The Indians had registered voluntarily. The Government were, therefore, on their part to repeal the Black Act. But instead of repealing the Black Act, General Smuts maintained the Black Act on the statute book and introduced into the legislature a measure, ‘making further provision for the registration of Asiatics’: I was shocked when I read the Bill. An ‘Ultimatum’ was sent to the Government by the Satyagrahis. It said in effect, ”If the Asiatic Act is not repealed, the certificates collected by the Indians would be burnt, and they would humbly but firmly take the consequences.” A meeting had been called to perform the public ceremony of burning the certificates. As the business of the meeting was about to commence, a volunteer arrived on a cycle with a telegram from the Government in which they regretted the determination of the Indian community and announced their inability to change their line of action. The telegram was read to the audience which received it with cheers, as if they were glad that the auspicious opportunity of burning the certificates did not after all slip out of their hands.
Mir Alam too was present at
this meeting. He announced that he
had done wrong to assault me as
he did, and to the great joy of the
audience, handed his original certificate
to be burnt, as he had not
taken a voluntary certificate. I took
hold of his hand, pressed it with
joy, and assured him once more
that I had never had in my mind
any resentment against him.
The Committee had already received
upwards of 2,000 certificates
to be burnt. These were all
thrown into the fire, soaked with
kerosene oil and set ablaze by Mr.
Yusuf Mian. The whole assembly
rose to their feet and made the
place resound with the echoes of
their continuous cheers during the
burning process. Some of those
who had still withheld their certificates
brought them in numbers to
the platform, and these too were
thrown to the flames.
The reporters of English newspapers
present at the meeting were
profoundly impressed with the
whole scene and gave vivid descriptions
of the meeting in their
During the same year in which
the Black Act was passed General
Smuts carried through the Legislature
another Bill called the Transvaal Immigrants Restriction
Bill. This Act indirectly prevented
the entry of a single Indian newcomer
into the Transvaal.
It was absolutely essential for
the Indians to resist this fresh inroad
on their rights. Several
Satyagrahis therefore deliberately
entered the Transvaal and were imprisoned.
I too was arrested again.
Gokhale came to South Africa
in October 1912 to mediate between
the Satyagrahis and the
Government. General Botha, according
to Gokhale, promised him
that the Black Act would be repealed
in a year and the £ 3 tax
abolished. But this was not done.
I wrote to Gokhale about the
breach of the pledge and set about
making preparations for the ensuing
Till now we had dissuaded
women from courting imprisonment.
But at this time judgement
was passed by the South African
Government which made invalid
all marriages that had not been celebrated
according to Christian rites
and registered by the Registrar of
Marriages. Thus at a stroke of the
pen all marriages celebrated according
to Hindu, Mussalman and
Zoroastrian rites became illegal,
and the wives concerned were degraded
to the rank of concubines
and their children deprived of the
right to inherit property. This was
an unbearable situation for women
no less than men.
Patience was impossible in the
place of this insult offered to our
womanhood. We decided to offer
stubborn Satyagraha irrespective of
the number of fighters. Not only
could the women now be not prevented
from joining the struggle,
but we decided even to invite them
to come into line along with the
The women’s imprisonment
worked like a charm upon the
labourers on the mines near
Newcastle who downed their tools
and entered the city in succeeding
batches. As soon as I received the
news, I left Phoenix for Newcastle.
The labourers were not to be
counted by tens but by hundreds.
And their number might easily
swell into thousands. How was I to
house and feed this ever growing
multitude? There was a huge gathering
of men, which was continuously
increasing. It was a dangerous
if not an impossible task to
keep them in one place and look
after them while they had no employment.
I thought out a solution
of my problem. I must take this
‘army’ to the Transvaal and see
them safely deposited in jail. The
strength of the ‘army’ was about