The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi/Volume I/May 1895 Petition to Lord Ripon

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This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before 1926. It is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less, including India, its source country, since 1 January 2009, sixty years after Gandhi's death, pursuant to s. 22, Copyright Act, 1957 of India. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.




[Before May 5, 1895][2]



Your Petitioners respectfully venture to approach Your Excellency in connection with their position in the S. A. R., especially as affected by the Award lately given by the Chief Justice of the Orange Free State in the Indian Arbitration Case.

2. Your Petitioners, whether as traders, shopkeepers’ assistants, hawkers, cooks, waiters, or labourers, are scattered over the whole of the Transvaal, though the greatest number is settled in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Of traders there are nearly 200 whose liquidated assets would amount to nearly £100,000. Of these about three firms import goods directly from England, Durban, Port Elizabeth, India, and other places, and have thus branches in other parts of the world whose existence mainly depends upon their Transvaal businesses. The rest are small vendors having stores in different places. There are nearly 2,000 hawkers in the Republic who buy goods and hawk them about, while those of your petitioners who are labourers are employed as general servants in European houses or hotels. They number about 1,500 men, of whom about 1,000 live at Johannesburg.

3. Your Excellency’s Petitioners, before entering into a discussion of their precarious position in the State, would with the greatest deference venture to point out that your Petitioners, whose interests were at stake, were never once consulted as to the arbitration, that the moment the question of arbitration was broached, your Petitioners protested both against the principle of arbitration and against the choice of the Arbitrator. Your Petitioners conveyed the protest verbally to His Honour the British Agent at Pretoria, who, your Petitioners here take the opportunity to say, has always been most courteous and attentive to those of your Petitioners who had occasion to wait upon him from time to time in connection with the grievances of the Indians in the Transvaal. Your Petitioners would also draw Your Excellency’s attention to the fact that even a written protest was sent to Her Majesty’s High Commissioner at Cape Town. However, your Petitioners by dwelling upon the matter do not at all wish to cast the slightest reflection on the high-mindedness or probity of the learned Chief Justice of the Orange Free State or to question the wisdom of Her Majesty’s officers. Having known the bias of the learned Chief Justice against the Indians, your Petitioners thought, and still humbly venture to think, that he could not, in spite of his most strenuous efforts to do otherwise, bring to bear upon the question an equibalanced judgment which is so necessary to a right and proper perception of the facts of a case. Judges having a previous knowledge of case have been known to refrain from deciding them, lest they should unconsciously be led away by preconceived notions or prejudices.

4. The reference to the learned Arbitrator in the case submitted on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government runs thus :

The Arbitrator shall be free to decide either in favour of the claims put forward by Her Majesty’s Government or by the South African Republic, or to lay down such interpretation of the said Ordinances, read together with the Despatches referring to the question, as shall appear to him to be correct.

5. The Award as published in the papers is as follows:

(a) The claims of Her Majesty’s Government and of the Government of the South African Republic respectively are disallowed, save and except to the extent and degree following, that is to say:
(b) The South African Republic is bound and entitled in its treatment of Indian and other Asiatic traders, being British subjects, to give full force and effect to Law No. 3 of 1885, enacted, and in the year 1886 amended by the Volksraad of the South African Republic, subject (in case of objection being raised by or on behalf of any such persons to any such treatment as not being in accordance with the provisions of the said law as amended) to sole and exclusive interpretation in the ordinary course by the Tribunals of the country.
6. Now, your Petitioners humbly submit that the above Award not being in terms of the reference is void, and that Her Majesty’s Government is not, therefore, bound by it. The very object with which the arbitration was decided upon is, it is respectfully pointed out, frustrated. The reference leaves it to the Arbitrator either to allow the claims of one of the two Governments or to lay down such interpretation of the Ordinances as may appear to him to be correct, regard being had to the Despatches referring to the question. Instead of interpreting, the learned Arbitrator has delegated the interpretation,

and in delegating has, moreover, limited the delegation to such persons as, by the very nature of their position, cannot possibly avail themselves of the procedure and evidence that could be availed of, nay that was expressly stipulated to be availed of, by the Arbitrator, and that would tend to enable them to lay down such an interpretation as would be just and equitable, though, perhaps, not strictly legal.

