26 February 1948(1)
We are charged with the offence of contravening Section 20 (r) of the Act No. 22 of 1913 in that we did wrongfully and unlawfully aid or abet certain Asiatic persons in entering the province of the Transvaal from Natal knowing that the said persons were prohibited in terms of Section 4 (a) read with the Minister's Minutes of the 1st August, 1913, from so entering.
We would like to deal first with the Minister's Minute of the 1st August, 1913.
It is our submission to the Court that the said Minute which deems the entire Indian community on economic grounds to be unsuited to the requirements of any particular province of the Union is not in keeping with the spirit, if not the letter, of the said Section 4 (a) of the Act No. 22 of 1913. It is inconceivable that the legislators in empowering the Minister to deem "any person or class of persons on economic grounds or on account of standard or habits of life to be unsuited" could have in mind deeming a whole community with varying economic groupings or differing habits of life to be unsuited. It is therefore reasonable to presume that the then Minister exceeded his powers in deeming the whole Indian community to be unsuited. In this contention we are fortified by the dissenting judgment of the learned Justice Rose-Innes in the case of Rex vs. Padsha (A.D.) 1923.
Or alternatively, we submit Your Worship, that if any such grounds existed in the year 1913, no such grounds exist in this year 1948. During the passage of thirty-five years, since the Deeming Order was issued by the Minister, the Indian community of South Africa, despite the very limited field of opportunity allowed it by scores of restrictive laws, has made an officially recognised contribution to the economic development of this country.
In this regard, the Union Government in the Agreement concluded with the Government of India in the year 1927, known as the Cape Town Agreement, "recognises that Indians domiciled in the Union are prepared to conform to Western standards of life, should be enabled to do so." By virtue of these recognitions, the Minister's Minute of 1913 is rendered obsolete and out-of-date and can have no bearing today on the intention of the legislators in framing sub-section 4 (a) of the said Act.
Now returning to the charge of aiding and abetting, we submit, Your Worship, that our only offence is that of putting into practical effect the assertion of the Union Prime Minister, General Smuts, made so forcefully before the 1946 session of the United Nations Assembly, that South African Indians are Union nationals. This assertion was reiterated by the Minister of Interior, Mr. H.G. Lawrence, at the 1947 session. If we are Union nationals, then it is but reasonable and in accordance with natural justice to exercise the most elementary right of citizenship, that of freedom of movement within the boundaries of one's country of birth. Any denial of such basic human rights would only make a mockery of democracy and democratic principles.
The crossing of the provincial borders in wilful defiance of Act 22 of 1913 constitutes the second phase of the Passive Resistance struggle which is being conducted by the Indian community under the aegis of the Joint Passive Resistance Council of the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act of 1946, the Ghetto Act.
During the last 20 months over two thousand gallant men and women resisters of all races have courted imprisonment. They preferred to suffer the rigours of gaol life rather than submit to unjust and undemocratic laws.
Your Worship, it is in this great cause and noble struggle that we call upon volunteers to cross the border and bear the penalty of the law. We consider it an honour to do so.
The Passive Resistance struggle which we are conducting is based on truth and non-violence. It is associated with the name of one of the greatest men of all time, Mahatma Gandhi, on whose death in tragic circumstances just a few weeks ago, the whole world wept. Among the millions of men who paid their last tribute to this great soul was Field Marshal Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa.
Mahatma Gandhi was the father of our struggle. Gandhiji too defied the unjust laws of South Africa and suffered imprisonment during the 1906-1914 Passive Resistance Campaign.
This is the man whom Field Marshal Smuts referred to as a "Prince among men." This is the man - the pilot of India's march to freedom - who is the source of inspiration of our just struggle for democratic rights in South Africa.
This struggle of the Indian community against the Ghetto Act of 1946, against the provincial barriers and against racial discrimination of all kinds is part and parcel of the struggle of the whole non-European and democracy-loving peoples of South Africa to turn this country into a genuine democratic State in which our multi-racial population will live and work in harmony.
It is in view of these considerations that we are pleading guilty to the charge. We are willing to bear the full penalty of the law. Our bodies may be incarcerated but our spirits cannot be crushed. It is the spirit of freedom which lives in the hearts of the oppressed. It is the spirit which seeks to do away with racial discrimination and herrenvolkism. It is the spirit - deep-rooted in the heart of every non-European, generating the urge for a better life. It is the spirit that alone can deliver the people from colour bondage in South Africa and make this land a happier place for the generations to come.
