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Mahatma Gandhi's Historic Visit to Aden

Mahatma Gandhi's Historic Visit to Aden

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Published by Dr. Ausaf Sayeed
Mahatma Gandhi, accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, visited Aden on September 3, 1931, on his way to London to participate in the Second Round Table Conference, during which he was given a warm reception by the people of Aden. He was interviewed by the well-known Arabic journalist Mohammad Al-Luqman.
Mahatma Gandhi, accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, visited Aden on September 3, 1931, on his way to London to participate in the Second Round Table Conference, during which he was given a warm reception by the people of Aden. He was interviewed by the well-known Arabic journalist Mohammad Al-Luqman.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Dr. Ausaf Sayeed on Feb 07, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Mahatma Gandhi¶s Historic Sojourn in Aden
Ausaf Sayeed*India has a long association with Aden going back to the histo
ic times. Aden was aflou
ishing po
t, t
ading cent
and an impo
tant gateway fo
India at that time. It att
ge numbe
of Indians, mainly f 
om Guja
at and Maha
a, who we
e engaged in whole-sale and
etail t
ading in India. Afte
Aden became pa
t of the B
itish Empi
e in 1839 and began to be administe
ed by the Bombay P
esidency, the population of the city as well as thatof the expat
iates began to inc
ease. It was estimated that the Indian
a in Adennumbe
ed 8,563 in 1856 and inc
eased to a
ound 15,000 by mid-1950s. The Hassan AliSt
eet in the C
egion of Aden still shows t
aces of the old glo
y of the µCloth Ma
ket¶,which was p
ily managed by the Indian me
om thei
astute business acumen, the Indians
esident in Aden displayed a highdeg
ee of political consciousness and took keen inte
est in the events
elating to f 
uggle back home. The Indian community in Aden was staunchly opposed to the p
oposalmooted at that time by the B
itish gove
nment to sepa
ate Aden f 
om India with a view tocontinue thei
nance of Aden as a p
ate even if India gains independenceeventually.The B
itish gove
nment in India conside
ed Aden as a safe heaven to inca
ate Indian
eedom fighte
s, on the same lines as they used the Andaman & Nicoba
Islands as theinfamous ³Kala Pani´, fa
away f 
om the sight and minds of people.One of the ea
liest and well-known cases of confinement of Indian
ies in Aden pe
tains to that of Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, who was the fi
eedom fighte
to conceiveµ
¶ o
an Indian Republic, as the only answe
id India of its fo
eign occupation. Hegathe
ed seve
al t
ibes comp
ising of Ramoshis, Bhils and othe
s and launched an a
uggle against the B
itish and even managed to b
iefly take cont
ol ove
the city of Pune.He was, howeve
, captu
ed in July, 1879, sentenced to life imp
isonment and t
ted toAden in Janua
y, 1880. Phade managed a da
ing escape f 
om the Aden jail in Octobe
, 1880 but was
ested soon afte
. He died in Aden on Feb
y 17, 1883 afte
a hunge
ike.The location of Aden as the fi
st po
t of call f 
om India on the inte
national sailing
outemade it a favou
ite destination fo
many Indian national leade
s and
ies to stop- by on thei
way to o
om Eu
ope and othe
destinations.One of the ea
liest Indian leade
s to visit Aden was Netaji Subhash Chand
a Bose, fi
st in1919 and late
on 13
y 1935. Netaji w
ote extensively about his second visit to Aden,which was on his way to Eu
ope f 
om Bombay on boa
d the ship µ
 MN Victoria
¶ on the ItalianLloyd T
iestino Line. He mentioned in his account that the Indian settle
s in Aden we
e p
ily f 
om Kathiawa
and we
e engaged in businesses. He
ed to the st
ong p
esence of the Royal Ai
ce and a contingent of B
itish t
oops numbe
ing about 2000stationed at Aden. He was imp
essed by the city¶s pictu
esque location, nice buildings,
oads,tunnels built th
ough some of the hills and the stony wate
s. Netaji add
essed the
Indian community in Aden and talked about the const
uctive p
amme adopted at theBombay Cong
ess and the Khadi movement in India. No othe
visit by an Indian o
ld leade
ated as much enthusiasm and inte
est amongthe local A
abs as that of Mahatma Gandhi to Aden in 1931. Gandhi¶s use of the inst
umentsof non-coope
ation, passive
esistance, civil disobedience, self-
eliance and communalha
mony in his peaceful st
uggle against the B
itish c
eated a deep impact in the A
ab wo
ld,which was itself suffe
ing the ignominy of the colonial
ule in la
ge pa
ts. Gandhi¶s clea
 views on the Palestinian issue that ³Palestine is fo
ab as the B
itain is fo
the B
itish andF
ance is fo
the F
ench´ had al
eady gained him g
eat admi
ation in the Middle East. No wonde
when Gandhiji a
ived at the Al-Tawahi po
t in Aden on the mo
ning of Septembe
2, 1931 onboa
d the B
itish Ship µSS Rajputana¶, en
oute to London to pa
ticipatein the Second Round Table Confe
ence, he was wa
eceived by the people of Aden, bothIndian and the locals. Gandhi was accompanied on the voyage by Pandit Madan MohanMalaviya, Sa
ojini Naidu, the ³Nightingale of India´, his youngest son
evdas, his B
itishdisciple Madeleine Slade (³Mi
a Behn´) and his assistant Mahadev
esai.The fi
st pe
son to go onboa
d to g
eet khadi-clad Mahatma Gandhi was Mohammed AliLuqman, a
enowned A
ab jou
nalist and edito
of the Aden Ch
onicle newspape
. M
ecollects, ³I stood silent in f 
ont of a man who has been sent by god to change theface of Asia.´ He int
oduced himself to Gandhiji as the P
esident of µA
ab Refo
m Club¶,whose b
anches existed at Al-Tawahi and Sheikh Othman a
eas of Aden, and late
 accompanied him in the city.Mohammed Ali Luqman, who was p
ivileged to inte
view Gandhiji, gave a succinct accountof Gandhi¶s sojou
n in Aden, which is being
ly published in A
abic and Englishnewspape
s in the Middle East, the last being in the µ
¶ on 27
, 2010.
ooq Luqman, the illust
ious son of Mohammed Luqman, who is a
enowned jou
nalist based cu
ently in Jeddah and a g
eat f 
iend of India, has been inst
umental in
eshing thememo
ies of the A
s to this histo
ic visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Aden.Mohammed Luqman mentioned that the B
itish autho
ities we
e initially
eluctant to allowGandhi to disemba
k f 
om the ship and add
ess a public gathe
ing at the Al-Fa
is Pa
k in theSheikh Othman a
ea. They even t
ied to intimidate and dissuade the people f 
om gathe
ing atthe pa
k but
elented late
and allowed the meeting to be o
ganised. They also ag
eed toGandhi¶s
equest fo
hoisting of the Indian flag at the venue. Gandhi was g
eetedenthusiastically by chee
ing c
owd and offe
ed a pu
se of seve
al thousand
upees towa
dsthe cause of f 
eedom st
uggle.On the way to the venue M
Luqman enqui
ed with Gandhi on the possibility of the A
ld getting thei
eedom f 
om the shackles of colonialism to which Gandhiji
eplied ³thisis an i
on castle, and you should move ahead patiently and cautiously as the impe
ialism isstill powe
ful, but ce
tainly it would not last long´.

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