Monthly Archives: January 2012


Yatra naari pujyate; tatra ramate devata—is a famous mantra, which means, ‘god is pleased where woman is worshiped’.  In spite of being a male dominated society and in many ways woman is thrashed and exploited, yet our society is more ‘woman’ centric than male.  Though western concept and values are influencing Indian society in every way, yet a normal Indian can never think of living without having some kind of relationship with a woman—as a mother, sister, wife etc.  In a sense, I can say this with some confidence that without a woman an Indian male will feel incomplete.  That is why even a sannyasi is entitled to bow before his mother, take care of her and even allowed to do final rites to her.

A woman is the center of life to a man and particularly to a home.  That’s why Mahabharata says, ‘na grham grham ity aahu grhiiç grham ucyate.’1—a house is not a home but only a woman (wife) makes a house as a home.  A married man living alone in a rented house is not called as a family.  Whereas a woman living away from her husband is considered as a home.  For example, if the husband works at Delhi leaving his wife at Chennai, he will say, ‘my family is at Chennai’.  Whereas his wife will never say ‘my family is at Delhi’ but ‘my husband works at Delhi’.  So without a wife a man cannot have a home.

The importance of woman in Indian life can be understood even through certain terms like ‘dharmapatni; pati bhakti’ etc.   Of course language is based on convention and acceptance to understand a concept or thing.  However, in India this very convention and common acceptance shows the importance of a woman in life for all and particularly for a man.  We never heard or have a term like ‘dharmapati’ or ‘patni bhakti’.  Graha-dharma (home/family dharma) is entrusted mostly with a woman. Without a wife a man cannot do most (or) any of his grahastyadharma (householder duty), the convention rightly attributed this word to woman as ‘dharmapatni’.2  Even Rama has to perform ashvameda yajna (horse sacrifice) by keeping a golden statue of Sita next to him, when she was exiled to the forest by him.  In India, so far any male living without marriage is not accepted or welcomed in a community or society.  Living as ‘single’ (like that is in the West) never considered as normal part life and such life is considered as an aberration.   Though this trend is slowly creeping in Indi in some urban society, yet it is not considered as normal part of our life.  After bachelorhood (brahmachari) one should marry or become a sannyasi.

So the word of ‘Patibhakti’ (bhakti towards husband), will help us to understand the main point that woman is the center and link for all relationship in a home.  As a human being, though woman and man are one and the same, yet the way woman still remain as the pivot of all relationship in a home remains universal.  And the word ‘Patidharma’ only highlights this importance.  However talented, gifted and have all kinds of facilities a man cannot run a home without a woman.  Because running a home is not merely handling physical/material objects.  It is to link and give respective role in relationship to each person in a home.  A husband can have real love for his wife but he can never replace his wife in her multi-centered role in a home.  Her ‘bhakti’ (viz. relationship) to her pati (husband), extends to all other relationship.  That is why, immediately after the marriage, when she moves away from her parents, she could naturally relate with her husband’s relatives (and friend’s family) even without having any pre-acquaintance with them.  Though there could be few exceptions, yet however try a man (husband) cannot have the same kind of ‘bhakti’ (relationship viz, ‘Patini bhakti) like his wife.  Though these terms (dharmapatni; patibhakti) were not consciously created keeping this principle in mind, it evolved naturally understanding the role of a woman in life.

Long before I read in a book that man (husband) seeks pleasure whereas woman (wife) seeks pleasure and security.  This security she not only seeks for her but also provides to every other member in a family.  That is why a Tamil writer once wrote in his novel: man knows how to put dots but only a woman knows how to link them and make a beautiful kolam (pattern or rangoli).  One ancient Tamil songs says that once wife is gone all kinds of goodness gone along with her from a man’s life.3  This is true as the main link in his life with others is gone with his wife.  Interestingly, at least in India, this never happens to a woman even if her husband passes away.

Though a sannyasi, I have the privilege and blessing to take care of my mother.  And I know that because of her alone several of my relatives still keep their relationship with me (or I keep my relationship with them).

So however in Indian society woman didn’t receive certain rights and privileges viewed from different (western or modern or woman Liberation) perspectives, yet she is the center in Indian life.  Then, naturally she alone deserves certain special terms like dharmapatni and patibhakti.

Dayanand  Bharati. January 31, 2012

1. RV 10.85.36.  Again at 3.53.4 the RV states: “Wife is the true home”—jaayed astam.  The MBh (12.144.66) echoes the same thought: “The home is not the house, they say, but the housewife”— na grham grham ity aahu grhii grham ucyate.— Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama system  The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution  New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, Fn. 32, p.41

2. And in urging men to respect women, he [Manu] eulogizes them (9.26-8):

On account of offspring, a wife is the bearer of many blessings, worthy of honor, and the light within a home; indeed, in a home no distinction at all exists between a wife (stri) and Sri, the Goddess of Fortune.  She begets children; and when they are born, she brings them up—day in, day out, the wife, evidently, is the linchpin of domestic affairs.  Offspring, rites prescribed by law, obedient service, the highest sensuous delights, and procuring heaven for oneself and one’s forefathers—all this depends on the wife. Patrick Olivelle, Manu’s Cod of Law: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Manava-Dharmasastra, New Delhi, Oxford, 2006, p.36.

The following from Purvavea (Old Testament) in Muktiveda (Bible) endorses this in a different way:

A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.  She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.  She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.  In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.  She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.  Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.  She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.  She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31: 10-31, NIV)

3  Without relatives rich life is denied; without brothers support is gone, when wife is gone all kinds of goodness is gone from life.—Thanippadal, Chennai, Nalarappadippagam, vol. 1. Song, 64, pp. 38-39

தாயோ டறுசுவைபோம் தந்தையொடு கல்விபோம்

சேயோடு தான்பெற்ற செல்வம்போம்-ஆயவாழ்

வுற்றா ருடன்போ முடற்பிறப்பாற் றோள்வலிபோம்

பொற்றாலி யோடெவையும் போம்.- 64.

உரை: ….சிறப்பாக வாழும் வாழ்க்கை சுற்றத்தார் ஒழிந்தபோது இல்லாதாகும், சகோதரரில்லாதபோது பக்கத் துணையால் வரும் புய வலிமை ஒழிந்து போகும், பொன்னினாலாகிய மங்கல நாணணிந்த மனையாளிறந்தபோது எவ்வகையான நலன்களும் இல்லனவாம்- தனிப்பாடல் திரட்டு, நல்லறப் பதிப்பகம், முதல் தொகுதி, 64, ப.38-39,

In continuation on this topic (of idealism versus reality) I have to say more. For example, Brahmins are eulogized as if they are the visible gods on earth and sanctioned several privileges over others in many scriptures, particularly dharmasastras.  But the reality is neither they enjoyed those privileges in real life nor managed to get them from others all the time.  Above all, such special privileges allotted or demand is claimed only in the brahminical literatures and scriptures and not by others.  I know this will open another controversy on caste and Brahmins, (which I am looking forward to share my views).

So let me take another example of suppression of woman. You have rightly quoted from Tulsidas that woman, along with Sudras, drum, animal are deserve beating.  In fact this is a reality even today as man often uses physical violence on woman.  But this is not the only picture in life.  Similarly the way woman giving mental torture to a man and even driving him made or run away from life (to become a sannyasi) is also part of life.  In fact, as I have observed (from the life of others), the poor man out of anger use physical violence one time or few times, but the price that he pays for that is several fold in life.  Woman has more mental strength and inner power than man.  This is my observation.  What man try to achieve through his physical strength, woman easily achieve through her mental strength.  As a joke I tell my shishyas: even before the fight begins accept your wife’s view.  In the end she alone is going to win, irrespective of all your efforts to push your idea.  So instead of wasting your time and energy surrender in the beginning because finally (somehow) she alone is going to win.  This is a joke and don’t take it seriously.  I crack lots of jokes on woman, as I need not face the consequence of it.  But I have high regard for woman and always raise my voice for their right.

Let me give another example from Manu:

…”Her father guards her in her childhood; her husband guards her in her youth; and her sons guard her in her old age.  A woman is not fit to act on her own.7— Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama system  The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution  New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993, p.185

7. MDh 9:3: pitaaã raksati kaumaare bhartaaã raksati yauvane/raksanti sthavire putraaã na striiç svaantantryam arhati// the verse is also found in VaDh (Varaha Dharmasastra) 5.2; BDh )Badrayana dharmasastra) 2.3.45; MBh (Mahabharata)13.21.19; 13.46.13. —

This might be true in the context of his time, where present day safety cannot be provided to woman. (Even they are not that much safe even today).  But my point is on ‘not fit to act on her own’!  But from personal experience we can say that this is not true.  In fact,  most of the Indian home remain intact and carry their dharma because woman ‘act’ and acts prudently.  Though in the early stage of marriage she may not have that much ‘say’ (particularly in a joint family) in the family affairs.  But after children born, most of the time they have important role in all decision making in a home.  Once they reach middle age, almost they alone have major role in settling the life of their children, particularly in marriage (finding the boy or girl and finalizing the dowry, arrangement of marriage etc.). The husband, several time allowed to share his opinion but major decisions are left with woman.  Then the ‘guarding’ part of the husband (this too is a joke) become real to act like a body guard when they go out every time to protect her jewels.

Sorry I may use many words and lots of illustration to share my view.  As this blog is my space, I would like to record my thought on this subject.  Some of my views might be controversial and not true.  As a single man I may not have personal experience living with a woman.  However as I observe our society and also counsel few on marriage and family issues, I too know some issues however objective they might be.

Though some of my views might look cynical and anti-woman, that is not true.  As I have high respect for them, when I raise my voice to support them, I have to also share some of my views which may go against them.

I strongly feel that woman is the center of every Indian home, they are more strong in the mind and spirit, they courageously face life, because of their decision making role, and most of the homes in India remain intact keeping our values.  However in this process, they may go overboard some time.  But we cannot entirely blame them alone for that too.  Sometime they are cornered and forced to take extreme step against their nature and dharma.  However like a doctor giving a painful treatment, even those extreme steps taken by woman too are keeping the welfare of the family (particularly for the children) and not personal in most cases.

My mother is a great inspiration  and model (for woman) in my life.  She is a blessing even at this stage in her life.  I am not sure how I can manage several things in the ashram without her active help.  She keeps kitchen and dining hall, apart from her room and living room very clean.  She is very active to her age (now 86 running).  She  stood with my father in his entire struggle when he lost everything in business.  Though born in a poor family, she married my father when he was very rich.  But when he lost everything due to business loss, her father asked her to come and stay with him with (four children) till my father recovers.  But my mother told him, ‘Where Rama lives that is Ayodhya for Sita.  I enjoyed with him all the wealth.  But when he lost everything, I cannot leave him.  Let me live and struggle with him.’  It is a long story to tell how they both struggled a lot to bring us all.  My mother lived just one sari for several years.  Inside the hut, she will wear the old torn dhoti of my father.  And if come one come to visit, then she will change to that one sari.  She has written all her struggle in life in a diary, which I cannot read as it pains my heart very much.  But I have it with me.  As she was the third wife to my father (the first two died), she is 20 years younger to my father.  But when he became more than 90 years old, my mother told, ‘I wish he should die before me.  Otherwise he will suffer a lot, as he won’t ask even a cup of water from others.  Unless I give he won’t ask coffee or food.  So if I die before him, then who will look after him.  A woman can manage and somehow survive (accepting all humiliation) even without her husband.  But a man cannot do this without his wife.  And blessed is the man who dies before his wife.  I won’t mind to become a widow.’   Though every Indian woman wants to die before her husband, my mother keeping the interest and welfare of my father never mind to become a widow.

