Freedom's Battle/Treatment of Indians Abroad

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=== Indians Abroad ===

The prejudice against Indian settlers outside India is showing itself in a variety of ways: Under the impudent suggestion of sedition the Fiji Government has deported Mr. Manilal Doctor who with his brave and cultured wife has been rendering assistance to the poor indentured Indians of Fiji in a variety of ways. The whole trouble has arisen over the strike of the labourers in Fiji. Indentures have been canceled, but the spirit of slavery is by no means dead. We do not know the genesis of the strike; we do not know that the strikers have done no wrong. But we do know what is behind when a charge of sedition is brought against the strikers and their friends. The readers must remember that the Government that has scented sedition in the recent upheaval in Fiji is the Government that had the hardihood to libel Mr. Andrew's character. What can be the meaning of sedition in connection with the Fiji strikers and Mr. Manilal Doctor? Did they and he want to seize the reins of Government? Did they want any power in that country? They struck for elementary freedom. And it is a prostitution of terms to use the word sedition in such connection. The strikers may have been overhasty. Mr. Manilal Doctor may have misled them. If his advice bordered on the criminal he should have been tried. The information in our possession goes to show that he has been strictly constitutional. Our point, however, is that it is an abuse of power for the Fiji Government to have deported Mr. Manilal Doctor without a trial. It is wrong in principle to deprive a person of his liberty on mere suspicion and without giving him an opportunity of clearing his character. Mr. Manilal Doctor, be it remembered, has for years past made Fiji his home. He has, we believe, bought property there. He has children born in Fiji. Have the children no rights? Has the wife none? May a promising career be ruined at the bidding of a lawless Government? Has Mr. Manilal Doctor been compensated for the losses he must sustain? We trust that the Government of India which has endeavoured to protect the rights of Indian settlers abroad will take up the question of Mr. Doctor's deportation.


Nor is Fiji the only place where the spirit of lawlessness among the powerful has come to the surface. Indians of (the late) German East Africa find themselves in a worse position than heretofore. They state that even their property is not safe. They have to pay all kinds of dues on passports. They are hampered in their trade. They are not able even to send money orders.

In British East Africa the cloud is perhaps the thickest. The European settlers there are doing their utmost to deprive the Indian settlers of practically every right they have hitherto possessed. An attempt is being made to compass their ruin both by legislative enactment and administrative action.

In South Africa every Indian who has anything to do with that part of the British Dominions is watching with bated breath the progress of commission that is now sitting.

The Government of India have no easy job in protecting the interests of Indian settlers in these various parts of His Majesty's dominions. They will be able to do so only by following the firmest and the most consistent policy. Justice is admittedly on the side of the Indian settlers. But they are the weak party. A strong agitation in India followed by strong action by the Government of India can alone save the situation.

=== Indians overseas ===

The meeting held at the Excelsior Theatre in Bombay to pass resolutions regarding East Africa and Fiji, and presided over by Sir Narayan Chandavarkar, was an impressive gathering. The Theatre was filled to overflowing. Mr. Andrews' speech made clear what is needed. Both the political and the civil rights of Indians of East Africa are at stake. Mr. Anantani, himself an East African settler, showed in a forceful speech that the Indians were the pioneer settlers. An Indian sailor named Kano directed the celebrated Vasco De Gama to India. He added amid applause that Stanley's expedition for the search and relief of Dr. Livingstone was also fitted out by Indians. Indian workmen had built the Uganda Railway at much peril to their lives. An Indian contractor had taken the contract. Indian artisans had supplied the skill. And now their countrymen were in danger of being debarred from its use.

The uplands of East Africa have been declared a Colony and the lowlands a Protectorate. There is a sinister significance attached to the declaration. The Colonial system gives the Europeans larger powers. It will tax all the resources of the Government of India to prevent the healthy uplands from becoming a whiteman's preserve and the Indians from being relegated to the swampy lowlands.

The question of franchise will soon become a burning one. It will be suicidal to divide the electorate or to appoint Indians by nomination. There must be one general electoral roll applying the same qualifications to all the voters. This principle, as Mr. Andrews reminded the meeting, had worked well at the Cape.

