he became the secretary of the Mumbai Provincial Council. Two years later, he was one of the secretaries of the INC, and in 1905 its president. In 1900-1, he was elected to the Mumbai Legislative Council.  He became an influential member of the Imperial Legislative Council from 1902. The Viceroy bestowed the CIE on him. As a reformer, he hoped to break down caste distinctions among Indians, and promote pure and selfless forms of livelihoods through the Servants of India Society that he had founded in 1905.69

The committees to welcome Gokhale came into place by October 1912.70 He arrived in Cape Town on October 26 and left from Johannesburg for Delagoa Bay on November 17. A special state railway saloon took him all over South Africa. He visited Cape Town, Kimberley, Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp, Krugersdorp, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg, and Durban. He was honored with official addresses at each of the places he visited. It was not unusual for one address to have multiple sponsors across the language, religious, and cultural diversity of South Africa’s Indians.71 While in Natal, Gokhale was greeted on November 9 from his moving car by over 2500 people who had assembled at Albert Park, among them many school children.72 The next morning, which happened to be a Sunday, he was met at the Lord's sports ground by about 2000 ex-indentured Indians. He heard complaints from 50 to 60 individuals about the £3 tax and other issues. Gokhale visited St Aidan's College, made a trip to Isipingo where he met with and heard the problems of indentured Indians, drove to Mt. Edgecombe with Gandhi and Kallenbach where 10,000 indentured Indians were assembled, went to Phoenix and visited the Ohlange Institute where he talked at length with John Dube.

Throughout the tour, Gokhale argued for equality in the empire. He said that White fears about being swamped by Indian immigrants were not justified since no Indian leader wanted this to happen. Indeed, he expected Whites to be dominant in South Africa. But if Whites insisted on reducing Indians and other Blacks to “only hewers of wood and drawers of waters,” then England would find it hard to hold India. South Africa’s Indians could not go back to India. "Any policy which preferred the interest of one section at the expense of another, however convenient it might be temporarily to do otherwise, if it became a permanent policy, would lead to disaster," he warned.73

The Gokhale tour established Gandhi's name in India. Henry Polak’s endeavors in India from mid-November 1911 to August 1912 as a BIA representative helped to make Gandhi known. Doke's biography on him had appeared in 1909 and was likely circulated among influential individuals. P. J. Mehta had also produced biography on Gandhi.74 Indian nationalists were becoming alive to action against South Africa, and shortly after Gokhale returned to India, some newspapers suggested that the country should use its consumer power to get England’s attention. Gandhi's strategy of using public opinion in India had succeeded, and it would stand him in good stead in 1913 and 1914. In South Africa, his reliance on the cultural and religious resources of Indians had not been enough to make up for the divisions in the movement. He would continue to use such resources in 1913 but embarked upon a course that would see the kind of mass participation that had escaped him until then. 


References

  1. Indian Opinion (IO), 1/5/1907, 2/2/1907; Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), vol. 6, p. 313. 

  2. IO 1/4/1908. 

  3. Ibid., 2/8/1908.  

  4. Ibid., 1/4/1908; CWMG, vol. 7, pp. 448-49.   

  5. IO 2/8/1908; CWMG, vol.8, pp.60-62. 

  6. IO 2/22/1908; CWMG, vol. 7, pp. 93-97.   

  7. IO 4/4/1908, 4/11/1908, 4/25/1908, 5/2/1908, 5/9/1908, 5/3/1908, 4/18/1908, 5/16/1908.  He discounted four other terms, namely pratyupaya, kashtadhin vartam, dridha pratipaksha, and satyanadar, IO 3/7/1908. 