I have seen her mental strength several times in life.  My elder brother passed away at the age of 28 leaving a girl child, my sister married someone outside the community and I too become a sannyasi.  But in spite of all these and several other tragedies in her life, she remains very strong in her mind.  I don’t have such  inner strength like her.  Though circumstances forced her to come and live with me (away from people and society), yet realizing my limitation and need finally, she happily adjusted herself here to stay with me till the end of her life.  Now she worries how I am going to live here alone and manage if she dies before me.  Then as a joke I tell her, ‘then live till I die and look after me.  Then you can think of your death’.  In the same way she will lament about the life and future of my brother who has no children.  Like a typical mother, in spite of her difficulties she always thinks the welfare of her children alone.

I consider it a great blessing to have her as my mother and when she was forced to come and stay with me since 2000, I considered it as a privilege to look after her than as mere duty of a son.  Several times when I call her ‘AMMA’ I feel immense joy in my spirit and thank God to have mother with me.  Though she dominates me several ways (I cannot read or write after 11.30 pm.  Then she will come and shout, “enough close your book/computer and go to bed”), yet I  am happy to remain a child of her than a sannyasi.  That is why Mahabharata says:

26. The mother is as the fire-stick about the bodies of all men. She is the medicine for all sorts of calamities. The existence of the mother grants protection to one; the reverse deprives one of all protection. 27. The man who, though shorn of prosperity, enters his house uttering the words—O mother!—does not suffer from grief.  Nor does decrepitude ever attack him. 28. A person whose mother exists, even if he has sons and grandsons and even if he is a hundred years old, looks like a child of two. 29. Able or disabled, lean or robust, the son is always protected by the mother.  None else, according to the Scripture, is the son’s protector. 30. When his mother leaves him then does the son become old, then does he become stricken with grief, then does the world look empty in his eyes. [Chirakarin to himself]— M.N.[Manmatha Nath]  Dutt, Mahabharata,Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh. CCLXVI. P. 397

The reason for me to share this much about my mother is that I am not sure whether my father could do the same what my mother has done in the past and continue to do for me (us) now.  Even when my father was alive, none of us (all the five children) were close to him.  For everything we will only ask our mother.  This is enough to show why a woman is important in a man’s life and also for a home, which a man can never replace.

Several times I pray to God to take me along with my mother and never allow me to live in a world without her.

Db. February 3, 2012

…Already in the Rgveda women are said to have uncontrollable minds (RV 8.33.17) and to have the hears of hyenas (RV 10.95.15).  Women are put on a par with SÕõãdras, dogs, and crows: all embody false hood, sin, and darkness (SB 14.1.131).— Olivelle. Op. cit.  p.184

…”Her father guards her in her childhood; her husband guards her in her youth; and her sons guard her in her old age.  A woman is not fit to act on her own.7—ibid., p.185

7. MDh 9:3: pitaaã raksati kaumaare bhartaaã raksati yauvane/raksanti sthavire putraaã na striiç svaaãntantryam arhati// the verse is also found in VaDh 5.2; BDh 2.3.45; MBh 13.21.19; 13.46.13.—ibid., p.185

Language and Patriotism

Writing back in 1908 in South Africa, Gandhiji said, ‘To respect our own language, speak it well and use in it as few foreign words as possible—this is also a part of patriotism.’ (25. SOME ENGLISH TERMS, From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.—p.32). Of course Gandhiji is not a fanatic to say that one should talk without mixing other languages.  He himself acknowledged that, ‘We have been using some English terms just as they are, since we cannot find exact Gujarati equivalents for them.’  However he requested his readers to provide proper Gujarati terms for several English words.  But the present trend in India among all, and particularly among educated and media is very disturbing.  I am not a fanatic to oppose English or any other language or promoter of speaking in pure mother tongue.  In order to communicate our thought if we use one or two English or any other language (Hindi, Sanskrit etc.) is understandable.  But the way the young generation and many educated people speak a language of ‘manipravalam’(mixture of language) and even few magazines using it in writing (this we find in Thugluk, a Tamil Weekly) is a real tragedy.  By not speaking in their own mother tongue, even at home already became a kind of modern identity in Indian society (particularly in South India, and very specifically among Tamilians@).  But by this they are not doing any dis-service to their mother tongue but harm their own children to know their own cultural  root.  To know one more extra language will help everyone.  When the children have the natural opportunity to learn it without much pain and strain in their home from their parents, the way it is denied to them is a great shame on present Indian society.  For me mother tongue is the first verbal communication to have one’s own cultural foundation.  However we need English as International Language, merely using it on every level is constructing a building without a foundation for any one whose mother tongue is not English.

Dayanand Bharati. January 27, 2012

@ There is a joke about this.  If two Indians talk in Bengali they are from Bengal; if two talk in Punjabi, they are from Punjab; if two talk in Malayalam, they from Kerala and if two Indians talk in English then they are from Tamilnadu.  But this I have seen several times which still continue.  One time I saw (at Nagarcoil) one Tamil Christian preaching to a Tamil audience in English and another one was translating it in Tamil.  Such a crime could happen only in Tamilnadu.


CWG Vol. 7

Out of the seven volumes that I read so far, this one forced to me to read continuously to know the final result of Gandhiji (Indian’s) struggle against the Finger print law and issues related to it.

Gandhi wrote a lot encouraging and challenging Indians to fight against this Law by reminding them their moral responsibility to suffer for general good of all Indians and public cause(3).  And he often brings the religious sentiment of Indians on such issues. (63; ‘Hanuman’s tail-134-35), even giving the example of Jesus Christ, who according to Gandhiji, ‘Gentle Jesus, the greatest passive resister the world has seen, is their pattern.’ (p. 86.  See also the Appendix V below) Though Gandhiji might know the theological implication of Jesus’ death on the cross, yet Jesus symbolizes for him another satyagrahi (passive resister).  Such a trend is quite common in Hindu and Liberal world where religious and spiritual ideals (doctrines) are universalized at the cost of their immediate theological context.  This we could find in Gandhiji quoting the examples of Buddha, Prophet Mohammed, Prahalada, Harishchandra, Pandavas and Rama. (pp.89-90), all who, according to him, accepted suffering as per the divine law which is, that one has to suffer pain before enjoying pleasure and that one’s true self-interest consists in the good of all, which means that we should’ die—suffer—for others’. (89)  It is interesting to note the way Gandhiji often quotes verses or concepts from Bible that well fit with his principle of Satyagraha (PP. 120 &122).  He also mention the example of people from other places who withstood all kinds of hardship to fight for just cause (Russia’s example, p. 96; British women p. 98 &220; Thoreau’s writings pp. 189-90, 200-202;) and also quotes the writings of others to encourage and challenge Indians (127-28).  And warning not to follow the example of few Indians who might ditch the common cause, he said, ‘In this struggle it should be remembered that every Indian is to decide for himself independently of others. One need not look to others….’  (p.100)

However we read about the betrayal of several Indians taking the Registration which pained Gandhiji, he was forced to bring the issue openly even publishing the names of them, requesting Indians not to have any ill-feeling for them. (103-05; 124; 225).  At the same time we also read about the repentance by few (from Memon) community and urge other Indians not to follow their example (113; 176, 341) which according to him is an act of cowardice which, ‘infect others too with the contagion of their own fear.’(p.204).

Gandhiji’s repeated appeal to keep unity among Indians, not to quarrel among themselves and give up vices etc. raises more sympathy for his idealism against the human reality. (195).  It is interesting to note that though Gandhiji always promoted non-violence, yet he was never opposed to violence in self-defense (203-04)

In the same way, however friendly some white might be towards non-White, yet Gandhiji rejected their (Mr. Kosken’s) appeal for negotiation as they didn’t understand Indian standpoint, (120-21) and thanked those among the whites who supported the Indian cause (157). He also wrote and took step to take care of the family of those who went to goal (142).  At the same time Gandhiji does not want to take this Satyagraha only on emotional level but urged the Indians, particularly the readers of Indian Opinion both to re-read the issue and discuss it at home and also raise support back at India too by sending copies.  This, for me, distinguishes Gandhiji from the other Political Leaders (of present time particularly) who want blind followers than trained soldiers to fight for any common cause. (157-58). He also requested that ‘any individual or group that desires to take out the register is free to do so.  Only, they should not drag others along with them…. the individuals who want to take the registration do it without dragging the (Indian) community as a whole…’ (172)

Though this Satyagraha ended in its first phase with a compromise, yet again it renewed about which we read in volume 8 &9.  But Gandhiji and his team members were misunderstood (based on rumors p. 306) and attacked for the compromise.  To know all these development read the notes under the title ‘compromise’ in Satyagraha (pp. 156-57).  Gandhiji also linked the struggle of Indians in SA for their right with the national pride of Indian at home. (pp.160-61).  In this volume one can read lots of material written in Indian Opinion to encourage the Transvaal Indians not to do the registration by quoting several other civil disobedience movements in other parts of the world and in England.  As usual he appealed to the sense of British justice to protect the innocent against oppression (pp.186-87) and wrote to take the struggle to its logical end (p.316).  He also warned about ‘those who submit to the law come to be treated as criminals in every way’ as their papers will be maintained police who maintains the records of criminals (245. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, p.319) and points that ‘among those who had applied for the title-deed of slavery in Johannesburg, one Konkani and one Madrasi have already received notices to leave the country. (245. JOHANNESBURG LETTER p.325)’.

Now a days we hear about ‘doing politics’ on everything.  But when I read the birth day greeting sent to the King of England (p.340), I felt the same.  However considering the context of Indian’s fight against the law it was quite natural for Gandhiji or any other leader to use every opportunity to address the issue.   We also read about the brave resistant put by the Tailors against the pressure by a White (Mr. T. Albert) man to do the registration (264. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, BRAVE TAILORS AND WHITE MERCHANT347-48) and also the suicide of a Chinese who has done the registration but later regretted and commit suicide to save his face. (349)

I brought all these kinds of materials written by Gandhiji under Satyagraha.  While he accepted the, ‘The principle of registration’ yet, he wrote ‘the manner of it we bitterly resent. But the Government wish to impose (p. 53) studied humiliation.’ {This letter to the Editor of “The Star’ was signed by HAJEE HABIB, SECRETARY, BRITISH INDIAN COMMITTEE, PRETORIA, yet it was drafted by Gandhiji.  Except the speeches which appeared in Indian Opinion by others, almost all written materials in The Indian Opinion was drafted by Gandhiji and posted in others name}.

But the way volunteers were posted near the Register Office to persuade the Indians who go there to do the Registration looks strange to the very spirit of Satyagraha.  Though Gandhiji said that no violence was used against them or stopped them to do the registration, and if needed provided escort to them (pp. 101-02) yet stopping those who want to do it voluntarily for their own reasons, against the collective majority will of rest is questionable, (64) however he explained or justified the role of volunteers (231, 275).  It really surprises to read that sometimes Gandhiji also become very upset and expressed it publically. ‘As I summarize this reply, my blood boils,’ (70) says Gandhiji.  But this he wrote when the govt., looked down at Indians.