7. The Award, your Petitioners submit, is invalid on two grounds. First, because the Arbitrator had delegated his function, which no arbitrator in the world can do. Secondly, the Arbitrator has failed to keep to the reference, inasmuch as he has left undecided the question that he was expressly called upon to decide.

8. The object, it would seem, was not to have the question of interpretation decided in a law-court, but to terminate the question once for all. Had not such been the case, Her Majesty’s government would never have entered into the voluminous correspondence with regard to the question of interpretation as found in the Transvaal Green Books, Nos. 1 and 2, 1894. The question that was to be, and your Petitioners submit can only be,decided diplomatically and politically has been left, if the Award is to be valid, to be decided judicially only. And if it is true that the Chief Justice of the Transvaal has already expressed his opinion in the case presented on behalf of the Transvaal Government, the decision of the question is almost a foregone conclusion. To prove that this is so, your Petitioners refer Your Excellency to newspapers of current dates, especially The Johannesburg Times of 27th April 1895 (weekly edition).

9. But your Petitioners’ appeal to Your Excellency is on higher and broader grounds; your Petitioners have every confidence that the question that affects thousands of Her Majesty’s subjects, on a proper solution of which depend the bread and butter of hundreds of British subjects, and a technical solution of which may bring ruin to hundreds of homes and may leave them penniless, will not be left to be decided merely in a court of law where everybody’s hands are tied down, and where such considerations find no place. So far as the traders are concerned, if the contention of the Transvaal Government is ultimately upheld, it means absolute ruin to them, and not only to them personally, but to their families and relations and servants, both in India and the Transvaal, who are dependent upon them. It is impossible for some of your Petitioners, who have been trading for a long time in the Transvaal, to seek “pastures new” and manage to keep body and soul together, if they are driven out of their present position through no fault of their own, but merely, as will be seen presently, because of the misrepresentation of a few interested persons.

10. The gravity of the question and the immense interests that are at stake are your Petitioners' excuse for the following some-what lengthy resume of their position, and for humbly soliciting Your Excellency’s undivided attention to it.

11. The unfortunate departure from the 14th Clause of the Convention of 1881[3], which protects equally the interests of all persons other than Natives, has originated and been countenanced in and by the assumption that the Indian settlers in the Transvaal do not observe proper sanitation and is based on the misrepresentations of certain interested persons. It has been emphatically laid down by Her Majesty’s Government throughout the correspondence about the Law 3 of 1885 that separate streets might be set apart for the Indians in the interests of pubic health, but that they cannot be compelled to trade in certain fixed parts only of the towns. After the Law 3 of 1885 was strenuously opposed for some time,the then High Commissioner,Sir H. Robinson, in withdrawing opposition to the amended Law of 1886, says in his letter (26th September, 1886, page 46, Green Book No. 1, 1894) : “Although the amended law is still a contravention of the 14th Article of the Convention of London[4] I shall not advise Her Majesty’s Government to offer further opposition to it in view of Your Honour’s opinion that it is necessary for the protection of the public health.” Even the reference to the Arbitrator and the Law 3 of 1885 shows clearly that the departure from the Convention was to be assented to only for sanitary reasons.

12. Your Petitioners hereby enter their most respectful, but emphatic protest against the assumption that there exist sanitary reasons for such a departure; your Petitioners hope to be able to show that no such reasons exist.

13. Your Petitioners append hereto three certificates from doctors which would speak for themselves and which show that their dwellings are in no way inferior to those of the Europeans, from a sanitary point of view (App. A,B,C). Your Petitioners challenge comparison of their own dwellings with those of the Europeans who have theirs in their immediate neighbourhood. For, it so happens in Pretoria that, side by side with some of your Petitioners’ houses and stores, are situated also the houses and stores of Europeans.

