The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi/Volume I/1896

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Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (3-2-1896)[edit]

DURBAN,: February 3, 1896
The Natal Mercury


As one interested in food reform, permit me to congratulate you on your leader in Saturday’s issue on “The New Science of Healing”, which lays so much stress on the adoption of the natural food, i.e., vegetarianism, But for the unfortunate characteristic of this “self-indulgent” age, in which “nothing is more common than to hear men warmly supporting a theory in the abstract without any intention of submitting to it in practice”, we should all be vegetarians. For, why should it be otherwise when Sir Henry Thompson calls it “a vulgar error” to suppose that flesh foods are indispensable for our sustenance, and the most eminent physiologists declare that fruit is the natural food of man, and when we have the example of Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, Porphyry, Ray, Daniel, Wesley, Howard, Shelley, Sir Isaac Pitman, Edison, Sir W. B. Richardson, and a host of other eminent men as vegetarians? The Christian vegetarian claim that Jesus was also a vegetarian, and there does not seem to be anything to oppose that view, except the reference to His having eaten broiled fish after the Resurrection. The most successful missionaries in South Africa (the Trappists) are vegetarians. Looked at from every point of view, vegetarianism has been demonstrated to be far superior to flesheating. The Spiritualists hold, and the practice of the religious teachers of all the religions, except, perhaps, the generality of Protestant teachers shows, that nothing is more detrimental to the spiritual faculty of man than the gross feeding on flesh. The most ardent vegetarians attribute the agnosticism, the materialism, and the religious indifference of the present age to too much flesheating and wine-drinking, and the consequent disappearance, partial or total, of the spiritual faculty in man. Vegetarian admirers of the intellectual in man point to the whole host of the most intellectual men of the world, who were invariably abstemious in their habits, especially at the time of writing their best works, to demonstrate the sufficiency, if not the superiority of the vegetarian diet from an intellectual standpoint. The columns of the vegetarian magazines and reviews afford a most decisive proof that where beef and its concoctions, with no end of physic thrown in, have lamentably failed, vegetarianism has triumphantly succeeded. Muscular vegetarians demonstrate the superiority of their diet by pointing out that the peasantry of the world are practically vegetarians, and that the strongest and most useful animal, the horse, is a vegetarian, while the most ferocious and practically useless animal, the lion, is a carnivore. Vegetarian moralists mourn over the fact that selfish men would—for the sake of gratifying their lustful and diseased appetite—force the butcher’s trade on a portion of mankind, while they themselves would shrink with horror from such a calling. They moreover lovingly implore us to bear in mind that without the stimulants of flesh foods and wine it is difficult enough to restrain our passions and escape Satan’s clutches, and not to add to those difficulties by resorting to meats and drinks which, as a rule, go hand in hand. For, it is claimed that vegetarianism, in which juicy fruits find the foremost place, is the safest and surest cure for drunkenness, while meat-eating induces or increases the habit. They also argue that since meat-eating is not only unnecessary but harmful to the system, indulgence in it is immoral and sinful, because it involves the infliction of unnecessary pain on and cruelty towards harmless animals. Lastly, vegetarian economists, without fear of contradiction, assert that vegetarian foods are the cheapest diet, and their general adoption will go a long way towards mitigating, if not altogether suppressing, the rapidly growing pauperism side by side with the rapid march of the materialistic civilization and the accumulation of immense riches in the hands of a few. So far as I recollect, Dr. Louis Kuhne urges the necessity of vegetarianism on physiological grounds only, and does not give any hints for beginners, who always find it difficult to select the right kinds from a variety of vegetarian foods and to cook them properly. I have a selection of vegetarian cookery books (at from 1d to 1s), as also treatises on the subject dealing with its various aspects. The cheapest books are given away, and if any of your readers feel disposed, not merely to admire the new science of healing from a distance, but to put its tenets into practice, I shall be very glad to supply them with what pamphlets I possess on the subject, so far as it relates to vegetarianism. I submit the following for the consideration of those who believe in the Bible. Before the “Fall” we were vegetarians:

And God said : behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so.

There may be some excuse for the unconverted partaking of meat, but for those who say they are “born again”, vegetarian Christians claim, there can be none; because their state surely should be equal, if not superior, to that of the people before the “Fall”. Again, in times of Restitution:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. . . . And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountains; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

These times may be far off yet for the whole world. But why cannot those who know and can—the Christians—enact them for themselves at any rate? There can be no harm in anticipating them, and, may be, thereby their approach may be considerably hastened.

I am, etc.,

The Natal Mercury, 4-2-1896

Memorial to Natal Governor (26-2-1896)[edit]

February 26, 1896






Your Excellency’s Memorialists, as representing the Indian community in Natal, hereby respectfully beg to approach Your Excellency with regard to the following portions of Rules and Regulations for the disposal of erven[1] in the Township of Nondweni, Zululand, published in the Natal Government Gazette, dated the 25th February 1896, viz.:

Part of Section 4: Persons of European birth or descent intending to bid at any such sale must give notice in writing at least twenty days prior to the date fixed for the sale to the Secretary for Zululand, Pietermaritzburg, or to the Government Secretary at Eshowe, Zululand, describing as far as practicable by numbers or otherwise the erven they are desirous of acquiring.
Part of Section 18: Only persons of European birth or descent shall be approved of as occupiers of erven or sites. On failure of compliance with the condition any such sites or erven shall revert to the Government as in the preceding section hereof.
Rule 20: It shall be a distinct condition subject to which the erven or sites are sold, and which condition shall be inserted in every freehold title applied for and issued in terms of Sections 10, 11 and 13 of these Regulations, that at no time shall the owner of sites or erven in the Nondweni Township bought hereunder be at liberty either to sell or let such sites or erven or any portion thereof or to permit occupation of them or any portion thereof free of rent to any other persons except those of European birth and descent, and in the event of the holder of such title-deed contravening such conditions and stipulations, any such sites or erven shall revert to the Government in terms and manner stated in Section 17 hereof.

Your Memorialists interpret the rules to mean exclusion of Her Majesty’s Indian subjects from owning or acquiring property in the Nondweni Township.

Your Memorialists beg respectfully but emphatically to protest against the invidious distinction thus drawn between European and Indian British subjects.

Nor can your Memorialists find any reason for such exclusion, unless it be another point among many yielded to the colour prejudice in South Africa.

Your Memorialists humbly submit that such preference given to one portion of Her Majesty’s subjects over another is not only contrary to the British policy and justice, but, in the case of the Indian community, violates the terms of the Proclamation of 1858 which entitles British Indians to equal treatment with the Europeans.

Your Memorialists venture further to submit that, in view of the efforts of Her Majesty’s Government on behalf of the Indians residing in the Transvaal, the distinction drawn by the rules under discussion with regard to property rights is somewhat strange and inconsistent.

Your Memorialists would crave leave to mention that many Indians own freehold property in other parts of Zululand.

Your Memorialists, therefore, humbly pray that, by virtue of the power reserved by Section 23 of the Regulations, Your Excellency will be pleased to order such alteration or amendment thereof as to do away with the above-mentioned distinction.

And for this act of justice and mercy your Memorialists, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.[2]


From a photostat of a handwritten copy : S.N. 755

1^ Plots for buildings in South African townships
2^ The memorial was rejected on February 27, on the ground that the Regulations were identical with those of September 28, 1891, in operation in regard to the Eshowe township; vide "Letter to C. Walsh", 4-3-1896.

Letter to "The Natal Mercury" (2-3-1896)[edit]

DURBAN,: March 2, 1896
The Natal Mercury


In justice to the two defendants, Roberts and Richards, whom the worthy Superintendent of Police is pleased to call “upstarts” and other bad names, and in justice to the Indian community, I beg to encroach upon your space with reference to the partial report of the case in which the two defendants were charged under the Vagrancy Law and the Superintendent’s views thereon that appeared in your issue of the 29th February. The report and the opinion would seem to show that Mr. Waller’s decision[3] is a miscarriage of justice. To give colour to that view, the Superintendent has elected to give that portion of the evidence which I wished, and still wish, to use in order to win public sympathy for the two defendants, and what is more, for people placed in a similar position.

I humbly think that theirs was a very hard case, and that the police erred in arresting them, and, afterwards, in harassing them. I said in the Court, and I repeat, that the Vagrant Law would cease to be oppressive if the police showed some consideration for the Indians and used discretion in arresting them. The fact that both are sons of indentured Indians should not go against them, especially in an English community, where a man’s worth, not birth, is taken into account in judging him. If that were not so, a butcher’s son would not have been honoured as the greatest poet. The Superintendent, then, makes much of the fact that the second defendant changed his name about two years ago, and tries thereby to excuse the wanton insult[4] to which he was submitted by the constable who arrested him. It should be remembered that the constable in charge knew nothing whatever as to when the name was changed, and surely his very features were sufficient to betray his nationality had he attempted, as the Superintendent supposes he did, to cover his nationality in order to escape the operation of the Vagrant Law. Nor did he seem to be ashamed of his name or birth, for the answers came almost simultaneously with the questions as to birth and name, and seemed so much to please the amiable Superintendent as to extort the following expression from him: “Yes, my boy, if all were like you, the police would have no difficulty.”

There can be nothing absolutely wrong in changing one’s name unless it is wrong to change one’s religion. To compare small things with great, Mr. Quilliam has become Haji Abdullah because he has become a Mahomedan. Mr. Webb, the late Consul-General of Manica, also adopted a Mahomedan name, on adopting the Mahomedan faith. Not only the Christian name but the Christian dress also is an offence for an Indian, according to the view of the constables. And now, according to the Superintendent’s view, change of religion would render an Indian liable to suspicion. But why should this be so, assuming, of course, that the change is a result of honest belief and not a dodge to evade the law? In the present case I assume that both the defendants are honest Christians because I am told both are respected by Dr. Booth[5]. Of course, the Superintendent will report, “But how is a man to know whether a man is an honest Christian or a Satan in the Christian garb?” This is a difficult question to answer. I submitted to the Court that each case could be judged on its own merits, and that the benefit of the ordinary presumptions should be given to the Indians, as it is given to other classes.

I submitted that two men, wearing a respectable dress, walking quietly along the main street at 9.30 p.m., stopping when questioned, protesting that they were returning from the gardens and were on their way home, which was not seven minutes’ walk from the place where they were stopped, that one of them was a clerk and the other a teacher (as was the case with the two unfortunate boys), may be given the benefit of the ordinary presumption. I submitted further that in cases like this the police might, if they suspected, see their charge safely home. But, even if that could not be done, they might be treated as respectable men under custody and not be prejudged to be thieves and robbers. The remarks about dress and religion and name might conveniently be postponed till they could be proved to be hypocrites.

About a year ago I was travelling from Standerton to Durban. Two of my fellow-passengers were suspected to be thieves. Their luggage, and with theirs mine also, because I was in the same compartment, was examined at Volksrust, and a detective was placed in the compartment. They could offer a glass of whisky to the Landdrost[6], who came to examine the luggage and talk to the detective as gentlemen and on equal terms, presumably because they were respectably dressed and were first-class passengers. The detective did not prejudge them. I must not omit to mention that they were Europeans. The detective all the way through was sorry that he had to perform the unpleasant duty. May I plead for the same treatment in cases like that of the unfortunate boys? Instead of the cell they might have been given some other place to lie in. They might have been given clean blankets to lie on if the cell could not be avoided. The constables might have spoken to them kindly. Had this been done the case would never have come before the Magistrate.

I venture to take exception to the Superintendent’s statement that “these young upstarts elected to be locked up all night in preference to bail”. The reverse is the truth. They offered bail and it was refused during the night. The Magistrate was not pleased with this treatment. They renewed their request to be bailed out in the morning. The request of the second defendant was granted. The constable refused to bail out the first. Against his name was marked: “not to be released”. The book containing that remark was produced in the Court. Later, he was released at the instance of Inspector Benny, who promptly remedied the mistake as soon as he came to know of it.

With deference to the Superintendent, I beg to say that the first defendant did not defy the law. The Magistrate made no order; but he, in his fatherly and kind manner, suggested that I should advise him to get the Mayor’s Pass[7]. I submitted that such was not necessary but said that in deference to his suggestion I would do so. The defendant has now received a reply from the Town Clerk that the pass will not be issued to him, a clerk and Sunday School teacher, having never been charged with any criminal offence. If he is not fit to be out after 9 p.m. he cannot be fit to be a Sunday School Teacher. One would think that it is less dangerous for him to be out after nine than for him to be a Sunday School teacher who would mould the character of tender children. The Superintendent says that his force “has never interfered with the Arab merchants or other respectable coloured men at night”. Were not these two boys fit to be ranked among “other respectable coloured men”? I appeal to him, and entreat him to consider well whether he himself would have arrested these two boys. I say in his own words, “If his whole force were as considerate and amiable as himself there would be no difficulty.”

I think, in dealing with my “Open Letter”, you were kind enough to say that cases of real grievance will readily command your sympathy. Do you consider this case a real grievance? If you do, I ask your sympathy so that cases like the above may not occur again. I have found it difficult to ask respectable Indian youths who may care for my advice to take out passes from their masters. I have asked them to take out the Mayor’s pass of exemption. But since the first application has been refused, it has dampened the zeal of the others. If the public approve of such arrests the police may be induced to repeat them in spite of the Magistrate’s opinion to the contrary. The Press, therefore, by its opinion can either make it easier for apparently respectable Indians to take out the Mayor’s pass of exemption, or else almost impossible for the police to repeat such arrests. There is the recourse to a suit against the Corporation. But that is a recourse to be had in the last resort.

I am, etc.,

The Natal Mercury, 6-3-1896

3^ Mr. Waller, Police magistrate, dismissed the case on the ground that so long as a coloured man, found out of doors after 9 p.m. without a pass, told the police he was going home, it was sufficient answer to clear himself, as the law stated that only a coloured person found wandering between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a pass from his employer, or not giving a good account of himself, may be arrested.
4^  The constable laughed at him when the defendant gave his name as Samuel Richards.
5^ Head of St. Aidan's Mission, Durban, he supervised a small charitable hospital founded by Indians. In 1899, during the Boer War, Dr. Booth helped to train the Indian Ambulance Corps.
6^ South African judge, also inspector or officer
7^ Of exemption

Letter to C. Walsh (4-3-1896)[edit]

March 4, 1896


I beg to acknowledge your letter dated 27th ultimo in reply to the Memorial1 about the Nondweni Township Regulations, which I had the honour to forward to His Excellency the Governor of Zululand, conveying the information that the Regulations are a copy of the Eshowe Township Regulations which were published during His Excellency’s predecessor’s time.

Such being the case, I would, on behalf of the Memorialists, venture to request His Excellency to order the alteration or amendment to the Regulations with regard to both the Townships, so as to do away with the colour distinction. In any case I take the liberty to submit that the existence of similar Regulations for the Eshowe Township is, in my humble opinion, no justification for the Nondweni Township Regulations, regard being especially had to the events that are now happening concerning the position of the Indians as to property rights in other parts of South Africa.

I believe there are no such Regulations for the Melmoth Township.[9]

I beg, etc.,

Colonial Office Records No. 427, Vol. 24

8^ Vide "Memorial to Natal Governor", 26-2-1896.
9^ The request was turned down; vide "Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji", 7-3-1896.

Letter to Secretary for Zululand (6-3-1896)[edit]

March 6, 1896


May I enquire what led to the colour distinction being introduced in the Eshowe Township Regulations, seeing that none such exists with regard to the Melmoth Township Regulations, and also the date when the Melmoth Township Regulations were published?

I remain, etc.,


Colonial Office Records No. 427, Vol. 24

Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji (7-3-1896)[edit]

P.O. Box 66,

March 7, 1896



I venture to enclose herewith a cutting containing the Franchise Bill that the Ministry propose to introduce next session and a Press copy of my letter to the Chairman of the British Committee.[10]

The Governor of Zululand has refused to grant the request of the Memorialists regarding Nondweni. I am now preparing a Memorial[11] for the Home Government on the subject.

I beg to thank you for your letter about the Commando Memorial.

I remain,
Your obedient servant,

From a photostat : S.N. 2254

10^ Vide the following item.
11^ Vide "Memorial to J. Chamberlain", 11-3-1896.

Letter to W. Wedderburn (7-3-1896)[edit]

P. O. Box 66,

March 7, 1896



I venture to enclose herewith a cutting containing the Franchise Bill that the Government proposes to introduce during the next session of the Legislative Assembly of Natal in April. This Bill replaces the Act of 1894 against which a Memorial[12] was sent to the Government. It is said that this Bill has been approved of by Mr. Chamberlain. If so it would place the Indian community in a very awkward position. The newspapers seem to think that India has representative institutions and that therefore the Bill will not affect the Indians. At the same time there can be no doubt that the Bill is meant to affect the Indian community. It is our intention to oppose the Bill. But in the meantime a question in the House of Commons, in my humble opinion, may be very useful and give an insight into Mr. Chamberlain’s views. The Indian community will soon have to encroach upon your time and attention on other matters of pressing importance.

I beg to remain,
Your obedient servant,

From a photostat : S.N. 2280

12^ Vide "Petition to Natal Legislative Assembly", 28-6-1894.

Memorial to J. Chamberlain (11-3-1896)[edit]

March 11, 1896




Your Memorialists hereby venture to approach Her Majesty’s Government with regard to certain Rules and Regulations in connection with the Township of Nondweni, Zululand, published in the Natal Government Gazette dated the 25th February, 1896, in so far as the said Regulations affect the rights of Her Majesty’s Indian subjects to own or acquire property in the Township of Nondweni, as also with regard to similar Regulations for the Township of Eshowe in Zululand.