Gandhiji is first a man of ‘principle’ with which he was not ready to compromise.  This we see in his writings and life.  When Chhaganlal raised his reservation of the high price for the Gita to be sold in SA, Gandhi giving his reasons finally says, ‘The first thing is to lay down the principle. If we cannot enforce it, or if we have not sufficient courage to do it, then we cease to worry about it, and cease to think of enlarging the scope of our work…’ (62).

In the same we can read his religious sentiment intruding every act of him.  For example, in his response to Mr. Honsken’s effort to mediate between the Govt. and the Indians, he says, ‘No action of a human being is considered by the Eastern mind as a divine dispensation, unless it is intrinsically justifiable.’ (120)

This we see his opposition to Mr. Ally’s letter which tries to divide Indians as ‘merchant is a Muslim and every hawker a Hindu is, we believe, a poisonous comment.’ (91). Gandhiji’s long explanation giving the reason for not publishing the  life of Prophet Mahomed shows his sensitivity on this issue (pp. 173-74).  While giving ID greetings he reminds the Muslims the true meaning and purpose of Ramzan fast based on morality. (p. 315) At the same time he extends this need for morality to the followers of all religion, again insisting his view of the commonality of all religion (pp. 315-16).  I am not sure whether the New Year Greetings which he extends to the Hindus is for the Deevali or English/Western New Year.  Later we read in volume 9: ‘We were unhappy at the thought that we had to follow an alien calendar in making our calculations. No cause for unhappiness would remain if swadeshi were to replace everything foreign… (139. NEW YEAR, Vol. 9, p. 224).  But as the date of this greetings is 09-11-1907, we should assume that it should be a Diwali Greetings as most of the merchants were Gujarati as well the message was written in Gujarati in Indian Opinion.

However I have a feeling without any prejudice that leaders like Gandhiji who championed for Hindu-Muslim unity, sometime (or several time) went overboard by taking side with the Muslims beyond what they deserve naturally as (religious) minority in India.  Though I too agree with several of his principle that it is the duty of the majority to protect and also give a sense of belonging to the (religious) minority in the land in which they live, yet without insisting their part for this unity, some  (or several) of Gandhiji’s  writings  and actions look appeasement.  I don’t know how to express my view.  Those who read this may think that I too talk like the right wing Hindu extremists.  This is not true.  Fighting for the rights of minorities is one thing.   But going beyond any natural and legitimate limit will only spoil them than inducing a sense of their responsibility too.  This is what I felt when I read Gandhiji’s letter to Prof. G.K. GOKHALE (p.355, see under Islam).

In this volume also we read Gandhiji’s struggle against racialism based on faith (94, 126) or status (94-95), nationality (126, 248-49).  We also read about Gandhiji’s struggle in publishing Indian Opinion (p.251)

But the story of Ram Sundar Pundit who went to goal first then latter ditched the Indians is very interesting one.  Lot of space is given to glorifying him at first then in the same spirit later condemned by Gandhiji.  So I put all the materials related with Ram Sundar separately.

Gandhiji several times writes clearly giving all the reasons for opposing the bill and it is important to read them all (pp. 283-84; 379-82 etc.) to understand this struggle and Gandhiji’s writing about it in Indian Opinion of this time.  Even this law has been published in the form of a booklet (286. OBNOXIOUS LAW AND REGULATIONS MADE UNDER IT, pp. 383-89; 292. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THOSE WHO SUBMIT TO LAW? pp. 396-97)

We also read about Gandhiji’s appeal to the Indians go as volunteers to serve govt., when there was rebellion of Kaffirs in Zululand, as they have done before in spite of Indian’s fight against the govt. regarding the new law. (p.398)  However this service to the govt., has its other reason as well: to avoid tax ‘on those who do not enlist’ (p.398) about which Gandhiji writes, ‘There is a move at present to levy a tax on those who do not enlist. The burden of this levy will fall on Indians alone; even though paying the tax, they will get no credit. We are, therefore, convinced in our minds that the Indian community should repeat its offer….’ (294. VOLUNTEERS FOR NATAL, p.398).

This volume ends with a positive note of reaching some kind of compromise between the govt. and the Indians about which we will read in volume 8.  In the same way Ram Sundar Pundit story ends with some kind of triumph but soon will read about his great fall in next volume.  In Appendix V we read about the guidelines to write an essay on ‘The Ethics of Passive Resistance’ which are very interesting one.  And Appendix VII will give a sketch about the grievances of British Indians (BRITISH INDIANS AND THE TRANSVAAL, L. W. RITCH, pp. 433-448).

But the struggle by the Indians for their right as British Indians in SA will continue and we will read more about in other volumes.  However I found this volume more interesting and important one for me to understand Gandhiji’s avatara as a satyagrahi.

Dayanand. January 27, 2012.




This is a good question. The answer, too, is straight….We may respect their views. But when their views go against our rights, we are not bound by them. Suppose someone compels us to become Christians. We shall oppose him. If those whom we considered till now our well-wishers advise us to embrace Christianity, I am sure that every Hindu and every Muslim (p. 6) will agree with me that we should not accept the advice. This law too is much the same kind of thing. Clearly, it would make cowards of us. We can never follow the advice to be cowards. It is enough that we are in the right and God is on our side. In the end, truth alone will triumph. [Indian Opinion, 15-6-1907.]—pp.6-7




The lesson to be drawn from this assault seems to be that Indians will be able to hold their own in foreign countries only if they cultivate courage. If the whites kick us every day, no protection can be given by the Imperial Government or any other Government. God does not help those who live like cowards. Living amidst tigers and wolves, we can do only two things. True courage lies in absence of fear of wild animals. Tigers and wolves too have been created by God, and we should view them without any ill-will. This can be practiced only by saints or true devotees after a long period of devotion to God. There is a second type of courage which consists in facing tigers and wolves with weapons. This also involves risk to one’s person. Such is the plight of those living in the midst of whites. A saint will not go to distant lands seeking a livelihood. Ordinarily, therefore, we need courage of the second kind. To have that courage we need to be brave in facing physical dangers and to discipline the body. According to Mrs. Besant2, all Indians, high and low, should learn wrestling and other physical exercises to train all parts of the body. All this will 1 The actual proverb is, “The potter, unable to punish his wife, twists the ears of his donkey.”

2 (1847-1933), Theosophist leader, President of the Indian National Congress, 1917, author of The Religious Problem in India (1902) and other books. (p. 203) be possible only if we feel the urge of self-respect and cultivate a sense of manliness…. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 14-9-1907.]—pp.203-04



Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman has replied to Mr. Ritch that he will not receive the deputation of the South Africa British Indian Committee….the Prime Minister has stated that he has already written to the Transvaal Government to say that the new law is bad. But the Transvaal now enjoys self-government, and hence he cannot interfere in the implementation of the Act, nor is he in a position to exert much pressure on the Transvaal just now…The time for Sir Henry to intervene will come when the real struggle begins, and Indians, even when sent to gaol or deported, remain firm and do not submit to the law. If even at that time he does not intervene, we shall believe that the sun of the British Empire is about to set. For, if the Imperial Government does not protect innocent people when they are being oppressed, commonsense tells us that God will deprive it of its power. How can he be called a king who does not protect? But the struggle of the Indians has little to do with whether Sir Henry intervenes or not. The struggle this time is a test of our own strength….(p.186) Commenting on Sir Henry’s letter, an influential British journal called the Pall Mall Gazette has stated that Sir Henry has displayed cowardice and baseness in allowing the rights of Indians to be abrogated, and that the Home Government will have to pay for this cowardice. A cable to this effect is published in The Sunday Times of Johannesburg. We can assume from this that the struggle in England is not over.[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 7-9-1907.]—pp.186-87



…Mr. Gandhi has raised, in submitting his draft, one main issue, namely, whether the local Government will condescend to consult the wishes and sentiments of the Indian community in carrying out their (p.156) intention of identifying those Indians who are entitled to reside in the Transvaal. General Smuts says no. It is now for Indians to give their answer. It is open to them to lead a life of utter degradation in the Transvaal, or to make a supreme effort to be counted as human beings and citizens of the British Empire. [Indian Opinion, 24-8-1907.]—pp.156-57



…The term high, therefore, is merely relative. The Bhagavad-Gita3, which we would issue in India for one anna, we charge one shilling for, because the expenses were comparatively high. I am perfectly certain that whenever we think of having things done cheaply outside the country of our adoption, we bring into play the ordinary weakness, namely, to drive the hardest bargain possible, and it is for that reason that I have condemned in my mind the idea of having the South African book4 printed in Bombay, and I feel this so (p.61) keenly, that I have not yet summoned up sufficient zeal for writing out the book. I would ask you to reason this thing out for yourself.

Never mind whether we employ an extra hand or not and whether we publish the book or not; that is a matter of detail. The first thing is to lay down the principle. If we cannot enforce it, or if we have not sufficient courage to do it, then we cease to worry about it, and cease to think of enlarging the scope of our work…. From a photostat of the typewritten office copy: S. N. 4674.—pp.61-62



….Johannesburg some Indians are charged with robbing a poor Indian. There is no doubt that the Indian was robbed. It is positively asserted that the accused are innocent. Yet another Indian who has been arrested is charged with minting counterfeit coins. All these cases show that there are vices among some of us… And in case there are civil suits or disputes, they should be settled privately among the parties without filling the coffers of lawyers and the Government. I believe this suggestion deserves to be carefully considered and acted upon. If in consequence of our present struggle we forget the differences between Hindus and Muslims, give up internal quarrels and, in case they occur, settle them privately, and also give up other vices, the thirteen thousand Indians will earn the admiration of the entire world, and their names will be recorded for all time in God’s book. It is an act of no small meanness that one Indian should falsely accuse another through malice or blackmail him. That one man should assault another is not merely petty cruelty. It is no little shame that an Indian should take liquor. With a little effort, these evil habits can be eradicated. To smash the new law, I believe it is necessary also to stamp out these evils. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 7-9-1907.]—p.195



… published in Britain…. Persian Mystics, in which the author has assigned the first place to Jalaluddin Rumi. An informative account of Sufis is followed by a narrative of the life of Jalaluddin and translations of some of his poems. In the author’s view, a Sufi is a lover of God. Above everything else, the Sufis aspire after a pure heart and love of God. Jalaluddin was once observed dancing with joy at a funeral, and on being questioned what he meant thereby, the saint replied, “When the human spirit, after years of imprisonment in the cage and dungeon of the body, is at length set free and wings its flight to the source whence it came, is it not an occasion for rejoicing?” We can see that, in the olden days, even women freely participated in such [Sufi way of] life. Rabia Bibi was a Sufi herself. When asked if she hated the devil, she retorted that “her love of God left her no time to hate anyone”. According to the Sufi point of view, no religion based on morality can be considered to be false. In reply to a question Jalaluddin said, “The ways of God are as many as the number of souls of men.” Elsewhere he says, “God’s light is one but its rays are various in hue. . . . We can worship God along any path, provided it be with a true and sincere heart.”

