Speeches and Writings of M. K. Gandhi/The Beginning of the Struggle
The South African Indian Question
THE BEGINNING OF THE STRUGGLE
The following is the full text of a lecture delivered at the Pachaiyoppa’s Hall, Madras, on October 26, 1896, by Mr. M. K. Gandhi on the "Grievances of Indian settlers in South Africa." The Hon. Mr. P. Ananda Oharlu presided. Resolutions sympathising with the Indian settlers and expressing regret at the action of the Home and Indian Governments in having assented to the Indian Immigration Amendment Bill were passed. Mr. Gandhi said:—
Mr, President and Gentlemen,—I am to plead before you this evening for the 100,000 British Indians in South Africa, the land of gold and the seat of the late Jameson Raid. This document will show you (here Mr. Gandhi read a credential from the people of Natal deputing him to plead their cause) that I have been deputed to do so by the signatories to it who profess to represent the 100,000 Indians. A large majority of this number are people from Madras and Bengal. Apart therefore, from the interest that you would take in them as Indians, you are specially interested in the matter.
South Africa may, for our purposes, be divided into the two self-governing British Colonies of Natal and the Cape of Good Hope, the Crown Colony of Zululand, the Transvaal or the South African Republic, the Orange 2 THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION Free State, the Chartered Territories and the Portuguese Territories comprising Delagoa Bay and Beira. South Africa is indebted to the Colony of Natal for the presence of the Indian population there. In the year 1860, when in the words of a member of the Natal Parlia- ment, N the existence ofthe Colony hung in the balance," the Colony of Natal introduced indentured Indians into the Colony. Such immigration is regulated by law, is permissible only to a few favoured States, e g., Mauritius, Fiji, Jamaica, Straits Settlements, Damarara and other States and is allowed only from Madras and Calcutta. As a result of the immigration, in the words of another eminent Natalian, Mr. Saunders, °° Indian immigration brought prosperity, prices rose, people were no longer content to grow or sell produce for a song, they could do better." The sugar and tea industries as well as sanita- tion and the vegetable and fish supply of the Colony are absolutely dependent on the indentured Indians from Madras and Calcutta. The presence of the indentured Indians about sixteen years ago drew the free Indians in the shape of traders who first went there with a view to supply the wants of their own kith and kin ; but after- wards found a very valuabfe customer in the native of South Africa, called Zulu or Katlir. These traders are chiefly drawn from the Bombay Memon Mahomedans and, owing to their less unfortunate position, have formed themselves into custodians of the interests of the whole Indian population there. Thus, adversity and identity of interests have united in a com- pact body the Indians from the three Presidencies and they take pride in calling themselves Indians rather than Madrasees or Bengalees or Gujaratees. except when it is necessary to do so. That however by the way. These 'Indiana have now spread all oyer South Africa, Natal which is governed by a Legislative Assembly consisting of 37 members elected by the voters, a Legislative Council consisting of 11 members nominat- ed by the Governor who represents bha Queeut and a movable Mmisbry consisting of 5 members, contains a European population of 50>000, a nabive population of 400,000, and an Indian population of 51,000. Of the 51,000 Indians about 16,000 are at present serving their indenture, 30,000 are those that have completed their indenture, and are now variously engaged as domestic servants, gardeners, hawkars and pet&y traders and about 5,000 ara those who emigrated to tha Colony on their own aoaounb and are either traders, shop-keepers, assistants or hawkers, A few are &Uo school-masters, interpreters and clerks.
The self-governing Colony of Lue Cape of Good Hope has, I believe, an Indian population of about 10,000 con- sisting of traders, hawkers and labourers, Ics total population is nearly 1,500,000 of whom not more than 400,000 are Europeans. The rest are natives of the country and Malaya.
The Souto African Republic of tbj Transvaal which is governed by two eleosive Chambers called the Vol- ksraad and an Executive with the President at its head has an Indian population of about 5,000 of whom about 200 are traders with liquidated asset* amounting to nearly 100000, Tbe rest are hawkers and waiters or household servants, the latter baing men from thig Presidency* Its white population is estimated at roughly 120,000 and the Kitfir population ati roughly 650,000. This Republic is subject to the Qieen's suzerainty. And -there is a convention between Great Britain and th&
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Bepublio which secures the property, trading and farm- ing right of all persons other than natives of South Africa in common with the citizens of the Republic.
The other States have no Indian population to speak of, because of the grievances and disabilities exoepto tha Portuguese territories which contain a very large Indian population and which do nob give any trouble to the Indians.
The grievances of the Indiana in South Africa are two-fold, i.e., those that are due to the popular ill-feeling against tho Indians and, secondly, the legal disabilities placed upon them, To deal with the firab, the Indian is the tnoBt hated being in South Africa. Every Indian without distinction is contemptuously called a " coolie." He is also called " Sammy/' Ramaaawmy," anything but " Indian." Indian school-masters are called " oolia school masters." Indian storekeepers are " coolie store- keepers." Two Indian gentlemen from Bombay. Messrs^ Dada Abdulla and Moos Hajea Caasim, own steamers* Their steamers are " coolie ships."
There is a very respectable firm of Madras traders by name, A Colandaveloo Pillay & Cc They bavebuilb a large block of buildings in Durban, these buildings are called " coolie stores " and the owners are " coolie owners." And I can assure you, gentlemen, thab there is as much difference between the partners of that firm and a " coolie " as there IB between any one in this hail and a coolie. The railway and tram-officials, in spite of the contradiction that has appeared in official quarters which I am going to deal with presently, I repeat, treafc us as beasts. We cannot safely walk on the foot-paths, A Madrassi gentleman, spotlessly dressed, always avoids*
�� � THE BEGINNING OF THE STRUGGLE
'the footpaths of prominent streets ia Durban for fear he should ba insulted or pushed off.