The portion of the Regulations affecting the British Indians is as follows:

Part of Section 4—Persons of European birth or descent intending to bid at any such sale (i.e., sale of erven) must give notice in writing at least twenty days prior to the date fixed for the sale to the Secretary for Zululand, etc.
Part of Section 18—Only persons of European birth or descent shall be approved of as occupiers of erven or sites. On failure of compliance with this condition any such sites or erven shall revert to the Government as in the preceding section hereof.
Part of Section 20—It shall be a distinct condition subject to which the erven or sites are sold, and which condition shall be inserted in every freehold title applied for and issued in terms of Sections 10, 11 and 13 of the Regulations, that at no time shall the owner of sites or erven in the Nondweni Township bought hereunder be at liberty either to sell or let such sites or erven or any portion thereof or to permit occupation of them or any portion thereof free of rent, to any other persons except those of European birth and descent, and in the event of the holder of such titledeed contravening such conditions and stipulations, any such sites or erven shall revert to the Government in terms and manner stated in Section 17 hereof.

The next day after the publication of the Gazette containing the Nondweni Regulations your Memorialists petitioned His Excellency the Governor of Zululand praying that the Regulations may be so altered or amended as to do away with the colour distinction therein.

In reply to the said Memorial[13] a copy whereof is annexed hereto, your Memorialists were informed that the Regulations were “the same as the Regulations in force for the Eshowe Township proclaimed by His Excellency’s predecessor on 28th September 1891”. Thereupon a request was made, on the 4th March, 1896, to the effect that both the Regulations should be altered or amended with regard to the British Indians.

A reply thereto was received on 5th March 1896, to the effect that the Governor did not feel justified in acting on the suggestion.

Your Memorialists confidently trust that the wrong inflicted upon the Indian community is so manifest that it has only to be brought to the notice of Her Majesty’s Government to be remedied. If such an invidious and, your Memorialists respectfully submit, unnecessary distinction cannot be permitted in self-governing colonies, much less should it be permitted in a Crown Colony.

Many of your Memorialists own property in Zululand. In the year 1889, when the Township of Melmoth was sold, the Indian community laid out nearly £2,000 in the purchase of erven in that Township.

Your Memorialists respectfully submit, it is absolutely necessary that the Indian community should be allowed to purchase land in Zululand freely, if only for the reason that they may be able to make their outlay of the £2,000 profitable.

Even the Government organ[14] in Natal considered the wrong so serious that, though as a rule hostile to the Indian aspirations, it viewed the Memorial to the Government of Zululand very favourably. The remarks are so apt that your Memorialists crave leave to quote them below:

Zululand is likely soon to have an Indian question all its own. The rules and regulations published in the Government Gazette last Tuesday for the disposal of erven in the newly-declared township of Nondwen include a number of sections which specially prevent all but persons of European birth or descent from purchasing property in the township, or even occupying any property in the township. The Indians, ever to the fore in such matters, have promptly sent a protest to the Governor against the promulgation of such rules and regulations, and seeing that Zululand is still a Crown Colony, and, therefore, more under the direct eyes of the Imperial authorities, we cannot very well see how such rules can be enforced when there is evidently so strong a disposition on the part of the Home Government to prevent the Franchise Law Amendment Bill passed in Natal from becoming law. From the protest presented by the Indians, we gather that some of them already own freehold property in Zululand, and, if this be the case, apart from any other reason, it seems to us the Memorialists have a cause for consideration. There may be some special provision as regards the occupation of land in the Zulu country which prohibits Indians from becoming property-holders, but still the fact remains that the territory is a Crown Colony, and this being so, it seems strange that rules and regulations can be made for that country which are not permitted in Natal, a responsibly- governed Colony.

So frequently do the colour distinctions creep in into the rules and regulations, laws and bye-laws published in various parts of South Africa, that it is impossible for the Indian community, consisting, as it does, chiefly of traders and artisans with a knowledge sufficient only for the requirements of trade and, in many cases, even without it, to keep itself informed of all the legislation affecting its rights and bring it to the notice of Her Majesty’s Government.

And things have come to such a pass that your Memorialists cannot expect redress from the local authorities, even in cases where the wrong complained of is a result of an oversight of the fundamental principles of the British Constitution, as in the present instance.

Your Memorialists fear that, if a Crown Colony can refuse property rights to a portion of Her Majesty’s subjects, the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State would in a greater measure be justified in doing likewise or even going further.

Your Memorialists submit that the existence of the colour distinction in the Regulations for Eshowe should not be a justification for similar Regulations for Nondweni. If those for Eshowe are bad, rather, your Memorialists submit, should both be altered and amended so as not to affect the just rights of the British Indian subjects.

Your Memorialists further venture to draw your attention to the fact that constant class legislation affecting Her Majesty’s Indian subjects not only causes a great deal of anxiety to the Indian community in South Africa, but the petitions that have to be frequently made to have such legislation altered cause a great deal of expense which the Indian community, by no means in an overprosperous condition can ill afford to incur, not to mention the fact that such a state of constant unrest and irritation seriously interferes with the business of the Indian community as a whole.

Nothing short of an enquiry into the position and status of the British Indians in South Africa, and a notification calling upon the authorities in South Africa to ensure the equality of treatment of Her Majesty’s Indian subjects with all the other British subjects will, in your Memorialists’ humble opinion, prevent the social and civil extinction of Her Majesty’s loyal and law-abiding Indian subjects.

Your Memorialists, therefore, humbly pray that Her Majesty’s Government will order alteration or amendment of the Eshowe and Nondweni Townships Regulations so as to remove the disabilities that they, in their present form, entail on Her Majesty’s Indian subjects, and further humbly suggest that orders may be issued forbidding future class legislation affecting them.

And for this act of justice and mercy, your Memorialists, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.[15]


From a photostat : S. N. 3620

13^  Vide "Memorial to Natal Governor", 26-2-1896.
14^ The reference is to The Natal Mercury ; vide "Memorial to J. Chamberlain" 11-8-1895.
15^ On April 10, in reply to a question by Mancherjee M. Bhawnaggree, in the House of Commons, Chamberlain promised to look into this memorial on receiving it. The Imperial Government ultimately removed the prohibition.

Letter to "The Natal Witness" (4-4-1896)[edit]

DURBAN,: April 4, 1896

The Natal Witness


I would be much obliged if you could find space for the following by way of answer to “G.W.W.”, who wrote to your under date 11th March last, and did me the honour to criticize my pamphlet[16] on the Indian franchise.

While I thank “G.W.W.” for the personal fairness he has shown me in his treatment of the pamphlet, I wish he had treated the subject matter of the “Appeal” as fairly. If he had read it with an unbiased mind, I think he would not have found any cause to differ from the views therein expressed. I have endeavoured to treat the subject from such a standpoint as would induce the European Colonists to extend ungrudgingly the hand of fellowship to the Indians without being elbowed out of their present position in so doing. I still maintain that there is no cause whatever for alarm, and if the European Colonists would only let the agitation die and consent to resume the status quo, they would find that their vote would not be swamped by the Indians. I further submit that, if ever such a contingency were to arise, it could be dealt with in anticipation, without the necessity of introducing colour distinction directly or indirectly. A real and reasonable educational test would perhaps for ever put a stop to the danger (if ever there be any) of the Indian vote swamping the European, and would, so far as possible, keep the Roll clear of the most objectionable European voters also, if any.

“G.W.W.” takes exception to the arguments drawn from the relative strength of the true votes and “calls attention to what the next year’s Roll may contain”. I beg to call his attention to the fact that, although the Indians had every opportunity to “swamp” the List last year and the year before last, and every incentive to do so because of the fear as to the result of the Franchise Act, now about to be repealed, there were no additions to the number of Indian voters. It must have been either extraordinary apathy or want of qualifications that could account for such a result, But it could not have been any such apathy, for the “Agitation” has been on foot for the last two years.

I, however, do not propose to examine “G.W.W.”’s letter in detail, for want of time and space, and will merely give the information he asks for, and apply it to the new Bill to be introduced during the forthcoming session.

Mr. Curzon, the then Under-Secretary of State for India, in moving the second reading of the India Councils Act (1861) Amendment Bill, said, among other things:

The object of the Bill, which it is my duty to expound to the House is to widen the basis and extend the function of the Government of India, to give further opportunity than at present exists to the non-official and the native element in Indian society to take part in the work of government and in this way to lend official recognition to that remarkable development, both in political industry and political capacity, which has been visible among the higher classes of Indian society since the Government of India was taken over by the Crown in 1858. This Bill is one to amend the Indian Councils Act of 1861. Legislative powers of some sort or other, but powers of a somewhat confused character and conflicting validity, have existed in India for a very long time. They existed with the rule of the old East India Company dating from the date of the Charters of the Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns; but the modern legislative system, under which India at present exists, owns its origin to the viceroyalty of Lord Canning and to the Secretaryship of State of Sir C. Wood, who was afterwards elevated to the peerage. Sir C. Wood, in 1861, carried through the House the India Councils Act of the year. . . . The Act of 1861 constituted three Legislative Councils in India—the Supreme Council of the Viceroy and the Provincial Councils of Madras and Bombay. The Supreme Legislative Council of the Viceroy consists of the Governor-General and his Executive Council, and is recruited by a minimum of six and a maximum of twelve additional members who are nominated by the Governor-General, of whom at least half must be non-official, whether they are drawn from the European or the native element. The Legislative Councils of Madras and Bombay are also recruited by a minimum of four and a maximum of eight additional members, who are nominated by the Provincial Governor, of whom at least half must be non-official. Since the passing of that Act, Legislative Councils have also been called into existence in Bengal and the North-West Provinces. In the case of Bengal, the Council consists of the Lieutenant-Governor and twelve nominated Councillors and, in the case of the North-West Provinces, of the Lieutenant-Governor and nine nominated councillors, of whom one-third in each case must be non-official. . . . A number of native gentlemen of intelligence and capacity and public spirit have been persuaded to come forward and to lend their services to the function of government, and undoubtedly the standard of merit of these Legislative Councils has stood high.

The Amending Act gives the right to discuss the Budget and the right of interpellation (rights hitherto not enjoyed). It also increases the number of members of the Council, and provides (vaguely) for a system of election. Of course, the Act is merely permissive.

According to the regulations issued under the above Act, out of eighteen seats for additional members for the Bombay Council, eight seats are filled by election. And the Corporation of Bombay (itself a representative body), such Municipal Corporations, or group or groups thereof, other than the Bombay Corporation, as the Governor-in-Council may from time to time prescribe, District Local Boards, or groups as above prescribed, the Sardars of the Deccan, or such other class of large landholders as above prescribed, associations of merchants, tradesmen or manufacturers, prescribed as above, and the Senate of the University of Bombay, have the power to elect those members by a majority of votes. Similar rules are published for the election by or “nomination on the recommendation of” the various representative bodies of the various provinces which have Legislative Councils.

There is no class or colour distinction as to the franchisee or the representatives elected. The member (Indian) for the Bombay Council in the Supreme Legislative Council having resigned, the candidates are Indians and a European. The result should be known by the next week’s mail.

I will only give one extract showing how this and municipal representation have been viewed by the most eminent men qualified to speak on such subjects with authority. Delivering a lecture before the Society of Arts, Sir William Wilson Hunter said on the 15th February, 1893.

The Indian Municipalities, to which our Chairman, Lord Ripon, gave so memorable an impulse, had under their administration in 1891 a population of 15,000,000 and of the 10,585 members who sat on their Boards or Councils, more than one-half were elected by the ratepayers. The representative principle is now being cautiously extended under Lord Cross’s Act of 1892 to the Legislative Councils both of the Supreme and Provincial Governments.

Portion of the Proclamation of 1858 runs:

We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects,. . . .and it is our further will that, so far as may be, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity duly to discharge.

Looking at the new Franchise Bill in the light of these facts, it is very difficult to understand it. The question before the Colonists is very simple. Is it necessary to disfranchise the Indian community? If it is, I submit that the proof of the fact that they enjoy representative institutions in India will not make it less so.[17] If it is not, why harass Indians by ambiguous legislation? If the answer to the question whether or not the Indians enjoy representative institutions in India is to decide the franchise question, I submit that the materials of knowledge about the subject are by no means so slender that the Colonists cannot decide the question now and for ever, without the necessity of an Act leaving it an open question to be decided hereafter in a Court of Law, involving a useless waste of money.

I am, etc.,

The Natal Witness, 17-4-1896

16^  Vide "The Indian Franchise", 16-12-1895.
17^  There was some discussion in the Natal Assembly on April 9 whether Indians had “representative institutions”. The Prime Minister's observation that they were not possessed of representative institutions “founded on the franchise” was considered inadequate. In draft Bill, the words “Parliamentary institutions” were substituted by “elective representative institutions”-words used in the Governor's address to the Assembly. The second reading of the Bill, which was to have been on April 22, was postponed for a break in order that relevant correspondence between the Colonial and Home Governments could be made available and assessed by them; vide The Early Phase, pp. 605-6

Memorial to Natal Legislative Assembly (27-4-1896)[edit]

April 27, 1896





Your Memorialists as representing and on behalf of the Indian community in Natal respectfully approach this Honourable House with regard to the Franchise Law Amendment Bill now before you for consideration.

Your Memorialists assume that the Bill is meant chiefly, if not solely, to affect the Indian community in that it repeals and replaces the Act 25 of 1894 which was intended to disfranchise the Indians in the Colony.

In the Memorial[18] that was presented to this Honourable House on behalf of the Indian community on the same subject when the Act 25 of 1894 was under consideration, it was contended that the Indians did possess elective representative institutions in India.

The present Bill disfranchises natives of countries, not being of European origin, which have not possessed elective representative institutions in their own native land.

The position of your Memorialists, therefore, is painfully awkward in opposing the present Bill.

Yet, seeing that the Bill tacitly proposes to deal with the Indian franchise, your Memorialists consider it to be their duty respectfully to express their views about the Bill and also to show further on what grounds they believe that the Indians possess elective representative institutions in India.

In moving the second reading of the “India Councils Act (1861) Amendment Bill” in the House of Commons on the 28th day of March, 1892, the then Under-Secretary of State for India, said:[19]

The Amending Act, besides increasing the number of nominated members in each Council, gives the power of discussing the financial statement every year and the power of “interpellation”.

It embodies the elective principle. The Legislative Councils have from their inception enjoyed the representative character. The honourable mover of the second reading, with reference to the increase of nominated members, said:

The object of this addition is very easily stated and will, I think, be very easily understood by the House. It is simply by expanding the area of selection, in which case you are adding to the strength of the representative character of the Councils.

But now these Councils, your Memorialists venture to submit, enjoy the representative character “founded on the franchise”.

Speaking on an Amendment by Mr. Schwann, M.P., to the Bill to the effect that “no reform of Councils that does not embody the elective principle will be satisfactory”, Mr. Curzon said:

I should like to point to him that our Bill does not necessarily exclude some such principle as the method of selection, election or delegation. With the permission of the House, I will read the words of the sub- section of Clause I. It runs as follows: The Governor-General-in-Council may from time to time on the approval of the Secretary of State-in-Council make regulations as to the conditions under which such nominations or any of them shall be made by the Governor-General, Governors and Lieutenant-Governors, respectively, and prescribe the manner in which such regulations shall be carried into effect. . . .”

Lord Kimberley[20] has expressed himself about that clause. He said:

I am bound to say that I express my whole satisfaction with regard to this elective principle.

The opinions expressed by Lord Kimberley are shared by the Secretary of State under this Act:

It would be in the power of the Viceroy to invite representative bodies in India to elect or select or delegate representatives of those bodies of their opinion to be nominated to these Councils and by elective measures

The Right Honourable Mr. Gladstone, speaking on the same subject, after explaining the speeches of the honourable mover of the Second Reading of the Bill and its amendment, said:

I think I may fairly say that the speech of the Under-Secretary appears to me to embody the elective principle in the only sense in which we should expect it to be embodied. . . It is evident that the great question—and it is one of great and profound interest—before the House is that of the introduction of the elective element into the Government of India. What I wish is that their first steps shall be of a genuine nature and that whatever scope they give to the elective principle shall be real; there is no difference of principle. I think that the acceptance of the elective principle by the honourable gentleman (Mr. Curzon) though guarded was not otherwise than a frank acceptance.

Turning to the Regulations made and published in accordance with the above Act, your Memorialists submit that the remarks herebefore quoted are fully borne out. To take the Bombay Legislative Council, for instance, out of the eighteen nominated members, eight are elected by, or as it is put in the Regulations, “nominated on the recommendation of” the various representative bodies which are enfranchised for the purpose of Legislative Councils. The Corporation of Bombay (itself an elective body), Municipal Corporations other than the Bombay Corporation in the Bombay Presidency prescribed by the Governor-in-Council, District Local Boards prescribed as above, the Sardars of the Deccan or other class of large landholders prescribed as above, associations of merchants, tradesmen, etc., prescribed as above, and the Senate of the University of Bombay recommend or elect these eight members by a majority of votes or in the case of associations not established by law in the manner laid down in their rules for carrying resolutions or recording decisions upon questions of business brought before such associations.

In the Sardars of the Deccan, this Honourable House will notice, there are even direct voters for the election of members of the Council.

The regulations for the other Councils are much the same.