14. The following unsolicited testimonial will speak for itself. On the 16th October, 1885, Mr. Mitchell, the then Joint General Manager of the Standard Bank, writes thus to the High Commissioner, Sir H. Robinson:

It may not be deemed out of place if I add that they (the Indian traders) are, within my knowledge, in all respects orderly, industrious and respectable people, and some among them are merchants of wealth and position, having establishments on a large scale in Mauritius, Bombay and elsewhere (Green Book No. 1, p. 37).
15. About 35 European firms of repute distinctly declare that the aforementioned Indian merchants, the majority of whom come from Bombay, keep their business places as well as their residences in a clean and proper sanitary state, in fact, just as good as the European (App. D).
16. It is true, however, that this does not appear in the newspapers. The public Press thinks that your Petitioners are “filthy vermin”. The representations to the Volksraad say the same thing. The reasons are obvious. Your Petitioners, not knowing the English language so well as to be able to take part in such discussions, or even to keep themselves informed of all the misrepresentations about them, are not always in a position to refute such statements. It was only when they became aware that their very existence was at stake that they went to the European firms and doctors to give their opinion about their sanitary habits.

17. But your Petitioners claim also a right to speak for themselves, and they have no hesitation in stating deliberately that collectively, though their dwellings may appear uncouth and are certainly without much adornment, they are in no way inferior to the European dwellings from a sanitary point of view. And as to their personal habits, they confidently assert that they use more water and bathe much oftener than the Europeans residing in the Transvaal whom they come in frequent connection with. Nothing can be further from your Petitioners’ wish than to set up comparisons, or to try to show themselves superior to their European brethren. Force of circumstances only has driven them to such a course.

18. The two elegant petitions at pp. 19-21 of the Green Book No. 2, which pray for an exclusion of all Asiatics, and contain wholesale denunciation of all the Asiatics, Chinamen, etc., render it absolutely necessary to state what has been stated above. The first petition enumerates terrible vices, peculiar, as alleged therein, to Chinamen, and the second, referring to the first, includes in the denunciation all the Asiatics. Speaking specifically of Chinese, Coolies and other Asiatics, the second petition refers to “the dangers to which the whole community is exposed by the spread of leprosy, syphilis, and the like loathsome diseases engendered by the filthy habits and immoral practices of these people”.

19. Without entering into further comparison, and without entering into the question as affecting the Chinamen, your Petitioners most emphatically state that the above charges are entirely withoutgrounds so far as your Petitioners are concerned.

20. To show how far the interested agitators have gone, your Petitioners quote below an excerpt from a memorial presented to the Volksraad of the Orange Free State, a copy of which was sent with approval by the Pretoria Chamber of Commerce to the Transvaal Government :

As these men enter the State without wives or female relatives the result is obvious. Their religion teaches them to consider all women as soulless and

Christians as natural prey (Green Book No. 1, 1894, p. 30).

21. Your Petitioners ask, can there be a grosser libel on the great faiths prevailing in India or a greater insult to the Indian nation?

22. Such are the statements which, it will be noticed from the Green Books referred to, have been used to make out a case against the Indians.

23. The real and the only reason has all along been suppressed. The only reason for compelling your Petitioners [to live in Location] or putting every obstacle in the way of your Petitioners earning a decent livelihood is the trade jealousy. Your Petitioners, i.e., those who are traders—and the whole crusade is practically against them—have, by their competition and owing to their temperate and thrifty habits, been able to reduce the prices of the necessaries of life. This does not suit the European traders who would make very large profits. It is a notorious fact that your Petitioners, who are traders, are almost without exception teetotallers. Their habits are simple, and thus they are content to make small profits. This and this only is the reason of the opposition against them, and this is well-known to everybody in South Africa. That this is so can be gathered from the public Press of South Africa, which sometimes becomes frank and shows the hatred in its true light. Thus, dealing with the “Coolie question”, as it is contemptuously called, after showing that the real “Coolie” is indispensable to South Africa, The Natal Advertiser of the 15th September, 1893, thus delivers itself:

The sooner the steps are taken to suppress, and if possible to expel, the Indian trader the better. These are the real canker that is eating into the very

vitals of the community.