We are the "Asian dirb " to be "heartily cursed," we are " obokeful of vice " *' and we live upon rioe, "we are " stinking ooolies " living on " the smell of an oiled rage,'* we are*' the black vermin," we aredesoribed in the Statute Books as " semi-barbarous Asiatics, or persons belouging to the uncivilised races of Asia," We "breed like rabbits" and a gentleman at* a meeting lately held in Durban said he was sorry we could not be shot like them." There are coaches running between certain places in the Trans- vaal. We miy no!) sit) iodide them. It) is a sore trial, apart) from the indignity ib involves and contemplates, to have to sib outside them either ia deadly winter morning, for the winter is severe in the Transvaal, or under a burning sun, though we are Indians. The hotels refine us admission. Indeed, there ara oases in which respect- able Indians hava found it diffioultj even to procure refreshments at European plaoes. It was only a short time ago thab a g*ng of Europeans neb fire to an Indian store in a village (cries of shame) called Dundee in Natal doing some damage, and another gang threw burning crackers into the Indian sborea in a business street in Durban. This feeling of intense hatred has been re- produced into legislation in the various States of South Africa restricting the freedom of Indians in many ways. To begin with, Natal, which is the mosb important) from an Indian point of view, has of late shown the greatest! activity in passing Indian legislation. Till 1894, the Indians had been enjoying the franchise equally with the Europeans under the general franchise law of the, Colony, which entitles any adult male being a British subject to >be placed on the voters' list, who possesses itumoveabla
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property worth 50 or pays an annual rent of 10 There is a separate franchise qualification for the Zulu. In 1894, the Natal Legislature passed a Bill disfranchising Asiatics by name. We resisted it in the Local Parlia- ment hub without any avail. We then memorialised the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and as a result that bill was this year withdrawn and replaced by another which, though not quite so bad as the first one, is bad enough. It gays that no natives of countries (not of European origin) which have not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions, founded on the Parliamentary Franchise, shall be placed on the voters roll unless they shall first obtain an exemption from tha Governor in Council, This bill excepta from its operation those whose names are already rightly contained in any voters' list- Before being introduced it was submitted to Mr, Chamberlain who has approved of it. We have opposed ifa on the ground that we have suoh institutions in India, and that, therefore, the Bill will fail initsobjeob if it is to disfranchise the Asiatics and that therefore also it is a harassing piece of legislation and is calculated to involve us in endless litigation and expense. This ia admitted on all hands. The very members who voted for ib thought likewise. The Natal Government organ says in effect :
We know India has euoh institutions and therefore the bill will not apply to the Indians. But we oan have that bill or none. If it disfranchises Indians, nothing oan be better, if it does not, then too we have nothing to feat ! for the Indian oan never gain political supremacy and if necessary, we oan soon impose an educational test or raise the property qualification which, while disfranchising Indians wholesale, will not debar a single European from voting.
Thus the Natal legislature ia paying a game of "boas up 1 ' at the Indians' expense. We are a fit subject for Vivisection tinder the Natal Paafcaur'a deadly scalpel and
�� � knife, with thia difference between the Paris Pasteur and the Natal Pasteur that, while the former indulged in vivi- section with the objeo& of benefiting humanity, the latter has been indulging in it for the sake of amusement out of sheer wantonness, The object of this measure is nob political. It is purely and simply to degrade the Indians in the words of a member of the Natal Parliament, M do make the Indian's life more comfortable in his native land than in Natal, in the words of another eminent Natalian, " to keep him for ever a hewer of wood and drawer of water." The very fact that, at present, there are only 250 Indians as against nearly 10,000 European voters shows that there is no fear of the Indian vote swamping the European. For a fuller history of the question, I musa refer you to the Green Pamphlet. The London Times which has uniformly supported us in our troubles, dealing with the franchise question in Natal, thus puts it in its issue of the 27th day of June of this year :
The question now put before Mr. Chamberlain is not an academic one. It is not a question of argument bub of race feeling. We cannot afford a war of races among our own subjects. It would be a wrong for the Government of India to suddenly arrest the development of Natal by shutting all the supply of immigrants, as it would be for Nata) to deny the right of citizenship to British Indian subjects, who, by years of thrift and good work in the Colony, have raised themselves to the actual status of citizens.
If there is any real danger of the Asiatic vote swamping the European, we should have no objection to an educational test being imposed or the property qualifications being raised. What we object to is class legislation and the degradation which it necessarily involves, We are fighting for no new privilege in oppos- ing the Bill, we are resisting the deprivation of the one we have been enjoying,
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ID strict accordance with the policy of degrading the Indian to the level of a raw Kaffir and, in the words of the Attorney- General of Natal, " that of preventing him from forming part of the future South African nation that is going to be built," the Natal Government laet year introduced their Bill to amend the Indian Immigration Law whiob, I regret to inform you, has received the Royal sanction in spite of our hopes to the contrary. This news was received after the Bombay meeting, and it will, therefore, be necessary for me bo deal with this question at some length, also because this question more immediately affects this Presidency and can be best studied here. Up to the I8bh day of August, 1694, the indentured immigrants went under a contract of service for five years in consideration for a free passage to Natal, free board and lodging for themselves and their families aud wages at the rate of ten shillings per month for the first year to be increased by one shil- ling every following year. They were also entitled to a free passage back to ludia, if they remained in the Colony another five years as free labourers. This is now changed, and, in future, the immigrants will have either to remain in the Colony for ever under indenture, their wages increasing to 20 shillings at the end of the 9fch year of indentured service, or to return to India or to pay an annual poll-tax of 3 sterling, equivalent to nearly half a year's earnings on the indentured scale. A Commission consisting of two members was sent to India in 1893 by the Natal Government to induce the Indian Government to agree to the above alterations with the exception of the imposition of the poll-tax. The present Viceroy, while expressing his reluctance, agreed to the alteration subject to the sanction of the Home Govern*
�� � cnenfc, refusing to allow the NaUI Government to make tbe breach of the clause about compulsory return a criminal offence, The Natal Government have got ovar the difficulty by the poll-tax Clause.
