Page:Speeches And Writings MKGandhi.djvu/41

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Mr. Gandhi is chiefly responsible for the initiation of the policy of passive resistance that was so successfully carried out by the Indians of South Africa during the next eight years. Since that day, Mr. Gandhi’s history has been mainly that of the Passive Resistance struggle. All know how he took the oath not to submit to the Law on the 11th September, 1906; how he went to England with a compatriot in the same year, and how their vigorous pleading induced Lord Elgin to suspend the operation of the objectionable piece of legislation: how, when the law finally received the Royal assent, he threw himself into the forefront of the fight, and, by speech, pen, and example, inspired the whole community to maintain an adamantine front to the attack that was being made upon the very foundations of its religion, its national honour, its racial self-respect, its manhood. No one was, therefore, surprised when, at the end ot 1907, Mr. Gandhi was arrested, together with a number of other leaders, and consigned to gaol! or how, when he heard that some of his friends in Pretoria had been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour, the maximum penalty, he pleaded with the Magistrate to impose the penalty upon him too, as he had been the acknowledged leader and inspirer of the opposition against this Law. To him it was a terrible shock that his followers were being more harshly treated than he himself, and it was with bowed head and deep humiliation that he left the court, sentenced to two months’ simple imprisonment only. Happily, the Government realised the seriousness of the situation, and after three weeks' imprisonment of the leading passive resistors, General Smuts opened negotiations with them, and a compromise was effected between him and the Indian community, partly written, partly verbal, whereby voluntary registration, which had been repeatedly offered, was accepted conditionally upon the Law being subsequently repealed. This promise of repeal was made personally to Mr. Gandhi by General Smuts in the presence of official witnesses. When, shortly afterwards, Mr. Gandhi was nearly killed by a few of his more fanati-