24. Again, the Press, the Government organ in the Transvaal, dealing with this question, says : “If the Asiatic invasion is not stopped in time, European shopkeepers must be driven to the wall, as they have been in Natal, and in many parts of the Cape Colony.” The whole of the above article is interesting reading, and is a fair sample of the feeling of the Europeans towards colour in South Africa. Although the whole tenor of it betrays fear on the grounds of competition, there occurs this characteristic passage:
If we are to be swamped by these people, trade by Europeans will be impossible, and we shall one and all become subjected to the horrible danger inseparable from close contact with a large body of uncleanly citizens, with whom syphilis and leprosy are common diseases, and hideous immorality a matter of course.
25. And yet Dr. Veale, in the certificate attached hereto, gives it as his deliberate opinion that “the lowest class Indian lives better and in better habitation, and with more regard to sanitary measures, than the lowest class White” (App. A).

26. Furthermore, the doctor 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”. Added to this is the testimony of the two doctors from Johannesburg to the effect that “the Indians are in no way inferior to the Europeans of the same standing” (App. B and C).

27. In further proof of your Petitioners’ contention, your Petitioners would take the liberty to quote from a leading article from The Cape Times of 13th April, 1889, which states the case for the Indians as fairly as could be wished:

The outcry which was raised in the Capital of the Transvaal against the “Coolie trader” some little time ago is brought to the mind by occasional paragraphs in the morning papers, regarding the doings of the Indian and the Arab traders.
After quoting a flattering description of the Indian enterprise from another newspaper, the article goes on to say:
In face of such reminders as these, one may reasonably expect to be pardoned for referring, for a few moments, to a body of respectable, hardworking men whose position is so misunderstood that their very nationality is overlooked and a name labelled to them, which tends to place them in an exceedingly low level in the estimation of their fellow-creatures. In the face, too, of financial operations, the success of which many of their detractors would envy, one fails to understand the agitation which would place the operators in the same category as the half-heathen Native and confine him to Locations, and subject him to the harsher laws by which the Transvaal Kaffir is governed. The impression, which is but too prevalent both in the Transvaal and in this Colony, that the quiet and inoffensive Arab shopkeeper, and the equally harmless Indian, who carries his pack of dainty wares from house to house, is a Coolie, is due largely to an insolent ignorance as to the race whence they spring. When one reflects that the conception of Brahmanism, with its poetic and mysterious mythology, took its rise in the land of the “Coolie trader”, that in that land 24 centuries ago, the almost divine Buddha taught and practised the glorious doctrine of self-sacrifice, and that it was from the plains and mountains of that weird old country that we have derived the fundamental truths of the very language we speak,one cannot but help regretting that the children of such a race should be treated as equals of the children of black heathendom and outer darkness. Those who, for a few moments, have stayed to converse with the Indian trader have been, perhaps, surprised to find they are speaking to a scholar and a gentleman. ... And it is the sons of this Land of light who are despised as Coolies, and treated as


It is about time that those who cry out against the Indian merchant should have pointed out to them, who and what he is. Many of his worst detractors are British subjects enjoying all the privileges and rights of membership in a glorious community. To them the hatred of injustice, and the love of fair play is inherent, and when it affects themselves, they have a method of insisting upon their rights and liberties, whether under a foreign government or under their own. Possibly, it has never struck them that the Indian merchant is also a British subject, and claims the same liberties and rights with equal justice. To say the very least of it, if we may be permitted to employ a phrase of Palmerston’s days, it is very un-English to claim rights one would not allow to others. The right of trade as an equal privilege has, since the abolition of the Elizabethan monopolies, become almost a part of the English Constitution, and were anyone to interfere with that right, the privilege of British citizenship would suddenly come to the front. That the

Indian is more successful in competition and lives on less than the English merchant is the unfairest and weakest of arguments. The very foundation of English Commerce lies in the fact of our being able to compete more successfully with other nations. Surely, it is protection running to madness when English traders wish the State to intervene to protect them against the more successful operations of their rivals. 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, 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. . . . Enough has been said to show that the Indian merchant is something more than the ‘Coolie’ of the newspaper, the Dutchman and the disappointed shopkeeper.