The Attorney-General in discussing that clausd said that while an Indian could not ba sent to gaol for refus- ing to return to India or to pay the tax, so long as there waa anything worth having in his hut), ill will ba liable to seizure. We strongly opposed that Bill in the local Parliament and failing there, sunb a memorial to Mr. Chamberlain, praying either that; the Bill should be dis- allowed or emigration to Natal should bo suspended.
The above proposal was m )oted 10 years ago and ib was vehemently opposed by the mos^ eminent colonists in Natal. A Commission waa then appointed to inquire into various matters concerning Indians in Natal. Oae of the Commissioners, Mr. S^underd, says in his addi- tional report :
Though tbe Commission has made no recommendation on the subject of paBeiug a law to force Indians back to India at the expiration of their term of service, unless they renew their inden- tures, I wish to express my strong condemnation of any such idea, and I feel convinced 'that many, who now advocate the plan ,when they realise what it, means, will reject it as energetically as I do, Stop Indian emigration and face results, but don't try to do what I can show is a great wrong.
What is it but taking the best of our servants (the good as well as the bad), and then refusing them ihe enjoyment of the reward, forcing them back <if we could, but we oannotl when their vest days have been spent for our benefit, Whereto ? Why back to face a prospeot of starvation from which they sought to escape when they were young. Bhylook-like, taking the pound of flesh, and Shylook-like we may rely on it meeting Shylock's reward.
The Colony can stop Indian immigration, and thai, perhaps, far more easily and permanently than some ' popularity seekers' would desire. But force men off at the end of their service, this the Colony cannot do. And I urge on it not to discredit a fair .name by trying,
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The Attorney-General of Natal who introduced the Bill under discussion expressed the following views while giving h'g evidence before the Commission :
With reference to time-expired Indians, I do not think that it ought to be compulsory on any man to go to any part of the world save for a orime for which he is transported, I hear a great deal of this question; I have been asked again and again to take a dif- ferent view, but I have not been able to do it. A man is brought here, in theory with his own consent in practice very often without his consent, he gives the best five years of hie life, he forms new ties, forgets the old ones, perhaps establishes home here, and he cannot, according to my view of right and wrong, be sent baok. Better by far to stop the further introduction of Indians altogether than to take what work you can out of them and order them away. The Colony, or part of the Colony, seems to want Indians but also wishes to avoid the consequences of Indian immigration, The Indian people do no harm as far as I kuow ; in certain respects they do a gieac deal of good, I have never heard a reason to jus- tify the extradition of a man who has behaved well for five years.
And Mr. Binns who oame to India as one of the Natal Commissioners to induce the Indian Government to agree to the above-mentioned alterations gave the following evidence before tbe Commission tea years ago :-
I think the idea which has been mooted, that all Indians should be compelled to return to India at the end of their term of indenture, is most unfair to the Indian population, and would never be sanctioned by the Indian Government. In my opinion the free Indian population is a most useful section of the com- munity,
But then great moo may change their views as of- ten and as quiokly as they may ohaage their clothes with impunity and even to advantage. la them, they say, such changes are a result) of sincere conviction. Id is a thousand pities, however, that) unfortunately for tbe poor indentured Indian his fear or rather the expectation that the Indian Government will never sanction tbe change was not realised.
Tbe London Star thus gave vent to its feelings on- reading tbe Bill :
�� � These particulars are enough to-throw light upon the hateful persecution to which British Indian subjects are being subjected. The new Indian Immigration Law Amendment Bill, which virtu- ally proposes to reduce Indians to a state of slavery, is another example, The thing is a monstrous wrong, an mault to British subjects, a disgrace to its authors, and a slight upon ourselves. Every Englishman is concerned to see that the commercial greed of the South African trader is not permitted to wreak such bitter injustice upon men who alike by proclamation and by statute are placed upon an equality with ourselves before the Law.
The London Times also in supporting our prayer has compared the state of perpetual indenture to a "state perilously near bo slavery." Ito alao says :
The Government of India has one simple remedy, It can suspend indentured immigration to South Africa as it has sus- pended such immigration to foreign possessions until it obtains the necessary guarantees for the present well-being and the future
status of the immigrants It is eminently a case for sensible
and conciliatory action on both sides. . . , But the Indian Govern- ment may be forced to adopt measures in connection with the wider claim now being urged by every section of the Indian com- munity and which has been explicitly acknowledged by Her Majes- ty's, Government at home namely, the claim of the Indian races to trade and to labour with the full status of British subjects throughout the British Empire and in allied States.
