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gandhi_collected works vol 04

gandhi_collected works vol 04

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Published by: Nrusimha ( नृसिंह ) on Jan 23, 2009
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05/10/2014

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VOL. 4 : 23 MAY, 1904 - 4 NOVEMBER, 1905
1
1. LETTER TO M. M. BHOWNAGGREE1
25 & 26 COURT CHAMBERS,
RISSIK STREET,
JOHANNESBURG,
May 23, 1904
TO
SIR MANCHERJEE BHOWNAGGREE, M.P.
196 CROMWELL ROAD
LONDON, ENGLAND
DEAR SIR,

His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Arthur Lawley, while passing through Heidelberg, in reply to an Indian deputation which presented His Excellency last week with an address,2 said in effect that the liberty of the Indian to trade unrestricted in virtue of the decision in the test case will not be tolerated and that Mr. Lyttelton has already been approached with a view to sanctioning legislation in the desired direction.

The position of the Indian as defined in Law 3 of 1885 as ame-
nded in 1886 and interpreted in the light of the test case is this:
(1) An Indian can immigrate into the Colony without restric-
tion.

(2) He can trade anywhere he likes in the Colony. Locations may be set apart for him but the law cannot force him to reside only in Locations, as there is no sanction provided in the law for it.

(3) He cannot become a burgher.
(4) He cannot own landed property except in Locations.
(5) He must pay a registration fee of \u00a33 on entering the
Colony.

With the exception, therefore, of the prohibition as to holding landed property, even in virtue of the above law the condition of the Indian is now not altogether precarious.

Freedom to immigrate, however, has been almost absolutely
taken away by making what is, after all, an unjust use of the Peace
1 A copy of the letter was forwarded to the Colonial Office by Bhownaggree.
India, in its issue of 1-7-1904, published the text as from its correspondent.
2Vide \u201cAddress to Lieutenant-Governor\u201d May 18, 1904.
2
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI
Preservation Ordinance which was passed to restrict rebels and other
disloyal people but not law-abiding British subjects.

In what form it is now intended to introduce legislation, it is difficult to say, but seeing that before it can even be introduced Mr. Lyttelton\u2019s consent is necessary, I trust that you will approach him and discuss the question with him, for, after he has given his sanction to a prticular course, it would be very difficult to get redress.

What I venture to suggest is that the law 3 of 1885 should be entirely repealed as also the town regulations regarding foot-paths and other laws specially disqualifying Asiatics; that an Immigration Act on the Cape lines should be introduced but so as not to taboo, in the educational test the Indian languages and; [that] a Dealers\u2019 Licenses Act should be introduced on the Natal lines provided that the right of appeal to the Supreme Court be granted against decisions of the local authorities on licensing applications and provided that the existing licenses are not touched by it except in so far as the shops may not be in accordance with sanitary or ornamental requirements.

Thus, the great bogey of immigration will be set at rest once and for all, and there would be no question of undue competition in trade. The local authorities will be able to regulate the number of licenses.

All that the Indians claim is that they should have the right, under the general laws of the Colony and so long as they conform to Western requirements, to trade and to hold landed property and to enjoy other rights of citizenship.

I would also remind you that Lord Milner has committed himself to some such legislation and not legislation specially disqu- alifying British Indians, and also that British Indians of education or standing should be entirely exempted from any restrictive legislation.

Colonial Office Records: C.O. 291, Volume 78, Individuals\u2014B.
2. BRITISH INDIANS IN THE TRANSVAAL

The British Indians at Heidelberg did well in presenting a loyal address to His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal, and in doing so to draw His Excellency\u2019s attention to the recently decided test case. It drew from His Excellency an important prono- uncement on Government policy. The answer given by Sir Arthur Lawley to the deputation was elaborated in his speech at Volksrust at the banquet given in his honour by the people of Volksrust. His

VOL. 4 : 23 MAY, 1904 - 4 NOVEMBER, 1905
3

Excellency paid a well-deserved compliment to the loyalty of the Indian people and their industrious habits. Dealing with the[ir] status in the Transvaal, His Excellency was very guarded. He said that nothing could be done by the Government until sanction was received from the Colonial Secretary. But he had no hesitation in saying that he sympathised very much with the desire of the white inhabitants not to be nonplussed by the Asiatic traders, and he promised the Volksrust people that he would do his best to further the desire of his fellow- countrymen, though the promise was qualified by statement that the Government would have to act with strict justice; that it would have to protect vested interests and accurately define the position of those who are already settled in the Colony, and would also have to state what disqualifications those who might enter the country in future would labour under. All this is eminently satisfactory. Anything would be welcome to replace the present uncertainty, and if a just interpretation is given to the term \u201cvested interests\u201d, those who are already carrying on business in the Transvaal need not have any anxiety. Unfortu- nately, however, the past does not inspire hope for the future. The ill- fated Asiatics Traders\u2019 Commission has made it clear as to what the Government means by \u201cvested interests.\u201d It would only respect the trade of those British Indians who were actually carrying on trade outside Locations in the Transvaal \u201cat, and immediately before, the outbreak of war\u201d. We know what this means, and we know how the Commissioners interpreted the expression. It would only protect a dozen Asiatics who, leaving their trade intact at the time of war, went away from the country owing to fear. And if such is the interpretation to be placed upon the term \u201cvested interests\u201d, in the expressive words of the Chief Justice of the Transvaal, the Government would again be taking away with the other hand what it professed to give with the one hand. The danger has been foreshadowed by His Excellency himself in stating that the Government would protect the trade of British Indians only during the lifetime of the present licence-holders. A man engaged in trade knows what this means. Certainty is very essential in all commercial transactions and seeing that life is very fickle, would there be merchants found who would give any credit whatsoever to British Indian traders when the law informs them that the traders who ask for credit have no security of tenure, and that on their deaths their businesses would be abruptly closed? How such a doctrine can be reconciled with strict justice which His Excellency would dole out to the Indians, it is difficult to understand. We have, therefore, reluctantly to take the intentions of the Government to do justice with a great deal of reserve and caution. Nor do the opinions His Excellency has formed regarding the effect of Indian trade on the

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