28. It will also be seen from the above quotation that the European feeling, when not blinded by selfishness, is not against the Indians. But since it has been insisted throughout the Green books, before alluded to, that both the Burghers of the State and the European residents objected to the Indians, your Petitioners are sending two petitions to His Honour the State President of the S.A. Republic, one showing that a very large number of the Burghers are not only not against the Indians freely residing and trading in the Transvaal, but they would also deem it a hardship, should the harassing measures ultimately result in their withdrawal (App. E); and the other signed by the European residents, showing that, in the opinion of the signatories, their sanitary habits are in no way inferior to those of the Europeans, and that the agitation against the Indians is due to the trade jealousy (App. F). But were it otherwise—were every European and every Burgher of the State dead against the Indian— even that, your Petitioners submit, cannot affect the main issue, unless the causes which render such a state of things possible were such as would discredit a community against whom such a feeling exists. At the time of going to press (14-5-95), the Dutch petition was already signed by 484 Burghers and the European by 1340 Europeans.

29. That the Award of the Chief Justice of the O. F. S.[5] does not at all simplify the question and bring its solution a step nearer will appear from the following :

The active exercise of Her Majesty’s Government protection will be just as necessary as if the Award had never been given. For, assuming, for argument’s sake and that only, that the Award is proper and final, and that the Chief Justice of the Transvaal has decided that the Indians must trade and reside in the places fixed by the Government, the question at once arises: where will they be put? May they be put in gullies—in places where sanitation is impossible, and which are so far away from towns as to render it absolutely impossible for the Indians to trade or live decently? That this is quite likely would appear from the following strong protest addressed by His Honour the British Agent against the Transvaal Government assigning an uninhabitable place to the Malays in 1893, at p. 72, Green Book No. 2:

To be forced into a small Location on a spot used as a place to deposit the refuse of the town, without any water except the polluted soakage in the gully between the Location and the town, must inevitably result in malignant fevers and other diseases breaking out amongst them, whereby their lives and the health of the community in town will be endangered. But, apart from these serious objections, some of these people have not the means of erecting dwellings for themselves on the land pointed out (or anywhere else) such as they have been accustomed to live in. The consequence of forcing them out of their present habitations will, therefore, result in all of them leaving Pretoria to the great inconvenience and loss of the White people who employ their labour, not even to speak of the hardship to themselves. . . .
30. At the last page of the same book, in his Despatch dated the

21st March, 1894, the High Commissioner says as follows:

. . . Her Majesty’s Government assume that the Arbitration will apply to any Aboriginal of Asia who may be a British subject.
31. If, in terms of that Despatch, the Arbitration is to apply to the Aboriginals of Asia, the question is, are there any Asiatic Aboriginals at all in the Transvaal, unless all the Asiatics are to be treated as such ipso facto—a contention, your Petitioners are confident, will not be held out for one moment. Your Petitioners, therefore, will not certainly rank as Aboriginals.

32. If the whole objection to the Indian proceeds from sanitary grounds, the following restrictions are entirely unintelligible:

1. The Indians, like the Kaffirs, cannot become owners of fixed property.
2. The Indians must be registered, the fee being £3-10s.
3. In passing through the Republic, like the Natives, they must be able to produce passes unless they have the registration ticket.
4. They cannot travel first or second class on the railways. They are huddled together in the same compartment with the Natives.

33. The sting of all these insults and indignities becomes more galling when it is borne in mind that many of your Petitioners are large holders of property in Delagoa Bay. There they are so much respected that they cannot take out a third-class railway ticket. They are gladly received by the Europeans there. They are not required to have passes. Why, your Petitioners humbly ask, should they be differently treated in the Transvaal? Do their sanitary habits become filthy as soon as they enter the Transvaal territory? It often happens that the same Indian is differently treated by the same European in Delagoa Bay and the Transvaal.