Such is the character of the Legislative Councils in India and the political franchise. The difference, therefore, your Memorialists beg respectfully to point out, is not one of kind but of degree only. The reason is not because the Indians do not know or understand the representative principle. Your Memorialists cannot do better than quote again from the speech of the Right Honourable Mr. Gladstone, partly quoted above; he thus explained the reasons for the restrictive character of the elective principle:

Her Majesty’s Government ought to understand that it will be regarded as a most grave disappointment if, after all the assurances we have received that an attempt will be made to bring into operation this powerful engine of Government (i.e., the elective principle), there should not be some result such as we anticipate from their action. I do not speak of its amount, I speak more of its quality. In an Asiatic country like India, with its ancient civilization, with its institutions so peculiar, with such a diversity of races, religions and pursuits, with such an enormous extent of country, and such a multitude of human beings as probably except in China were never before under a single Government, I can understand that there should be difficulties in carrying out what we desire to see accomplished. But great as the difficulties are the task is a noble one, and will require the utmost prudence and care in conducting it to a successful consummation. All these things induce us to look forward cheerfully to a great future for India, and to expect that a real success will attend the genuine application, even though it may be a limited one, of the elective principle to the government of that vast and almost immeasurable country.

The opinion of those who are qualified to speak on Indian subjects seems to be unanimous as to the representative character of the Indian Councils.

Sir William Wilson Hunter, the greatest living authority on Indian subjects, says:

The representative principle is now being cautiously extended, under Lord Cross’s Act of 1892, to the Legislative Councils both of the Supreme and the Provincial Governments.

The Times, dealing with the Indian franchise in Natal, says:

The argument that the Indian in Natal cannot claim higher privileges than he enjoys in India and that he has no franchise whatever in India is inconsistent with the facts. The Indian has precisely the same franchise in India which the Englishman enjoys.

After dealing with the Municipal franchise the article goes on to say:

A similar principle applies, with the modification incidental to our system of government in India, to what may be called the Higher Electorate. The elected members of the Supreme and the Legislative Councils, which deal with 221 millions of British subjects are mainly elected by native bodies. Apart from the official representatives of Government in the Supreme and Provincial Legislatures about one-half the members are natives. It would be wrong to push this analogy too far. But it answers the argument against allowing British Indian subjects a vote in British Colonies on the ground that they have no vote in India. So far as government by voting exists in India, Englishmen and Indians stand on the same footing and, like in the Municipal, the Provincial and the Supreme Councils, the native interests are powerfully represented.

The Municipal franchise is very broad in India, and almost the whole of British India is studded by Municipal Corporations and Local Boards.

Speaking of the class of Indians already on the Voters’ Rolls in Natal, The Times article, referred to above, says:

It is precisely this class of men who form the most valued element in the municipal and other electorates in India. Throughout the 750 municipalities of India the British and the native voters have equal rights, and 9,790 Municipal Commissioners (Councillors) in 1891 were natives as against 839 Europeans. The European vote on the Indian Municipal Boards was therefore only one to 8 Indian votes, while in the Natal Electorate there are 37 European votes to one British Indian. . . . It must be remembered that Indian Municipalities administer a population of 15 millions and an expenditure of 50 million rupees.

As to the acquaintance of the Indian with the nature and responsibilities of representative institutions, the same article says:

There is probably no other country in the world in which representative institutions have penetrated so deeply into the life of the people. Every caste, every trade, every village in India had for ages its council of five which practically legislated for and conducted the administration of the little community which it represented. Until the introduction of the Parish Councils’ Act last year, there was no such rural system of self-administration even in England.

Mr. Schwann., M.P., on the same subject says:

Do not suppose that the question of election is a new one in India. . . . There is no question which is more specially Indian than the question of election. Most of our civilization has come from India. And there is not the slightest doubt that we ourselves are practising a development of the Eastern principle of election.

Under such circumstances the Indian community whom the Bill is intended to affect find it most difficult to understand it.

Your Memorialists submit that the vagueness and ambiguity of the Bill are very undesirable and fair neither to the European community nor the Indian. They leave both in a state of suspense which is painful to the latter.

Your Memorialists respectfully draw the attention of this Honourable House to the fact that according to the present Voters’ Roll, there is one Indian to every 38 Europeans, and that the Indian voters belong to the most respectable element in that community and are residents of long standing with large stakes in the Colony. It is said, however, that the present List is no guide to what proportions the Indian vote may assume in future. But the fact that, during the two years that the disfranchisement of the Indian community has been threatened, no more Indians have had their names placed on the Voters’ Roll, in your Memorialists’ humble opinion, sufficiently disposes of the argument.

The truth is, and your Memorialists venture to speak from personal experience, there are not very many Indians in the Colony who have got the legal property qualification, low as it is.

Your Memorialists respectfully submit that the Bill under discussion is open to more objections than one. In your Memorialists’ humble opinion, it introduces the colour distinction in a most invidious manner. For, while natives of other countries not enjoying elective representative institutions may not become voters, natives of the States of Europe, even though they may not enjoy such institutions in the countries they come from, may become voters under the General Franchise Law of the Colony.

It would make the sons of non-European women of questionable reputation eligible as voters so long as the father is a European, while it would prevent the son of a European lady of noble birth, should she choose to marry a nobleman belonging to a non-European race, from becoming a voter under the General Franchise Law of the Colony.

Assuming that the Indians come under the scope of the Bill, the method by which they may get themselves placed on the Voters’ Roll will be a source of constant irritation to the Indian community, and may give rise to a system of favouritism and cause serious dissensions among the members of the Indian community.

The Bill is moreover calculated to involve the Indian community in endless litigation in order to enable them to vindicate their rights, which your Memorialists think, are capable of definition without any recourse to the law-courts of the Colony.

Above all, it will transfer the agitation from the hands of the Europeans, who now wish to see the Indians disfranchised, into those of the Indian community. And the agitation, your Memorialists fear, has to be perpetual.

It is most humbly submitted that such a state of things is very undesirable in the interests of all the communities inhabiting this Colony.

Your Memorialists, after a careful investigation for over a year, have ventured to come to the conclusion that the fear about the Indian vote swamping the European is absolutely imaginary, and, therefore, fervently pray and venture to hope that this Honourable House, before assenting to any Bill specially restrictive of the Indian vote or directly or indirectly introducing any colour distinction, would institute an inquiry into the real state of affairs which would show how many resident Indians there are in this Colony who possess the legal property qualification necessary for being placed on the Voters’ Roll.And for this act of justice and mercy, your Memorialists, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc., etc.[21]


From a photostat of a printed copy : S. N. 980

18^  This was dated June 28, 1894.
19^ Not reproduced here. For the text of the speech, vide “Letter to “The Natal Witness", 4-4-1896.
20^ Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1894-5
21^ On the presentation of this petition the second reading of the Bill was put off by another week and completed only on May 6. On May 18, the Bill was committed to a joint committee of the Legislatures which then had its third reading. The Governor then forwarded the Bill to the Secretary of State for Colonies for securing the Royal assent. Vide The Early Phase, pp. 609-15.

Cable to J. Chamberlain (7-5-1896)[edit]


May 7, 1896


Colonial Office Records No. 179, Vol. 196

23^ Similar cables were sent to Wedderburn, Hunter and Dadabhai Naoroji. Writing on May 13, Hunter acknowledged the cable and promised “careful consideration on receipt of the Memorial". Hunter had interviewed Chamberlain a fortnight earlier and the latter had "expressed his sympathy but mentioned the difficulty of adding further elements of disturbance at the present moment to our complications in South Africa”. “Justice will be done'“ Hunter added, but “somewhat slowly”, as it was "mixed up in English opinion with the monotone of complaint made by the Indian Congress party. . . . “Hunter concluded with the advice: “You have only to take up your position strongly in order to be successful” (S.N. 948). He wrote again on May 22 that the Secretary of State for the Colonies had assured that the Memorial of the Natal Indians would receive his full consideration (S.N. 985).
24^ Acknowledging this cable, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote on May 21 that Wedderburn had passed on the cable to him on behalf of the British Committee; referring to his correspondence with Chamberlain on the subject he observed, "I am glad that your Memorial will be considered and no action or decision will be taken before it is received or considered" (S.N. 973).

Letter to Prime Minister (14-5-1896)[edit]

DURBAN,: May 14, 1896



You are reported to have said the following with reference to the Natal Indian Congress on the Second Reading of the Franchise Bill:

Members might not be aware that there was in this country a body, a very powerful body in its way, a very united body, though practically a secret body—he meant the Indian Congress.

May I venture to enquire if that portion of your speech is correctly reported, and if so, whether there are any grounds for the belief that the Congress is “practically a secret body”? I may be permitted to draw your attention to the fact that when the intention of forming such a body was made it was announced in the papers, that when it was actually formed its formation was noticed by the Witness, that the annual report and list of members and rules have been supplied to and commented upon by the Press, and that these papers have also been supplied to the Government by me in my capacity as Honorary Secretary to the Congress.[25]

I have the honour to remain,

Your obedient servant,

From a copy : S. N. 981

25^ On May 16, C. Bird replied to this letter: In answer to your letter to the Prime Minister of the 14th instant, respecting certain words reported as having been made use of by him, on the Second Reading of the Franchise Bill, with reference to the Natal Indian Congress, I am desired by Sir John Robinson to state that speaking of that Congress as practically a secret body he did so under the belief that meetings of the Congress are not open to the public and the Press. If the Prime Minister has been misinformed on this point, I am to state that he will be glad to be corrected on the subject (S.N. 981).

Letter to C. Bird (18-5-1896)[edit]


May 18, 1896



I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter 2837/96, dated the 16th instant, in reply to my letter to the Honourable the Prime Minister with reference to the Natal Indian Congress.

I beg to state with regard to the matter that the Congress meetings are held always with open doors, and they are open to the Press and public. Certain European gentlemen who, the Congress members thought, might be interested in the meetings, were specially invited. One gentleman did accept the invitation and attended Congress meetings. Uninvited European visitors also have attended the Congress meetings once or twice.

One of the Congress rules provides that Europeans may be invited to become Vice-Presidents. According thereto, two gentlemen were asked if they would accept the honour, but they were not disposed to do so. Minutes of the Congress proceedings are regularly kept.[26]

I beg to remain,


Your obedient servant,



From a copy : S. N. 983

26^ Referring to this letter, Sir John Robinson said in Parliament that he had no explanation to offer and furnished a gist of the correspondence.

Memorial to J. Chamberlain (22-5-1896) [edit]

Speech at Indians' Meeting (4-6-1896)[edit]

June 4, 1896[27]

After the presentation of an address, Mr. Gandhi, in acknowledging the kindness, said the occasion showed that whatever castes the Indians in Natal represented they were all in favour of being cemented in closer union. With regard to the objects of the Congress, he did not think any differences existed, else they would not have met as they had done to make its secretary a presentation. If this surmise were correct, he would repeat the request he made the other evening[28] urging the attendance of the Madras Indians at the Congress. Up to the present that attendance had not been satisfactory, but he hoped that henceforth, they would rally in greater numbers. He regretted his inability to speak Tamil, but was sure that what he said with reference to Madras Indians keeping aloof would not be construed into any reflection upon them or any other portion of the Indian community. The objects of the Congress they all knew. Those objects were not to be attained by mere talk, and he, therefore, asked them to show their interest in its common ends by deeds, not words. He would particularly impress upon the audience to send delegates to Maritzburg, Ladysmith and other centres, where Indians of every class resided, and who were not yet represented at the Congress, and endeavour to get them to become members.

The Natal Advertiser, 5-6-1896

27^ A day before Gandhiji sailed for India, the Tamil and Gujarati Indians of Durban along with other communities met at the Natal Indian Congress Hall for the purpose of recognizing his service and presented to him an address. The attendance was large and much enthusiasm prevailed. Dada Abdulla presided.

28^ This refers to an earlier meeting of June 2, where he was presented an address on behalf of the Natal Indian Congress. A report of this meeting or of his speech, however, is not available.

Interview to "The Natal Advertiser" (4-6-1896)[edit]

[June 4, 1896][29]

In reply to various questions Mr. Gandhi said the present membership of the Congress was 300. The annual subscription was £3, payable in advance. The Congress aimed at enrolling members who were not only able to pay their subscriptions, but who would also work for the objects of the Congress. They wanted to collect a large fund which would be invested in property so that a permanent income might be available to carry on the objects of the Congress.

“What are these objects?” asked the interviewer.

They are of twofold character—political and educational. As to the educational part, we want to teach the Indians born in the Colony by inducing them with the offer of scholarships to study all subjects pertaining to their welfare as a community, including Indian and Colonial history, temperance, etc.

Is there any other qualification for membership in the Congress?

Yes, one is that members should be able to read, write and speak English, but this condition has not been strictly enforced of late.

Financially how does the Congress stand?

There is a balance in hand of £194, and it possesses, besides, a property in Umgeni Road. I want the members to raise this balance to £1,100, during my absence, and see no reason why it should not be done. This would do much to make it a permanent institution.

What is the attitude of the Congress politically?

It does not want to exercise any strong political influence, the present object being to ensure that the promises made in the Proclamation of 1858 are fulfilled. When the Indians enjoy the same status in the Colony as they do in India, the Congress will have attained its end politically. It has no intention to become a political force to swamp any other party.

What is the number of Indian voters in the Colony?

There are only 251 on the Voters’ Roll, as against 9,309 Europeans. Of the former 143 are in Durban, and the Congress could not put forward more than 200 more in its best efforts. The end of its ambition, as I said, is an equal status with the Europeans, and we don’t object to any qualification that may be required. We are even willing that the property qualifications should be increased so long as it applies equally.

What will your future programme be?

What it has always been. The Congress will continue to ventilate the grievances of the Indian community by the publication of literature throughout the Colony, in India and England, and to write to the newspapers on any Indian questions as they come prominently before the public, and to collect funds for its propaganda. Hitherto the Congress has not invited the Press to any of its meetings, but it has now been decided to do this occasionally, and furnish it with information concerning its efforts. The Congress first wished to be assured of a permanent existence before it invited the Press to its meetings. There is one matter I would like to correct. The address presented to me stated that the various objects of the Congress had been fulfilled. That was not so. They were under consideration, and the Congress would continue to work for their attainment by every legitimate means, and it will resist any attempt to introduce colour distinctions in the legislation for the Indian community; for these, if introduced, might be used in other Colonies, and other parts of the world.

The Natal Advertiser, 5-6-1896

29^ On the eve of Gandhiji's departure for India a reporter of The Natal Advertiser called upon him to ascertain his view on the state of Indian affairs then prevailing in the Colony generally.

The Credentials (26-5-1896) [edit]

The Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa: An Appeal to the Indian Public (14-8-1896)[edit]

Notes on the Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa (22-9-1896)[edit]

Speech at Public Meeting, Bombay (26-9-1896)[edit]

September 26, 1896[30]

I stand before you, today, as representing the signatories to this document[31], who pose as representative of the 100,000 British Indians at present residing in South Africa—a country which has sprung into sudden prominence owing to the vast gold fields of Johannesburg and the late Jameson Raid[32]. This is my sole qualification. I am a person of few words. The cause, however, for which I am to plead before you this evening is so great that I venture to think that you will overlook the faults of the speaker or, rather, the reader of this paper. The interests of 100,000 Indians are closely bound up with the interests of the 300 millions of India. The question of the grievances of the Indians in South Africa affects the future well-being and the future immigration of Indians of India. I, therefore, humbly venture to think that this question should be, if it is not already, one of the questions of the day in India. With these preliminary remarks, I shall now place before you, as shortly as possible, the whole position of affairs in South Africa as affecting the British Indians in that country. South Africa, for our present purposes, is divided into the following States: the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, the British Colony of Natal, the British Colony of Zululand, the Transvaal or the South African Republic, the Orange Free State, the Chartered Territories or Rhodesia, and the Portuguese Territories of Delagoa Bay and Beira.

In South Africa, apart from the Portuguese Territories, there are nearly 100,000 Indians, of whom the greater part belong to the labouring class, drawn from the labouring population of Madras and Bengal, speaking the Tamil or Telugu and the Hindi languages respectively. A small number belongs to the trading class, chiefly drawn from the Bombay Presidency. A general feeling throughout South Africa is that of hatred towards Indian, encouraged by the newspapers and connived at, even countenanced by, the legislators. Every Indian, without exception, is a coolie in the estimation of the general body of the Europeans. Storekeepers are “coolie storekeepers”. Indian clerks and schoolmasters are “coolie clerks” and “coolie schoolmasters”. Naturally, neither the traders nor the English-educated Indians are treated with any degree of respect. Wealth and abilities in an Indian count for naught in that country except to serve the interests of the European Colonists. We are the “Asian dirt to be heartily cursed”. We are “squalid coolies with truthless tongues”. We are “the real canker that is eating into the very vitals of the community”. We are “parasites, semi-barbarous Asiatics”. We “live upon rice and we are chock-full of vice”. Statutebooks describe the Indians as belonging to the “aboriginal or semibarbarous races of Asia”, while, as a matter of fact, there is hardly one Indian in South Africa belonging to the aboriginal stock. The Santhals of Assam will be as useless in South Africa as the natives of that country. The Pretoria Chamber of Commerce thinks that our religion teaches us to “consider all women as soulless and Christians a natural prey”. According to the same authority, “the whole community in South Africa is exposed to the dangers engendered by the filthy habits and immoral practices of these people.” Yet, as a matter of fact, there has happened not a single case of leprosy amongst the Indians in South Africa. And Dr. Veale of Pretoria thinks that “the lowest class Indians live better and in better habitations and with more regard to sanitation than the lowest class Whites”, and he, furthermore, puts on record that “while every nationality had one or more of its members at some time in the lazaretto, there was not a single Indian attacked.”

