I am addressing this letter to you in the hope that you would read it with sympathy and consideration. Indians have been in South Africa now for 85 years, and in the measure of their possibilities, they have contributed to the prosperity and development of the Union. As you are aware, they were asked to migrate from India, and towards the end of the last century, they were encouraged by the State to settle in South Africa and make this country their home. While they have remained loyal to the spiritual inheritance of their race, they have adjusted themselves to their local environment. They have adopted a Western way of life. They have only one ambition: to pool together with the rest of the community for the welfare of the country at large.
The cry was raised by some European public men that if the so-called Indian penetration was left unchallenged, the whole of Natal would be in the hands of the Indian. What is the factual position? Of the 8,000 acres in the old Borough (2) the Indians own 326 acres. As you know, there is a very acute housing problem for all sections. This shortage is more marked, when we come down to the lower income group. Over 85 % of the Indians in South Africa fall in this group. What has our City Council done to alleviate the position? The Council's expenditure on housing was £7.3.4 per head for Europeans and 17/6 per head for the Indian population. You are aware of the neglected condition of the Indian areas as far as elementary civic amenities are concerned.
It is suggested in some quarters that the presence of Indians in South Africa is a menace to the interest of the Europeans. This, I beg to say, is hardly a reasonable assumption. After all, our total population does not exceed quarter of a million. The wealth of this country, its productive capacity, its untapped resources are such that far from being an impediment in the way of the Europeans, the Indians can be of greater help in the further expansion of South Africa's fortunes. We are living in an age of economic expansion and, if things are carefully planned, there is no reason why there should not be enough for everybody. I am sure that if Indians were given civic rights, and the disabilities to which they are subjected were removed, the result would be highly beneficial not only to us, but at the same time to the Union of South Africa. The atmosphere of suspicion in which we are living is by no means conducive to a healthy state of mind.
I have no doubt that many Europeans realise the justice of our claims. We have reached a turning-point in history. This is an epoch where in the words of Field Marshal Smuts, "humanity has struck its tents and was on the march." Some of our opponents may have spread the alarm that we wish to start a revolution in South Africa. This letter will, I hope, dispel any such apprehensions. I am confident that our Prime Minister who has justly earned an international fame for his genius in statesmanship, will find a solution to the Indian question, which will be acceptable to us all.
We are now appealing to the civilised conscience of the Europeans in South Africa, and we hope it will find an echo in their hearts.
Dr. G. M. NAICKER,
Passive Resistance Council
I am a South African born Indian, peaceful citizen of this land. Recently Government has passed Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946, which deprives my fellow countrymen and myself of certain basic elementary human rights. In protest to this unjust and inhuman law I have occupied land which Act debars me from. I am not challenging Durban City Council's ownership of land nor am I engendering hostility to any section of community....(3)
(1) From: Leaflet published by the Passive Resistance Council, Durban
(2) Of Durban
(3) From: Telegram to Mahatma Gandhi in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 84, p. 500.
Dr. G. M. Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress and Chairman of the Passive Resistance Council, led the first batch of passive resisters in the Indian passive resistance movement of 1946-48. Others arrested with him included: Dr. K. Goonam, Vice-President of NIC, M.D. Naidoo, Secretary of NIC, the Reverend Michael Scott and eight women.