We Shall Resist
JULY 1948 (2)
"Our struggle has lit fire in the hearts of other oppressed peoples and unshackled their bonds to unite with all oppressed people of South Africa. We have reached a stage when we can no longer think in terms of the Indian people alone. We must form a United Democratic Front and challenge any force that will lead the land of our birth to the fate of fascist Germany or Japan."...
Dr. Naicker said that he was very proud to see after two years of struggle such solid unity of the people still present. "We are living in a most memorable era in the history of this country. There is conflict between justice and injustice, between truth and the naked evil forces."
Referring to the results of the general election he said that the electorate is not to be blamed for Nationalist victory. (3)
Smuts and his party are to be blamed for they, like the Nationalists, played on the colour bogey instead of giving a clear lead to the country. They have instilled in the minds of the electorate the feeling that their future depends on the oppression of non-Europeans. Therefore the electorate had voted for the party that can best oppress non-Europeans.
In approving the Joint Passive Resistance Council's decision to temporarily suspend resistance whilst the interview with the Government is pending, he stated that the Joint Council wants to obtain an unequivocal statement before declaring to the people its line of action.
"Our struggle has lifted to the international plane our grievances against injustice. The majority of the nations present at the United Nations Organisation strongly condemened the fascist tendency of the Government. Today all the Eastern countries are behind us.
"On the home front we have to steel and prepare ourselves. It is for us to dedicate ourselves to humanity. I have faith in you and the world has faith in our struggle."
Joint statement by Dr. G.M. Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress, and Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, on the decision of the Government of India to raise the South African Indian question again before the United Nations General Assembly, July 1948
The Indian people of South Africa welcome this step on the part of the Government of India as being most opportune and timely in view of the present political situation in South Africa.
South Africa can ill afford to incur the hostility of two great countries like India and Pakistan. On the other hand, friendly relations with them can be a great boon to the economic welfare of this country.
The Indian people of South Africa hope that the Union Government will act in terms of the United Nations Assembly's resolution and bring about an honourable solution of the Indian question, failing which they hope that the United Nations will act with dispatch on the recommendations proposed by the Government of India in the interests of relations between the Union of South Africa and the Governments of India and Pakistan, and in the interests of world peace.
NATAL INDIAN CONGRESS DRAWS YOUR URGENT ATTENTION TO UNDEMOCRATIC AND UNWARRANTED ACTION OF UNION GOVERNMENT IN REFUSING PASSPORT AND PREVENTING DOCTORS Y M DADOO AND G M NAICKER PRESIDENTS OF TRANSVAAL AND NATAL INDIAN CONGRESSES FROM ATTENDING FORTHCOMING SESSION UNITED NATIONS. CONGRESS SATISFIED THIS UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK ON CIVIL LIBERTIES OF INDIAN PEOPLE IN SOUTH AFRICA IS DELIBERATE AND CALCULATED ATTEMPT BY UNION GOVERNMENT TO STIFLE AND BLACK OUT ANY ADVERSE EXPRESSION BY VOTELESS VOICELESS INDIAN COMMUNITY WHO TODAY SUBJECT TO OPPRESSION OF MOST REACTIONARY GOVERNMENT THAT SOUTH AFRICA HAS EVER KNOWN. BY THIS ACT ALONE NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT HAS SHOWN HOLLOWNESS OF SOUTH AFRICAN DEMOCRACY REVEALED FASCIST TENDENCIES AND HAS FLAGRANTLY VIOLATED FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF UN CHARTER. THIS UNJUST ACT IN ITSELF WILL NULLIFY THE REPRESENTATIONS OF UNION DELEGATION AND NO AMOUNT SPECIAL PLEADING BY MESSRS TE WATER AND ERIC LOUW CAN CAMOUFLAGE TRUE CONDITIONS OF OPPRESSED NON-EUROPEAN PEOPLE IN SOUTH AFRICA DOCTOR NAICKER PRESIDENT NATAL INDIAN CONGRESS
I was eight years old when Gandhiji left South Africa. I could not understand then the intricacies of politics or the meaning of the struggle which for two decades he had to wage against the authorities, but I have a very distinct recollection of the image that was stamped upon my young mind of the national hero whose name was a household word among the Indian community. I faintly realised in those early days the powers of the simple man who was to achieve in the fulness of time such miracles as even in their heyday warriors like Napoleon could only dream of. As the years went by I was able to assess the full power of the weapon of satyagraha which Gandhiji had perfected during his career as a public man in South Africa. When I reached the age of reason I began to make a deep study of the writings of Gandhiji, and although I became an adherent of his great principles, little did I think that it would fall to my lot to take up the flaming torch he had left behind. I was scarcely prepared for such a task; I did not feel inclined to be in the forefront of the struggle that began half a century ago. Yet when the call came, the response in me was instantaneous. It was the voice of Mahatma Gandhi calling for action. Without any preparation, without any experience, without the slightest hesitation, I threw myself into the battle. With faith undiminished in the righteousness of the cause we had espoused, I became, with thousands of my fellow-countrymen a satyagrahi. I made the vow of reaching the goal that we had in view, no matter what sacrifice was demanded of us.