The letters from Natal informing me of the Royal sanction to this Bill ask me to request the Indian pubiio to help us bo get) emigration suspended. I am well aware that the idea of suspending emigration requires careful consideration. I humbly think that there is no other conclusion possible in the interests of the Indians at large, Emigration is supposed fco relieve the congested districts and to benefit; those who emigrate. If the Indians instead of paying the poll-tax, return to Indb, the congestion cannot be affected at all. And the re- turned Indians will ratber be a source of difficulty than anything else aa they must necessarily find it difficult} to get work and cannot be expected to bring sufficient to live upon the interest of their capital. I* certainly
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not benefit the emigrants as they will never, if the Government can possibly help it, be allowed to rise higher than the status of labourers. The fact is that they are being helped on to degradation,
Under suoh circumstances I humbly ask you to support our prayer to suspend emigration to Natal, unless the new law can be altered or repealed. You will naturally be anxious to know the treatment of the Indians while under indenture. Of course, that life can- not be bright under any circumstances ; bub I do not think their lot is worse than the lot of the Indians simi- larly placed in other parts of the world. At the same time they too certainly come in for a share of the tre- mendous colour prejudice. I can only briefly allude to the matter here and refer to the curious Green Pamphlet wherein it has been more fully discussed. There is a sad mortality from suicides on certain estates in Natal. It is very difficult for an indentured Indian to have his services transferred on the ground of ill-treatment. An indentured Indian after he becomes free is given a free pass. This he has to show whenever asked to do so. It is meant to detect desertion by the indentured Indians. The working of this system is a source of much irrita- tion to poor free Indians and often puts respectable Indians in a very unpleasant position. This law really would no give any trouble, but for the unreasonable prejudice A sympathetic Protector of Immigrants, preferably an Indian gentleman of high sbanding and knowing the Tamil, Telugu and Hindustani languages, would certainly mitigate the usual hardships of the indentured life. An Indian immigrant who loses his free pass is, as a rule, called upon to pay £3 sterling for
�� � a duplicate copy. This is nothing bub a system of blackmail.
The 9 o'clock rule in Natal which makes it necessary for every Indian to carry a pasa if he wants to ha oub after 9 P.M.. at the pain of being locked up in a dungeon, causes much heart-burning especially among the gentlemen Iron) this Presidency. You will be pleased to hear that children of many indentured Indians receive a pretty good education ; and then wear an a rule the European dress. They are a most sensitive class and yei unfortu- nately most liable to arrest under the 9 o'clook rule. The European dress for an Indian is no recommendation in Natal, It is rather the reverse, For the flowing robe of a Memon frees the wearer from suoh molestation, A happy incident described in the Graen Pamphlet led the police in Durban some years ago to free Indians thn& dressed from liability to arrest after 9 P.M. A Tamil eohool-mistresa, a Tamil school-master and a Tamil Sunday school-teacher were only a few months aga arrested and looked up under this law, They all got justice in the law courts, but that was a poor consolation* The result, however, was that fcha Corporations in Natal are clamouring for an alteration in the law so that if* might be impossible for suoh Indians to get off scot-fre& in the Law Courts,
There is a Bye-Law in Durban which requires registration of coloured servants. This Rule may be and perhaps is necessary for the Kaffirs who would not work, but absolutely useless with regard to the Indians, But the policy is to class the Indian with the Kaffir whenever possible,
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This does not complete the list of grievances in Natal. I must beg to refer the curious to the Green Pamphlet for further information.
But, gentlemen, you have been told lately by the Natal Agent-General that the Indians are nowhere better treated than in Natal ; that the fac that a majority of the indentured labourers do not avail themselves of the return passage is the best answer to my pamphlet, and that the railway and tram-car officials do not treat the Indians as beasts nor do the Law Courts deny them justice.
With the greatest deference to the Agent-General, all I can say as to the first statement is that he must have very queer notions of good treatment, if to be looked up for being out after 9 P.M. without a pass, to be denied the most elementary right of citizenship in a free country, to be denied a higher status than that of bondman and at best a free labourer and to be subjected to other restrictions referred to above, are instances of good treatment. And if such treatment is the best the Indians receive throughout the world, then the lot of the Indians in other parts of the world and here must be very miserable indeed, according to the commonsense view. Tae thing is that Mr. Walter Peace, the Agent-Ganeral, is made to look through the official spectacles and to him everything official is bound to appear rosy. The legal disabilities are condemnatory of the action of the Natal Government and how can the Agent-General be expected to condemn himself ? If he or the Government which he represents only admitted that the legal disabilities mentioned above were against the fundamental principles of the British Constitution, I should not stand before you this evening. I respectfully submit that statements of opinions made by the Agent-General cannot be allowed to have greater weight) than those of an accused person about} his own guilt.
Tbe faob that the indentured Indians as a ruie do not avail themselves of the return passage we do not dispute, but we oeroainly dispute thafc it is the beat answer to our complaints, How oan that faob disprove the existence of the legal disabilities ? It may prove that the Indians who do not take advantage of the return passage either do nob mind the disabilities or remain in the Colony in spite of suoh disabilities, If the former be the case, it is the duty ot those who know better to make the Indians realise their situation and to enable them to see that submission to them means degradation* If the latter be the oase it is one mora instance of the patience and the forbearing spirit of the Indian Nation which was acknowledged by Mr. Chamberlain in his Despatch in connection with the Transvaal arbitration. Because they bear thejn is no reason why the disabilities should not be removed or why they should be interpreted into meaning the best treatment possible.
Moreover, who are these people who, instead of returning to India, settle in the Colony ? They are the Indians drawn from the poorest classes and from the most thickly populated districts possibly living in a state of semi-starvation in India. They migrated to Natal with their families, if any, with the intention of settling there, if possible, Is it any wonder, if these people after the expiry of their in- denture, instead of running ' to face semi-starvation,' as Mr. Saunders has put it, settled in a country where the climate is magnificent and where they may earn a decant Jiving? A starving man generally would stand any
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amount of rough treatment to get A orumb of bread,
Do not the Uitlanders make outa a terribly long list of grievances in the Transvaal? And yeb do they not flock to the Transvaal in thousands in spite of the ill- treatment they receive there because they can earn their bread in the Transvaal more easily than in fcbe old oounfcry ?
This, too, should be borne in mind that in making his statement, Mr. Peace has not taken into account the free Indian trader who goes to the Colony on bis own account and who feels moat* the indignities and disabilities* If it does not do to tell the Uitiander that he may not go to the Transvaal if he cannot bear the ill-treatment;, much* lees will ib do to say so to the enterprising Indian. We belong to the Imperial family and are children, adopted it may be, of the same august mother, having the same rights and privileges guaranteed to us as to the European children* lo was in that belief that we wenl bo the Colony of Natal and we trusb that our belief was well-founded.