Referring to the nature of true knowledge, Jalaluddin says that “a blood-stain can be washed away with water, but the stain of ignorance can be washed clean only with the water of God’s grace”. And then again, “True knowledge is the knowledge of God.” When asked where one could find God, the poet replied, “I saw the Cross and also Christians, but I did not find God on the Cross. I went to find Him in the temple, but in vain. I saw Him neither in Herat nor in Kandahar. He could be found neither on the hill nor in the cave. At last, I looked into my heart and found Him there, only there and nowhere else.” This is an excellent book to read….  1 (1207-73), Sufi poet of Persia. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 15-6-1907.]—p.5



In pursuance of our ideas, we commence this week a series of articles on the subject stated above. It will always be our aim to bring about and preserve unity between Hindus and Muslims. One of the ways of achieving this is to acquaint each with whatever is good in the other. Moreover, when occasion requires, Hindus and Muslims should serve each other without any reserve. The series that we are commencing is intended to serve both these aims.

It is also our object to spread education and culture among the Indian community ….Washington Irving’s account is considered excellent, and though he has not written ill of Islam like other European writers, it is likely that occasionally his ideas may be such as may not appeal to our readers. A wise man would make himself acquainted even with such ideas. We advise our readers to go through the chapters that follow,  bearing in mind that the purpose of reading is to accept knowledge from everything that we read and to draw the right lesson from it. (p.17)



 We feel sad in answering this question. In utter good faith and out of great regard [for Islam], we started publishing a translation [of Irving’s book], with a view to serving the Indian community and, in particular, the Muslim brethren. Among the biographies written by white men, Washington Irving’s work is regarded as excellent. On the whole, he has shown the wonderful greatness of the Prophet, and has presented the good teachings of Islam in shining colours. Whether this is so or not, we believe it is the duty of every Muslim to know what the whites write about Islam and its Founder. In translating the book, our object was to help them perform this duty. While the translation was being given, some of our readers were pained to read the account of the Prophet’s marriage in chapter V, and suggested that we should  stop publishing the life. Our aim is to show as far as possible that this journal belongs to the whole of the Indian community. We have no desire to injure needlessly the feelings of anyone in any way.

Therefore we have stopped publishing the “Life”1 and feel sorry that 1 Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji’s Secretary, records in his Diary, under July 29, 1932: “Bapu . . . described his own experience in South Africa. He read Washington Irving’s Life of the Prophet and began to publish a simple translation of it in lndian Opinion for the benefit of its Muslim readers. Hardly a chapter or two had appeared when the Muslims entered an emphatic protest against the publication. The offending chapters only dealt with the idol-worship, superstition and evil customs prevalent in Arabia before the Prophet was born. Even this was too much for them. Bapu tried to explain that this was only prefatory and intended to show the gigantic evils which the Prophet was born to combat and vanquish, but no one would listen. `We do not want any such life of the Prophet,’ said the Muslims. The later chapters had been written and set in type but had to be cancelled.” (The Diary of Mahadev Desai,  Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1953, Vol. “Letter to The Natal Mercury”, 30-9-1895.) Vide also “Prophet Mahomed and His Caliphs”,22-6-1907 (p. 173) we had to do so. For, we took great pains over the translation, and our readers will not have the opportunity of appreciating the excellent work of Irving. Moreover, we hear that many persons are displeased that we have discontinued the “Life”. To them we have only to say that those who want the translation of the biography may write to us. If many readers express the desire, we shall try to meet the wishes of such devout men by bringing it out separately in book-form when convenient to the Press. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 31-8-1907.]—pp.173-74


We offer Id greetings to our Muslim readers. Man hopes for many things, but he cannot get everything he wants. In like manner, though we wish a happy Id to all our Muslim brethren, so far as we know, it is the divine law that the Id will bring prosperity only to those who have observed the cannot be considered sufficient for a proper observance of the Ramzan. The fast is a discipline of the mind as well as of the body. That means that, if not all through the year, at least during the Ramzan month, all the rules of morality should be fully obeyed, truth practised and every trace of anger suppressed. We assume that our greetings will bear fruit particularly in the case of those who have done all this. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 9-11-1907.]—p.315

 270. LETTER TO G.K. GOKHALE, JOHANNESBURG, November 22, 1907


…the struggle we are undergoing here has resulted in making us feel that we are Indians first and Hindus, Mahomedans, Tamils, Parsees, etc. afterwards.

You will notice, too, that all our delegates are Mahomedans. I am personally glad of the fact. And it may also happen that there will be many Mahomedans, having South African connections, attending the Congress. May I ask you to interest yourself in them and make them feel perfectly at home? A Hindu-Mahomedan compact may even become a special feature of this Congress. The rest of the struggle you know from the papers.

Yours sincerely,


From a photostat of the type written original signed by Gandhiji: G.N. 4109.—p.355



…The journal has at present only 1,100 subscribers, though the number of readers is much larger. If all readers buy their copies, Indian Opinion can render three times better service than it does today. We hope it will not be considered unreasonable of us if we expect encouragement in proportion to the increase in the number of our pages. If those who fully realize the value of the service rendered by this paper secure even one additional subscriber each, we shall feel heartened thereby and get some help in meeting the increased expenditure consequent upon the increase in the number of pages. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 12-10-1907.]—p.251



Just as we wish a happy Id to out Muslim brethren, we also wish that the New Year may bring prosperity to our Hindu readers….Indians suffer many hardships…they have come to pay more attention to their country, and to some extent their thoughts are also running in the direction of religion.  The Hindu is seen to be more deeply absorbed in Hindu religion, and likewise the Muslim in Islam, and other Indians in their own religions, which is the only right thing. It is our firm belief that, if India is to prosper, it can only be along this path. If the people of different religions grasp the real significance of their own religion, they will never hate the people of any religion other than their own….(p.315) if we look to the aim, there is no difference among religions. We said above that the New Year might bring prosperity to the Hindus. But just as it is obvious that the Id will bring prosperity only if a certain condition is fulfilled, so also can the New Year benefit a man only when a particular condition is satisfied.  After saying all this, there is no need to point out what those conditions are. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 9-11-1907.]—pp.315-16



It is said that, before Shri Ramachandra began his war with Ravana, he despatched Angada on a peace mission to him. In those times it was believed that true strength lay in affording the enemy, before starting a war against him, every opportunity to set right the wrong he had done. By all means, bow to the enemy, for there is no dishonour in doing so. If still the enemy refuses to come round, one may bring one’s full strength into play and enforce one’s will. In olden times people everywhere in the world followed this practice. Today also this is considered the best thing to do. What Rama did with Ravana, the Indian community has done with the Transvaal Government…. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 29-6-1907.]—p.26



…Moreover, the white and the Coloured prisoners are given a towel each, while the Indian and the Kaffir are not given even this as if they do not need it at all. The Government have, in this manner, created classes even among prisoners. The Coloured prisoners include the Cape Boy, the American Negro, the Hottentot and the like. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 22-6-1907.]—p.12





….One of the religious preachers created a painful sensation when he produced a document from the Central South African Railways saying that the concession to religious preachers as to railway travelling was confined to Christian and Jewish preachers. Is this new distinction also a necessary precaution against an influx of Asiatics? [Rand Daily Mail, 2-7-1907]—p.31


The Town Council of Johannesburg intends to make a regulation that only a white can become the manager of an Asiatic eating-house. Does this mean that, at Hindu and Muslim eating-houses in the Transvaal, the whites will serve and the Indians merely watch? All this will apply to those who accept the title-deed of slavery. No one will be able to lay his hands on those who refuse to touch it. [From Gurajati; Indian Opinion, 13-7-1907.]—p. 57


…General Manager of the Natal Railway. He has stated that while railway tickets at concession rates are available to English or European priests, such concessions will not henceforth be available to Indian Christian priests. This means that Hindu, Muslim and Christian priests, if they are Indians, will not get tickets at concession rates….

Now Indian Christians, too, are being distinguished from European Christians. We take this to be a good sign. For, through such hardships and humiliation, we Indians shall gradually come closer together and cling to one another for survival…. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—p.94


Mr. Ross, the General Manager of the Natal Railways, has sent a blunt refusal to the Indian community. We congratulate the community on receiving such a letter. For, the more they insult our religions and the more they despise the colour of our skin, the stronger will be our fight, provided we are in the right. A letter such as Mr. Ross’s shows to what a miserable plight we have been reduced in South Africa. If we do not get our reasonable rights, we shall feel crushed by our own wealth. To a sensible man, money without honour is like a thorn. In the Sahara Desert, anyone with goldbars in his pocket will find them like poison if he can get no drop of water anywhere. Similarly, in this country money without self-respect is likely to be veritable poison….If we beg for them often enough, our Moulvis and Christian and Hindu priests may probably get concession tickets at half rates. However, it is not a material question whether concession tickets are available or not. The real point is that, in the eyes of the whites, we are persons of no consequence and it is precisely this that causes all the mischief. In order that we may count [in their eyes], the only course for the Transvaal Indians is to fight desperately to the last—even unto death—and win glory. We shall then be the equals of those who have votes, though actually we may have none. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—p.126


An Indian merchant contributing to our English section states that the Exhibition Committee has excluded Indians from participation in the Durban Exhibition. This is a very bad thing. We know that the whites are afraid of the industry of Indians. They seem to be afraid of Indian skill also. Thus they appear to be imitating the dog in the manger: they neither eat themselves nor let others do so. This behaviour of the Committee shows that we have only one duty now to win respect and dignity for ourselves. And that is, for the present at least, in the hands of the Transvaal Indians. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—p.126







Mr. Anthony Peters, a born Indian Christian, and an old civil servant of Natal, at present Interpreter at the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Pietermaritzburg, was on his way to Johannesburg on Sunday and was a passenger by the Johannesburg Mail….(p.248) Examining Constable put him through a searching cross-examination.  Mr. Peters produced his permit, which was issued to him at a time when the Indian community had not voluntarily given thumb impressions. This did not satisfy the Constable. Mr. Peters, therefore, produced the concession ticket referred to by me and offered to give his signature, but all to no avail, the Constable insulting him by saying that he might have got somebody else’s concession ticket. Mr. Peters, therefore, went so far as to produce his walking-stick, which bore his initials, and his shirt, which bore his full name. Even this was not satisfactory. He then offered to deposit money to ensure his return after three days, but the Constable ordered a Kaffir policeman to literally drag Mr. Peters out of the compartment. Sergeant Mansfield, before whom Mr. Peters was taken, realised the terrible mistake, apologised to Mr. Peters, and let him go….I need hardly comment upon this episode, beyond saying that this is a sample of what many a respectable Indian has to suffer in even visiting this country. Here there is no question of general legislation, no question of an Asiatic influx, but a question of simple courtesy and justice between man and man. Or is the wearing of a coloured skin to be…a crime against the white people of the Transvaal? M. K. GANDHI [Rand Daily Mail, 10-10-1907.]—pp.248-49

Ram Sundar:


All Indians must be eager to learn the history of the Indian who has raised such a storm. We publish his photograph in this issue. Ram Sundar Pundit is 30 years of age. His father’s name is Kalka Prasad.  He was a priest by profession. Punditji was born in Banaras. He studied Hindi and Sanskrit in the Banaras Sanskrit Pathshala. For the last nine years he has been working as a priest in South Africa. He has (p. 341) married in Natal. He has two children, a son, two-and-a-half years old,  and a daughter, one year old. His family lives in Grey Town. Punditji came to the Transvaal in the year 1905. A temple was built in Germiston as a result of his efforts and the Sanatan Dharma Sabha was established. Everyone knows about his work relating to the Asiatic Law. Finally, we only wish that Punditji may live for many years and continue to render uninterrupted service to the community. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 16-11-1907.]—pp.341-42



We have already reported in “Late News” last week that Ram Sundar Pundit was arrested on Friday, the 8th, for living in the (p. 343) Transvaal without a permit. That morning, he was standing near the court in Germiston when a detective inquired his name and asked for his permit. He said he had no permit. Thereupon the detective arrested him on the spot. As soon as Mr. Polak heard of this, he went to Germiston. He saw Mr. Pundit in gaol. On being asked, he replied that he did not at all want to be released on bail, and that he would prefer to remain in goal. In the gaol, the gaoler also urged Punditji to offer bail, but he refused to do so, saying that, for the sake of his community and religion, he would rather remain in gaol.