34. To show how harassing the pass law is, your Petitioners have appended hereto an affidavit from Mr. Haji Mahomed Haji Dada, which will speak for itself (App. G). Who Mr. Haji Mahomed is, will be gathered from the copy of a letter attached to the affidavit (App. H). He is one of the foremost Indians in South Africa. Your Petitioners have attached the affidavit by way of illustration only, and to show how hard must be the lot of the other Indians, when a foremost Indian cannot travel without suffering indignity and actual hardships. If it were necessary, hundreds of such cases of ill-treatment could be proved to the hilt.

35. It has been also mentioned that the Indians live as parasites, and spend nothing. So far as the Indian labourers and their children are concerned, the objection will not hold water at all, and they are not supposed to be parasites, even by the most prejudiced Europeans. Your Petitioners may be allowed to mention from personal experience that, so far as a majority of the labourers are concerned, they live above their means and have settled with their families. As to the trading Indians, who are the butt of all the prejudice, a little explanation may be necessary. Your Petitioners, who are traders, do not deny, they take pride in acknowledging, that they send remittances to India for those who are dependent upon them, but the remittances are entirely out of proportion to their expenditure. The only reason why they are successful competitors is because they spend less on luxuries than the European traders. But, all the same, they have to pay rents to the European landlords, wages to the Native servants, and to pay Dutch farmers for the animals for meat. The other provisions, such as tea, coffee, etc., are bought in the country.

36. The question, then, really is not whether the Indian is to live in this street or that, but what status he is to occupy throughout South Africa. For, what is done in the Transvaal will also affect the action of the two Colonies. There seems to be a general consensus of opinion that the question will have to be settled on a common basis, modified by local conditions.

37. So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir. But the general feeling, not so strongly expressed but here and there voiced in the newspapers, of the respectable portion of the European community is quite the reverse.

38. The Colony of Natal has been inviting the other South African States to a 'Coolie' Conference.The word 'Coolie' has been used officially and it shows how high the expressed feeling runs against the Indians and what the Conference would do, if it could, with regard to the question. In the case put by the Transvaal Government before the Arbitrator, it is stated that the word 'Coolie' applies to any person coming from Asia.

39. When the feeling runs so high in South Africa against the Indian, when such a feeling owes its origin to interested agitation (as it is hoped, has been sufficiently shown above), when it is known that that feeling is by no means shared by all Europeans, when there is a general scramble for wealth in South Africa, when the state of morality of the people is not particularly high, when there are gross misrepresentations about the habits of the Indians which have given rise to special legislation, it is not too much, your Petitioners submit, to request Your Excellency to receive with the utmost caution the statements received against your Petitioners, and the proffered solutions of the Indian question.

40. Your Petitioners would also urge upon Your Excellency's consideration that not only does the Proclamation of 1858 entitle your Petitioners to the same privileges and rights as enjoyed by Her Majesty's other subjects, but your Petitioners have been specially assured of such a treatment by Your Excellency's Despatch, which says:

It is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that the Queen's Indian subjects should be treated upon a footing of equality with all Her Majesty's other subjects.
41. Nor is this a local question; but, your Petitioners submit, it is pre-eminently an Imperial question. The decision of the question cannot but affect and guide the policy of the other Colonies and countries, where by treaty Her Majesty's subjects enjoy freedom of commerce, etc., and where Her Majesty's Indian subjects also may emigrate. Again, the question affects a very large Indian population in South Africa. With those who have settled in South Africa, it is almost a question of life and death. By persistent ill-treatment they cannot but degenerate, so much so that from their civilized habits they would

be degraded to the habits of the aboriginal Natives, and a generation hence, between the progeny of the Indians thus in course of degeneration and the Natives, there will be very little difference in habits, and customs, and thought. The very object of immigration will be frustrated, and a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects, instead of being raised in the scale of civilization, will be actually lowered. The results of such a state of things cannot but be disastrous. No selfrespecting Indian can dare even visit South Africa. All Indian enterprise will be stifled. Your Petitioners have no doubt that Your Excellency will never allow such a sad event to happen in a place where Her Majesty enjoys suzerain power, or where the Union Jack flies.

42. Your Petitioners beg respectfully to point out that, under the present state of feeling against the Indians in South Africa, for Her Majesty's Government to yield to the interested clamour against your Petitioners would be an act of grave injustice to your Petitioners.