The Agent-General has contradicted the statement made in the pamphlet that the railway and tramoar officials treat the Indians as beasts. Even if the state- ments I have made were incorrect, that would nofc disprove the legal disabilities which and which alone have been made the subject of memorials and to remove which we invoke the direct intervention of the Home and the Indian Governments. Bub I venture to aay that the Agent-General has been misinformed and beg to repeat that the Indians are treated as beasts by the railway and the tramoar officials. That statement was made- now nearly two years ago in quarters where ib could have been contradicted ab onoe. I had the honour to address
�� � an ' open letter ' to the members of the Local Parliament) in Nabal, It was widely circulated in the Colony and noticed by almost every leading newspaper in South Africa. No one contradicted it then. It was even admitted by some newspapers. Under such circumstances, I venbured to quote it in my pamphlet published here. I am not given to exaggerate matters and it is very unpleasant to me to have DO cite testimony in my own favour, but since an attempt has been made to discredit my statements and thereby the cause I am advocating, I feel it to be my duty for the sake of the cause to tell you what the papers in South Africa thought about the 'open letter ' in which the statement was made.
The Star, the leading newspaper in Johannesburg, says :
Mr, Gandhi writes forcibly, moderately and well, Ha has hi intel f Buffered pome slight measure of injustice since he came into the Colony, but that fact does not seem to have coloured his sentiment, and it must be confessed that to the tone of the open letter uo objection can reasonably be taken, Mr, Gandhi discusses the questions he has raised with conspicuous moderation,
The Natal Mercury , the Government organ in Natrfl, says ;
Mr. Gandhi writes with calmness and moderation, He is as impartial as any one could expect him to be and probably a little more so than might have been expected, considering that he did not reeoeive very just treatment at the hands of the Law Society when he first came to the Colony.
Had I made unfounded statements, the newspapers would not have given such a certificate to the ' open letter.'
An Indian, about two years ago, took out a second class ticket on the Natal railway. In a single night jour- ney he was thrice disturbed and was twice made to change compartments to please European passengers.
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damages. The following is the plaintiff's evidence in the case :
Deponent got into a second class carriage in the train, leaving Charlestown at 1-30 P.M. Three other Indians were in the same compartment, but they got out at New Castle. A wbite man opened the door of the compartment and beckoned to witness, saying "come out. Sammy." Plaintiff asked, " why," and the whie man replied " Never mind, come out, I want to place some- one here." Witness said, " why should I oome OUG from here when I have paid my fare ?".... The white man then left and brought an Indian who, witness believed, was in the employ of the railway. The Indian was told to tell plaintiff to get out of the carriage. Thereupon the Indian said, " the white man orders you to oome out and you must oome out." The Indian then left. Witness said to the white man, " what do you want to shift me about for. I have paid my fare and have a right to remain here." The white man became angry at this and said, " well, if you don't oome out, I will knock hell out of you." The white man got into the carriage and laid hold of witness by the arm and tried to pull him out. Plaintiff said, "Let me alone and I will oome out." The witness left, the carriage and the white man pointed out another second class compartment and told him to go there. Plaintiff did as he was directed. The compartment he was shown into was empty. He believed some people who were playing a band were put into the carriage from which he was expelled. This white man was the Diet riot Superintendent of Railways at New- castle. (Shame). To proceed, witness travelled undisturbed to Maritzberg. He fell asleep and when he awoke at Maritzberg he found a white man, a white woman and a child in the compart- ment with him. A \vh te man came up to the oarriage and said, " Is that your boy speaking to the white man in the compart- ment ?" Witness's fellow-traveller replied "yes," pointing to his little boy. The other white man then said, " No, I don't mean him. I mean the darnued coolie in the corner." This gentleman with the choice language was a railway official, being a shunter. The white man in the compartment replied, " Oh never mind him, leave him alone." Then tho white man outside (the official) said, " I am not going to allow a coolie to be in the same compartment with white people." This man addressed plaintiff, saying "Bammy, oome out." Plaintiff said, " why, I was removed at New Castle to this compartment." The white maji said, " well, you must oome out " and was about to enter the oarriage. Witness thinking he would be handled as at New Castle said he would go out and lefft the compartment. The white man pointed out another second class compartment which witness entered. This was empty for a time but before leaving, a white man entered. Another white man* (the official), afterwards came up and said if you don't like to travel with that stinking ooolie I will find you another carriage," (The Natal Advertiser, 22nd November, 1893.)
�� � You will have noticed that? the official aft Maritzberg TII al- treated fcbe Indian passenger although his white fellow-passenger did not mind him, If this ia nob bestial treatment), I should very much like to know what is, and such occurrences takp place often enough to be irritating.
It was found during the case that one of the witnesses for the defendant was coached. In answer to a question from the Baneh whether the Indian passengers were treated with consideration, the witness who was one of the officials referred to replied in the affirmative. Thereupon the presiding Magistrate who tried the case is reported to have said to the witness, "Then you have a different opinion to what) I hava and it is a curious thing that people who are no*i connected with the railway observe more than you."
The Natal Advertiser, a European daily in Darban, made the following remarks on the case :
It was indisputable from the evidence that the Arab had been badly treated and seeing that second class tickets are issued to Indians of this description, the plaintiff ought not to have been
subjected to unnecessary annoyance and indignity , Some
definite measures should be taken to minimise the danger of trouble arising between European and coloured passengers without render- ing the carrying out of suoh measures annoying to any person whether black or white.
In the course of its remarks on the same case the Natal Mercury observed :
There is throughout South Afrioa a tendency to treat all Indians, as coolies pure and simple, no matter whether they be edu- cated and cleanly in their habits or not. . , OQ our railways we have noticed on more than one occasion that coloured passengers are not by any means treated with civility, and although it "would be unreasonable to expect that the white employees of the N.G.B. should treat them with the same deference as is aooorded to European passengers still we think it would not be in any way derogatory to their dignity if the officials were a little more Suavitor in moda when dealing with coloured travellers.