He was quite comfortable in gaol. He had all the facilities, such as a living-room, a bathroom, etc. As he himself says, he had fever when he went there. Now he is all right. Arrangements for his meals have been made by the community, and milk and fruits are being supplied to him every day. He did not wish to take anything else. (p.344 )


Punditji received an ovation as soon as he came out. There was a shower of flowers. All shook hands [with him]. It was then decided to hold a meeting in the Location and, accordingly, everybody went towards the building of the Sanatan Dharma Sabha.

Mr. Omarji quoted the following Gujarati verse:

A woman should give birth to three kinds of men only, one

who is generous in donations, one who is a devotee of God, and one

who is brave in battle; otherwise, she better remain barren rather than

have her light be dimmed.”

According to this, it was a matter of credit to his mother that

Punditji was a brave son. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 16-11-1907.]—pp.343-45


…The Congress President is right in saying that by going to gaol, Punditji has sanctified it. All innocent people who go to gaol make it holy. We think Punditji and his family are fortunate. His fame has spread throughout South Africa. It will spread in India too. This is the result of real service. It is a real service, we think, that Punditji has rendered by unhesitatingly offering himself as sacrifice for the sake of the country. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 23-11-1907.]—p.357


38. LETTER TO “THE STAR”, PRETORIA, July 7, 1907



…Your correspondent threatens that, if my countrymen do not change their attitude, the penal clauses will be rigorously enforced and they will be deported. This threat was unnecessary, for we have counted the consequence of non-submission. Gaol has no terrors for us compared to the enforced slavery of the Registration Act, which puts on the whole community a brand of  criminality. Deportation will be a welcome relief from the contemplation of a dog’s life in what we have been taught to consider our own home. If the Act bears as heavily on us as we represent it to do, no sacrifice will be too great for us. We are having a unique experience of Imperialism and the cosmopolitan nature of the Empire. The Imperial arm is presumed to cover the weak from the strong. Indians of the Transvaal are now waiting to see whether that arm is to protect the weak Indians from the strong whites—British and otherwise—or whether it is to be used to strengthen the hands of the tyrant to crush the weak and helpless. Pardon the use of the word, but is it not tyrannical to disregard every sentiment and our religions, for this is no question of regulating immigration? The principle of registration we have accepted; the manner of it we bitterly resent. But the Government wish to impose (p. 53) studied humiliation.  Are Indians to blame if, rather than suffer it, they are prepared to lose their earthly possessions? If the whole of the white Transvaal be against us, God is with us.


39. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, Monday, [July 8, 1907]


Pretoria has done exceedingly well.…These patriots go round the Permit Office by turns throughout the day, and if they find any Indian going there, they persuade him courteously and stop him. At present hey have given up their private business and plunged into the service of the motherland. They do not care for the dangers they may have to face. They are quite prepared to suffer what ever consequences may follow. It would not at all be surprising if such patriotism should lead to ultimate success. (p.54)

…Lengthy articles have begun appearing in the Rand Daily Mail and the Leader. They state that Indians in Pretoria are not getting themselves registered because of pressure from Johannesburg Indians. The papers add that, during the last days of July, everyone will go to the Permit Office to give the finger-prints. We want Pretoria Indians to remain firm and prove thereby that this report is a libel. If, ultimately, (p.55) people should invade the Pretoria Office like swarms of locusts, all the good work done will be undone.


The Indian community has now to exercise great caution. I hear from many places that, as soon as the leaders are arrested, the people will get themselves registered out of fear. If that is to happen, it will be, as the Indian proverb has it, like the case of a woman who went in search of a son and lost her husband. This is no time for depending upon leaders or anyone else. Everyone is to rely on his own courage. In this situation, neither lawyers nor anyone else can be of any help. When we are all involved in the conflagration, it is no use looking to one another for help. I hear that the Government will be soon laying its hands on Mr. Gandhi and, perhaps, on some other leaders also. If this happens, instead of being put out by their going to gaol, the people should welcome it and be inspired to greater courage. The truth is that we are not sheep, but free men, and we would not depend upon other people for help…


Many whites have been offering advice to Indians. When the former ask ‘What will you do?’, many Indians say in reply, ‘We shall do what our leaders do.’ Some answer, ‘We shall do what others do.’ These are words of cowards, and they will do harm. Everyone should give the reply: ‘I dislike the law and so I will never submit to it. Moreover, I will not submit to it also because I have taken an oath in the name of God. I would rather go to gaol than submit to the law which would make a slave of me.’ He who cannot give this answer will never reach the other shore. None can swim with another’s buoy. We are to swim with our own strength….In a similar spirit, everyone should answer, ‘I don’t care what others do, but I for my part will not submit to the law.’ All do not give such straightforward answers, and that is why the newspapers make this comment that, though we seem to be enthusiastic now, we shall in the end unhitch our waggons….(p. 56). [From Gurajati; Indian Opinion, 13-7-1907.]—pp.54-56


….All this shows that the Indian people would not be found wanting when weighed in the balance. Who can harm one whom God protects? The Indian people are religious-minded. They believe in God. He will easily bring success in any work we undertake with full faith in Him. It is said that, because of his faith in God,… The eyes of Indians everywhere are at present fixed on their countrymen in the Transvaal. They are all eager to know whether the community will succeed in the challenge that they have taken up. Pretoria’s answer is that the Indian community shall never turn back.  [From Gurajati, Indian Opinion, 13-7-1907]—p.63


…There are three ways of doing it. First, pickets should be posted at the Durban Office to prevent Indians from going there. Second, a watch should be kept on the Indians proceeding by train to the Transvaal, and if any such Indian is going there with a new permit, or with an old permit without at the same time being ready to go to gaol, he should be dissuaded from going further. Third, it should be seen that no Indian gives his finger-prints on board a steamer. By doing all this, Durban will have given very good help and brought our deliverance nearer. [From Gurajati, Indian Opinion, 13-7-1907].—p.64

48. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, Monday, [July 15, 1907]

…There should be no waiting for anybody’s leadership. It should be assumed that everyone was a leader. In the place of one Indian gaoled or deported, two should come out to take up leadership…(p.67)


As I summarize this reply, my blood boils. What is meant by saying that there would be no further restrictions if we behaved well? After reducing us to a living death under the obnoxious law, could there be a fresh amendment in order to kick at the dead?… IT IS ALSO GOOD

But it is also good that we have been given such a stunning blow with a stick wrapped in silk. Now the Indian community will become still more determined. Just as the Regulations under a cruel law were bound to be cruel, the reply had also to be cruel. The cruel Regulations have inflamed the Indians. This cruel reply will make them inflexible. With God as our witness, we have pledged opposition to the law. With the same God as witness, let us prove our courage.

(p.70)[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 20-7-1907.]—pp. 67 & 70


The late President Kruger  is said to have “staggered humanity” by engaging in an unequal struggle with a mighty empire. It is in his late country—though now nominally British—that history is to repeat itself through Indians in the Transvaal. But the parallel is not exact. (p.85) …the late President Kruger was ill-advised in hurling defiance at the British Government, everybody admires him for the courage of his convictions. It is enough that he fought for a cause he considered to be just. But the President fought under the inspiration of the old Testament and after the pattern of the heroes of that venerable book. Indians who migrated to this country in search of an honest livelihood, and who find themselves face to face with civic and social extinction, are fighting under the inspiration of the New Testament. Gentle Jesus, the greatest passive resister the world has seen, is their pattern. What matters it to them if the rulers of the Transvaal reject their advances, if their overlord King Edward declare himself, like Mahomed of Ghazni1, to be unable to protect them. Was not Jesus rejected and yet did He not resist the blasphemy that His persecutors would have Him utter on pain of suffering what was, in their estimation, an inglorious death, side by side with thieves and robbers? But the crown of thorns today sits better on that bleeding head than a crown bedecked with diamonds of the purest water on any sovereign. He died indeed, yet He lives in the memory of all true sons of God, and with Him live also the thieves who accepted the humble Nazarene and His teaching. So, too, will Indians of the Transvaal, if they remain true to their God, live in the memory of their children and their countrymen who will be able to say, after they have left this transient world, ‘Our forefathers did not betray us for a mess of pottage.’ [Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—pp. 85-86


…To submit to the unjust law will be a sin. Likewise, it will be a sin to violate the divine law. He who abides by the divine law will win bliss in this world, as also in the next. What is this divine law? It is that one has to suffer pain before enjoying pleasure and that one’s true self-interest consists in the good of all, which means that we should die—suffer—for others… Let us take a few examples.

…Lord Buddha, after wandering from forest to forest, braving the extremes of heat and cold and suffering many privations, attained self-realization and spread ideas of spiritual welfare among the people. Nineteen hundred years ago, Jesus Christ, according to the Christian belief, dedicated his life to the people and suffered many insults and hardships. The prophet Mahomed suffered much. People had prepared themselves for an attack on his life. He paid no heed to it. These great and holy men obeyed the law stated above and brought happiness to mankind. They did not think of their personal interest but found their own happiness in the happiness of others. (p.89)

… For the sake of honour, God’s devotee, Prahlad, boldly embraced the red-hot pillar, and the child Sudhanva threw himself into the frying pan without any hesitation. For the sake of truth, Harishchandra allowed himself to be sold to a low-caste man; he gave up his throne and suffered separation from his wife and son. For the sake of his father’s word, Ramachandra went into the forest. And for the sake of their right, the Pandavas left their kingdom and wandered in the forest for 14 years. Today it has fallen to the lot of the Indian community in the Transvaal to submit to this great divine law. So persuaded, we congratulate our countrymen. They have the opportunity now to see the Indian community throughout South Africa gaining its freedom through them. How could such great happiness come to us without our going through equally great suffering? Our petition is no longer addressed to man, but to God Himself. Day and night He listens to our plaints. We do not have to seek an appointment with Him for the hearing of our petition. He hears the petitions of all at the same time. With the purest heart therefore we pray to God that our brothers in the Transvaal may be prepared to suffer fearlessly anything that may befall them in August, placing their trust in Him alone, and with only His name on their lips. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—pp.89-90


The British Press has published a cable regarding the work of the deputation sent to the Cape by East London Indians. It states that the Indian community concedes that laws should be framed to control (p. 94) “coolie Indians”, but calls for regulations which grant special concessions to respectable Indians. It adds, moreover, that exemption certificates should be granted to some Indians on the lines of those granted to the Kaffirs.

