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22. Man Proposes, God Disposes
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.