Sne Cape Times, a leading newspaper in South Afrioa, says :
�� � 20 THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION
Natal presents the ourious spectacle of a country entertaining a supreme contempt for the very class of people she can least da without, Imagination oan only picture the commercial paralysis which would inevitably attend the withdrawal of the Indian popu- lation from that Colony. And yet the Indian is the most despised of creatures, he may not ride in the tram-oars, nor sit in the earns compartment of a railway carriage with the Europeans, hotel- keepers refuse him food or shelter and he is denied the privilege of the public bath !
Hera is the opinion of an Anglo-Indian, Mr* Drum- mond wbo is intimately connected with the Indians in Natal. He says, writing to the Natal Mercury :
The majority of the people here* seem to forget that they are British subjects, that their Maharani is our Queen and for that reason alone one would think that they might be spared the oppro- brious term of ' coolie, ' as it is here applied, In India it is only the lower class of white men who calls native a ' nigger ' and treats him as if he were unworthy of any consideration or respect. ID their eyes, as in the eyes of many in this colony, he is treated
eitber as a heavy burden or a mechanical machine ,.. It is a
common thing and a lamentable thing to hear the ignorant and the unenlightened speak of the Indian generally as the sou in of the earth, etc. It is depreciation frcm the white man and not appreciation that they get.
I think I have adduced sufficient outside testimony to substantiate my statement that the railway officials treat the Indians as beasts. On the tramoars, the Indians are often nob allowed to sit inside but are senb upstairs/ as the phrase goes. They are often made to remove from one seat to another or prevented from occu- pying front benches. I know an Indian officer, a Tamil gentleman, dressed in the*iatesb European style who was made to stand on the tram-car board although there was aooomodation available for him.
Quoting statistics to prove the prosperity of the Indian community Is quite unnecessary, It is not denied that the Indians who go to Natal do earn a living and that in spite of the persecution.
�� � In the JL'ransvaal wa cannot own landed property, we may nob trade or reside except) in specified locations., which are described by the British Agent, " as places to deposit the refuse of the town without any water except} tihe polluted soakage in the gully between the location and the town." We may not as of right walk on the footpaths in Johannesburg and Pretoria, we may not* be out afcer 9 P* M, We may not travel without passes, The law prevents us from travelling first or second class on the railways, We are required to pay a special regis- tration fee of 3 to enable us to settle in the Transvaal and though we are treated as mere " chattels " and have no privileges whatever, we may be called upon to render compulsory military service, if Mr. Chamberlain disregards the Memorial which we have addressed bo him on the subject. The history of the whole aase as it affects the Indians in the Transvaal is very interesting and I am only sorry that for want of time [ oannob deal with id now. I must, however, beg you to study it from the Green Pamphlet. I must not omit bo mention that it is criminal for an Indian to buy native gold.
The Orange Free State has made "the British Indian an impossibility by simply classifying him with the Kaffir," as its chief organ puts ID, It? has passed a special law whereby we are prevented from trading, farming or owning property under any circumstances, If we submit to these degrading conditions we may be allowed tro reside after passing through certain humiliat- ing ceremonies. We were driven out from the State and our stores were closed causing to us a loss of 9,000. And this grievance remains absolutely without redress- The Oape Parliament! has passed a Bill granting the E%sfe
�� � 22 THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION
London Municipality in that Colony, the power to frame Bye- Laws prohibiting Indians from walking on the foot- paths and making them live in locations. It has issued instructions to the authorities of East Gripuinland not to issue any trading licences to the Indians. The Gape Government are in communication with the Home Government with a view to induce them to sanction legislation restricting the influx of the Asiatics. The people in the Chartered territories are endeavouring to close the country against the Asiatic trader. In Zulu- land, a Crown Colony, we cannot own or acquire landed property in the townships of Eshowe and Nondweni. This question is now before Mr. Chamberlain for consi- deration. As in the Transvaal there also it is criminal for an Indian to buy native gold,
Thus we are hemmed in on all sides by restrictions. And if nothing further were to be done here and in Eng- land on our behalf, it is merely a question of time when the respectable Indian in South Africa will be absolutely extinct.
Nor is this merely a local question. It is aa the London Times puts it, "that of the status of the British Indian outside India/' "If," says the Thunderer, "they fail to secure that position, (that is of equal status) in South Africa, it will be difficult for them to attain it else- where." I have no doubt you have read in the papers that Australian Colonies have passed legislation to pre- vent Indians from settling in that part of the World. It will be interesting to know how the Home Government deal with that question.
The real cause of all this prejudice may be expressed in the words of the leading organ in South Africa,.
�� � namely* the Cape Times, when it was under the editor- ship of the prinoe of South African journalists, Mr. St. Lager,
It is the position of these merchants which is productive of no little hostility to this day, And it is in considering theic position that their rivals in trade have sought to inflict upon them through the medium of the State, what looks on the face of it something very like an injustice for the benefit of self.
Continues the same organ :
The injustice to the Indians is so glaring that one is almost ashamed of one's countrymen in wishing to have these men treated as native (i.e., of South Africa,) simply because of their success in trade. The very reason that they have been so successful against the dominant race is sufficient to raise them above that degrading level.