We do not believe that East London Indians have made any such demand. Our enemies are only waiting for us to make such a mistake. For if we demand a law introducing such distinctions, we shall be striking at our feet with our own axe. There is and will always be the distinction between good men and bad men. But no law can lay down the dividing line between the good and the bad, or the high and the low, or the noble and the mean. One who is a hawker today may become a merchant tomorrow. A merchant may be rendered poor and be obliged to seek service. Such things have always been happening. Now, who is to be termed a “coolie”? How can there be any such distinction? Who can make such a distinction? Who will go to a white officer to receive at his hands a badge of “high” or “low”? We are sure the law cannot make any such distinction enabling a few Indians to get the exemption certificates. To ask for such a law is only to invite slavery. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—pp.94-95


Further, it should be remembered that a Russian prison is a veritable dungeon. No amenities are provided. Again, Russia is an extremely cold country. The gaolers are cruel. All these hardships are endured by these brave heroes for the good of the people. They are not deterred by the severities of weather. They do not bother whether their Emperor is pleased or displeased, but fearlessly go on doing what they consider to be in the country’s interests. They do not lose heart though the people of Russia are still not free, but continue to do their duty…..

We wish that, with the example of such staunch patriots before them, and with faces turned to God and His name inscribed forever in their hearts, the Transvaal Indians will swim across the current of the obnoxious law. [From Gujarati]Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—p.96


It must be distinctly remembered then that one is to go to gaol, not to pay the fine. I recommend that, on and from August l, no Indian whatever should carry any money with him and certainly not (p. 97) gold in any case. Temptation is a very bad thing. Not being used to the idea of gaol, on hearing the sentence of fine, the accused may find his hands unconsciously straying into his pocket or he may cast an imploring glance at his friends. When this happens, he should mentally ask for God’s forgiveness, remove his hand [from the pocket], stand erect and, clearing his throat, declare that he will not pay the fine but go to gaol. He should remember at the same time how in England women, both young and old, have refused to pay the fine of half a crown and preferred to go to gaol for the sake of their right.


But, if out of fear Indians apply for registers or pay the fine, or seek release on bail, the struggle waged so far will come to nought. It will be proved that we had no real courage. It will be  believed that it  was all mere incitement by the leaders. It will be said that the splendid  show made so far was only external glitter. The gilt will come off and we shall be shown up to be base copper rather than gold, and we shall indeed have proved ourselves worthless.


Persons with a large business need not have any fear. It is unlikely that all the men in an establishment will be simultaneously arrested. The shops are certainly not going to be looted. The utmost loss that may be caused is that the shops will remain closed for a few days. Nothing more than this is likely to happen. But it will be wise for all merchants to take stock, etc. The only object of doing so is that, in case the creditors become impatient, one may be able to settle accounts immediately.


Some Indians think that, if even a single Indian takes out the new register, it will be difficult for others to keep back. It can be said that those who think in this strain have not correctly  understood the nature of the struggle. If one of them jumps into a well or does something wrong, will the whole Indian community follow him and do likewise? If not, how can it do so in the case of the sinister and (p. 99) wicked law which is more dreadful than any well?… In this struggle it should be remembered that every Indian is to decide for himself independently of others. One need not look to others…. (p.100) [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—pp.97-100

74. LETTER TO COLONIAL SECRETARY { This was presumably drafted by Gandhiji.}


July 27, 1907

The volunteers, it will be admitted, have simply performed missionary work. My committee have publicly and emphatically informed British Indians that any member wishing to make his application will not only be left unharmed but that he will, if so desired by him, be escorted to the Registration Office. In the humble opinion of my Committee, those Indians who (p. 101) have applied secretly and at night time have done so in order to conceal from British Indians what they, too, in common with other members of the community, have believed to be an act  derogatory to their honour.

In the humble opinion of my Committee, secret registration after office hours and in private  stores, even if it be not illegal, can hardly be considered a dignified proceeding. In any event, my Committee beg respectfully to assure the Government that the Indian community in what is to it a life-and-death struggle has no intention to resort to intimidation or methods which may in any  way be considered even reprehensible.




Indian Opinion, 3-8-1907.—pp.101-02


[July 29, 1907]


None of my letters so far has been written, I think, with so much grief as this one. Whether I ought to publish this news at all is itself a difficult question to decide. However, I feel that I ought to take notice of the incident that took place among the Indian community at Pretoria, if we mean to be truthful and courageous. For the Indian community in South Africa the last week of July will prove memorable. Just when we were hoping with confidence that the hour of our victory was at hand, there was treachery in the community and our success became doubtful. The  conspiracy came to light by accident at the Pretoria Railway Station after 10 p. m. on Wednesday, July 24. Messrs Cachalia, Vyas, Beg and other Indians were present there to receive Mr. Gandhi. They learnt that something suspicious was going on in Mr. Khamisa’s shop. There were a few white men inside, and some detectives near the shop. On receipt of this information, these gentlemen thought that they would knock at the door of Mr. Khamisa’s shop, and if the door should be opened and some move to submit to the new law should be found afoot, they would dissuade the persons concerned. Mr Gandhi knocked at the door, and so did Mr. Vyas. A man came out and inquired who they were. Mr. Gandhi answered him, and asked his permission to go (p. 102) inside. No one opened the door. Meanwhile, a detective came and started asking questions. Mr. Beg gave a bold reply. Then Mr. Gandhi spoke to the detective. Thereupon the latter said, “You know the law, do what is proper”, and went away. A few minutes later he and two other officers came there. Meanwhile, Mr. Vyas had gone to call Mr. Hajee Habib. Taking each member of the above party by hand, the detective asked him to move away. They all left. Everyone thought that a conspiracy must have been in the hatching in Mr. Khamisa’s shop.

Many Indians kept awake the whole night. On the morning of Thursday, the entire Indian community became agitated. Letters and telegrams were despatched to all the towns. It is said that at Mr. Khamisa’s shop that night, at the stroke of twelve, some 20 men blackened their heads and faces, and brought a slur on the good name of the Indian community.


This question will arise in the mind of every Indian. I myself feel that we cannot absolve those who applied for registration. None could have blamed them if, convinced that the new law was good and that there was no humiliation in submitting to it, they had, in broad daylight, gone to the Permit Office to apply for their title-deed of slavery. But they believed it to be a shameful thing and that is why they decided to take out permits secretly at night. This proves that they knew their guilt and hence they should be considered to have committed an offence against the Indian community. The Permit Officers can be held to be as much at fault as the Indian culprits and even more. Going to people’s shops at night to receive in secret applications for new permits shows that they have been straining every nerve to make people submit to the new law. For they are afraid that their prestige will suffer if the people do not submit to it. If the Government stoops so low, what wonder is there that people are  tempted? :


For such secret registration the pretext is found to have been put forward that the Indian  community has held out threats that those who take out new registers will be made to suffer. This accusation is entirely false. Trying to hide his own shame in taking out the register, the traitor has leveled false charges against the whole community, and invented lies.(p103)


As it is impossible to tolerate such an accusation, Mr. Hajee Habib has addressed the following letter to the Colonial Secretary:1


The fight of the Indian community being righteous, the treachery appears to have led only to a good result. Among those secretly taking out permits was an innocent Indian, named Abdul Karim Jamal. Out of fear and temptation he applied for a permit, but, as he did not belong to the treacherous group, he was arrested on a charge of giving false information in the application. He has been released on a bail of £100 and awaits trial. This has shocked all Pretoria. For, the Indians have found that, in applying for a permit under the new law, the fear was not only that the permit might not be granted, but also that ‘one might have to suffer imprisonment like a criminal. Whether or not Mr. Abdul Karim Jamal is guilty is a separate question. It is obvious that even an innocent person might all of a sudden find himself dragged to the court, so dreadful is this law. Both one’s honour and safety lie in keeping away from the new law. This case should serve as a warning to all. There is no guarantee that even by seeking the title-deed of slavery one can have the right of settling in the Transvaal.


One should remember this famous line of verse [A couplet by the Hindi poet, Tulsidas.], and have compassion on those who have betrayed the Indian community. It is natural that we should feel angry. But we should suppress our anger and believe that it is out of ignorance that they sought disgrace. It should also be remembered that the entire struggle would suffer if, in the course of it, any Indian used violence against another Indian or did him other harm. In this connection I have regretfully to say that Mr. Khamisa sent word to each of his Indian customers that, if they did not apply for the new title-deed of slavery by Monday morning, they should pay up all his dues, failing which he would have summons taken out against them. This created a great stir. But Messrs Essop Mia, Aswat and Omarji persuaded Mr. Khamisa to withdraw the notice given by him.


Telegrams are being received continuously by the leaders in 1 Here follows in the original the text of the letter. Vide the preceding item. (p.104) Pretoria. Some of them strongly denounce the treachery. Congratulatory telegrams have been sent to each of the pickets by Mr. Parsee Rustomjee and the volunteers of Durban. Barbers have received telegrams from other barbers, advising them to remain firm. Telegrams have also been pouring in from several gentlemen and from such places as Blair, Tongaat, Delagoa Bay, Dundee, Ladysmith, Estcourt and Cape Town. Till this evening (Monday), not one Indian has taken out a permit from the Permit Office. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 3-8-1907.]—pp.103-05

81. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, [August 5, 1907]

But the Government has made a mistake in thinking that the Pietersburg Memon community will follow the example of Mr. Khamisa and Mr. Hajee Ibrahim. I believe that both these Indians are also repenting now. Their new registers have proved too much of a liability to them. Though no Indian has been avoiding these gentlemen or doing them any harm, they remain isolated and have to put up with bitter public criticism. No Indian, therefore, will make bold to do what they have done. Moreover, in public at least they have been saying that, though they had themselves soiled their hands and tarnished their faces, let no other Indian do like them.


Thanks to Karim Jamal’s case1, Indians have become more strongly confirmed in their opposition to the new law. To submit to it, they have seen, is to go in for a bad bargain. The case against Mr. Karim Jamal has been withdrawn. The public prosecutor admitted that there had been a mistake in instituting the case. How does this help Mr. Karim Jamal? He had to suffer inconvenience and incur monetary loss. Disgusted with the heavy loss and damage, he has withdrawn his application for a register. (See his letter to the Registrar on the subject printed elsewhere.)  This letter should be a warning to all Indians as to how this law can subject a poor man to hardship.  (p. 113)

…When two parties are engaged in a struggle, it is usual for each to maintain an extreme position to the very last. Of the two, the party which has right on its side and remains firm till the end will win. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Government should send a message to say that the law would in no case be amended and that (p.114) voluntary registration would not be accepted. No one listened to us hitherto, but now the Government is anxious to find out what we want. Let us regard this as the first step towards success.  [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—pp.113-15


Mr. Hosken is known all over South Africa to be the friend of the non-white races. He is one of the few men in South Africa who have the courage of their convictions. His exhortations to the historic Mass Meeting of Indians at Pretoria, therefore, deserve most careful attention.

Let us then analyse the doctrine he laid down, namely, that Indians as an Eastern people, should recognize and bow to the inevitable….…On his own showing, therefore, Mr. Hosken’s contention that the Act is in the nature of an act of God falls to the ground. We, however, go further. No action of a human being is considered by the Eastern mind as a divine dispensation, unless it is intrinsically justifiable. And when an Eastern submits to the apparently inevitable, there is always traceable behind such submission, not a recognition of the Divine hand, but of base selfishness. The spirit is then willing, but the flesh is weak….

