The case having been concluded, I had no reason for staying in Pretoria. So I went back to Durban and began to make preparations for my return home. But Abdulla Sheth was not the man to let me sail without a send-off. He gave a farewell party in my honour at Sydenham.
It was proposed to spend
the whole day there. Whilst I was turning over the
sheets of some of the newspapers I found there, I
chanced to see a paragraph in a corner of one of them
under the title ‘Indian Franchise’. It was with
reference to the Bill then before the House of
Legislature, which sought to deprive the Indians of
their right to elect members of the Natal Legislative
Assembly. I was ignorant of the Bill and so were the
rest of the guests who had gathered there.
I inquired of Abdulla
Sheth about it. He said : “What can we understand in
these matters? We can only understand things that affect
our trade.” But I was on the point of returning home and
hesitated to express what was passing through my mind in
this matter. I simply said to Abdulla Sheth : “This
Bill, if it passes into law, will make our lot extremely
difficult. It strikes at the root of our self-respect.”
The other guests were
listening to this conversation with attention. One of
them said: “Shall I tell you what should be done? You
cancel your passage by this boat, stay here a month
longer, and we will fight as you direct us.” All the
others supported him.
It was now impossible for
me to leave Natal. The Indian friends surrounded me on
all sides and begged me to remain there permanently.
Thus I settled in Natal.
Continued agitation was essential for making an
impression on the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
For this purpose it was thought necessary to bring into
being a permanent organization. So I consulted Sheth
Abdulla and other friends, and we all decided to have a
public organization of a permanent character, and on the
22nd May 1894 the Natal Indian Congress came into being.