If this was true in 1869 when the above was written, it is doubly so now, because the legislators of South Africa have shown phenomenal activity in passing measures restricting the liberty of the Quean's Indian subjects. Other objections also have been raised to our presence there, but they will not bear scrutiny and I have dealt with them in the Green Pamphlet. I venture, however, to quofcp, from the Natal Advertiser, which states one of them and prescribes a statesman- like remedy also. And ao far as the objection may be valid, we are in perfect accord with the Advertiser's suggestion. This paper which is under European manage- ment was at one time violently against us. Dealing with the whole question from an Imperial standpoint it concludes :
It will, therefore, probably yet be found that the removal of the drawbacks at present incidental to the immigration of Indians into British Colonies is not to be effected so much by the adoption of an obsolete policy of exclusion as by an enlightened and pro- gressive application of ameliorating laws to those Indians who settle in them. One of the chief objections to Indians is that they do not live in accordance with European rules. The remedy for this is to gradually raise their mode of life by compelling (hem to live in better dwellings and by creating among them new wants. It will probaoly be found easier, because, more in accord with the
�� � 24 THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION
great onward movements of mankind, to demand of such settlers that they shall rise to their new conditions than to endeavour to maintain the status quo ante by their eutire exclusion,
We believe also that rnuoh of the ill-feeling is das to the wanfa of proper knowledge in South Africa about the Indians in India. Wa are, therefore, endeavouring to educate public opinion in South Africa by imparting the necessary information, Wifah regard to the legal disabilities we have tried to influence in our favour the public opinion both in England and here. As you know both the Conservatives and Liberals have supported us in England without) distinction, Tne London Times has given eight leading articles to our cause in a very sympathetic spirit. This alone has raised us a step higher in the estimation of tha Europeans in South Africa and has considerably affected for the better the tone of newspapers there. The British Committee of the Congress has been working for us for a very long time. Ever since he entered Parliament, Mr. Bhownaggrea has been pleading our cause in season and out of season. Says one of our best sympathisers in London :
The wrong is so serious that it has only to ba known in order 1 hope to be remedied, I feel it my duty on ail oooasioas and in nil suitable ways to insist that the Indian subjects of the Crown should enjoy the full status of British subject througout the whole British Empire aud in allied states. This is the position whioh you and our Indian friends in South Africa should firmly take up. In such a question compromise is impossible. For any compromise would relinquish the fundamental right of the Indian races to the complete status of British subjects a right whioh they have earned by their loyalty in peace and by their services in war, a right whioh was solemnly guaranteed to them by the Queen's Proclamation in 1857, and which has now been explicitly recognis- ed by Her Majeety's Government,"
Says the same gentleman in another letter : I have great hopes that justice will, in the end, be done. You
have a good cause You have only to take up your position
strongly in order to be successful. That position is that the British Indian subjects in South Africa are alike in our own Colonies and
�� � an independent friendly States being deprived of their status as British subjects guaranteed to them by the Sovereign and the British Parliament,
AD ex-Liberal member of the House of Commons flays :
You are infamously treated by the Colonial Government and you will be so treated by the Home Government if they do nob compel the Colonies to alter their policy.
A Conservative member says :
I am quite aware that the situation is surrounded with many difficulties ; but some points stand out clear and, as far as I can make out it is true to say that breaches of what in India is a civil contract are punishable in South Africa as though they were criminal offences. This is beyond doubt, contrary to the principles of the Indian Code and seems to me an infringement of the privile- ges guaranteed to British subjects in India. Again ib is perfectly evident tnat in the Boer republic and possibly in Natal it is the direct obvious intention of the Government to " hunt" natives of India and to compel them to carry on their business under degrad- ing conditions. The excuses wbioh are put forward to defend the infringements of the liberties of British subjects in the Transvaal are too flimsy to be worth a moment's attention." Yet another Conservative member says: "Your activity is praiseworthy and demands justice. I am, therefore, willing to help you as far aa .lies in my power,"
Suob is the sympathy evoked in England. Here, too, I know we have the same sympathy, bub I bumbly think that) our cause may ooeupy your attention still more largely.
What is required inlnriia has been well pub by the Moslem Chronicle in a forcibly written leader :
What* with a strong and intelligent public opinion here and a well meaning Government the difficulties we have to contend with, are not at all commensurate with those that retard the woll- being of our countrymen m that country. It is therefore quite time that all public bodies should at once turn their attention to 'this important subject to create an intelligent public opinion with a view to organise an agitation for the removal of the grievances under which our brethren are labouring. Indeed, these grievances -have become and are day by day becoming so unbearable and offensive that the requisite agitation oaanot b^ taken.,up one >4ay too soon.
�� � 26 THB SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION
I may abate our position a little more olearly. We are aware that} the insults and indignities that we are subjected to at the hands of the populace oannot be directly removed by the intervention of the Home Government, We do not appeal to it for any auoh intervention. We bring them to the notioa of the public so that the fairminded of ail communities and the Press may be expressing their disapproval, materially reduce their rigour and possibly eradicate them ultimately. But we certainly do appeal and we hope not vainly to the Home Government for protection againnt reproduction of such ill-feeling in legislation, We certainly beseech the Home Government to disallow all the Acts of the Legislative bodies of the Colonies restricting our freedom in any shape or form. And this brings me to the last question, namely, how far can the Home Government interfere with euoh action on the part of the Colonies and the allied States. As for Zululand there can be no question since it is a Crown Colony directly governed from Downing Street through a Governor. It is nob a self- governing or a responsibly-governed Colony as the Colonies of Natal and the Cape of Good Hope are. With regard to the last two their Constitution Act provides that Her Majesty may disallow any Act of the Local Parliament within two years even after it has become law having received the Governor's assent. That is one safeguard against oppressive measures by the Colonies. The Koyal instructions to the Governor as also the Constitution Act enumerate certain Bills which oannot be assented to by the Governor without Her Majesty's previous sanction. Among auoh are Bills which have for their object class legislation such as the Franchise Bill or Immigration Bill, Her Majesty's intervention
�� � is thus diraofo and precise. While ib is true that) the Home Government is slow to interfere with the Acts of the Colonial Legislatures, there are instances where it has Dot hesitated io put its foot down on occasions lesa urgent than the present! one- As you are aware, the repeal of the first Franchise Bill was due to such wholesome inter- vention, What is more the Colonists are ever afraid of it. And as a resuU of the sympathy expreased iu England and the sympathetic answer given by Mr Chamberlain to the Deputation that waited on him some months ago most of cbe papers in South Africa, at any rate in Natal have veered round considerably. As to the Transvaal there is jthe convention. As to the Orange Free State I can only say that it id an unfriendly aok ou the part of a friendly State 60 shut her doors against any portion of Her Majesty's subjects. And as suoh I humbly think io can be effectively checker].
