Gandhi in South Africa..
For me,this visit to Mahatma’s prison at Old Fort is a lifetime fulfillment:
1)First I used to ask myself,wd I have left a lucrative profession,to take up the cause of some far away Indians?
2)Even so,wd I have clashed with very powerful White Rulers in a far away land,undergoing innumerable sufferings..just for a Cause..?
My answer as a married man is a Firm No for both!
I shed tears looking at some of the prisons he was inside and looking at the phenomenal cheers he gets from the present day South Africans thronging to his Cell,as well..a journey of a Lifetime..
He created a Martin Luther King and a Nelson Mandela!
A Brief of His South African struggle:
Mahatma Gandhi was employed by a rich Muslim Indian as his attorney for a family dispute and he landed in Durban on May24th 1893.When he appeared in the Magistrate’s court with his turban,the Magistrate asked him to remove the turban,which he politely refused as that will be an insult to the Indian attire,he is accustomed to!That was the starting point of a life long struggle for Gandhi,who just came for one case and decided to struggle it out for 21 more years!
When he was going to Pretoria for a case ,he was asked to get out of his First Class compartment at Pietermaritzburg.He refused and he was booted out!
Today, there is a plaque at the station in Pietermaritzburg that reads: ‘In the vicinity of this plaque MK Gandhi was evicted from a first-class compartment on the night of 7th June 1893. This incident changed the course of his life. He took up the fight against racial oppression. His active non-violence started from that date.’
Within a year,he got a favorable order for his client Abdulla but he sat with Abdulla’s family and forced an amicable settlement with his cousins.Abdulla hosted a big farewell party,as Gandhi was to return to India after this case!
During the party,all Indians wanted him to stay back and fight for their cause,as Indians were banned from voting in Natal!
The committee set up that night eventually evolved into the Natal Indian Congress, which became a driving force behind the satyagraha campaigns between 1906 and 1913.
Thus Gandhi’s political involvement, philosophy and influence grew. He had begun to attract the ire of the white population of Natal and in 1903 decided to move his legal business to Johannesburg, where he gained in stature as a campaigner for the rights of the Asian community.A continuous struggle with the authorities,particularly,whe he asked all Indians to protest the discriminatory,ID Pass,resulted in his imprisonment.
The gathering was in protest against the impending Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance of 1906, requiring all male Asians in the Transvaal to be fingerprinted and carry a form of pass, including children over the age of eight.
One of the resolutions passed at the meeting was that, failing all other intercessions, including a trip to London led by Gandhi, Indians would elect to go to prison rather than submit to the law in question.
But the government passed the law a few weeks later, and in October that year, Gandhi travelled to England to petition the authorities.
Gandhi’s prison cell is well preserved even today as can be seen in the pics.
There is a bust of Gandhi,attracting 1000 s of visitors everyday!
I was happy to witness young South Africans hugging Him,and expressing a wish to lead life of Sacrifice like Him!
(Pls listen to the Video)
Gandhi’s Sandals to Smuts..
For Smuts, Gandhi was something of a thorn in his flesh and Gandhi clashed with Smuts on many occasions!
Eventually, Smuts oversaw the passage of the Indian Relief Act that was passed in 1914. This act withdrew the £3 tax that was imposed on ex-indentured Indians, customary marriages were recognised (a right for which Gandhi’s wife Kasturba had protested and been arrested), and Indians were allowed to move freely into the Transvaal.
On 30 June 1914, the two men signed a pact bringing to an end the satyagraha campaign in South Africa.
Having achieved a major victory, Gandhi decided to return to India (by way of the United Kingdom). There he was to ultimately lead his home country to independence from British rule using the political experience he had gained in South Africa.
One mark of the respect between Smuts and Gandhi remains in the form of a pair of stout sandals that Gandhi had made for Smuts by his Phoenix community while in prison.
When Gandhi turned 70 many years later, Smuts returned these sandals to him with a note that read: ‘I have worn these sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.’
Gandhi Square in Jobrg
Originally this was called Govt Square,after the Boer War in 1900(see the plaque)which is now named as Gandhi Square,as Gandhi’s office was just across the corner!
Gandhi’s involvement in helping wounded soldiers is remarkable.During the Boer War,Gandhi volunteered in 1900 to form a group of ambulance drivers. He wanted to disprove the British idea that Hindus were not fit for “manly” activities involving danger and exertion. Gandhi raised eleven hundred Indian volunteers. They were trained and medically certified to serve on the front lines. At Spion Kop Gandhi and his bearers had to carry wounded soldiers for miles to a field hospital because the terrain was too rough for the ambulances. Gandhi was pleased when someone said that European ambulance corpsmen could not make the trip under the heat without food or water. General Redvers Buller mentioned the courage of the Indians in his dispatch. Gandhi and thirty-seven other Indians received the War Medal.
Today,many even educated Indians have been brain washed to an extent,they don’t know who this Gandhi is..If you care to go back and re-read the msg of Gandhi in Gandhi Square..it reads “Mrs.Gandhi and I feel so sad to leave Jbrg..”
Who is this Mrs.Gandhi,he is talking about?