In most parts of South Africa, we may not stir out of our houses after 9 p.m.— unless we are armed with passes from our employer. An exception, however, is made in favour of those Indians who wear the memon costume. Hotels shut their doors against us. We cannot make use of the tram-cars unmolested. The coaches are not for us. Between Barberton and Pretoria in the Transvaal, and Johannesburg and Charlestown, when the latter were not connected by railway, the Indians, as a rule, are and were not allowed to sit inside the coaches, but are and were compelled to take their seats by the side of the driver. This, on a frosty morning in the Transvaal, where winter is very severe, is a sore trial apart from the indignity which it involves. The coach-travelling involves long journeys and, at stated intervals, accommodation and food are provided for passengers. No Indian is allowed accommodation or a seat at the dining table in these places. At the most, he can purchase food from behind the kitchen-room and manage the best way he can. Instances of untold miseries suffered by the Indians can be quoted by hundreds. Public baths are not for the Indians. The high schools are not open to the Indians. A fortnight before I left Natal, an Indian student applied for admission to the Durban High School and his application was rejected. Even the primary schools are not quite open to the Indians. An Indian Missionary schoolmaster was driven out of an English Church in Verulam, a small village in Natal. The Government of Natal have been pining to hold a “coolie conference”, as it has been officially called, in order to secure uniformity in Indian legislation throughout South Africa, and in order to present a united front against the blandishments of the Home Government on behalf of the Indian. Such is the general feeling against the Indian in South Africa, except the Portuguese Territories, where he is respected and has no grievance apart from the general population. You can easily imagine how difficult it must be for a respectable Indian to exist in such a country.

I am sure, gentlemen, that if our President went to South Africa, he would find it, to use a colloquial phrase, “mighty hard” to secure accommodation in a hotel, and he would not feel very comfortable in a first-class railway carriage in Natal, and, after reaching Volksrust, he would be put out unceremoniously from his first-class compartment and accommodated in a tin compartment where Kaffirs are packed like sheep. I may, however, assure him that if he ever came to South Africa, and we wish our great men did come to these uncomfortable quarters, if only to see and realize the plight in which their fellowcountrymen are, we shall more than make up for these inconveniences, which we cannot help, by according him a right royal welcome, so united, so enthusiastic we are, at any rate for the present.

Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness. The aim of the Christian Governments, so we read, is to raise people whom they come in contact with or whom they control. It is otherwise in South Africa. There, the deliberately expressed object is not to allow the Indian to rise higher in the scale of civilization but to lower him to the position of the Kaffir; in the words of the Attorney-General of Natal, “to keep him for ever a hewer of wood and drawer of water”, “not to let him form part of the future South African nation that is going to be built”; in the words of another legislator in Natal, “to make the Indian’s life more comfortable in his native land than in the Colony of Natal”. The struggle against such degradation is so severe that our whole energy is spent in resistance. Consequently, we have very little left in us to attempt to make any reforms from within.

I must now come to the particular States and show how the Governments in the different States have combined with the masses to persecute the Indians to make “the British Indian an impossibility”.

The Colony of Natal, which is a self-governing British Colony with a Legislative Assembly consisting of 37 members elected by the voters, and a Legislative Council consisting of twelve members nominated by the Governor, who comes from England as the Queen’s representative, has a European population of 50,000, a native or Zulu population of 400,000, and an Indian population of 51,000. Assisted immigration of Indians was decided upon in 1860, when, in the words of a member of the Legislative Assembly of Natal, “the progress and almost the existence of the Colony hung in the balance”, and when the Zulu was found to be too indolent to work. Now the chief industries and sanitation of the whole Colony of Natal are entirely dependent upon the Indian labour. The Indians have made Natal “the garden of South Africa”. In the words of another eminent Natalian, “Indian immigration brought prosperity, prices rose, people were no longer content to grow or sell produce for a song”. Of the 51,000 Indians, 30,000 are those that have served out their indenture and are now variously engaged as free labourers, gardeners, hawkers, fruiterers, or petty traders. A few have, also, by their industry, educated themselves into fitness for the posts of schoolmasters, interpreters and general clerks in spite of adverse circumstances; 16,000 are at present serving their indenture, and about 5,000 are traders and merchants or their assistants who came first on their own means. These latter belong to the Bombay Presidency and most of them are Memon Mahomedans. A few are Parsees also, notable among whom is Mr. Rustomjee of Durban, who in his generosity would do credit to Sir Dinshaw[33]. No poor man goes to his doors without having his inner man satisfied. No Parsee lands on the Durban shores but is sumptuously treated by Mr. Rustomjee. And even he is not free from molestation. Even he is a coolie. Two gentlemen are ship-owners and large landed proprietors. But they are coolie ship-owners and their ships are called “coolie ships”. Apart from the common interest that every Indian feels in every other Indian, the three chief Presidencies are specially interested in this question. If the Bombay Presidency has not sent an equally large number of her sons to South Africa, she makes up for that by the greater influence and wealth of her sons who have really constituted themselves the guardians of the interests of their less fortunate brethren from the sister Presidencies. And it may be that in India also Bombay will lead in endeavouring to help the Indians in South Africa out of their hardships.[34]

The preamble of the Bill of 1894 stated that Asiatics were not accustomed to representative institutions. The real object of the Bill, however, was not to disfranchise Indian because they were not fit, but because the European Colonists wanted to degrade the Indians and to assert their right to enter into class legislation, to accord a treatment to the Indians different from that accorded to the Europeans. This was patent not only from the speeches made by the members on the second reading of the Bill but also from the newspapers. They also said it was expedient to disfranchise the Indian under the plea that the Indian vote might swamp the European. But even this plea is and was untenable. In 1891, there were only 251 Indian voters as against nearly 10,000 European voters. The majority of Indians are too poor to command property qualifications. And the Indians in Natal have never meddled in politics and do not want political power. All these facts are admitted by The Natal Mercury, which is the Government organ in Natal. I must refer you to my little pamphlet[35] published in India for corroborative extracts. We memorialized the local Parliament and showed that the Indians were not unacquainted with the representative institutions. We were, however, unsuccessful. We then memorialized Lord Ripon, the then Secretary of State of the Colonies. After two years’ correspondence, the Bill of 1894 was withdrawn this year and has been replaced by another which, while not so bad as the once repealed, is bad enough. It provides that “the natives or descendants, in the male line, of natives of countries which have not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise, shall not be placed on any Voters’ List unless they shall first obtain an order from the Governor-in-Council exempting them from the operation of the Act.” It also exempts from its operation those persons that are rightly contained in any Voters’ List. This Bill was submitted to Mr. Chamberlain for approval before being introduced in the Legislative Assembly. In the papers published, Mr. Chamberlain seems to be of opinion that India does not possess elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise. With the greatest deference to these views, we submitted to Mr. Chamberlain in a memorial, for we did not succeed before the Natal Parliament, that for the purposes of the Bill, that is, legally speaking, India did and does possess elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise. Such is the opinion expressed by the London Times, such is the opinion of the newspapers in Natal and such is also the opinion of the members who voted for the Bill, as also of an able jurist in Natal. We are very anxious to know the opinion of the legal luminaries here. The object in passing such a Bill is to play a game of ‘Toss up’ to harass the Indian community. Many members of the Natal Assembly, otherwise hostile to the Indian, thought that the Bill would involve the Indian community in endless litigation and cause a ferment among them.

The Government organ says in effect: “We can have this Bill and no other. If we succeed, that is, if India is declared a country not possessing the institutions referred to in the Bill, well and good. If not, then, too, we lose nothing. We shall try another, we shall raise the property qualification and impose an educational test. If such a Bill is objected to, even then we need not be afraid, for, where is the cause? We know that the Indians can never swamp us.” If I had the time, I could give you the exact words which are much stronger. Those who take a special interest can look them up from the Green Pamphlet. Thus, then, we are a proper subject for vivisection under their Natal Pasteur’s deadly scalpel and knife. The only difference is that the Paris Pasteur did it with a view to do good. Our Natal Pasteur does it for the sake of amusement to be derived from the operation out of sheer wantonness. This memorial is now under consideration by Mr. Chamberlain.

I cannot lay too much stress on the fact that the position in India is entirely different from the position in Natal. Eminent men in India have asked me the question, “Why do you want the franchise in Natal when you have only a visionary franchise in India, if, at all?”

Our humble reply is that in Natal it is not we who want the franchise, it is the Europeans who want to deprive us of the right we have been enjoying in Natal. That makes all the difference. The deprivation will involve degradation. There is no such thing in India. The representative institutions in India are slowly, but surely, being liberalized. Such institutions are being gradually closed against us in Natal. Again, as the London Times puts it, “The Indian in India has precisely the same franchise as the Englishman enjoys.” Not so in Natal. What is sauce for the European goose is not sauce for the Indian gander there. Moreover, the disfranchising in Natal is not a political move but a merely commercial policy—a policy adopted to check the immigration of the respectable Indian. Being a British subject, he should be able to claim the same privileges as the other British subjects enjoy in a certain British State or Colony, just as an Indian going to England would be able to avail himself of the institutions of England to as full an extent as any Englishman. The fact, however, is that there is no fear of the Indian vote swamping the European; what they want is class legislation. The class legislation with regard to franchise is only the thin end of the wedge. They contemplate depriving the Indians of the Municipal franchise also. A statement to that effect was made by the Attorney-General, in reply to the suggestion made by a member that the Indians should be deprived of the municipal franchise, too, at the time the first Franchise Bill was introduced. Another member suggested that, while they were dealing with the Indian question, Civil Service in the Colony should be closed to the Indians.

In the Cape Colony also, which has a Government exactly similar to Natal’s, the condition of the Indians is growing worse. Lately, the Cape Parliament has passed a Bill which authorizes the East London Municipality to frame bye-laws prohibiting Indians from walking on the footpaths and compelling them to live in specific locations which, as a rule, are unhealthy swamps unfit for human habitation and certainly useless for purposes of trade. In Zululand, a Crown Colony and, therefore, directly under the control of the Home Government, regulations have been passed with regard to the townships of Nondweni and Eshowe to the effect that the Indians cannot own or acquire land in those townships, although, in that of Melmoth in the same country, the Indians own property worth £2,000. In the Transvaal, which is a Dutch Republic, the seat of the Jameson Raid and the El Dorado of the gold-hunters of the Western World, there are over 5,000 Indians, many of whom are merchants and storekeepers. Others are hawkers, waiters and household servants. The Convention[36] between the Home Government and the Transvaal Government secures the trading and property rights of “all persons other than natives” and under it the Indians were trading freely up to 1885. In that year, however, after some correspondence with the Home Government, the Transvaal Volksraad passed a law which took away from the Indians the right of trading, except in specified locations, and owning landed property, and imposed a registration fee of £3 on every Indian intending to settle in that country. I must again beg to refer the curious to the Green Pamphlet for the whole history of the protracted negotiations which culminated in the matter being entrusted to an arbitrator. The decision of the arbitrator being virtually against the Indians, a memorial was addressed to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with the result that the award of the arbitrator has been accepted, though the justice of the complaint of the Indians has been fully admitted. The system of passes prevails in the Transvaal in a very cruel form. While, in other parts of South Africa, it is the railway officials who make the lot of the 1st and 2nd class passengers on the railway intolerable, the Transvaal people have gone one better in that there the law prohibits the Indians from travelling 1st or 2nd class. They are, irrespective of position, huddled together in the same compartment with the natives of South Africa. The Gold Mining laws make it criminal for the Indians to buy native gold. And if the Transvaal Government are allowed to have their own way, they would, while treating them as mere chattels, compel the Indians to render military service. The thing is monstrous on the face of it, for, as the London Times puts it, “we might now see a levy of British Indian subjects driven at the point of the Transvaal bayonets against the bayonets of British troops.” The Orange Free State, the other Dutch Republic in South Africa, beats the record in showing its hatred towards Indians. It has, to put it in the words of its chief organ, simply made the “British Indian an impossibility by classing him with the Kaffir”. It denies the Indian the right not only to trade, farm or own landed property, but even to reside there, except under special, insulting circumstances.

Such, very shortly, is the position of the Indians in the various States in South Africa. The same Indian, who is so much hated in the various States above mentioned, is very much liked and respected only 300 miles from Natal, i.e., in Delagoa Bay. 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 editorship of the prince of South African journalists, Mr. St. Leger:

It is the position of these merchants which is productive of no little hostility to this day. And, it is in considering their position that their rivals in trade have sough 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 natives (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 1889, when the above was written, it is doubly so now, because the Legislatures of South Africa have shown phenomenal activity in passing measures restricting the liberty of the Queen’s Indian subjects.

To stem the tide of this opposition against us, we have formed an organization[37] on an humble scale so that we may take the necessary steps to have our grievances removed. We believe that much of the illfeeling is due to want of proper knowledge about the Indians in India. We, therefore, endeavour, so far as the populace is concerned, to educate public opinion by imparting the necessary information. With regard to the legal disabilities, we have tried to influence the English public opinion in England and the public opinion here by placing our position before it. As you know, both the Conservatives and the Liberals have supported us in England without distinction. The London Times has given eight leading articles to our cause in a very sympathetic spirit.[38] This alone has raised us a step higher in the estimation of the Europeans in South Africa, and has considerably affected for the better the tone of the newspapers there.

I may state our position a little more clearly as to our demands. We are aware that the insults and indignities, that we are subjected to at the hands of the populace, cannot be directly removed by the intervention of the Home Government. We do not appeal to it for any such intervention. We bring them to the notice of the public, so that the fair-minded of all communities and the Press may, by 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 against reproduction of such ill-feeling in Colonial 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 such 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 not a self-governing or responsibly governed Colony as the Colonies of Natal and the Cape of Good Hope are. With regard to the latter, Clause 7 of the Constitution Act of Natal enacts 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 Royal instructions to the Governor enumerate certain Bills which cannot be assented to by the Governor without Her Majesty’s previous sanction. Among such are Bills which have for their object class legislation. I shall venture to give an instance in point. The Immigration Law Amendment Bill referred to above has been assented to by the Governor, but it can come into force only after her Majesty has sanctioned it. It has not yet been sanctioned. Thus, then, it will be noticed that Her Majesty’s intervention is direct and precise. While it is true that the Home Government is slow to interfere with the Acts of the Colonial Legislatures, there are instances where it has not hesitated to put its foot down on occasions less urgent then the present one. As you are aware, the repeal of the first Franchise Bill was due to such wholesome intervention. What is more, Colonists are ever afraid of it. And as a result of the sympathy expressed in England and the sympathetic answer given by Mr. Chamberlain to the deputation that waited on him some months ago, most of the papers in South Africa, at any rate in Natal, have veered round or think that the Immigration and other such Bills will not receive the Royal assent. As to the Transvaal there is the Convention. As to the Orange Free State, I can only say that it is an unfriendly act on the part of a friendly State to shut her doors against any portion of Her Majesty’s subjects. And as such, I humbly think it can be effectively checked.

Gentlemen, the latest advice from South Africa show that the Europeans there are actively canvassing the ruin of the Indians. They are agitating against the introduction of Indian artisans and what not.[39] All this should serve as a warning and an impetus. We are hemmed in on all sides in South Africa. We are yet infants. We have a right to appeal to you for protection. We place our position before you, and now the responsibility will rest to a very great extent on your shoulders, if the yoke of oppression is not removed from our necks. Being under it we can only cry out in anguish. It is for you, our elder and freer brethren, to remove it. I am sure we shall not have cried out in vain.

The Times of India, 27-9-1896, and Bombay Gazette, 27-9-1896

30^ The meeting was held under the auspices of the Bombay Presidency Association at the Framji Cowasji Institute. Sir Pherozeshah Mehta presided. The printed text no longer being available, what follows has been collated from the reports of the speech published in The Times of India and Bombay Gazette.
31^ The reference is to “The Credentials”.
32^ So called after Leander Starr Jameson who led it, it was actually inspired byvRhodes, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, and had the tacit support, in the initial stages, of the British Government. Jameson led the raid into the Transvaal on December 29, 1895, and four days later surrendered. The Jameson raid was among the incidents that led to the Boer War.
33^ The reference is to Sir Dinshaw M. Petit.
34^ The Bombay Presidency Association later forwarded a memorial to the Secretary of State for India, calling for redress of the grievances of the South African Indians.
35^ The Green Pamphlet
36^ The London Convention of 1884
37^ The Natal Indian Congress
38^ Vide “Application for Enrolment as Advocate”, 16-11-1891
39^ The Europeans held mass meetings in Durban and protested against the Indian Immigration Trust Board’s decision to permit the importation of Indian artisans to work on the Tongaat Sugar Estates in Natal. A ‘European Protection Association’ and a ‘Colonial Patriotic Union’ were set up to resist what was described as the ‘Asiatic Invasion’.

Letter to F. S. Taleyarkhan (10-10-1896)[edit]


October 10, 1896[40]


I am sure you would be good enough to excuse me for my inability to write to you earlier and send you the names of the chief men of South Africa. The reason is that I have been very busy with domestic business. I am writing this at midnight.

I leave for Madras by tomorrow evening’s Mail (Sunday). I expect to stay there not more than a fortnight. If I am successful there I would thence proceed to Calcutta and return to Bombay within a month from today. I would then take the first boat to Natal.