  8. IO 9/12/1908, 9/14/1907.   

  9. Ibid., 5/16/1908.  

  10. Ibid., 4/25/1908. 

  11. Ibid., 4/25/1908, 5/16/1908, 6/6/1908, 6/13/1908, 6/20/1908. 

  12. Ibid.,7/18/1908  

  13. Ibid., 1/4/1908; CWMG, vol. 7, pp. 448-49. 

  14. IO 5/23/1908, 6/13/1908; CWMG, vol. 7, pp. 242-46. 

  15. IO 1/4/1908; CWMG, vol. 7, pp.468-70; Star 12/30/1907. 

  16. IO 1/4/1908. 

  17. Ibid., 1/4/1908, 1/11/1908, 1/18/1908, 2/1/1908, 2/8/1908. 

  18. Ibid., 3/21/1908; CWMG, vol. 8, pp.147-48. 

  19. IO 3/7/1908. The longest chapter in Satyagraha in South Africa, published in 1928, was on the opposition to the compromise. 

  20. Ibid., 2/8/1908.   

  21. Ibid., 2/15/1908. 

  22. Ibid., 2/22/1908; CWMG, vol. 2, pp. 93-97. 

  23. IO 3/14/1908, 2/22/1908, 3/21/1908, 3/28/1908, 4/4/1908.   

  24. Ibid., 1/11/1908, 2/22/1908. 

  25. Ibid., 5/23/1908 

  26. NIPU's other leading members were: Bernard Gabriel, S. E. Dahnookdharie, V. Lawrence, L. Gabriel, A. D. Pillay, H. J. Joshi, R. Lungunberthy, Surendrai B. Medh, J. M. Francis, T. C. Moodley, M. Bethasee Maharaj, Roopnarain Singh, Lutchman Panday, K. R. Nayanah, U. M. Shelat, R. Bughwan, Bryan Gabriel, A. Christopher, D. Stephens, Kaisavaloo, M. K. Patel, Makanji Bros, John L. Roberts, G. M. Desai, Seunaik Pundith, S. N. Richards, S. Gareeb Panday, Ibid., 3/21/1908, 4/4/1908, 4/11/1908, 4/25/1908, 8/1/1908, 9/5/1908, 8/15/1908, 9/12/1908, 9/26/1908,  10/3/1908.     

  27. Ibid., 5/2/1908, 5/9/1908. 

  28. Ibid., 6/27/1908.  

  29. In London those who spoke in support at a Caxton Hall meeting were: Mancherjee Bhownagree, Lala Rajpat Rai, J. M. Parikh, Bipin Chandra Pal, G. S. Savakar, and G. S. Khaparde. Ibid.,5/9/1908, 6/20/1908, 6/27/1908, 8/15/1908, 8/22/1908, 9/19/1908, 11/2/1908.  

  30. Ibid., 11/21/1908, 12/5/1908. 

  31. Ibid., 9/19/1908. 

  32. Ibid., 10/3/1908. 

  33. Ibid., 10/26/1908. 

  34. Among those present were: H. I. Joshi, M. N. Goshalia, S. B. Medh. S. J. Randeria, M. P. Killvala, U. M. Shelat, Omar Osman, Ebrahim Hoosen, Moosa Ahmed, Suliman Ebrahim, Valli Amojee (hawker), Kajee Kalamia Dadamia (a fruit agent), Diar Mawjee, Vallabh Bhula,  Ismail Essop (salesman), Makan Vallabh, and Moolji Ooka. Ooka was a fruiterer who had been in Pietersburg, Johannesburg, and had a Dutch registration certificate. These individuals took an active part in the resumption of the struggle. Ibid., 8/22/1908, 8/29/1908. 

  35. Ibid., 7/11/1908, 8/1/1908, 7/18/1908, 7/25/1908.   

  36. Some of the others arrested were Kothari, Sodha, Mehta, Talwantsing, Dulabh, Naidoo, Nath, Lala, Rantanji, Makan, Mulji, Vartachalan, and Jogi. Ibid., 9/12/1908, 10/3/1908, 10/10/1908, 10/17/1908.  