Two years ago when I was locked up in the prison of Newcastle, I spent my time reading My Experiments With Truth (6)
. I had read this book many times before, but inside the prison walls the words came to have a different meaning for me. It was in Newcastle that he started his epic march with thousands of men, women and children; and somehow I felt that I too was in the crowd that marched past across the Transvaal border in serried ranks. I said to myself that, if only the spirit that animated our people in those days could once again be mobilised, how nearer would we all be to the goal! It was true that Mahatma Gandhi was now in India and not in South Africa, but did it really make any difference? Had we not promised to be pure satyagrahis? And whether the master was in our midst or engaged in a bigger struggle elsewhere, we had to show the mettle of our pasture. It is to the credit of the South African Indians that in 1946, when we decided to take up the challenge, Gandhiji sent his blessings from India. I knew an intense moment in the struggle when I was sent to Pietermaritzburg gaol. Thirty-three years before, this prison had the privilege of holding an august prisoner: Mahatma Gandhi. It was here that Gandhiji made a pair of sandals which he presented to General Smuts. The time for personal contact with the great leader had now arrived. I decided to fly to Wardha with Dadoo, in order to receive more precise guidance in regard to future plans.
Never before was my soul so wrapt in joy. I had come into the breach with a very warm heart, but the pleasure I felt then was of a different kind. It was the joy one feels in doing one's duty. But to be with Mahatma Gandhi was like the vision of a dream. I was not going to meet a stranger. His teachings had become part and parcel of my life. His autobiography had been my Bible, and in my leisure time I have been reading it over and over again. Yet to meet one's hero in flesh and blood was to be such a noble experience. During my airborne voyage to Karachi and Patna and then by train to Harla in Bihar, where Bapuji had proceeded to stop the rising tide of a communal conflict, how many thoughts crossed my mind! I imagined flying to those regions where live only the choicest souls of the earth. When Dadoo and I arrived at Harla station, we were told that Gandhiji was putting up in a village a few miles away. The news of our arrival had preceded us, and we heard that Bapu was waiting for us. We were to have the privilege of being in audience with him for the whole day.
We were ushered in his room by Mridula Sarabhai. Gandhiji was sitting cross-legged with the spinning wheel in front of him. It was a quiet place. It appeared that we were the only visitors of the day. We had come to meet the Father of the Indian Nation, and the welcome we received was naturally that of a dear father to his affectionate children. We were in the presence of a king among men, and in an instant we felt the glamour of royalty in the house. We will never forget the warm smile which lighted upon both of us - the smile of the hero we had loved and admired for thirty years.
"Do you speak Gujarati, Naicker?" he enquired. I had to confess my ignorance of this language. "I understand your difficulties," he replied. "Besides your own Tamil, you have to study English, and therefore there is not much time left for other languages. Right, let us now do some talking."
We gave him an account of the progress of the struggle, and were quite surprised to find that, in the midst of his multifarious activities, he had found time to keep in touch with the latest developments of our satyagraha movement. Speaking for myself, he certainly knew more of South Africa and its problems than I could boast of! We discussed every phase of the struggle, and at every point he intervened with observations that had the effect of illuminating the subject. Throughout our talk he kept on emphasising the central lesson of the satyagraha movement. He asked us always to remember that non-cooperation was not the weapon of those who found a shelter in a negative attitude of life; it was a most positive action leading straight to success if the principles were not compromised on the way. India recovered her freedom by clinging to the principles of non-violence. South African Indians, he said, would see the milky way, if they followed the example of the mother country. He also advised patience. Success never comes in a flood, he said. He was particularly glad to know that even the children in South Africa had done their part in the latest struggle. He asked us to give his blessings to all of them. The long session was coming to an end. The gentle voice of Mridula Sarabhai announced that it was the scheduled time for rest, and it was not for Bapu to say 'no`. When we took leave of him he asked us to come again after we had completed our tour in India.