The latest papers received from Natal show that there is still such fight ahead. And that alone is sufficient to absorb the attention of two men of your activity if full justice is to be done to the cause. I sincerely hope that you will be able to see your way clear to join me in Natal. I am sure it is a cause worth fighting for.

If you wish to write to me you may write to me at the above address and your letters will be redirected to me at Madras. I do not know at which hotel I shall put up there. The Natal hotels have made me quite nervous.

I remain,

Yours truly,


From the original. Courtesy : R.F.S. Taleyarkhan

40^  The source has 10-8-1896, obviously a slip, for Gandhiji mentions his plan to leave for Madras "by tomorrow evening's mail (Sunday)". He left for Madras on October 11, which was a Sunday.

41^ A Bombay pleader who had been called to the bar in the same year as Gandhiji and had returned to India in the same steamer with him.

A Letter (16-10-1896)[edit]


October 16, 1896


I beg to send per book-post the draft memorial with appendices. I am sorry I could not get it ready last Saturday. I am more sorry because it is not written in a nice hand. That I could not very well help.

Of course it will depend upon the Hon’ble Mr. Mehta whether the accompanying Memorial or rather letter or a simple covering letter is sent.

In any case I beg to draw your attention to the fact that the first Franchise memorial, the Immigration Law Amendment memorial and the Transvaal Arbitration memorial have been disposed of. The commandos, the Zululand and the 2nd Franchise memorials are still engaging Mr. Chamberlain’s attention. The grievances in the Orange Free State and the Cape Colony as well as the 9 o’clock rules and the pass law in both the Transvaal and the colony of Natal and the railway law and the foot-path bye-law have not been yet made the subject of a memorial. And these are matters to which the attention of the Home Government in my humble opinion ought to be drawn.

I beg to thank you for the letters you sent me through the Editor of the Madras Standard.

I remain,

Yours faithfully,


From the original : Pherozeshah Mehta Papers. Courtesy : Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

Letter to "The Times of India" (17-10-1896)[edit]

October 17, 1896

The Times of India


I shall be obliged to you if you will be good enough to find space for the following in your influential paper.

The Natal Agent-General has, it appears, told Reuter, with reference to my pamphlet on the grievances of the British Indians in South Africa, that it is not true to say that the railway and tramway officials treat the Indians as beasts, that the fact that the indentured Indians do not avail themselves of the return passage is the best answer to my pamphlet, and that the Indians are not denied justice in the lawcourts. In the first place, the pamphlet deals with the grievances of the Indians in the whole of South Africa. In the second place, I adhere to the statement that the railway and tram-car official treat the Indians as beasts in Natal. If there are exceptions, they prove the rule. I have been witness myself to not a few such cases. What is it if it is not being treated as a beast, to be removed three times during a single night journey from one compartment to another, to suit European passengers? To see Indians, apparently respectable, kicked, pushed, and sworn at by the station-master is not an extraordinary sight on the railway stations. The Western station in Durban is the dread of the Indians, so over-polite is the station-master at that station, and this is not the only station where the Indians are kicked about like footballs. Here is an independent testimony from The Natal Mercury (24-11-’93) :

On our railway, we have noticed on more than one occasion that coloured passengers are not by any means killed with civility; and, although it would be unreasonable to expect that the White employees of the N.G.R. should treat them with the same deference as is accorded to European passengers, still, we think it would be in no way derogatory to their dignity if the officials were a little more suaviter in modo when dealing with the coloured travellers.

On the tram-cars the Indians fare no better. Spotlessly dressed and well-behaved Indians have been pushed about from one place to another to suit the fancy of European passengers. Indeed, as a rule, the tram-car officials compel “Sammy” to go “upstairs”. Some would not allow them to take front seats. Respect is out of the question. An Indian official was compelled to stand on the tram-car board, although there was ample room to accommodate him. Of course, he was addressed as “Sammy” in the peculiarly offensive tone prevalent in Natal.

My statement has been before the public in Natal for the last two years, and the first contradiction comes now from the Agent-General! Why so late? As to the unwillingness of the Indians to avail themselves of the return passage, I beg to say, with due deference to the Agent-General, that the statement has been repeated ad nauseam in the Press, and the official dignity now given to it will not enable it to prove more than it actually can. At the most it can prove that the lot of the indentured Indian cannot be very unhappy; and that Natal is a very good place for such Indians to earn their livelihood. I am prepared to admit both. That does not, moreover, disprove the existence of the Colonial legislation restricting the freedom of the Indians in various ways. That does not disprove the existence of the terrible ill-feeling towards the Indians in the Colony. If the Indians remain in Natal, it is in spite of such treatment. It proves their marvellous forbearance, which has been so eloquently praised by Mr. Chamberlain in his despatch in connection with, to use a South African phrase, “the coolie arbitration”.

The latest papers received from South Africa, unfortunately for the Natal Government, lend additional weight to my statement that the Indian is a cruelly persecuted being in South Africa. In August last, there was a meeting of European artisans, held to protest against the intended introduction of Indian artisans. The speeches made would form interesting reading for the Agent-General of Natal. The Indians were called “black vermin”. A voice in the meeting said, “We will go to the Point and stop them.” A picnic party of European children used Indian and Kaffir boys as targets and shot bullets into their faces, hurting several inoffensive children. So deep-seated is the hatred that children have begun instinctively to look down upon Indians. Moreover, it should be remembered that the return passage story has nothing to do with the trading class, who go to Natal on their own account, and who feel the hardships the most. The thing is, one fact is stronger than a hundred statements of belief. And the pamphlet contains very little of my own. It bristles with facts. Mainly taken from European sources, to prove my assertion as against the naked statement of Mr. Peace the Agent-General’s opinion. If Mr. Peace’s statement is all that is to be said in reply to the pamphlet, then there remains much to be done before Natal can become a tolerably comfortable place for Indians. As to the Indians receiving justice in the law-courts, I do not wish to say much. I have never stated that the Indians do not get justice in the law-courts, nor am I prepared to admit that they get it at all times and in all courts.

Sir, I am not given to exaggerate matters. You have asked for an official inquiry; we have done the same. And if the Natal Government are not afraid of unpleasant revelations, let there be such an inquiry as soon as possible. And I think I am safe in promising that much more will be proved than is mentioned in the pamphlet. I have given therein only those instances which can be proved most easily. Sir, our position is very precarious, and we will need your active support, which has been so liberally given to us till now, yet for a long time to come. The Immigration Law Amendment Bill, which you and your contemporaries condemned last year in such forcible language, has received the Royal assent, as appears from the papers received this week. To remind your readers, the Bill raises the period of indenture from the original period of five years to an indefinite period and, in default of re-indenture after the completion of the first five years, makes it compulsory for the Indian to return to India, of course, at the employer’s expense, and, in case of non-compliance with that term of his contract, renders the defaulter liable to an annual poll-tax of £3, nearly half a year’s earnings on the indenture scale. This Bill was, at the time it was passed, unanimously pronounced to be an iniquitous measure. Even the Natal papers were doubtful whether the Bill would receive the Royal sanction. Yet the Bill has been promulgated and it came into force on the 8th August.

Publicity is our best and perhaps the only weapon of defence. “Our grievances,” says one of our sympathizers, “are so serious that they have only to be known in order to be removed.” I have now to beseech you and your contemporaries to express your opinion with regard to this action on the part of the Colonial Secretary. The Colonial Office, we thought, was our safe resting-place. We may yet have to be undeceived. We have prayed for suspension of State-aided immigration to Natal if the Bill could not be vetoed.[42] That prayer has been supported by the public. May we now rely upon the public to renew their support in our fresh efforts to have that prayer granted?

Yours, etc.,


The Times of India, 20-10-1896

42[42]Vide “Petition to Natal Legislative Council”,26-6-1895

Letter to G. K. Gokhale (18-10-1896)[edit]


October 18, 1896



I promised to leave with Mr. Sohoni some further papers in connection with the Indian question in South Africa. I am sorry I forgot all about it. I beg now to send them per book post and hope they will be of some use.

We very badly need a committee of active, prominent workers in India for our cause. The question affects not only South African Indians but Indians in all parts of the world outside India. I have no doubt you have read the telegram about the Australian Colonies legislating to restrict the influx of Indian immigrants to that part of the world. It is quite possible that legislation might receive the Royal sanction. I submit that our great men should without delay take up this question. Otherwise within a very short time there will be an end to Indian enterprise outside India. In my humble opinion that telegram might be made the subject of a question in the Imperial Council{{Ref|43} at Calcutta as well as in the House of Commons. In fact, some enquiry as to the intention of the Indian Government should be made immediately.

Seeing that you took very warm interest in my conversation I thought I would venture to write the above.

I remain,

Yours obediently,

From a photostat of the original: S.N. 3716

43^  The Viceroy’s Legislative Council, of which Gokhale was a member

Letter to F. S. Taleyarkhan (18-10-1896)[edit]


October 18, 1896


I have your important letter for which I thank you. Your inquiry is certainly very pertinent. And you may depend upon it that I shall answer it most frankly.

I start with the assumption that we work in partnership. Starting on your own account at once will be out of the question. There are cheques lying in my safe at Durban for about £300, the retainer[44] for 1897, ending 31st July. These I propose to withdraw from the partnership to pay liabilities incurred here and if possible to pay the expenses that are now being incurred in connection with my office. I say if possible, because the balance may not cover the expenses at Durban.

If past experience is any guide for the purpose, then I think I am safe in saying that the joint earnings for the first six months will be at the rate of £70 per month. As against that I place the joint expenses at £50 per month, i.e., if we share the same house. That would leave a clear profit of £120 to be divided equally between us after six months.

This is the lowest estimate. And I should expect to earn that amount single-handed doing the Indian work side by side. It would not surprise me however if we earned £150 per month.

This much I can promise. You should pay your own passage to Natal. Your expenses of admission will be paid out of the office. The expenses of your board and lodging also will be defrayed out of the office earnings. That is to say, if there is any loss during the six months’ trial it shall be borne by me. On the other hand if there are any profits you share them.

Thus at the end of six months if you do not gain in money you will have gained considerably in experience of a different kind from that available in India. You will have realized the position of our countrymen in that part of the world and you will have seen a new country. I have no doubt that your connection in Bombay is such that a six months’ absence from Bombay would not mar your future career there if you are disappointed in Natal. The six months’ loss in Bombay will be requited by what I have stated above.

In any case, I cannot be too plain in saying that no one in our position should go to South Africa with a view to pile money. You should go there with a spirit of self-sacrifice. You should keep riches at an arm’s length. They may then woo you. If you bestow your glances on them, they are such a coquette that you are sure to be slighted. That is my experience in South Africa. As for work, apart from pecuniary considerations, I promise that there will be more than sufficient to feed your activity—that too legal work.

Boarding together might present a slight difficulty. If you could manage with vegetarian food, I could place on the table most palatable dishes cooked both in the English as well as the Indian style. If, however, that be not possible, we shall have to engage another cook. At any rate that cannot be an insurmountable difficulty. I trust I have stated the position clearly. If there are any points requiring elucidation you have only to mention them. I do hope you will not allow pecuniary considerations to come in your way. I am sure you will be able to do much in South Africa—more indeed than I may have been instrumental in doing.

I have been seeing here the great men. The Madras Times has given its full support and it came out with a rattling good leading article on Friday last. The Mail has promised it. The meeting[45] probably comes off on Friday. After the meeting I go to Calcutta and thence probably to Poona. Professor Bhandarkar has promised his full support and I think he can do some good. I halted for a day at Poona on my way here.

I think I wrote to you that the Immigration Bill has received the Royal assent. (Events follow in such quick succession that I forget them soon.) This is an unexpected and terrible blow. I am now renewing the prayer for suspension of State-aided immigration. The Natal Agent-General’s diplomatic contradiction, about which you must have read in the papers, shows the necessity of the agitation in London also. There I am positive you can do much more than I can.

It will be a very good thing if you could accompany me to Natal. I may mention that if the s.s. Courland is available by that time I might secure you a free passage.

I remain,
yours truly,

I received your letter only today.
M. K. G.

From the original. Courtesy: R. F. S. Taleyarkhan

44^ The reference is to the professional fees Gandhiji received from Indian merchants in respect of their personal legal work.
45^ The meeting that Gandhiji addressed on October 29; vide “Letter to F. S. Taleyarkhan”,10-10-1896

Remarks in Visitors' Book (26-10-1896)[edit]

October 26, 1896

I had the honour to visit this excellent institution.[46] I was highly delighted with it. Being a Gujarati Hindu myself, I feel proud to know that this institution was started by Gujarati gentlemen. I wish the institution a brilliant future which I am sure it deserves. I only wish that such institutions will crop up all over India and be the means of preserving the Aryan religion in its purity.

The Hindu, 28-10-1896

46^ The Hindu Theological High School

Speech at Meeting, Madras (26-10-1896)[edit]

October 26, 1896[47]


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[48] will show you 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 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 Parliament, “the existence of the 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 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 sanitation 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 afterwards found a very valuable customer in the native of South Africa, called Zulu or Kaffir. 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 compact 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 Indians have now spread all over South Africa. Natal, which is governed by a Legislative Assembly consisting of 37 members elected by the voters, a Legislative Council represents the 11 members, nominated by the governor who represents the Queen, and a movable Ministry consisting of 5 members, contains a European population of 50,000, a native 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, hawkers and petty traders, and about 5,000 are those who emigrated to the Colony of their own account and are either traders, shopkeepers, assistants or hawkers. A few are, also, schoolmasters, interpreters and clerks.

The self-governing Colony of the Cape of Good Hope has, I believe, an Indians population of about 10,000, consisting of traders, hawkers and labourers. Its total population is nearly 1,800,000, of whom not more than 400,000 are Europeans. The rest are natives of the country and Malaya.

The South African Republic of the Transvaal, which is governed by two elective Chambers called the Volksraad and an Executive with the President at its head, has an Indian population of 5,000, of whom about 200 are traders with liquidated assets amounting to nearly £100,000. The rest are hawkers and waiters or household servants, the latter being men from this Presidency. Its White population is estimated at roughly 120,000 and the Kaffir population at roughly 650,000. This Republic is subject to the Queen’s suzerainty. And there is a Convention[49] between Great Britain and the Republic which secures the property, trading and farming rights 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, except the Portuguese territories which contain a very large Indian population and which do not give any trouble to the Indians.

The grievances of the Indians in South Africa are twofold, i.e., those that are due to popular ill-feeling against the Indians and, secondly, the legal disabilities placed upon them. To deal with the first, the Indian is the most hated being in South Africa. Every Indian without distinction is contemptuously called a“coolie”. He is also called“Sammy”,“ Ramasammy”, anything but“Indian”. Indian schoolmasters are called“coolie schoolmasters”. Indian storekeepers are“coolie storekeepers”. Two Indian gentlemen from Bombay, Messrs Dada Abdulla and Moosa Hajee Cassim, own steamers. Their steamers are “coolie ships”.

There is a very respectable firm of Madras traders by name, A. Colandaveloo Pillay & Co. They have built a large block of buildings in Durban; these building are called “coolie stores”, and the owners are “coolie owners”. And I can assure you, gentlemen, that there is as much difference between the partners of that firm and a “coolie” as there is between anyone in this hall 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, treat us as beasts. We cannot safely walk on the foot-paths. A Madrasi gentleman, spotlessly dressed, always avoids the foot-paths of prominent streets in Durban for fear he should be insulted or pushed off.

We are the“Asian dirt”to be“heartily cursed”, we are “chockfull of vice”and we “live upon rice”, we are “stinking coolie” living on“the smell of an oiled rag”, we are “ the black vermin”, we are described in the Statute books as“ semi-barbarous Asiatics, or persons belonging to the uncivilized 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 Transvaal. We may not sit inside them. It is a sore trial, apart from the indignity it involves and contemplates, to have to sit outside them, either in deadly winter morning, for the winter is severe in the Transvaal, or under a burning sun, though we are Indians. The hotels refuse us admission. Indeed, there are cases in which respectable Indians have found it difficult even to procure refreshments at European places. It was only a short time ago, that a gang of Europeans set fire to an Indian store in a village called Dundee in Natal, doing some damage, and another gang threw burning crackers into the Indian stores in a business street in Durban.

This feeling of intense hatred has been reproduced into legislation in the various States of South Africa restricting the freedom of Indians in many ways. To begin with, Natal, which is the most 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 immovable 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 Parliament, but without any avail. We then memorialized 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 says that no natives of countries (not being 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 the Governor-in-Council. This Bill excepts 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 it on the ground that we have such institutions in India, and that, therefore, the Bill will fail in its objects 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 is admitted on all hands. The very members who voted for it thought likewise. The Natal Government organ[50] says in effect:

We know India has such institutions and therefore the Bill will not apply to the Indian. But we can have that Bill or none. If it disfranchises Indians, nothing can be better. If it does not, then too we have nothing to fear! For the Indian can never gain political supremacy and, if necessary, we can soon impose an educational test or raise the property qualifications which, while disfranchising Indians wholesale, will not debar a single European from voting.

Thus, the Natal legislature is playing a game of “Toss up” at the Indians’ expense. We are a fit subject for vivisection under the Natal Pasteur’s deadly scalpel and knife, with this difference between the Paris Pasteur and the Natal Pasteur that, while the former indulged in vivisection with the object 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 not political. It is purely and simply to degrade the Indians; in the words of a member of the Natal Parliament: “To 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 251 Indian, 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 must 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 but of race feeling. We cannot afford a war of races among our own subjects. It would be as wrong for the Government of India to suddenly arrest the development of Natal by shutting all supply of immigrants, as it would be for Natal 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 opposing the Bill. We are resisting the deprivation of the one we have been enjoying.