And what is it that Mr. Hosken will have the Transvaal Indians to do? To accept the enslaving Act in order that they [may] be able to exist in that country! In other words, Mr. Hosken, a man of God, advises Indians, for their material good, to forswear their solemn oath and their honour. We answer, in the words of his Master, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything shall be added unto you.” We believe that, in resisting the wretched Act, Indians would be seeking the “Kingdom of God”. Mr. Hosken says the oath is not binding, because it was ill-taken. But the solemn declaration was made by Indians with due deliberation. And it was not only for their own self-respect, but for that of their dear ones and their country, that they resolved upon resisting the Act and facing  imprisonment or worse. We, therefore, trust that Mr. Hosken will, with his accustomed (p.120) zeal for forlorn causes, study the Asiatic question, and we promise that he will accept the whole contention of the Indian community. He went to the meeting as a messenger of peace from the Government. He will, we doubt not, fulfil the functions of a true mediator, if he will only understand carefully the Indian standpoint. [Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—pp.120-121


….There is no remission of sin without shedding of blood. This may be paraphrased for British Indians to mean that there is to be no freedom for British Indians without their suffering imprisonment, even banishment. They must prove themselves worthy of the relief they are fighting for, before they will get it.  [Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—p.122


In the current issue we publish two letters which mention the names of those who did not close their stores on July 31. We also publish the names we have received of those in Pretoria who have made applications for the title-deed of slavery. It is with exceeding regret that we publish these, but we hold that it is not proper for us to conceal the names of defaulters at a time when a great fight is being put up. We do not entertain any feeling of anger or ill-will against any one of them. However, we believe that by publishing the names in this manner we are rendering patriotic service. This is a time when Indians must cultivate the utmost strength and abjure all selfishness. Such being the case, we publish the names of weak persons, and hope that this will give strength to the others. We shall publish any statement that the persons concerned may have to make, provided it is briefly worded. We shall also publish letters of regret that those who realize their mistake may send us. We only wish them well, considering that they too are our countrymen. We expect that our readers also will have a similar feeling towards them. Anger, malice, arrogance, selfishness, violence—all these are not only useless in our fight—they are positively harmful. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—p.124


Mrs. Bhicaiji Rustomji K. R. Cama has written a letter in The Sociologist which is quoted by Jam-e-Jamshed We draw the attention of our readers in the Transvaal to the following powerful words reproduced from it: Men and women of India! Listen to what I am saying and oppose this wicked Act. There is an old proverb that those who lose their freedom lose half their virtues. Therefore, come forward to fight for freedom, justice and truth. People of India! Resolve in your mind that it will be far better for the whole nation to die rather than live in such slavery. Fearless Rajputs, Sikhs, Pathans, Gurkhas, patriotic Marathas and Bengalees, spirited Parsis and brave Mahomedans, and last, you mild Jains and patient Hindus, children of a great nation, why do you not live as befits your ancient history? Why do you live thus in slavery? March ahead! Mrs. Bhicaiji Cama has more than 20 years’ experience of (p.127) political life. At present she lives in Paris. She is full of patriotic fervour. Her words are addressed to India, but they also apply at present to Indians in the Transvaal. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 10-8-1907.]—pp.127-28


It is said that when Hanuman [the Monkey-God of the Ramayana,] desired to set Lanka on fire, his tail grew heavier in weight as he went further.1 Similarly, the Office for new registers, as it travels further, carries a greater and greater burden with it….(p. 134) But between the case of Hanuman and that of this Office there is a great difference. The more rags they wound round Hanuman’s tail and the more oil they poured on it, the greater was the fire in the city of Lanka, though Hanuman did not feel its heat. But the task of the Permit Office is to enforce the obnoxious law, and therefore, it will probably happen that both the law and the Office will be burnt to ashes by the travels of the Office. For, it will not be possible to destroy by fire the Lanka of the Indian community. The community is guiltless. The culprit is the incendiary law itself. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 17-8-1907.]—pp.134-35


After we had almost finished writing for this issue, we heard that the list of the Pretoria black sheep given by us was not complete. The names in the last issue included some Memons and one Hindu.  We have now come to know that some Konkanis are also among them. The following are their names: We have also heard that at Pietersburg the two Indians undergoing gaol sentences are not the only ones to have registered themselves; there are about four more. If true, this is very regrettable. There are, it appears, some men in the community who show misguided courage and blacken their faces. At Pretoria the Konkanis have emphatically declared that none of them has applied for the new permit. In Pietersburg, on the other hand, the four men referred to above are also among the signatories to the petition submitted to the Colonial Secretary Both these acts of treachery are very grave. That such traitors are very few is a matter for congratulation. However, the presence of such people in the community should serve as a serious warning to good men. All this reminds one of the story of the axe and its handle. The harm done by the obnoxious law or by the Government could not be so great as that done by such men. A person who openly takes out the new register may be credited with some sort of courage. But what simile shall we use to describe the man who takes out the register stealthily and then parades as respectable? [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 17-8-1907.]—p. 136


…The question has also been asked as to what will happen if all the 13,000 Indians are sent to gaol simultaneously, Who will then look after the children? This question results from sheer fear. Such a question will never occur to anyone with the slightest faith in God. How should it then be raised by the Indian, who always lives in fear of God? We shall not have the good fortune of 13,000 Indians being arrested simultaneously; and in case this happens, let us all remember that there is the Almighty to look after those that may be left behind. If such a question can be asked, one may as well ask who will look after the dependants if, with an earthquake, all the 13,000 Indians were to disappear. What great crime have the arrested persons committed that their children or their property alone should go uncared for? But supposing they have to suffer this, why should we not render that much patriotic service? If we do not, how shall we command respect and honour? How shall we be regarded as patriots? (p.142)[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 17-8-1907]—p.142


The Friend, of Bloemfontein, has performed a public service and has earned the sincere gratitude of British Indians by the warm-hearted way in which it has approved of the manner whereby our Transvaal brethren have shown their abhorrence of a measure repugnant to their self-respect. The Friend has demonstrated its courage and public spirit by devoting a series of leading articles to a consideration of the subject from which it concludes that British Indians are perfectly justified in protesting, by means of “passive resistance”, against a humiliating law. We commend The Friend’s remarks1, which appear elsewhere, to the notice of our Transvaal contemporaries. [Indian Opinion, 24-8-1907.]—p.157


In our opinion, the Gujarati section of Indian Opinion is at present rendering invaluable service…We therefore deem it to be the duty of every Indian to read every line of it pertaining to the struggle. Whatever is read is afterwards to be acted upon, and the issue, after being read, is to be preserved and not thrown away. We recommend that certain articles and translations should be read and re-read. Moreover, our cause needs to be discussed in every home in India. Our readers can do much to bring this about. They can send the required number of copies of Indian Opinion to their friends and, advising them to read them, seek all possible help from them. The present issue includes a letter addressed (p. 157) by the Hamidia Islamic Society to Indian Muslims.1 We think it necessary that hundreds of copies of this number should be sent out to India. [[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 24-8-1907.]—pp.157-58


We give a translation of an article in The Friend of Bloemfontein, …The name of the paper is The Friend, and it has acted like a friend of the Indian community…. The impression that has been made on the mind of its editor has also been made on the minds of thousands of white men. But they will not speak out yet. They will do it when we begin playing our true part. From the article in The Friend one should know that, if the Indian community now retraces its steps in the least, the Indian nation will be put to shame and its three hundred millions judged by what the (p.160) 13,000 do here. The question of paying compensation, which the Friend has raised, is likely to be raised still more forcefully. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 24-8-1907.]—pp.160-61


Moreover, if such a petition is sent to General Smuts on behalf of the Indians, the petition that has been submitted concerning the Immigration Bill will also receive a set-back. The fight that is (p. 171) being put up by the South Africa British Indian Committee will have been in vain, and the Indian community will have been robbed in broad daylight. It is our particular request, therefore, that any individual or group that desires to take out the register is free to do so. Only, they should not drag others along with them….[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 31-8-1907.]—pp.170-72


Henry David Thoreau….considered it a great sin that the Americans held many persons in the bonds of slavery. He did not rest content with saying this, but took all other necessary steps to put a stop to this trade. One of those steps consisted in not paying any taxes to the State in which the slave trade was being carried on. He was imprisoned when he stopped paying the taxes due from him. The thoughts which occurred to him during this imprisonment were boldly original and were published in the form of a book. The title of this article conveys the general sense of the English title of his book. Historians say that the chief cause of the abolition of slavery in America was Thoreau’s imprisonment and the publication by him of the above mentioned book after his  release. Both his example and writings are at present exactly applicable to the Indians in the Transvaal. We, therefore, give below a summary of these


I accept that that government is best which governs least. That is, government is a kind of disease and the greater the freedom the people enjoy from it, the more admirable is the government. Many persons say that it would be good if America had no [standing] army or had only a small one. What they say is quite right [as far as it goes], but those who hold such a view base it on a false premise. They say that the State is beneficial; it is only the army that is harmful. These eminent men do not realize that an army is but the arm of the Stateand without it the State cannot exist for a moment. But wecannot see this because we are ourselves intoxicated with the power of the State. Really speaking, it is we, the subjects, who are responsible for the existence of both the State and the army.

Thus we see that we are deceiving ourselves. It is not the government of America that keeps the people free, or educates them. The [achievements of] government that we observe are, in some small measure, the result of the inherent character of the American people. In other words, though we are educated and intelligent, we are somewhat less so than we could have been if it were not for the government.

But, I do not ask for no government at once, but at once for a better government. This is the duty of every citizen. It is a great error to believe that nothing but justice prevails in a country in which everything is decided by a majority vote. Much injustice continues to be perpetrated because this error is not recognized. It is a mere superstition to believe that what is done by a multitude is bound to be right. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not decide right and wrong, but conscience? Must the citizen always (p. 189) resign his conscience to the legislators? I would say that we are men first and subjects afterwards. It is not necessary to cultivate a respect for the law so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. Law never made man a whit more just. But I have seen and I do see  that even ordinarily well-disposed persons become, through their simplicity, the instruments of injustice. One result of an undue respect for law is that we may see people taking to soldiering and, like monkeys, mechanically carrying out the orders of their superiors unquestioningly. Many people thus take to it [soldiering] as their profession. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; yet they rush to join it. Are they men, or axes in the hands of butchers ? Such men are on a level with wood and earth and stones. How can that kind of men command any respect? How can they be valued better than dogs or cats? Then some others become advocates, ambassadors or lawyers. They imagine that they serve the State with their heads. But I find that, unintentionally and unconsciously, they also serve Satan. Those who obey their sense of justice while holding the reins of government are always found to be in conflict with the State.[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 7-9-1907.]—pp.189-90


We have already given some portion of Thoreau’s essay on this subject.1 The rest is given below. [The translation given here has been collated with the original in English.]

A wise person will only be useful as a man, and will not submit himself to be [treated as] clay. He who associates himself with the America of today is as good as a coward. I cannot recognize that government to be my government which is the slave’s government also. Mankind has the right to refuse allegiance to and resist the government when its tyranny becomes unendurable. Some  people say that such is not the case now. That is, the attack is not on them; if others are attacked, those who hold this opinion are unconcerned with it.