When we met for the second time, after six weeks, he was the guest of Dr. Syed Mahmud in Patna. From his rooms, across the wide lawns, we could see the beautiful banks of the holy Ganges. We reached the place long after the time which is normally scheduled for visitors and interviews, but Bapuji, in his great kindness, decided to see us. He was eager to know the response we had met from the various leaders in India, and he was glad to learn that everywhere we had received enthusiastic assistance. The plan of our campaign was drawn up by him personally. We were going away with his blessings, and this made our work all the more easy. He invited us to walk with him on the lawn, and while walking we gave him an account of our meetings all over India. At dusk we parted. He was good enough to enquire about our sleeping arrangements. "Will you sleep out in the open?" he asked. We answered in the affirmative. Before we separated Dadoo asked Bapu if we could attend his first prayer meeting. "Yes," he said, "if you can afford to be up at four."
We were feeling the strain of our various journeys throughout India. The climate also contributed to our fatigue. Bapu's doubt about our early rising was fully justified. We had a sound sleep, and we were only awakened by the hearty laugh of Gandhiji, when he saw us in our beds after he had finished not only the four o`clock prayer but his half an hour's walk. Leaping over our bed, he asked us in that affectionate voice, which I can scarcely describe, if we had a good sleep.
By his death, Gandhiji came nearer to us. It is not in a spirit of mourning that we must honour the memory of the great departed. It is our pride and our delight that he was born on Indian soil. It will be our privilege to follow his teachings. In the realisation that our outlook will be informed by his ideals lies the hope of the whole Indian race. Let us strive so that his message may find practical application in the heart of all mankind.
SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN CONGRESS BEHALF QUARTER MILLION UNION INDIANS SENDS SINCEREST GREETINGS AND BEST WISHES UNITED NATIONS DELEGATES ASSEMBLED AT THIRD ANNUAL SESSION IN PARIS. THE COMMON PEOPLE OF THE WORLD LOOK TO UNITED NATIONS TO PRESERVE PEACE IN TROUBLED WORLD AND SAFEGUARD THEIR FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS. BEHALF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN CONGRESS PLEASE CONVEY FOLLOWING MESSAGE TO UNITED NATIONS AND HEADS OF DELEGATIONS ASSEMBLED AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY QUOTE INDIAN PEOPLE IN SOUTH AFRICA APPRECIATE THE ACTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS IN DELIBERATING ON THE DISCRIMINATORY TREATMENT OF INDIAN NATIONALS OF SOUTH AFRICA FOR THE PAST TWO SESSIONS. THEY NOTE WITH REGRET THE FAILURE OF ANY EFFECTIVE MEASURE TO BRING THE TREATMENT OF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIANS IN CONFORMITY WITH THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER AND THUS END A SITUATION WHICH HAS NOT ONLY BROUGHT UNTOLD SUFFERINGS TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN INDIAN COMMUNITY BUT HAS ALSO IMPAIRED FRIENDLY RELATIONS BETWEEN THE MEMBER STATES OF THE UNITED NATIONS NAMELY INDIA AND PAKISTAN ON THE ONE SIDE AND THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA ON THE OTHER.
THEY THEREFORE URGENTLY APPEAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS THAT IN ORDER TO MAKE THE CHARTER A REALITY; TO PREVENT FURTHER IMPAIRMENT OF FRIENDLY RELATIONS BETWEEN MEMBER STATES; TO END RACIAL STRIFE AND BITTERNESS WITHIN SOUTH AFRICA; TO ENCOURAGE AND PROMOTE THE DEMOCRATIC WAY OF LIFE; TO PREVENT RACIAL CONFLAGRATION WHICH MAY THREATEN THE PEACE OF THE WORLD; AND TO INSPIRE FAITH AND CONFIDENCE IN THE UNITED NATIONS AS AN EFFECTIVE BODY FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES AND TO PROMOTE AND ENHANCE ITS OWN PRESTIGE COMMA IT ASSERTS AT ITS FORTHCOMING SESSION IN PARIS ITS AUTHORITY AS EMBODIED IN THE CHARTER AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION TO EFFECT AN IMMEDIATE LASTING AND SATISFACTORY SOLUTION IN THE INTEREST OF PEACE AND DEMOCRACY.
(1) The statement was read by Dr. Naicker.
(2) From: The Passive Resister, Johannesburg, July 16, 1948
(3) The Nationalist Party, espousing apartheid, won the elections in May 1948.
(4) From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, July 23, 1948
(5) From: Chandrashanker Shukla (ed.) Reminiscences of Gandhiji. Bombay: Vora & Co., Publishers, Ltd., 1951.
(6) &The autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi
(7) The telegram was sent by Dr. Naicker as President of South African Indian Congress.
From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, October 8, 1948