In 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, last year, introduced their Bill to amend the Indian Immigration Act which 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[51], and it will, therefore, be necessary for me to 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 18th day of August, 1894, 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, and wages at the rate of ten shillings per month for the first year, to be increased by one shilling every following year. They were also entitled to a free passage back to India 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 9th year of indentured service, or to return to India or to pay an annual poll-tax of £ 3 sterling, equivalent to nearly half a years’ 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 alteration subject to the sanction of the Home Government, refusing to allow the Natal Government to make the breach of the clause about compulsory return a criminal offence. The Natal Government have got over the difficulty by the poll-tax clause.

The Attorney-General, in discussing that clause, said that, while an Indian could not be sent to gaol for refusing to return to India or to pay the tax, so long as there was anything worth having in his hut it will be liable to seizure. We strongly opposed that Bill in the local Parliament and failing there, sent a memorial to Mr. Chamberlain, praying either that the Bill should be disallowed or emigration to Natal should be suspended.

The above proposal was mooted 10 years ago and it was vehemently opposed by the most eminent Colonists in Natal. A Commission was then appointed to inquire into various matters concerning Indians in Natal. One of the Commissioners, Mr. Saunders, says in his additional report:

Though the Commission has made no recommendation on the subject of passing a law to force Indians back to India at the expiration of their term of service unless they renew their indentures, I wish to express my strong condemnation of any such idea, and I feel convinced that many who now advocate the plan, when they realize 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 the enjoyment of the reward, forcing them back (if we could, but we cannot) when their best days have been spent for our benefit? Where to? Why, back to face prospect of starvation from which they sought to escape when they were young. Shylock-like, taking the pound of flesh, and Shylock-like we may rely on meeting Shylock’s reward.
The Colony can stop Indian immigration, and that, 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.

The Attorney-General of Natal, who introduced the Bill under discussion, expressed the following views while giving his 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 crime for which he is transported. I hear a great deal of this question; I have been asked again and again to take a different 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 his life, he forms new ties, forgets the old ones, perhaps establishes a home here, and he cannot, according to my view of right and wrong, be sent back. 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 know: in certain respects they do a great deal of good. I have never heard a reason to justify the extradition of a man who has behaved well for five years.

And Mr. Binns, who came 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 the Commission ten 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 community.

But, then, great men may change their views as often and as quickly as they may change their clothes, with impunity and even to advantage. In them, they say, such changes are a result of sincere conviction. It is a thousand pities, however, that, unfortunately for the poor indentured Indian, his fear or, rather, the expectation, that the Indian Government will never sanction the change was not realized.

The London Star thus gave vent to its feelings on reading the 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 virtually proposes to reduce Indians to a state of slavery, is another example. The thing is a monstrous wrong, an insult 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 to slavery”. It also says:

The Government of India has one simple remedy. It can suspend indentured immigration to South Africa as it has suspended 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 Government may be forced to adopt measures in connection with the wider claim now being urged by every section of the Indian community and which has been explicitly acknowledged by Her Majesty’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 public to help us to 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 to relieve the congested districts and to benefit those who emigrate. If the Indian, instead of paying the poll-tax, return to India, the congestion cannot be affected at all. And the returned Indians will rather be a source of difficulty than anything else, as they must necessarily find it difficult to get work and cannot be expected to bring sufficient to live upon the interest of their capital. It certainly will 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 such 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 cannot be bright under any circumstances; but I do not think their lot is worse than the lot of the Indians similarly placed in other parts of the world. At the same time, they, too, certainly come in for a share of the tremendous colour prejudice. I can only briefly allude to the matter here and refer the curious to the 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 irritation to poor free Indians and often puts respectable Indians in a very unpleasant position. This law really would not give any trouble but for the unreasonable prejudice. A sympathetic Protector of Immigrants, preferably an Indian gentleman of high standing 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 but a system of blackmail.

The 9 o’clock rule in Natal, which makes it necessary for every Indian to carry a pass, if he wants to be out after 9 p.m., at the pain of being locked up in a dungeon, causes much heart-burning, especially among the gentlemen from this Presidency. You will be pleased to hear that children of many indentured Indians receive a pretty good education and they wear, as a rule, the European dress. They are a most sensitive class and yet, unfortunately, most liable to arrest under the 9 o’clock rule. The European dress for an Indian is no recommendation in Natal. It is rather the reverse, for the flowing robe of a Memon free the wearer from such molestation. A happy incident, described in the Green Pamphlet, led the police in Durban, some years ago, to free Indians thus dressed from liability to arrest after 9 p.m. A Tamil schoolmistress, a Tamil schoolmaster and a Tamil Sunday school-teacher were, only a few months ago, arrested and locked up under this law. They all got justice in the law-courts, but that was a poor consolation. The result, however, was that the Corporations in Natal are clamouring for an alteration in the law so that it might be impossible for such Indians to get off scot-free 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.

This does not complete the list of grievances in Natal. I must beg to refer the curious to the Green Pamphlet for further information.[52]

But, gentlemen, you have been told lately by the Natal Agent- General that the Indians are nowhere better treated than in Natal; that the fact 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 locked 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. The thing is that Mr. Walter Peace, the Agent-General, 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.

The fact that the indentured Indians, as a rule, do not avail themselves of the return passage we do not dispute, but we certainly dispute that it is the best answer to our complaints. How can that fact disprove the existence of the legal disabilities? It may prove that the Indians, who do not take advantage of the return passage, either do not mind the disabilities, or remain in the Colony in spite of such disabilities. If the former be the case, it is the duty of those who know better to make the Indians realize their situation and to enable them to see that submission to them means degradation. If the latter be the case, it is one more 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 them 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 indenture, instead of returning “to face semistarvation”, as Mr. Saunders has put it, settle in a country where the climate is magnificent and where they may earn a decent living? A starving man, generally, would stand any amount of rough treatment to get a crumb of bread.

Do not the Uitlanders make out a terribly long list of grievances in the Transvaal? And yet, 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 the old country?

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 his own account and who feels most the indignities and disabilities. If it does not do to tell the Uitlander that he may not go to the Transvaal if he cannot bear the ill-treatment, much less will it 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. It was in that belief that we went to the Colony of Natal, and we trust that our belief was well founded. The Agent-General has contradicted the statement made in the pamphlet that the railway and tram-car official treat the Indians as beasts. Even if the statements I have made were incorrect, that would not 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. But I venture to say that the Agent-General has been misinformed, and beg to repeat that the Indians are treated as beasts by the railway and the tram-car officials. That statement was made now nearly two years ago in quarters where it would have been contradicted at once. I had the honour to address an ‘Open Letter’[53] to the members of the local Parliament in Natal. 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 ventured to quote it in my pamphlet published here. I am not given to exaggerate matters, and it is very unpleasant to me to have to 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. He has himself suffered some 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 no objection can reasonably be taken. Mr. Gandhi discusses the questions he has raised with conspicuous moderation.

The Natal Mercury, the Government organ in Natal, says:

Mr. Gandhi writes with calmness and moderation. He is as impartial as anyone could expect him to be and probably a little more so than might have been expected, considering that he did not receive 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 journey he was thrice disturbed and was twice made to change compartments to please European passengers. The case came before the Court and the Indian got £10 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 Newcastle. A white man opened the door of the compartment and beckoned to witness, saying: “Come out, Sammy.” Plaintiff asked: “Why”, and the white man replied: “Never mind, come out, I want to place someone here.” Witness said: “Why should I come out 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 come out and you must come 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 come 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 come 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 District Superintendent of Railways at Newcastle. To proceed, witness travelled undisturbed to Maritzburg. He fell asleep, and when he awoke at Maritzburg he found a white man, a white woman and a child in the compartment with him. A white man came up to the carriage and said: “Is that your boy?” speaking to the white man in the compartment. 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 damned 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 the 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: “Sammy, come out.” Plaintiff said: “Why, I was removed at Newcastle to this compartment.” The white man said: “Well, you must come out” and was about to enter the carriage. Witness, thinking he would be handled as at Newcastle, said he would go out and left 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 coolie, I will find you another carriage” (The Natal Advertiser, 22nd November, 1893, Wednesday).

You will have noticed that the official at Maritzburg maltreated the Indian passenger although his white fellow-passenger did not mind him. If this is not bestial treatment, I should very much like to know what it is, and such occurrences take 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 Bench 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 have and it is a curious thing that people who are not connected with railway observe more than you.”

The Natal Advertiser, a European daily in Durban, 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 minimize the danger of trouble arising between European and coloured passengers, without rendering the carrying out of such 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 Africa, a tendency to treat all Indians as coolies pure and simple, no matter whether they be educated and cleanly in their habits or not. On 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.R. should treat them with the same deference as is accorded to European passengers, still we think it would not be in any way derogatory to their dignity if the officials were a little more suaviter in modo when dealing with coloured travellers. (24-11-1893)

The Cape Times, a leading newspaper in South Africa, says:

Natal presents the curious spectacle of a country entertaining a supreme contempt for the very class of people she can least do without. Imagination can only picture the commercial paralysis which would inevitably attend the withdrawal of the Indian population from that Colony. And yet the Indians is the most despised of creatures; he may not ride in the tram-cars, nor sit in the same compartments of a railway carriage with the Europeans, hotel-keepers refuse him food or shelter and he is denied the privilege of the public bath! (5-7-1891)

Here is the opinion of an Anglo-Indian, Mr. Drummond, who 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 opprobrious 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. In their eyes, as in the eyes of many in this Colony, he is treated either 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 Indians generally as the scum of the earth, etc. It is depreciation from 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 tram-cars, the Indians are often not allowed to sit inside but are sent ‘upstairs’, as the phrase goes. They are often made to remove from one seat to another or prevented from occupying front benches. I know an Indian officer, a Tamil gentleman, dressed in the latest European style who was made to stand on the tram-car board, although there was accommodation available for him.

As to the statement that the Indians get justice in the lawcourts, I beg to say that I have never said they do not, nor am I prepared to admit that they get it at all times and in all courts.

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 Transvaal we cannot own landed property, we may not 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 the 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 after 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 registration 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 to him on the subject. The history of the whole case, as it affects the Indians in the Transvaal, is very interesting, and I am only sorry that for want of time I cannot deal with it now. I must, however, beg you to study it from the Green Pamphlet. I must not omit to 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 it. 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 to reside after passing through certain humiliating 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 Cape Parliament has passed a Bill granting the East 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 Griqualand not to issue any trading licences to the Indians. The Cape 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 Zululand, Crown Colony, we cannot own or acquire landed property in the townships of Eshowe and Nondweni. This question is now before Mr. Chamberlain for consideration. 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 England 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, as 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 elsewhere.” I have no doubt you have read in the papers that Australian Colonies have passed legislation to prevent 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 editorship of the prince of South African journalists, Mr. St. Leger:

It is the position of these merchants which is productive of no little hostility to this day. And it is in considering their 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 natives (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 1889, when the above was written, it is doubly so now, because the legislatures of South Africa have shown phenomenal activity in passing measures restricting the liberty of the Queen’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 quote from The Natal Advertiser,which states one of them and prescribes a statesman-like remedy also. And so far as the objection may be valid, we are in perfect accord with the Advertiser’s suggestion. This paper, which is under European management, 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 the obsolete policy of exclusion as by an enlightened and progressive application of ameliorating laws to those Indians who settle in them. One of the chief objection 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 them to live in better dwellings and by creating among them new wants. It will probably be found easier, because more in accord with the 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 entire exclusion.

We believe, also, that much of the ill feeling is due to the want of proper knowledge in South Africa about the Indians in India. We are, therefore, endeavouring to educate public opinion in South Africa by imparting the necessary information. With 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. The 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 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. Bhownaggree has been pleading our cause in season and out of season. Says one of our best sympathizers in London:

The wrong is so serious that it has only to be known in order, I hope, to be remedied. I feel it my duty on all occasions and in all suitable ways to insist that the Indian subjects of the Crown should enjoy the full status of British subjects throughout the whole British Empire and in allied States. This is the position which 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 which they have earned by their loyalty in peace and by their services in war, a right which was solemnly guaranteed to them by the Queen’s Proclamation in 1858 and which has now been explicitly recognized by Her Majesty’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 in independent friendly States, being deprived of their status as British subjects guaranteed to them by the Sovereign and the British Parliament.

An ex-Liberal member of the House of Commons says:

You are infamously treated by the Colonial Government and you will be so treated by the Home Government if they do not 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 privileges guaranteed to British subjects in India. Again, it is perfectly evident that 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 degrading conditions. The excuses which 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 just. I am, therefore, willing to help you as far as lies in my power. Such is the sympathy evoked in England. Here, too, I know we have the same sympathy, but I humbly think that our cause may occupy our attention still more largely.

What is required in India has been well put 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 well-being of our countrymen in 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 organize 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 cannot be taken up one day too soon.

I may state our position a little more clearly. We are aware that the insults and indignities that we are subjected to at the hands of the populace cannot be directly removed by the intervention of the Home Government. We do not appeal to it for any such intervention. We bring them to the notice of the public so that the fair-minded of all communities and the Press may, by 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 against 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 such 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 not 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 Royal instructions to the Government, as also the Constitution Act, enumerate certain Bills which cannot be assented to by the Governor without Her Majesty’s previous sanction. Among such are Bills which have, for their object, class legislation, such as the Franchise Bill or Immigration Bill. Her Majesty’s intervention is, thus, direct and precise. While it is true that the Home Government is slow to interfere with the Acts of the Colonial legislatures, there are instances where it has not hesitated to put its foot down on occasions less urgent than the present one. As you are aware, the repeal of the first Franchise Bills was due to such wholesome intervention. What is more, the Colonists are ever afraid of it. And as a result of the sympathy expressed in England and the sympathetic answer given by Mr. Chamberlain to the Deputation that waited on him some months ago, most of the papers in South Africa, at any rate in Natal, have veered round considerably. As to the Transvaal, there is the Convention. As to the Orange Free State, I can only say that it is an unfriendly act on the part of a friendly State to shut her doors against any portion of Her Majesty’s subjects. And as such, I humbly think it can be effectively checked.

It may not be amiss to quote a few passages from the London Times articles, bearing on 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 an outcaste race by a friendly Government or are they to have the same rights and status as other British subjects enjoy? Are leading Mohammedan merchants, who might sit in the Legislative Council at Bombay, to be liable to indignities and outrages 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 Crown?
It is a mockery to urge our Indian fellow-subjects to embark on external commerce if the moment they leave India they lose their rights as British subjects and can be treated by foreign governments as a degraded and an outcaste race.

In another article it says:

The matter is eminently one for good offices and for influence for that “friendly negotiation” which Mr. Chamberlain promises, 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 suggest 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 locomotion is easy and is everyday becoming easier, both in time and cost. Some portions of the Empire are crowded, others are comparatively empty, and the flow from the congested to the under-peopled districts is continuous. What is to happen when subjects differing in 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 jealousies of trade, the fear of competition to be controlled? The answer, of course, must be by intelligent policy at the Colonial Office.
Small as are the requirements of the Indians, the steady growth of the population of India is such that certain outward movement is inevitable, and it is a movement that will increase. It is very desirable that our white fellow subjects in Africa should understand that there will, in all probability, be this current flowing from India, that it is perfectly 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 recognizing a fellow-subject in the Hindu or the Parsee. The duty of the Colonial office is to enlighten him and to see that fair treatment is extended to British subjects of whatever colour.


In India, the British, the Hindu and the Mussalman communities find themselves face to face with the question as to whether 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 apply to all Indians who seek to better their fortunes outside the limits of the Indian Empire. Mr. Chamberlain’s words and the determined attitude taken up by every section of the Indian Press show that to such questions there can be but one answer.

I shall take the liberty to give one more quotation from the same journal:

The question with which Mr. Chamberlain was called upon to deal cannot be so easily reduced to concrete terms. On the one hand, he clearly laid down the principle of the “equal rights” and equal privileges 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 a 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 in 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 Settlements to the Canary Islands. Wherever the Indian goes he is the same useful, well-doing man, law-abiding under whatever form of Government he may find himself, frugal in his wants and industrious in his habits. But these very virtues make him a formidable competitor in the labour markets to which he resorts. Although numbering in the aggregate some hundreds of thousands, the immigrant 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 we urged on Mr. Chamberlain by a deputation of Indians last week, show that the necessity has now arisen for protecting the Indian labourer from such jealousy and for securing to him the same rights as other British subjects enjoy.

Gentlemen, Bombay has spoken in no uncertain terms. 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 out in anguish. You have heard our cry. The blame will now lie on your shoulders if the yoke is not removed from our necks.[53]

From a printed copy of the speech circulated at the meeting

47^ The meeting, held in Pachaiyappa’s Hall, was organized by the Mahajana Sabha.
48^ Vide “The Credentials”, Vol1. “The Credentials”
49^ The reference is to the London Convention of 1884.
50^ The reference is to The Natal Mercury.
51^ Held on September 26; vide “Speech At Public Meeting, Bombay”, 26-9-1896
52^ About 6 pages of text that follow (to end of para “Quoting statistics . . . in spite of the persecution”, p. 85) later formed part of the second edition of the Green Pamphlet. Vide also footnote on p. 26.
53^ Vide “Open Letter”,19-12-1894
54^ The meeting later adopted a resolution protesting against the ill-treatment of South African Indians and calling for relief.