43. If it is true that your Petitioners' sanitary habits are not such as to endanger the health of the European community, and if it be true also that the agitation against them is due to trade jealousy, your Petitioners submit that the Award of the Chief Justice of the Orange Free State cannot be binding, even though it be in strict accordance with the terms of the reference. For, the very reason which induced Her Majesty's Government to assent to a departure from the Convention does not then exist.

44. If, however, Your Excellency is disposed to doubt the statements made herein, as regards your Petitioners' sanitary habits, your Petitioners humbly urge that, in view of the fact that very large interests are at stake, and that there are conflicting statements with regard to your Petitioners' sanitary habits, and that the feeling is very high against the Indians in South Africa, before any departure from the Convention is finally assented to, some impartial inquiry should be made as to the truth of the conflicting statements, and that the whole question of the status of the Indian in South Africa should be sifted.

In conclusion, your Petitioners leave their case in Your Excellency's hands, earnestly praying and fully hoping that your Petitioners will not be allowed to become a prey to the colour prejudice, and that Her Majesty's Government will not consent to a treatment of the Indians in the South African Republic which would place them in a degraded and unnatural position and deprive them of the means of earning an honest livelihood.

And for this act of justice and mercy, your Petitioners, as in duty bound, shall for ever pray, etc.


April 27, 1895

I hereby certify that I have practised as a general medical practitioner in the town of Pretoria for the last five years.

During that period I have had a considerable practice amongst the Indians, especially about three years ago, when they were more numerous than at present.

I have generally found them cleanly in their person, and free from the personal diseases due to dirt or careless habits. Their dwellings are generally clean and sanitation is willingly attended to by them. Class considered, I should be of opinion that the lowest class Indian compares most favourably with the lowest class white, i.e. the lowest class Indian lives better and in better habitation, and with more regard to sanitary measures, than the lowest class white.

I have, further, found that, during the period that smallpox was epidemic in the town and district, and is still epidemic in the district, that although every nation nearly had one or more of its members at some time in the lazaretto, there was not a single Indian attacked. Generally, in my opinion, it is impossible to object to the Indians on sanitary grounds, provided always the inspection of the sanitary authorities is made as strictly and regularly for the Indian as for the white.

B.A., M.B.,B.S. (CANTAB)

This is to certify that I have examined the residences of the bearers of this note, and that they are in a sanitary and hygienic condition, and in fact such as any European might inhabit. I have resided in India. I can certify that their habitations

here in the Z.A.R. are far superior to those of their native country.

C. P. S PINIK, M.R.C.P. & L.R.C.S.

14th March, 1895
Having frequently occasion to visit the better class of the Indian population of Johannesburg (merchants, etc., coming from Bombay) in my professional capacity, I give as my opinion that they are as clean in their habits and domestic life as white people of the same standing.


14th March, 1895
The undersigned, having been informed that the Arbitration Commission in connection with the question regarding the Indian merchants in the South African Republic is now holding its meeting at Bloemfontein, and, also, having been made aware of the accusations against the said Indian merchants, to the effect that on account of their dirty habits they are a danger to beside amongst the European population, hereby wish to distinctly declare:
1st. That the aforementioned Indian merchants, the majority of whom come from Bombay, keep their business places, as well as their residences, in a clean and proper sanitary state—in fact, just as good as the Europeans.
2nd. That it is a distinct error in calling them “Coolies” or inhabitants of British India of a “lower caste”, as they decidedly belong to the better and higher castes of India.


(True Translation)



In view of the gross misrepresentation by certain interested Europeans residing in the Republic, to the effect that the burghers of this State are opposed to the Indians residing or trading in the State, and their agitation against these people, we, the undersigned burghers, beg respectfully to state that so far from the burghers being opposed to these people fully stopping and trading in the State, they recognize in them a peaceful and law-abiding, and therefore desirable, class of people. To the poor they are a veritable blessing inasmuch as by their keen competition they keep down the prices of necessaries of life which they can do owing to their thrifty and temperate habits.

