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92. "They deserve the Crown"

Replying to an address of welcome presented to him and Kasturba in Madras in April 1915 soon after his return to India from South Africa, Gandhiji said:

"Sir, if one-tenth of the language that has been used in this address is deserved by me and my wife, what languages do you propose for those who have lost their lives, and therefore finished their work on behalf of your suffering countrymen in South Africa? What language do you propose to use for Nagappan and Narayanswamy, lads of seventeen or eighteen years, who braved in simple faith all the trials, all the sufferings, and all the indignity for the sake of the honour of the Motherland? What language do you propose to use with reference to Valliamma, that sweet girl of seventeen years who was discharged from Maritzburg prison skin and bone, suffering from fever to which she succumbed after about a month's time? It is a misfortune that I and my wife have been obliged to work in the limelight and you have magnified out of all proportions this work we have been able to do. They deserve the crown which you would seek to impose upon us."

He continued: "These young men deserve all the adjectives that you have so affectionately, but blindly lavished upon us. It was not only the Hindus who strug­gled, but there were Mahomedans, Parsis and Christians, and almost every part of India was represented in the struggle. They realized the common danger, and they realized also what their destiny was as Indians, and it was they, and they alone who matched the soul force against the physical force."