On return from duty in connection with the Zulu ‘Rebellion’ I met the friends at Phoenix and reached Johannesburg. Here I read with deep horror the draft Ordinance published in the Transvaal Government Gazette Extraordinary of August 22, 1906. It meant absolute ruin for Indians in South Africa.
Under it every Indian,
man, woman or child of eight years or upwards, entitled
to reside in the Transvaal, must register his or her
name with the Registrar of Asiatics and take out a
certificate of registration. The applicants for
registration must surrender their old permits to the
Registrar and state in their applications their name,
residence, caste, age etc. The Registrar was to note
down important marks of identification upon the
applicant's person, and take his finger and thumb
impressions. Every Indian who failed thus to apply for
registration before a certain date was to give up his
right of residence in the Transvaal. Failure to apply
would be held to be an offence in law for which a person
could be fined, sent to prison or even sent away from
the country. Even a person walking on public
thorough-fares could be required to produce his
certificate. Police officers could enter private houses
in order to inspect certificates. I have never known
legislation of this nature being directed against free
men in any part of the world.
The next day there was
held a small meeting of the leading Indians to whom I
explained the Ordinance word by word. It shocked them as
it had shocked me. All present realized the seriousness
of the situation and resolved to hold a public meeting.
The meeting was duly held
on September 11, 1906. The most important among the
resolutions passed by the meeting was the famous Fourth
Resolution, by which the Indians solemnly determined not
to submit to the Ordinance in the event of its becoming
law in the teeth of their opposition, and to suffer all
the penalties attaching to such non-submission.
None of us knew what name
to give to our movement. Shri Maganlal Gandhi suggested
the word ‘Sadagraha’ meaning ‘firmness in a good cause'.
I liked the word, but it did not fully represent the
whole idea I wished it to convey. I therefore corrected
it to ‘Satyagraha’. Truth (satya) implies love, and
firmness (agraha) brings about and therefore serves as a
synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian
movement ‘Satyagraha’, that is to say, the force which
is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up
the use of the phrase ‘passive resistance’, in
connection with it.