It may not be amiss to quote a few passaged from the London Times aroioles bearing ou the question of intervention as well as the whole question generally *
The whole question resolves itself into this. Are Her Majesty's Indian subjects to be treated as a degraded and ao cut- caste race by a friendly government or are they to have the same rights and status as other British subjects enjoy ? Are leading Muhammadan merchants who might sit in the Legis- lative Council at Bombay, to be' liable to indignities and outrage in the South African Republic ? We are continually telling our Indian subjects that the economic future of their country depends on their ability to spread themselves out and to develop their foreign trade. What answer can our Indian Government give them if it fails to secure to them the same protection abroad which is secured to the subjects of every other dependency of the Grown ?
It is a mockery to urge our Indian fellow-subjects to embark on external commerce if the moment they leave In dm they lose their rights as British subjects, and can be treated by foreign governments as a degraded and an outoaste race.
ID another article it sa^s ;
The matter is eminently one for good offices and for icfluenoe, for that friendly negotiation " which Mr. Chamberlain promises,
�� � 38 THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN QUESTION
though he warns the deputation that it may be tedious and will certainly not be easy. As to the Cape Colony and Natal, the question is to a certain extent simplified since, of course, the Colonial office can speak to them with greater authority.
The incident is one of those which suggests wider questions than any that directly offer themselves for official replies, We are at the centre of a world-wide Empire, at a period when loco- motion is easy and is every day becoming easier, both in time and cost. Some portions of the Empire are crowded, others are comparatively empty, and the flnv from the congested to the under-peopled districts is continuous What is to happen when subjects differing io colour, religion and habits from ourselves or from the natives of a particular spot emigrate to that spot for their living ? How are race prejudices and antipathies, the jeal- ousies of trade, the fear of competition to be controlled ? The answer, of course, must be by intelligent policy at the Colonial Offioe,
Small as are the requirements of the Indian the steady growth of the population of India is such that a certain outward move- ment is inevitable, and it is a movement that will increase. It is very desirable that our white fellow-aubjeots in Africa should understand that there will, in all probability, be this current flow- ing from India, that it is perfeot(y within the rights of the British Indian to seek his subsistence at the Cape, and that he ought, in the common interest of the Empire to be well treated when he comes there. It is indeed to be feared that the ordinary Colonist, wherever settled, thinks much more of his immediate interests than of those of the great empire which protects him, and he has some difficulty in recognising a fellow-subject in the Hindu or the Parsee. The duty of the Colonial Offioe is to enlighten him and to see that fair treatment is extended to British subjects of what- ever colour,
Again : -
In lodia the British, the Hindu and the Massalman commu- nities find themselves face to face with the question as to whe- ther at. the outset of the new industrial movements which have been so long and anxiously awaited, Indian traders and workers are or are not to have the same status before the law as all other British subjects enjoy. May they or may they not go freely from one British possession to another and claim the rights of British subjects in allied states or are they to be treated as outcaste races, subjected to a system of permits and passes when travelling on their ordinary business avocations, and relegated, as the Transvaal Government would relegate them to a ghetto at the permanent centres of their trade? These are questions which applied to all Indians who seek to better their fortunes outside the limits of the Indian Rmmre. Mr. nhamhorlain'fl wr>rdfl and the determined
�� � attitude taken up by every section of the Indian press show that for two such questions there can be but one answer,
I shall take the liberty to give one mora quotation from the same journal :
The question with which Mr. Chamberlain was called upon to deal cannot be BO easily reduced to concrete terms. OQ the one band he clearly laid down the principle of the " equal rights " and equal privilege of all British subjects in regard to redress from foreign States, It would, indeed, have been impossible to deny that principle. Our Indian subjects have been fighting the battles of Great Britain over half the old world with the loyalty and courage which have won the admiration of all British men. The fighting reserve which Great Britain has in the Indian races adds greatly to her political influence and prestige and it would be violation of the British sense of justice to use the blood and the valour of these races m war and yet to deny them the protection of the British name in the enterprise of peace. The Indian workers and traders are slowly spreading across the earth from Central Asia to the Australian Colonies and from the Straits Settle- ments to the Canary Islands. Wherever the Indian goes he is the same useful well-doing man, lawabiding under whatever form of Government be may find himself, frugal in his wants and in. dustrious in his habits. But these very virtues make him a for- midable competitor in the labour markets to which he resorts. Although numbering in the aggregate some hundreds of thousand?, the imigrant Indian labourers and small dealers have only recently appeared in the foreign countries or British Colonies in numbers sufficient to arouse jealousy and to expose them to political injustice,
But the facts which we brought to notice in June, and which were urged on Mr, Chamberlain by a deputation of Indians last week, show that the necessity has now arisen for protecting the Indian labourer from euoh jealousy, and for securing to him the same rights as other British subjects enjoy,
Gentlemen, Bombay has spoken in no uncertain barms, We are yet young and inexperienced, we have a right to appeal to you, our elder and freer brethren for protection. Being under the yoke of oppression we can merely cry oub in anguish. You have heard our cry. The blame will now lie on your shoulders if the yoka is oot removed from our necks.