The second part of the East African resolution shows the condition of our countrymen in the late German East Africa. Indian soldiers fought there and now the position of Indians is worse than under German rule. H.H. the Agakhan suggested that German East Africa should be administered from India. Sir Theodore Morison would have couped up all Indians in German East Africa. The result was that both the proposals went by the board and the expected has happened. The greed of the English speculator has prevailed and he is trying to squeeze out the Indian. What will the Government of India protect? Has it the will to do so? Is not India itself being exploited? Mr. Jehangir Petit recalled the late Mr. Gokhale's views that we were not to expect a full satisfaction regarding the status of our countrymen across the seas until we had put our own house in order. Helots in our own country, how could we do better outside? Mr. Petit wants systematic and severe retaliation. In my opinion, retaliation is a double-edged weapon. It does not fail to hurt the user if it also hurts the party against whom it is used. And who is to give effect to retaliation? It is too much to expect an English Government to adopt effective retaliation against their own people. They will expostulate, they will remonstrate, but they will not go to war with their own Colonies. For the logical outcome of retaliation must mean war, if retaliation will not answer.

Let us face the facts frankly. The problem is difficult alike for Englishmen and for us. The Englishmen and Indians do not agree in the Colonies. The Englishmen do not want us where they can live. Their civilisation is different from ours. The two cannot coalesce until there is mutual respect. The Englishman considers himself to belong to the ruling race. The Indian struggles to think that he does not belong to the subject race and in the very act of thinking admits his subjection. We must then attain equality at home before we can make any real impression abroad.

This is not to say that we must not strive to do better abroad whilst we are ill at ease in our own home. We must preserve, we must help our countrymen who have settled outside India. Only if we recognise the true situation, we and our countrymen abroad will learn to be patient and know that our chief energy must be concentrated on a betterment of our position at home. If we can raise our status here to that of equal partners not in name but in reality so that every Indian might feel it, all else must follow as a matter of course.

Pariahs of the Empire[edit]

The memorable Conference at Gujrat in its resolution on the status of Indians abroad has given it as its opinion that even this question may become one more reason for non-co-operation. And so it may. Nowhere has there been such open defiance of every canon of justice and propriety as in the shameless decision of confiscation of Indian rights in the Kenia Colony announced by its Governor. This decision has been supported by Lord Milnor and Mr. Montagu. And his Indian colleagues are satisfied with the decision. Indians, who have made East Africa, who out-number the English, are deprived practically of the right of representation on the Council. They are to be segregated in parts not habitable by the English. They are to have neither the political nor the material comfort. They are to become 'Pariahs' in a country made by their own labour, wealth and intelligence. The Viceroy is pleased to say that he does not like the outlook and is considering the steps to be taken to vindicate the justice. He is not met with a new situation. The Indians of East Africa had warned him of the impending doom. And if His Excellency has not yet found the means of ensuring redress, he is not likely to do it in future. I would respectfully ask his Indian colleagues whether they can stand this robbery of their countrymen rights.

In South Africa the situation is not less disquieting. My misgivings seem to be proving true, and repatriation is more likely to prove compulsory than voluntary. It is a response to the anti-Asiatic agitation, not a measure of relief for indigent Indians. It looks very like a trap laid for the unwary Indian. The Union Government appears to be taking an unlawful advantage of a section of a relieving law designed for a purpose totally different from the one now intended.

As for Fiji, the crime against humanity is evidently to be hushed up. I do hope that unless an inquiry is to be made into the Fiji Martial Law doings, no Indian member will undertake to go to Fiji. The Government of India appear to have given an undertaking to send Indian labour to Fiji provided the commission that was to proceed there in order to investigate the condition on the spot returns with a favourable report.


For British Guiana I observe from the papers received from that quarter, that the mission that came here is already declaring that Indian labour will be forthcoming from India. There seems to me to be no real prospect for Indian enterprise in that part of the world. We are not wanted in any part of the British Dominion except as Pariahs to do the scavenging for the European settlers.

The situation is clear. We are Pariahs in our own home. We get only what Government intend to give, not what we demand and have a right to. We may get the crumbs, never the loaf. I have seen large and tempting crumbs from a lavish table. And I have seen the eyes of our Pariahs--the shame of Hinduism--brightening to see those heavy crumbs filling their baskets. But the superior Hindu, who is filling the basket from a safe distance, knows that they are unfit for his own consumption. And so we in our turn may receive even Governorships which the real rulers no longer require or which they cannot retain with safety for their material interest--the political and material hold on India. It is time we realised our true status.