  37. Ibid., 12/19/1908, 12/26/1908.  

  38. Ibid., 2/6/1909, 2/13/1909, 2/27/1909, 3/6/1909.  

  39. Ibid., 9/18/1909, 3/20/1909, 2/13/1909, 5/8/1909.  

  40. Ibid., 1/5/1909; CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 124-26. 

  41. IO 1/9/1909, 1/23/1909. 

  42. Ibid., 2/13/1909, 1/23/1909. See also CWMG, vol. 10, p. 160.    

  43. IO 3/6/1909, 3/20/1909.  

  44. Gandhi and his Jewish friends enriched themselves through selective sharing. He and they shared an immigrant status, and found common bonds in their search for identity according to Margaret Chatterjee, Gandhi and His Jewish Friends, London: Macmillan, 1992.  Some other White supporters were William Hosken, Chas Phillips, J. W. Matthews, A. Cartwright, Edward Dallow, G. Isaac, William Morris Vogel, Rev John Howard, M. Harris, David Pollock, C. E. Nelson, Adv Leslie Blackwell, H. Kallenbach, Rev Joseph Doke, Rev Phillips, Rev Canoner Berry, Podlashuk and Kaplan, E. C. Griffin, Walter Evans, Lettmann and Brown, Thomas Perry, Frank Stokes, Digby M. Berry, David Hunter, Arthur D. Home, C. H. Leon, T. R Haddon, A. W. Baker, C. B. Hamilton, Robert Sutherland, W. Kimberley, A. Beetles, M. Alexander. See IO 2/6/1909, 3/6/1909, 3/27/1909, 6/12/1909, 6/19/1909, 4/3/1909. 

  45. Ibid., 3/20/1909, 4/3/1909, 4/17/1909, 3/20/1909, 3/27/1909, 3/27/1909, 4/3/1909, 1/2/1909, 1/9/1909, 5/15/1909.   

  46. Ibid.,4/17/1909, 5/15/1909.    

  47. Ibid., 5/8/1909, 5/22/1909, 3/6/1909, 5/29/1909.  

  48. Ibid., 5/29/1909, 6/5/1909, 6/12/1909. CWMG, vol. 10, pp. 224-27, 236-38. 

  49. It is not clear whether Hindu-Muslim tensions had any part in Habib Motan’s criticism of Gandhi. In a letter Gandhi wrote to him, Motan had asked Gandhi's position on a Muslim being appointed to the Viceroy's Council as a representative of the Muslim League. Gandhi response was typical, he made no distinction between Muslims and Hindus and he would gladly support such a move in the interest of unity. IO 6/26/1909, Sushila Nayar, Mahatama Gandhi: Satyagraha at Work, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1989, pp. 415-16. See also IO 6/12/1909.  

  50. Ibid., 6/26/1909.  

  51. Cama was born in 1870 in Mumbai, Coovadia was born in 1878 in Surat District, and  Naidoo was born in 1873 in Tanjore District. Ibid.,6/19/1909, 6/26/1909, 7/3/1909, 7/10/1909, 7/24/1909. On board the ship that took him to London, Gandhi read Kasssul Ambia in which Azazil found that even after 600,000 years of worship, he would fail if even once he did not bow before God. So it is with the satyagrahis, he argued. IO 9/18/1909. CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 364-65; IO 8/7/1909, CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 276-79.  

  52. IO 7/11/1909, 7/17/1909; CWMG, vol. 9. pp. 319-21,328-30.   

  53. IO 9/21/1909; CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 312-14.  

  54. IO 9/4/1909, 9/11/1909, 9/18/1909; CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 338-40, IO 9/25/1909. 

  55. IO 10/2/1909, CWMG, vol. 9, pp. 386, 388-89. 

  56. Gokhale alone collected over £6666 for the Passive Resistance Fund. A Mumbai Funds Committee included the Aga Khan, R. J. Tata, and Jehangir Bomanjee Petit. Ratan J. Tata sent another Rs 25,000 in 1910. Of the contribution received from India, two-fifths came from Tata. The Madras Presidency contributed Rs 8334 towards the fund.  The Maharaja of Mysore donated Rs 2000. IO 2/12/1910, 6/4/1910, 9/3/1910, 5/7/1910, 8/27/1910, 10/29/1910, 12/17/1910, 12/4/1909, 11/25/1909; CWMG, vol. 10, pp. 229-33 