Letter to "The Hindu" (27-10-1896)[edit]

MADRAS,: October 27, 1896



It would be ungrateful on my part if I did not thank the Madras public for rallying round the cause of the British Indians in South Africa as they did so admirably last evening. Indeed, all seemed to have vied with one another in making the meeting a huge success which it evidently was. I beg to thank you for your cordial support to the movement. It, perhaps, shows the absolute righteousness of the cause and the reality of our grievances. My special thanks are due to the courteous Secretaries of the Madras Mahajana Sabha, who worked with unremitting zeal in organizing the meeting and made the cause their own. Ionly hope that the sympathy and support, thus far extended, will be continued and we shall not be long in securing justice. I beg to assure you and the public that the news of the last night’s meeting, when it reaches South Africa, will fill the hearts of the Indians with gladness and joy and thankfulness. Such meetings will form a silver lining to the cloud of distress that is hanging over our heads. As it was very late last evening I was unable to give expression to the above sentiments. Hence this letter.

The scramble for the copies of the pamphlet was a scene I will not easily forget. I am issuing a second edition of the pamphlet, and as soon as the copies are ready, they can be had from the obliging Secretaries of the Sabha.


The Hindu, 28-10-1896

Preface to the Second Edition of the Green Pamphlet (1-11-1896)[edit]

The rush for copies of this pamphlet at the Madras meeting[56] in Pachaiyappa’s Hall has necessitated the issue of the second edition. It was a scene never to be forgotten.

The demand proved two things—the importance of the question of the grievances of the British Indians in South Africa, and the interest shown by the Indian public in the welfare of their countrymen beyond the waters.

It is to be hoped that the second edition will be disposed of as soon as the first, showing the continuance of the interest. Publicity is perhaps the chief remedy for the grievances and the pamphlet is one of the means to that end.

The appendix is an addition to the 1st edition and is a part of the address read before the Madras meeting, being a reply to the Natal Agent-General’s statement to Reuter.

The Natal Immigration Law Amendment Act referred to in the pamphlet has, unfortunately for the poor Indians in South Africa, received the Royal assent. It is respectfully submitted that the question requires the closest study by our public men and there should be no rest till the Act is repealed or State-aided emigration to Natal suspended. The Madras meeting has passed a resolution requesting suspension of such emigration if the repeal of the Act cannot be brought about.


Calcutta, 1-11-1896

The Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa: An Appeal to the Indian Public

56^ Vide the preceding item

Letter to F. S. Taleyarkhan (5-11-1896)[edit]


November 5, 1896


Your last letter was redirected to me here. I wrote[57] to you from Madras informing you of my address in Calcutta and wrote[58] to you after my arrival here. I hope you received both the letters.

It is quite true that you will be making a pecuniary sacrifice in going to Natal. But I am sure the cause is worth the sacrifice. I shall endeavour to catch the Courland which is expected to leave before the 20th instant. I wish you could be ready by that time.

Will you consider the new Franchise Law of Natal and get the opinion of the eminent lawyers in Bombay if they would do so gratis?

You will find the text of the Bill in the Franchise memorial and one legal opinion on it in the pamphlet. Any opinion obtained here will be very useful to us in Natal.

I believe the meeting here will come off Friday week. The matter will be finally decided tomorrow.

I am,

Yours sincerely,


From the original. Courtesy: R. F. S. Taleyarkhan

57^ Vide Vol.I, “ Letter to F. S. Taleyarkhan”,18-10-1896
58^ The letter is not traceable.

Interview to "The Statesman" (10-11-1896)[edit]

November 10, 1896

[REPORTER:] Will you please tell me, Mr. Gandhi, in a few words, something of the grievances of the Indians in South Africa?

[GANDHIJI:] There are Indians in many parts of South Africa— in the Colonies of Natal, the Cape of Good Hope, the South African Republic, the Orange Free State, and elsewhere, in all of which, more or less, they are denied the ordinary rights of citizenship. But I more particularly represent the Indians in Natal, who number about fifty thousand. The first Indians were, of course, the coolies who were taken over under indentures from Madras and Bengal for the purpose of labouring in the various plantations. They were mostly Hindus, but a few of them were Mohammedans. They served their contract time, and on obtaining their freedom they elected to stay in the country, because they found that, as market gardeners or hawkers of vegetables, they could earn from three to four pounds sterling per month. In this way, there are, at present, about thirty thousand free Indians settled in the Colony, while some sixteen thousand others are serving their indentures. There is, however, another class of Indians, numbering about five thousand, Mohammedans from the Bombay side who have been attracted to the country by the prospects of trade. Some of the latter are doing well. Many are landowners in a large way, while two own ships. The Indians have been settled in the country for twenty years and more, and, being prosperous, were contented and happy.

[R.] What then, was the cause of all the present trouble, Mr. Gandhi?

[G.] Simply trade jealousy. The Colony was desirous of securing all possible benefit from the Indians as labourers, because the natives of the country do not work in the fields, and the Europeans cannot. But the moment the Indians entered into competition with the European as a trader, he found himself thwarted, obstructed, and insulted by a system of organized persecution. And gradually, this feeling of hatred and oppression has been imported into the laws of the Colony. The Indians had been quietly enjoying the franchise for years, subject to certain property qualifications, and, in 1894, there were 251 Indian voters on the register against 9,309 European voters. But the Government suddenly thought, or pretended to think, that there was danger of the Asiatic vote swamping the European, and they introduced into the Legislative Assembly a Bill disfranchising all Asiatics save those who were then rightly contained in any Voters’ List. Against this Bill, the Indians memorialized both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council; but to no purpose, and the Bill was passed into law. The Indians then memorialized Lord Ripon, who was in those days at the Colonial Office. As a result, that Act has now been repealed and replaced by an Act which says: ‘The natives, or descendants in the male line of natives, of countries which have not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise shall not be placed on any Voters’ List unless they shall first obtain an order from the Governor-in-Council exempting them from the operation of the Act.’ It also exempts from its operation those persons who are rightly contained in any Voters’ List. This Bill was first submitted to Mr. Chamberlain who has practically approved of it. We have yet thought it advisable to oppose it, and with a view to secure its rejection, we have sent a memorial to Mr. Chamberlain, and hope to secure the same measure of support that has been extended to us hitherto.

[R.] Then are we to understand that the Indians in Natal—the great bulk of whom are coolies, who would never have aspired to free institutions in their own country—are desirous of wielding political power in Natal?

[G.] By no means. We are most careful to put out, in all our representations to the Government and the public, that the object of our agitation is merely the removal of vexatious disabilities devised, as we believe, to degrade us as compared to the European population. With the object of still further discouraging Indian colonization, the Natal Legislature has passed a Bill to keep indentured Indians under contract for the whole term of their stay in the Colony; and if they object to renew their contract at the end of their first term of five years, to send them back to India, or, if they decline to return, to compel them to pay an annual tax of £3 per head. Unfortunately for us, the Indian Government, on the ex parte representation of a Commission that visited India from Natal in 1893, have accepted the principle of compulsory indenture; but we are memorializing both the Home and the Indian Governments against it.

[R.] We have heard much, Mr. Gandhi, of daily annoyances to which Indians in Natal are said to be subjected at the hands of the white Colonists.

[G.] Oh, yes! And the law supports the Europeans in this system of persecution, either openly or covertly. The law says that an Indian must not walk on the foot-paths but pass along the middle of the road; that he must not travel either first or second class on the railways; that he must not be out of his house without a pass after 9 o’clock at night; that he must take out a pass if he wishes to drive cattle; and so on. Imagine the tyranny of these special laws! For the infraction of them, Indians—men of the highest respectability who might sit in your Legislative Councils—are daily insulted, assaulted, and taken up by the police. And in addition to these legal disabilities, there are social disqualifications. No Indian is permitted in the tramcars, in the public hotels, in public baths.

[R.] Well, but, Mr. Gandhi, suppose you succeed in having the legal disabilities removed, what about the social disqualifications? Will they not pinch and gall and fret you a hundred times oftener than the thought that you cannot return a member to the Legislative Assembly?

[G.] We hope that when the legal disabilities are removed, the social persecution will gradually disappear.

The Statesman, 12-11-1896

Letter to "The Englishman" (13-11-1896)[edit]


November 13, 1896

THE EDITOR, The Englishman


“Send Mohandas[60] (my Christian name) road enforcing Indians to locations.” These are the words of a telegram received yesterday from Natal by the agents, at Bombay, of Messrs Dada Abdulla and Co., a leading Indian firm in South Africa. The Agents very kindly telegraphed the message to me. This renders it absolutely necessary for me to leave Calcutta abruptly. “Road” is an error. I believe it means “Rhodes”,[61] meaning the Cape Government. The message means, therefore, that the Cape Government are enforcing Indians to locations. And it is not unlikely, as the Cape Parliament has empowered the East London Municipality to remove the Indians to locations. Yet, seeing that the whole Indian question is now pending before Mr. Chamberlain, such active operations might have been suspended for a time.

The message shows the tremendous importance of the question as well as the feeling of the Indian community in South Africa about the matter. Had they not felt the indignity keenly they would not have sent an expensive message. The removal may even mean ruin to the Indian traders affected. But who cares for the welfare of the Indian in South Africa?

The London Times says as follows:

In India the British, the Hindu and the Mussalman communities find themselves face to face with the question as to whether, 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 apply to all Indians who seek to better their fortunes outside the limits of the Indian Empire. Mr. Chamberlain’s words and the determined attitude taken up by every section of the Indian Press show that to such questions there can be but one answer.

It is clear therefore, that the question affects not only the Indians at present residing in South Africa but all who may wish to seek fortunes outside India, and that there can be but one answer to the question. I hope there will be only one answer. If all the Associations, Anglo-Indian and Indian, were to protest against the disabilities that are being heaped upon the Indians in that country, and if every important town in India were to hold meetings to express disapproval of the ill-treatment, I venture to think that it will not be doing too much.

It is necessary that the public here should know what activity the various Governments in South Africa are showing and what pressure is being placed upon the Colonial Office at home to bring the matter to a successful issue from their standpoint. Public meetings are being held all over the country asking the Governments to put a stop to the ‘coolie’ immigration. Mayors of the different towns have been meeting in congress and passing resolutions desiring the restriction of the Asiatic influx. Sir Gordon Sprigg, the Cape Premier, is in active communication with the Colonial Office about the matter and is hopeful of a satisfactory result. Mr. Maydon, a prominent politician in Natal, has been telling his audiences that the friends of the Colony in England are doing every thing to vigorously put forward the Colonial view before Mr. Chamberlain. Sir John Robinson, the Natal Premier, has gone to England to recoup his health and to discuss important State matters with Mr. Chamberlain. Almost all the newspapers in South Africa have been discussing the matter from the Colonial point of view. These are only some of the forces that are at work against us. As an ex-member of Parliament says in a letter of sympathy: “The whole struggle is unequal,” but, “justice is on our side.” Were not the cause absolutely just and righteous it would have received its deathblow long ago.

One thing more. The matter demands immediate attention. The question is now pending. It cannot long remain undecided. And if it is decided unfavourably to the Indians it will be difficult to have it reopened. Now, therefore, is the time for the Anglo-Indian and the Indian public to work on our behalf. Or it will be never. “The wrong,” says a distinguished Conservative[62], “is so serious that it has only to be known, I hope, to be remedied.”

Yes, Sir, I implore the Anglo-Indian public also to help us actively. We have not restricted our advances to one body or only one section of the community. We have ventured to approach all and so far we have received sympathy from all. The London Times and The Times of India have been advocating our cause for a long time. All the newspapers in Madras have fully supported us. You have given us your ungrudging support and laid us under deep obligation. The British Committee of the Congress has rendered us invaluable help. Ever since he entered Parliament, Mr. Bhownaggree has been on the alert on our behalf. He has been ventilating our grievance in season and out of season. Many other Conservative members of the House of Commons have extended their support to us. It is not therefore simply a matter of form that we appeal to the Anglo-Indian public. I venture to ask all your contemporaries to copy this letter. Had I been able, I would have sent copies to all the papers.


The Englishman, 14-11-1896

59^ This appeared under the title “The Indians in South Africa.”
60^ The source has “Mohanlal”, evidently a misprint.
61^ Later, Gandhiji discovered that the word used in the original telegram was 'Raad', the Dutch equivalent for the Legislative Assembly; vide "Letter to The Englishman",30-11-1896
62^ Sir Mancherjee Bhownaggree

Interview to "The Englishman" (On or before 13-11-1896)[edit]

[On or before November 13, 1896][63]

There has always been a dislike of the Indian from the first days of their migration to Africa, but it was only when our people began to trade that the antipathy became marked and took shape in the imposition of disabilities.[64]

[Q.] Then all these grievances you speak of are the outcome of commercial jealousy and prompted by self-interest?

[A.] Precisely. That is just the root of the whole matter. The Colonists want us cleared out because they do not like our traders competing with them.

[Q.] Is the competition a legitimate one? I mean, is it entered into and conducted on a fair and open basis?

[A.] The competition is an open one and conducted by the Indians in a perfectly fair and legitimate manner. Perhaps a word or two as to the general system of trading may make matters clear. The bulk of Indians engaged in trafficking are those who get their goods from the large European wholesal houses, and then go about the country hawking them. Why, I may say that the Colony of Natal, of which I speak particularly from knowledge and experience, is practically dependent for its supplies on these travelling traders. As you know, shops are scarce in those parts, at least away from the towns, and the Indian gets an honest livelihood by supplying the deficiency. It is said that the petty European trader has been displaced. This is true to a certain extent; but then it has been the fault of the European trader. He has been content to stop in his shop, and customers have been compelled to come to him. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that when the Indian, at no small trouble, takes the goods to the customers, he readily finds a sale. Moreover, the European trader, no matter in however small a way, will not hawk his goods about. Perhaps the strongest proof of the trading capabilities of the Indian and, generally speaking, of his integrity, is to be found in the fact that the great houses will give him credit, and, in fact, many of them do the bulk of their trade through his agency. It is no secret that the opposition to the Indian in Natal is but partial, and by no means represents the real feelings of a good portion of the European community.

[Q.] What, briefly, are the legal and other disabilities placed upon the Indian residents in Natal?

[A.] Well, first there is the ‘curfew’ law which prohibits all ‘coloured’ persons being out after 9 o’clock at night without a permit from their master, if indentured servants, or unless they can give a good account of themselves. The great cause of complaint on this score is that this law may be used by the police as an engine of oppression. Respectable, well-dressed, educated Indians are sometimes subjected to the humiliation of arrest by a policeman, being marched to the lock-up, incarcerated for the night, brought before the magistrate next morning and dismissed without a word of apology when their bona fides have been established. Such occurrences are by no means rare. Then there is the deprivation of the franchise, which was brought out in the article you published. The fact is the Colonists do not want the Indian to form part of the South African nation— hence the taking away from him of franchise rights. As a menial he can be tolerated, as a citizen never.

[Q.] What has been the attitude of the Indians on this question of the exercise of political rights in an alien country?

[A.] Simply that of the person who claims to enjoy the same rights and privileges in a country as those who are not native to the country freely enjoy. Politically speaking, the Indian does not want the vote; it is only because he resents the indignity of being dispossessed of it that he is agitating for its restitution. Moreover, the classifying of all Indians in one category and the non-recognition of the just place of the better class is felt to be a great injustice. We have even proposed the raising of the property qualifications and the introduction of the education test, which would surely give the hallmark of fitness to every Indian voter, but this has been contemptuously rejected, proving that the sole object is that of discrediting the Indian and depriving him of all political power, so that he will be forever helpless. Then there is the crippling imposition of the £3 poll tax per annum on all who remain in the country after fulfilling their indenture. Again, the Indian has no social status; in fact, he is regarded as a social leper—a pariah. Indignities of all kinds are heaped upon him. No matter what his station may be, an Indian throughout South Africa is a coolie, and as such he is treated. On the railway he is restricted to a certain class, and, although in Natal he is permitted to walk on the foot-path, this is refused to him in other States.

[Q.] Will you tell me something about the treatment of Indians in these States?

[A.] In Zululand no Indians can buy landed property in the townships of Nondweni and Eshowe.

[Q.] Why was the prohibition imposed?

[A.] Well, in the township of Melmoth, which was the first established in Zululand, there were no regulations and the Natal Indians availed themselves of the right to buy landed property, which they did to the extent of over £2,000 worth. Then the prohibition was passed and made to apply to townships subsequently founded. It was purely trade jealousy, the fear being that the Indians would enter Zululand for trade purposes as they had done in Natal.
In the Orange River Free State, the purchase of any property by an Indian has been made impossible by simply classifying him with the Kaffir. It is not permitted him to hold immovable property, and every Indian settler in the State has to pay an annual tax of ten shillings. The injustice of these arbitrary laws may be gauged from the fact that when they were promulgated the Indians, mostly traders, were compelled to leave the State without the slightest compensation, causing losses to the extent of £9,000. Matters in the Transvaal are hardly any better. Laws have been passed which prohibit the Indian from engaging in trade or residing otherwise than in specific localities. On the latter point, however, proceedings are pending in the law-courts. A special registration fee of £7 has to be paid, the 9 o’clock rule is operative, walking on the foot-path is forbidden (at least this is so in Johannesburg), and travelling first and second class on the railways is not permitted. So you will see that the Indian’s life in the Transvaal is not altogether a pleasant one. And yet, in spite of all these disabilities, nay, unwarrantable indignities and insults, the Indian, unless Mr. Chamberlain interferes, will be liable to compulsory military service. According to the Commandeering Treaty, all British subjects were exempted from this service, but, when the Transvaal Volksraad was considering the point, they added a resolution to the effect that the British subjects means “whites” only. The Indians, however, memorialized the Home Government on this question.
Cape Colony, following on the same lines, has recently empowered the East London Municipality to prohibit trading by Indians, walking on the foot-paths and limiting them to residence in certain locations. So you see almost everywhere in South Africa there is a dead set against the Indians. Yet we ask no special privileges, we only claim our just rights.
Political power is not our ambition, but to be let alone to carry on our trading, for which we are eminently suited as a nation, is all we ask. This is, we think, a reasonable demand.

