"His Spirit Lives On": Tribute To Mahatma Gandhi, January 1948(1)

Millions of people have come to revere Gandhi as Mahatma, "The Great Soul", and to the struggling masses of India he endeared himself as Bapu, "The Father of the Nation."

This small man with the frail physique, a winning smile and a personality which breathed love and affection, found a niche in the hearts of the teeming millions of India`s peasants and toilers, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin and from Karachi to Calcutta.

Symbol of liberation

He became their teacher and guide, their symbol and hope of liberation from serfdom and bondage.

He won the reverence of the people by the simplicity and austerity of his life; and by his infinite and immeasurable faith and confidence he moved the masses to break away from fear and oppression; to undergo self-suffering and sacrifice that they might achieve emancipation and freedom. This faith in the masses can best be said in his own words: "If the Congress is to be what it ought to be, something must be done to enable it to touch the hearts of the masses and a new and dynamic force must be brought into play."

This faith in the masses was amply justified, for during the years of struggle it sustained him and ultimately brought about the transfer of power from British into Indian hands on August 15, 1947.

Mahatma Gandhi was not only the "Spirit of India" but he was also the torchbearer of liberation to all the disenfranchised, enslaved communities of the colonial and semi-colonial countries.

Epic struggles in South Africa

We in South Africa remember with pride that it was here that the struggles which were later to become his whole life were commenced. It was here in South Africa that his epic struggles for the emancipation of his people were begun. It was here in South Africa that the first inklings of democratic rights were won; and it was to South Africa that he left his great weapon of Passive Resistance to vindicate our honour and lead us to freedom. Even absorbed as he was in the greater struggle in India, his interest and support for our cause remained unabated. The plight of the Indian people in South Africa was a matter of grave concern to him and he was at all times willing to guide and assist us.

At no time was his voice and advice clearer to us than in the past twenty months of struggle against the Ghetto Act. I shall never forget his words to Dr. Naicker and myself when, despite the heavy call on his time, he put all work aside to discuss with us the South African Indian question. "Your struggle will be a long and arduous one. Few or many, the struggle must go on. The sacrifices you will be called upon to make will be heavy and you must be prepared for them."

It is significant to note that the last political utterance he made before his death was on the new phase of the struggle, the crossing of the border from Natal into the Transvaal.

Mahatma Gandhi is no more.

Gandhi`s spirit lives on

We mourn for him. The world mourns for him.

With his passing away our responsibilities become the greater. The most fitting homage that millions of sons and daughters of India can pay to him at this hour is to carry forward the cause for which he lived and died; to dedicate themselves to the task of exterminating the vice of communal hatred and dissension and to restore communal peace and harmony, so that the freedom which Gandhiji helped to obtain can become a living reality and the greatest monument to his life.

The greatest homage that we in South Africa can pay to his memory is to further the great Passive Resistance struggle which we have undertaken against injustice and racial discrimination and for the vindication of our self-respect and honour as citizens of South Africa.

Therefore, we dedicate ourselves with renewed confidence and determination to the cause of universal peace and equality which were the guiding principles of Mahatma Gandhi`s life.

Gandhiji is dead. But his spirit lives in the hearts and minds of all freedom-loving people.

1 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, February 6, 1948


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