  57. IO 9/18/1909, 10/30/1909, 11/20/1909, 10/2/1909, 10/30/1909, 11/6/1909, 10/23/1909, 7/10/1909.  

  58. Ibid., 10/8/1910, 10/15/1910, 11/19/1910, 12/10/1910, 12/31/1910.         

  59. Of the six educated Indians who entered the Transvaal from Natal on December 7, 1909, three were Christians, namely Joseph Royeppen a barrister-at-law who had also completed a B.A. degree at Cambridge; Samuel Joseph who was the headmaster of an Indian school at Seaview near Durban; and David Andrew who was a clerk and an interpreter. The other three were Abdul Gafur Fajander, acting chairman of BIA, Ramlal Singh, a clerk, and Gandhi's 17 years old son Manilal. Twelve new border crossing passive resisters left the Durban station on March 11, 1910. The Tamil Benefit Society honored Joseph Royeppen, David Andrew, and Samuel Joseph at a special meeting. Those present were V. Chettiar (president), Gandhi, K. K. Samy, the Dokes and their daughter, Kallenbach, Sonja Schlesin, Issac, Williams, Cachalia, Moosa Bhigjee, Maimee, Ebrahim Coovadia, Suj, Shelat, Mulji Patel, and others. The passive resisters were Kaji Dadamian, Subramaney Achary from Durban, Ramhory, (26, ex-teacher who was a former Transavaal resident), Pragji Khandubhai (25, bookkeeper), Tulsi Jutha Soni (30, former Transvaal resident), Essop Moosa Kolia (35), Kara Nanji Soni (35), Mahabeer Ramden (22), Barjor Sing (20), Mahomed Ebrahim (47), Govindsamy Tommy (22), and Manikum Pillay (17). Bhana Parshotam, an influential community leader, invited people to his home in Tollgate Road to honor about 50 satygrahis. Among his guests were Swami Shankeranand and NIC's Dawad Mahomed. Ibid.,1/1/1910, 1/15/1910, 1/29/1910, 3/5/1910.    

  60. Ibid.,10/22/1910, 10/29/1910.  

  61. Ibid., 9/26/1909. 

  62. Ibid., 11/19/1910, 12/3/1910. 

  63. Chotabhai’s son had come to South Africa as a minor on his father’s certificate. When the son turned sixteen, he applied for registration, but he was refused under the 1908 law and was deemed an illegal person. The family appealed all the way to the Transvaal division of the Supreme Court of South Africa. A split vote went against Chotabhai. Chotabhai prevailed at the Appellate Court level, however. Ibid., 11/19/1910, 1/28/1911.  

  64. Of the fifty-six Indians, only four were women. Forty-five were South Indians. Tree were Muslims, and eight were Christians. There were a few traders or shopkeepers, but most were hawkers, laundrymen, store assistants, drivers, cooks or waiters, cigar-makers, bottle sellers, or barbers. One was a student. The oldest was Latchgadu, a gardener over fifty, and the youngest was fourteen. The majority fell between the ages of seventeen and forty. In the group of twenty-four additional names were released, eight were Christian Indians and eleven had South Indian names. Only one was a Muslim. Two were Gujaratis, and two were Bhojpuri-speakers. The oldest was sixty and the youngest was sixteen. One, Francis Nyanah, was a cartage contractor, and another, Aaron John, was a teacher. Ibid.,4/16/1910, 7/10/1909, 7/17/1909, 8/6/1910, 4/2/1910, 7/2/1910, 8/6/1910, 8/13/1910, 9/3/1910, 9/17/1910, 11/5/1910, 12/3/1910, 12/10/1910.   

  65. The first deputation consisted of John L. Roberts, C. A. F. Peters, T. M. Naicker, R. G. M. Naidoo, and M. Thomas. In addition to these five, the second group had three more delegates, namely Charlie Nulliah, R. N. Moodley, and Baboo Mahomed. Ibid.,2/26/1910, 6/4/1910, 6/11/1910, 8/13/1910, 7/9/1910. 

  66. At a KAM meeting Swami Shankeranand suggested a compromise solution which displeased Gandhi. Ibid.,11/19/1910, 12/17/1910, 10/22/1910, 12/10/1910, 3/19/1910, 7/2/1910, 4/24/1911, 3/18/1911, 4/8/1911, 4/1/1911; CWMG, vol. 10, pp. 339-40, 82-84, and vol. 11, pp. 31-34.  