[Q.] So much for these grievances, which seem to be general through out South Africa. Now tell me, Mr. Gandhi, how do Indian advocates fare in the lawcourts?

[A.] Oh! there is no distinction between advocates and attorneys of whatever race; in the courts, it is only a question of ability. There are many lawyers in the Colony, but, on the whole, forensic talent cannot be said to be of a very high order. A good many European pleaders are to be found, and it goes without saying that those with English training and degrees monopolize the practice of the courts. But I suppose it is the English degree, for those of us who have taken it, which places us more on a level footing. Those with an Indian degree only would be out of place. There is scope, I believe, for Indian lawyers in South Africa, if at all sympathetically disposed to their fellow-countrymen.

As to the political aspect of affairs in South Africa, Mr. Gandhi preferred not to commit himself.

The Englishman, 14-11-1896

63^ Gandhiji left Calcutta for Bombay on this date.
64^ The question was when the antipathy of the South African whites to Indians first began to manifest itself

Speech at Public Meeting, Poona (16-11-1896)[edit]

November 16, 1896 [65]

The lecture consisted chiefly of extracts read from a pamphlet[66] on the subject, with here and there running comments thereon. This pamphlet contains an account of the various ways in which natives of India are treated in South Africa, and winds up with the names of people, said to represent the Indian community in South Africa, who have appointed Mr. Gandhi to represent their grievances to the authorities and the general public.

The lecturer asked his audience to do all they could to bring about an amelioration of the lot of the South African Indians by representations and applications to Government.

Bombay Police Abstracts, 1896, p. 405

65^ The meeting, organized by the Sarvajanik Sabha, was held at Joshi Hall. R. G. Bhandarkar presided. After Gandhiji had spoken, the meeting passed a resolution moved by Lokamanya B. G. Tilak, sympathizing with the Indians in South Africa and authorizing a committee, composed of Dr. Bhandarkar, Lokamanya Tilak, Professor G. K. Gokhale and six others to submit a memorial to the Government of India on the disabilities imposed on the Indians. The full text of the speech is not available.
66^ The Green Pamphlet

Statement of Expenses (29-11-1896)[edit]

Dr. to M. K. Gandhi: The Natal Indian Congress

Out-of-pocket expenses in connection with the movement in India with regard to the grievances of the British Indians in South Africa.

[RS. A.P.]

5th July (1896) Carriage from morning to afternoon

and previous evening at Allhabad
visiting editors , etc.

Hotel bill 5-8-0
Papers 2-12-6
Gratuity 0-80
Luggage containing pamphlets, etc. 4-8-0
Half-fare return ticket—Bombay

to Rajkot

1st to 7th August
Stamps for pamphlets 41-8-0
7th August
Thacker’s Directory 25-0-0
17th August
Telegram Bombay 1-4-0
Thakersi: gratuity re. pamphlet work 13-0-0
Parcel and packing 500 books 3-10-0
Note paper 2-12-0
Pickwick pens 0-6-0
Pencils 0-3-0
One ream paper for pamphlet posting 2-0-0
Water at Wadhwan 0-2-0
Porter 0-4-0
Poor man 0-1-0
Telegraph boy 0-1-0
Station peon 0-4-0
19th August
Carriage to G[rant] Road 0-5-0
G. Road to Bandra and back 0-12-0
G. Road to Pydhuni 0-4-0
20th August
Carriage—house to Fort 0-5-0
Fort to G.B.K. Road 0-10-0
House to Apollo Bunder 0-12-0
Apollo Bunder to market 0-1-0
Market to house 0-2-0
21st August
Carriage 0-5-0
Stamps 1-0-0
22nd August
Carriage 1-7-0
Fruit 2-0-0
24th August
Carriage 0-4-0
25th August
Carriage 0-4-0
27th August
Carriage 0-1-0
Lalu—gratuity 1-0-0
31st August
Blacking Ink 0-1-0
1st September
Tram fare 0-4-0
3rd September
Ink 0-4-0
Washerman 0-8-0
Paper 0-2-0
4th September
Stamps 1-0-0
11th September
Cards 1-4-0
Carriage 0-12-0
Boy 0-2-0
Carriage to station 0-6-0
Congress report 1-0-0
Ticket to Rajkot and back 48-3-3
Passes 0-2-0
Gratuity to cook & servant 2-0-0
Pencil 0-3-0
Papers 1-0-0
Telegram 1-0-0
Fruit 0-10-6
Carriage 0-4-0
23rd September
Porterage at Wadhwan 1-0-0
24th September
Driver—gratuity 0-8-0
Stamps 1-0-0
Paper 0-14-0
Luggage 13-8-0
Porters 0-12-0
Water and peon 0-6-0
Stamps for pamphlets 30-0-0
Water 0-0-6
Telegram 1-0-0
25th September
Carriage from station to house 1-4-0
Carriage and tram 0-9-0
26th September
Carriage 0-4-0
27th September
Carriage 0-8-0
28th September
Papers 1-4-0
Platform pass 0-0-6
Carriage 0-5-0
30th September
Carriage 0-10-0
9th October
Carriage 0-4-0
Carriage and papers 0-8-6
Champion 0-4-0
Photograph 0-15-0
10th October
Times 0-8-0
Tram 0-2-0
Soap 0-1-0
11th October
Fare to Madras 49-11-0
Guide 0-1-0
Telegram to Mr. Sohoni[67] 2-0-0
Luggage 5-8-0
Soap 0-4-0
Carriage 0-4-0
Porter 0-4-0
Pass 0-2-0
12th October
Carriage at Poona 1-0-0
Porter 0-4-0
Charity 0-8-0
Carriage (whole day) 4-8-0
Porters 1-0-0
Mr. Sohoni’s son 1-0-0
Coffee 0-6-0
Paper 0-2-0
Boy 0-2-0
13th October
Breakfast 0-14-0
Luncheon 1-14-0
Dinner 2-2-0
Fruit 0-2-0
Water 0-1-0
14th October
Railway station, Madras 0-4-0
Guide 0-4-0
Porter 0-2-0
Carriage (whole day) 4-2-3
Trickman 0-0-6
Papers and envelopes 2-10-0
Carriage for station 1-8-0
15th October
Carriage 4-6-0
Letter carrier 0-10-0
Paper 0-4-0
Tram 0-1-0
16th October
Stamps 1-0-0
Carriage 2-3-0
Paper 0-8-0
Dhobi 1-0-0
17th October
Papers 0-14-0
Carriage (whole day) 4-3-0
18th October
Carriage (half day) 2-3-0
Andrews donation 7-0-0
Sulphur ointment 0-2-0
19th October
Tram fare 0-9-0
Telegram to Wacha[68] 1-6-0
Papers 1-0-0
20th October
Dhobi 0-4-0
Papers 0-12-0
Punkah coolie 0-2-0
21st October
Note paper 0-14-0
Ink and pins 0-3-0
Tape 0-1-0
Magician 0-8-0
Papers 0-10-0
Lace 0-1-0
22nd October
Carriage 2-4-0
Sweets 0-5-3
Photograph 0-6-0
Papers 0-12-0
Tram 0-13-0
23rd October
Carriage 5-0-0
Tram 0-10-0
Stamps 0-8-0
24th October
Boys at school 0-13-0
Carriage 2-10-0
Andrews 0-8-0
Tram 0-1-0
Letter carrier 0-4-0
Papers 0-10-0
Dhobi 0-12-0
East Indian Assam coolies 1-0-0
L. Councils 0-6-0
Local Govt. returns 5-0-0
Councils Act 0-6-0
Foreign reports 2-0-0
S.A.R.[69] papers [re:] grievances 0-8-0
Statement moral & [material]


Madras District [Municipal Act.] 1-0-0
Madras Local Boards [Act] 0-10-0
Tamil books 4-12-6
Andrews for books 1-9-0
26th October
Tamil books assortment 7-0-7
Carriage 0-8-0
Tram fare 0-4-0
Papers 0-8-0
Carriage 2-4-0
27th October
Carriage 3-4-0
Inland telegrams 18-12-0
Madras Standard a/c. telegrams

& address

Butler’s gratuity 9-0-0
Waiter 1-0-0
Bhangi 0-8-0
Cook 1-0-0
Gardener 0-2-0
Keeper 0-2-0
Luggage to Calcutta 3-0-0
Andrews 5-0-0
Hotel bill 74-4-0
Papers 0-10-0
Dhobi 0-12-0
Punkah coolies (14 days) 3-4-0
Fare to Calcutta 122-7-0
Guide 0-2-0
Stamps 0-4-0
Dinner at Arkonam 1-0-0
28th October
Breakfast 1-6-0
Luncheon 1-13-0
Papers 0-10-0
Water 0-0-6
Guard 0-8-0
Dinner 2-8-6
Porter 0-2-0
29th October
Breakfast 1-10-0
Coffee 0-4-0
Porter at Manmad 0-3-0
Porter at Bhusaval 0-3-0
Pioneer 0-4-0
Luncheon 0-11-0
Dinner 2-6-0
Porter at Nagpur 0-4-0
30th October
Carriage at Nagpur 1-8-0
Hotel 3-4-0
Porter, waiter, etc. 1-15-0
Tiffin 0-6-0
Dinner 1-11-0
Paper 0-4-0
31st October
Tea and bread on way to Calcutta 0-9-0


Tiffin 0-7-0
Paper 0-2-0
Porter at station 0-6-0
Porter at Asansol 0-2-0
Porter at hotel 0-4-0
Carriage to hotel 1-0-0
Carriage & theatre 4-12-0
1st November
Dhobi 0-10-6
Blacking ink, brown leather

paste, brushes

Carriage 3-0-0
Stamps, regd. letter 0-5-0
Standard telegram 0-8-0
2nd November
Carriage 3-0-0
Stamps 0-4-0
Parcel—books for Bombay 4-12-0
Letter carrier 0-4-0
3rd November
Carriage 3-8-0
Hair cutting & shaving 0-10-0
Stamps 0-8-0
Parcel men 0-2-0
Charity 0-0-6
4th November
Dhobi 0-8-0
Grinding razor 0-8-0
Telegram Standard 0-8-0
Carriage 1-10-0
5th November
Carriage 2-0-0
Dhobi 0-4-0
Butler 4-0-0
6th November
Carriage 5-4-0
7th November
Theatre 4-0-0
Carriage 1-4-6
8th November
Dhobi 0-4-0
9th November
Hindi & Urdu books 0-12-6
Urdu & Bengali books 4-8-0
Blue books 2-8-0
Carriage 1-2-0
Stamps 0-8-0
Telegram [to] P.N. Mukerjee 2-6-0
Dhobi 0-4-0
10th November
Blue books Bengal Sectt. 11-12-0
Carriage 1-13-6
Telegram Standard, Abdulla Coy. 4-14-0
Dhobi 0-3-0
Letter carrier 0-4-0
Paper 0-1-0
Carriage 1-0-0
11th November
Papers 0-5-0
Letter carrier 0-4-0
Municipal Laws 0-12-0
Porter 0-1-0
Carriage 1-0-0
13th November
Ticket to Bombay 91-11-0
Telegram to Tilak[71] 2-0-0
Bengali 11-10-0
Carriage 2-2-0
Porters 0-10-0
Water pot, water 0-4-0
Butler 6-0-0
Cook—gratuity 1-0-0
Door-keepers 1-4-0
Sweeper 0-4-0
Bathman 0-12-0
Stamps 0-12-0
Abba Mian for parcel 3-0-0
Hotel bill 100-14-0
14th November
Breakfast and gratuity 1-10-0
Luncheon 2-0-0
Coffee 0-5-0
Dinner 2-2-0
Thread 0-4-0
Apples 0-2-0
Coachman Moosa Hussein 1-0-0
Dhobi 0-8-0
Telegram—Tilak[72 ] 1-2-0
15th November
Breakfast 1-10-0
Luncheon 1-2-0
Telegram—Abba Mian[73] 0-8-0
Telegraph boy 0-0-9
Dinner 2-6-0
Stamps 0-2-0
16th November
Bombay to Poona fare 14-14-0
Porter 0-4-0
Carriage 1-8-0
Carriage at Poona 1-10-0
Lemonade 0-6-0
Telegram to Poona 1-0-0
17th November
Porter 0-3-0
Carriage 0-4-0
18th November
Stamps 1-0-0
19th November
Carriage 0-10-0
Barber 0-4-0
20th November
Tram 0-1-0
21st November
Carriage 0-9-0
27th November
Stamps 0-2-0
Papers 1-8-0
28th November
Carriage 0-1-6
Champion subs. 6-0-0
Bombay Gazette 1-0-0
Bombay Dist. Boards Act 2-0-0
Cart 0-8-0
Cook—gratuity 5-0-0
30th November
Ghati gratuity 2-0-0
Servant Lalu 10-0-0
Stamps—posting & regd. 20 letters 2-0-0
Envelopes 0-4-0
Pens 0-3-0
Paper for pamphlet as per bill 84-0-0
23rd September
Zululand Petition[74] 15-7-0
Immigration petition[75] 42-4-0
Notes on the grievances[76] 20-0-0
8th September
Bombay address (120 copies) 50-0-0
Regd. for Rs. 300 to Madras 0-3-9
Package for sending books to Calcutta 0-4-0
Registration--Calcutta Rs. 200 0-3-3
17th September
Printing 6000 copies pamphlet 110-0-0
Times of India Directory 10-15-0
Sending Rs. 100 by money order 2-1-0
Telegrams—Madras 2-0-0
Note Paper 0-3-3
30th November
Telegram to Secy. of Viceroy[77] 5-4-0
27th September
Telegram to Durban[78] 99-6-0
21st September
Telegram to Sir W. W. Hunter[79] 113-2-0
Bhimbhai for copying, assisting, etc., etc. 20-0-0
Fruit 2-6-0
Pens 0-4-0
Stamps 0-8-0
Porter for taking books to Institute 0-1-3
28th November
Congress stamp 1-8-0
17th August
Rajkot to Wadhwan 4-13-0
Telegram—Bombay 1-4-0
Total: Rs. 1,666-6-1
29th November
Paid Madras Standard on A/c


Paid customs for pamphlets 0-6-6

From a handwritten office copy: S.N. 1310

67^ A colleague of Gokhale; vide "Letter to G. K. Gokhale", 18-10-1896
68^ Dinshaw Wacha, (1884-1936), A prominent Indian leader. He presided over the Indian National Congress session in 1901. The telegram is not traceable.
69^ South African Republic, the Transvaal
70^ Statement Exhibiting the Moral and Material Progress and Condition of India during the Year, issued annually for presentation to Parliament by the then Government of India
71^ These telegrams are not traceable.
72^ These telegrams are not traceable.
73^ ibid
74^ Vide “Memorial to Natal Governor”,26-2-1896 and “Memorial to J. Chamberlain”,11-3-1896
75^ Vide ”Memorial to J. Chamberlain”,11-8-1895
76^ Vide “ Notes on the Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa”, 22-9-1896
77^ This item is not traceable.
78^ These are not traceable.
79^ ibid

Telegram to the Viceroy (30-11-1896)[edit]

November 30, 1896 [80]


The Bengalee, 1-12-1896

80^  This was also published in The Times of India, 30-11-1896, with minor changes and without the last sentence.

Letter to "The Englishman" (30-11-1896)[edit]

BOMBAY, [81]

November 30, 1896

THE EDITOR, The Englishman


With reference to my letter in connection with the grievances of the Indians in South Africa, dated the 13th instant,[82] I happened to read the original telegram received from South Africa. It reads “raad” and not “road” as in the message received by me in Calcutta. The meaning is now quite clear. It is that the Transvaal Government are enforcing Indians to locations. This makes the matter still more serious, if possible.

The High commissioner for South Africa, in accepting the award of the arbitrator in connection with the Indian question in that Republic, writes as follows in a telegram, dated the 24th June, 1895, A.D. :

The Secretary of State has received a telegram from the Indians stating that they have received notice to remove and praying that action may be stayed. I therefore urge Your Honour’s Government to stay action until the resolution and circular of 1893 have been cancelled and the law brought in harmony with the award when a test case can be tried in the courts of the South African Republic.

The resolution and the circular referred to have been cancelled, but so far as I know, and I have been receiving here the South African papers regularly, a test case has not been tried. Evidently, therefore, the action of the Transvaal Government is premature, and, I venture to think, constitutes a breach of international courtesy, if nothing more. I venture to remind you that the assets of the Indians in the Transvaal amount to over £100,000, and that removal to locations would practically mean ruin to the Indian traders. The question, therefore, in its immediate aspect involves the very existence of hundreds of Her Majesty’s subjects whose only fault is that they are “sober, thrifty and industrious”.

I submit that the matter demands the most urgent and immediate attention of the whole public in India.


The Englishman, 8-12-1896

81^  This appeared under the title "The Indians in South Africa".
82^  Vide “ Letter to “The Englishman”,13-11-1896.