We venture to submit that their withdrawal from the State will be a dire calamity to us, especially those of us who, living far away from centres of business, depend upon the Indians for the supply of our daily wants, and that therefore any measures restrictive of their freedom, and having for their object their ultimate removal, and especially that of those Indians who are traders and hawkers, will necessarily interfere with our enjoyment and comforts. We, therefore, humbly pray that the Government will not take any steps that may scare away the Indians from the Transvaal.[7]



We, the undersigned Europeans residing in this Republic, beg to protest against the agitation set up against the Indians, residing or trading freely in the country, by certain interested persons. So far as our experience is concerned, we believe their sanitary habits to be in no way inferior to those of the Europeans, and the statements about prevalence of infectious diseases among them are certainly without ground, especially as regards the Indian traders.

We firmly believe that the agitation owes its origin not to their habits as regards sanitation, but to trade jealousy, because, owing to their frugal and temperate habits, they have been able to keep down the prices of necessaries of life and have therefore been an inestimable boon to the poor classes of the society in the State.

We do not believe any good cause exists for compelling them to reside or trade in separate quarters.

We would therefore humbly request Your Honour not to adopt or countenance any measure that would tend to restrict their freedom and ultimately result in their withdrawal from the Republic, a result that cannot but strike at the very means of their livelihood and cannot, therefore, we humbly submit, be contemplated with complacency in a Christian country.[8]

I, Haji Mahomed Haji Dada, managing and senior partner of Haji Mahomed Haji Dada & Co., of Durban, Pretoria, Delagoa Bay and elsewhere, merchants, do make oath and say that :
1. Some time in the year 1894, I was travelling from Johannesburg to Charlestown by coach.
2. As I reached the Transvaal border, a European with a uniform and another came up and asked me for a pass. I said I had no pass and was never before required to produce any pass.
3. The man thereupon roughly said to me that I would have to get one.
4. I asked him to get one and offered to pay.
5. He then very roughly asked me to go down with him to the pass officer, and threatened to pull me out if I did not do so.
6. In order to avoid further trouble I got down. I was made to walk about 2 miles, the man riding on a horse.
7. On my reaching the office I was required to take no pass but was only asked where I was going to. I was then asked to go away
8. The man who was on horseback, and who went with me, also left me and I had to walk back two miles to find the coach gone.
9. I was therefore obliged, although I had paid my fare as far as Charlestown, to walk there, a distance of over two miles.
10. I know from personal knowledge that many other Indians, similarly placed, have undergone such troubles and indignity.
11. About a few days ago, I had to travel to Pretoria from Delagoa Bay in the company of two friends.
12. We were all required to arm ourselves with passes, just as the Natives of South

Africa are required to do, in order to be able to travel in the Transvaal.

Sworn before me at Pretoria, this the 24th day of April, 1895.
V. Rrasak

March 2, 1895




Seeing you about to pay a visit to India, we take this opportunity of placing on recond our very high appreciation of your various business qualifications which you have proved during our business relations with you for the last fifteen years, and it gives us very great pleasure in stating that your integrity in business matters has never been questioned by any of the commercial community during your residence here, and we trust you will see your way to return to Natal, and we then hope that we shall renew our business relations with you once again. Hoping you will have a very pleasant voyage.

We are,

Yours faithfully,

For the African Boating Co.,


From a photostat: S.N. 417-424; also S.N. 451 (3-16)

1^ This was forwarded by Sir Jacobus de Wet to the High Commissioner at Cape Town on May 30, 1895.

2^ Vide “Letter to M. C. Camroodeen”, 5-5-1895.

3^  This should be 1884; vide footnote on the following page.

4^ London Convention, signed on February 27, 1884, between the Boers and the British. Article XIV assured all persons, other than Natives, full liberty of entry, travel, residence, ownership of property and trade in the South African Republic (or the Transvaal). The Boer Government tried to interpret the word ‘Natives’ to include the Indians, but this view was rejected by the British Government.

5^ Orange Free State

6^ This is Zuid-Afrikaansche Republick, Dutch for South African Republic.

7^ Signed by a number of Burghers

8^ The petition is printed in Afrikaans and in English. The original signatures do not appear on the field copy.