  67. In terms of the settlement, Act 2 of 1907 was to be repealed, and the proposed new law was to restore legal equality to allow six educated Indians to enter the Transvaal, seven educated Indians to settle in the province, and recognize residence for those passive resisters who had lost it (180 Indians and 30 Chinese). The settlement agreed to discharge passive resisters still in jail, and release Mrs. Sodha. The six educated Indians were Sodha, Royeppen, Sorabjee, Medh, Desai, and Shelat.  IO 4/29/1911, 6/3/1911; CWMG, vol. 11, pp. 99-104. 

  68. IO 7/5/1913, 9/6/1913, 11/12/1913, 12/17/1913, 12/31/1913. Here I am borrowing liberally from James D. Hunt’s book, Gandhi and the Nonconformists: Encounters in South Africa, New Delhi: Promilla & Co., 1986, pp. 116-17; Joseph J. Doke, M. K. Gandhi: An Indian Patriot in South Africa, 1909. 

  69. Gokhale was born in Kohlapur, obtained a BA degree at Elphinstone College in Mumbai, and went on to Deccan College, Pune, in 1884. He was admitted to the Deccan Education Society after his degree. Thereafter, he taught English literature, mathematics at Ferguson College, and served as chair of History and Political Economy. In 1887, Gokhale became the editor of Quarterly Journal and Sudharak. In 1897, he went to England to give evidence before the Welby Commission. CIE stands for Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. IO 1/6/1912, 8/13/1912, 8/14/1912, 11/9/1912, 8/24/1912; CWMG, vol. 11, pp. 338-40. 

  70. The committees were carefully balanced between Hindus and Muslims. The Johannesburg committee of thirty-six members was chaired by Imam A. K. Bawazeer. The Durban Reception Committee consisted of ninety-six members. Such committees also came into being in Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town, and many other towns and cities in South Africa. IO 9/14/1912, 8/31/1912, 9/21/1912, 9/28/1912, 9/21/1912. 

  71. The addresses contained the signatures of the people who presented them. Cape Town's addresses were by British Indian Committee, Kokney Moslem League, United Hindu Association, Habibia Moslem Society, Mizan of Afghan, Kanamia Anjuman Islam, Mahtab-i-Ikhias, and Madrass Association. In Johannesburg, there were six addresses by BIA, HIS, Johannesburg Hindus, Tamil Benefit Sociaty, Patidar Association, and Indians in Pietersburg. In Pretoria, the address was given by Arya Dharma Sabha. In Durban, the groups were  Indian Reception Committee, Durban Indian Women, Colonial-born Indians, Mahomedan Committee, Brahman Mandal, Mahomedan Mastik Society, Ottoman Cricket Club, South Coast Indians, New Guelderland Indians, Hindi Sabha, Maharastrians, and Zorastrian Anjuman. Others addresses were from Klerksdorp, Bloemhof, Potchefstroom, Krugersdorp, and Pietersburg.  In Natal the messages sent to Gokhale were from Natal Gokhale Reception Committee, Pietermaritzburg Reception Committee, Durban Ajuman Islam, CBIA, Natal Zoroastrian Anjuman, Roman Catholic Indians, NIC, Mafile Osmania Cricket Club, Surat Hindu Association, Kathiawad Arya Mandal, Mahomedan Mastik Society, Durban Indian Society, Isipingo, Tongaat, Verulam Indian Communities, and Mahomedan Debating Society in Dundee. 

  72. The crowds came from St Aidans College, Cato Manor, Clare Estate, Isipingo, Sea View, Stella Hill, Springfiled, St. Anthony's, South Coast Junction, Newlands, Verulam, and Tongaat. 

  73. IO 11/2/1911, 11/9/1912, 11/10/1912.    

  74. P.J. Mehta, M. K. Gandhi and the South African Indian Problem, Madras: G. A. Natesan & Co., 1911, 96 pages. A biography written by R. N. Iyer was not available. Ibid., 9/21/1912.