All machines have their friction, and the same is true of every State. Perhaps it may not be  necessary to oppose [the State] in order to free it of such friction. But when the friction comes to have its machine, when tyranny takes the form of law, such a State cannot be tolerated by true men.

One must do justice and maintain truth, cost what it may. If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I should restore it to him though I may be drowned myself. In the same way, we must cease to hold slaves though it cost the existence of the American State. We are accustomed to say that the mass of men are unprepared; but improvement is slow because the few who desire it do not have enough courage. It is not so important that many should be as good as you as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump. There are thousands who in opinion are opposed to slavery, but act contrary to their view. They, esteeming themselves children of Washington, sit down with their hands in their [Vide “Duty of Disobeying Laws[1]”, 7-9-1907] (p.200) pockets and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing. At the most they give lectures and send petitions.

There are nine hundred and ninety nine persons who profess virtue to one virtuous man. Yet he who acts virtuously, though he be the only one, is of far greater worth than those who only profess it. There may be many warders of a treasure, but none of them can give away a single farthing from it. The owner of the treasure may be only one, yet he can give away everything from it.

Voting for the right is not the same thing as doing the right. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because there is but little slavery left to be abolished. That is, the foundation for the [formal] abolition was [already] laid by the men who abolished it in practice.

I do not say that it is a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to eradicate a wrong wherever he finds it; but it is his duty, at least, not to give it practically his support. How can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy it ?

If someone steals my goods, I do not rest satisfied with saying that it was not a good thing that I was robbed, but I take effectual steps to recover what was stolen, and see that I am not robbed again. He who acts on his principles becomes a different kind of man. Such a man cares neither for his country nor for his relatives nor his friends. But, serving truth, he serves all of them.

We admit that unjust laws exist. Do we transgress them at once? Men generally say that these laws will be repealed when a majority of people disapprove them. They think that if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil, not of those who resist it.

I do not hesitate to say that even if there is only one man in Massachusetts who is opposed to slavery, he should effectually withdraw his support from the government, both in person and property, without waiting till there is a majority on his side. For, he is not alone. God is ever on his side. Any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one already. I meet the American government directly and face to face once a year in the person of its tax-gatherer. At that time, It must definitely refuse to pay the tax. I know this well that even if only one honest man in this State of Massachusetts refuses to pay taxes in order to oppose slavery, and is locked up in gaol therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. What is once well done is done for ever. But we love better (p. 201) to talk about it; that we say is our mission. There are many newspapers in the service of the movement for abolition of slavery, but not one man.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. Hence, the proper place today for good people in Massachusetts is in her prisons. In a slave State prison is the only house in which a free man can abide with honour. If they think that in that case their influence will be lost and none will be left to fight injustice, they do not know how to fight evil. They do not know how much stronger truth is than error. Those who are in gaol, suffering the tyranny of injustice, can combat injustice more effectively from there than from outside. So long as a minority conforms to the majority, it is not even a minority. They must throw in their whole weight in the opposite direction.

When talking with my neighbours, I find that they dread the consequences of disobedience to the government to their property and family. For my own part, I would find it depressing to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State.

I think it is disgraceful to submit to a tyrannical State. It is easy and good to oppose it. I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into gaol once on this account for one night. As I stood considering the walls of the prison and its iron gates, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of the State. For, those who had imprisoned me must have thought that I was made of flesh and bones only. Those fools did not know that though confined within walls, I was freer   than others. I did not feel that I was in a prison. Rather, I thought that those who were outside were the real prisoners. As they could not reach me, they punished my body. In consequence, I became more free, and my ideas in regard to the State became more dangerous. I have seen that, when small children can do nothing to a person, they abuse his dog. In the same way, the State hurts my body as it can do nothing to me. I also found that the State was afraid of hurting my body. So I lost all my remaining respect for it.1[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 14-9-1907].—pp. 200-202



There is a well-known lady2 connected with the Ethical Society of England who writes as follows:

I have just been reading Indian Opinion for July 27th and I can forbear no longer sending to you a few words to express sympathy with you, which I have felt over and over again when reading your paper—sympathy with the stress and strain of your struggle, sympathy with the holy nature of your cause, and, above all, sympathy with the spirit in which you are writing, speaking and acting all the time. I want to send you congratulations also in that you have been able to carry on the struggle so strenuously. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 21-9-1907.]—p.220


A watchman’s duty is to watch, not to assault. We have not the slightest hesitation in saying that if anyone in Johannesburg seeking registration is assaulted, our success will turn into failure just at the last moment, like a ship sinking when about to reach the harbour. Our whole struggle is based on our submitting ourselves to hardships, not inflicting them on anyone else, be he an Indian or European. This point must be borne in mind very carefully by every “watchman”.Our duty is to reason with those who are doing wrong, to entreat them, to beg of them. If in spite of this they wish to court slavery, they ought to have the freedom to do so. For, we do not see any gain in saving them from the yoke of the law in order to subject them to our own yoke. It is our duty to extend to others the same freedom that we want for ourselves. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-9-1907.]—p.231


…When any persons are accompanied by the police, the pickets should not interfere at all. Those who would be slaves need not be obstructed by anyone. It makes me feel ashamed that there are Indians who accuse the pickets of using threats; I feel that it is our misfortune. It has been made clear to every Indian that if he wishes to give his finger-prints, the pickets themselves will conduct him [to the Office]…. the pickets are to do their duty with patience. There is no need of pressure by pickets. What is required is their presence….If the Government should attack the pickets, they must not feel afraid. And it should be remembered that, if anyone is arrested while picketing, he is not to offer bail, and if convicted, he is to go to gaol instead of paying the fine. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 19-10-1907.]—p.275


We think it was proper that telegrams of birthday greetings were sent to His Majesty King Edward. We are an ancient people. Courtesy runs in our blood. If the telegrams had not been sent, we would have been found wanting in courtesy. We have not sent the greetings specially by way of flattery, or in the hope of gaining anything in connection with the question of the [new] law. We sent the greetings because we thought that it was our duty to do so. Even so, why should such a telegram be sent? We received three gifts on the birthday. Ram Sundar Pundit was arrested without any reason. This was an attack on religion. Though he is a Hindu, the whole community has felt shocked. Passports have been refused for pilgrimage to Mecca. Licences were refused in Johannesburg and other places. It is as if, while others are enjoying themselves, the Indian community is to be in mourning. Should we, even then, send the telegrams of greetings? This question occurred to three former Presidents of the Natal Indian Congress, and quite justifiably. They felt that if we did want to send a telegram, we should also mention our grievances. The objection that they raised is not to be set aside lightly. It indicates how much our feelings have been hurt. Even then, it is a sign of anger. It is not the fault of the Emperor that we suffer. The remedy lies in our hands. Since we feel the pinch, a remedy will be found. That remedy is in the hands of the Transvaal Indians. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 16-11-1907.]—p.340



…As for looking after oneself, even birds and beasts do this. The chief difference between man and beast is that man is a benevolent creature.  All live happily where one feels happy in the happiness of others. But where everyone looks after himself alone, all are lost…. A mother suffers discomfort to bring up her child.  In the end such a mother finds herself happy. Where the members of a family share one another’s burdens and give up individual interests, the whole family is well sustained. Members of a community individually suffer to save the group as a whole and are themselves saved too. Similarly, where men undergo suffering or die for their country’s sake, they truly live and bring credit to the country. Is there any Indian who seeks happiness for himself by breaking this fundamental law? These examples clearly prove that the Transvaal Indians will be victorious if, for the sake of the Indian community and for the sake of their personal honour, they endure all sufferings and face all hardships to accomplish the task they have undertaken. They will then break their bonds and win immortal fame in history. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 15-6-1907].— p.3




Mr. Ally, in our opinion, acted hastily in writing to Justice Ameer Ali….To say that every Indian merchant is a Muslim and every hawker a Hindu is, we believe, a poisonous comment. We take it as a disgrace to the Indian community that Mr. Ally should have penned such words. The Transvaal struggle affects Hindus and Muslims alike….The question of such distinctions as Hindus and Muslims therefore does not arise at all. Moreover, the relations between Indians in South Africa professing the two religions are not in the least strained. By and large, all live in peace and amity. That in these circumstances such a letter should have been addressed to the Committee portends, in our view, a very unfavourable issue for the Indian community. Hence, we publish this letter along with our comments on it, to warn all Indians that, when the time of our deliverance is at hand, no one should imagine that differences exist between Hindus and Muslims or dream of creating any.

We do not wish to hurt Mr. Ally in any way by discussing the matter in public. Those who disagree with him need not be angry with him; rather, they should pity him for his mistake. The main point to be learnt from this is that every person engaged in public work should take a vow that he would not, under any circumstances, act in a way that might harm public interests. We would advise Mr. Ally to correct his mistake. (p91)

We can also see from the above correspondence that, if Mr. Ally had not written the letter, the Committee perhaps would not have sent us a cable to dissuade us[from going to gaol]. However, it should be clearly borne in mind that the Committee’s advice is of no use to us at the present moment. Those rushing into the field of battle cannot listen to the advice of men who keep themselves at home. We have now to go on fighting, relying only on our own strength.  If we feel that submitting to the obnoxious law is sinful, we shall not commit the sin just because the Committee or someone else advises us to do so. We have to give an account to God, not to the Committee. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 27-7-1907.]—91-92



…Thus, if women in India are not employed as they should be, it can be said that the entire  country suffers from paralysis. How is it surprising then that India is not able to keep pace with other countries? All parents should think of this in regard to their daughters, and all Indians should do likewise with regard to the womenfolk of India. We badly need thousands of women who can compare with Mirabai and Rabia Bibi. [From Gurajati, Indian Opinion, 22-6-1907.]—p.13



For an Essay on “The Ethics of Passive Resistance”

As this journal has, in a humble way, led the battle of passive resistance now being offered by the Indians in the Transvaal against an Act which, in their opinion, does violence to their consciences and as the controllers of the policy of this journal are desirous of showing the general utility of the doctrine of passive resistance, the management have decided to offer, as they now do, a prize of ten guineas for the best essay on “The Ethics of Passive Resistance”. The doctrine, religiously construed, mean a fulfilment of Jesus’ famous saying, “Resist not evil”. As such, it is of eternal and universal application, and if it were practised largely, it would replace, to a great extent if not entirely, brute force and other kindred methods for securing redress of grievances or inauguration of reforms. The management, therefore, trust that the best men in South Africa, having leisure, will compete for the prize, not for its monetary value, but with a view to an elucidation of [a] principle of life which, although it has the sanction of the best minds of the world, is still little understood and less practised. The terms of competition are as follows:

(1) The essay should be written clearly, on side of the paper only, or preferably typed. The competitor’s name should not appear on the manuscript.

(2) It may be divided into four chapters and should not cover more than ten columns of Indian Opinion.

(3) It should contain an examination of Thoreau’s classic, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, Tolstoy’s works—more especially “The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You”—and it should give Biblical and other religious authorities and (p.430) illustrations; and also the application of the “Apology of Socrates” to the question. The essay should give illustrations from modern history in support of the doctrine. (4) It should be addressed: The Editor, Indian Opinion, Phoenix, Natal, and should reach not later than the 30th instant.

(5) The management reserve to themselves the right to publish and translate any of the contributions received, and to reject all if none is considered suitable.[Indian Opinion, 9-11-1907]