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Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Vol 009

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Vol 009

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Published by tij15
This are the volumes form the revised - erroneous - version of the CWMG as published on the CD-Rom "Mahatma Gandhi - Interactive Multimedia - Electronic Book" in 1999. Page and volume nos. are not identical with the original print version of the 1960's-1990's. The content of this CWMG version is to be credited as "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book), New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India, 1999, 98 volumes"
Vol 009-July 23, 1908 - August 4, 1909
This are the volumes form the revised - erroneous - version of the CWMG as published on the CD-Rom "Mahatma Gandhi - Interactive Multimedia - Electronic Book" in 1999. Page and volume nos. are not identical with the original print version of the 1960's-1990's. The content of this CWMG version is to be credited as "The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book), New Delhi, Publications Division Government of India, 1999, 98 volumes"
Vol 009-July 23, 1908 - August 4, 1909

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Published by: tij15 on Mar 06, 2011
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03/08/2013

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VOL. 9: 23 JULY, 1908 - 4 AUGUST, 1909
1
1. SPEECH AT MASS MEETING
[J
OHANNESBURG
,
July 23, 1908
]
On the 23rd ultimo, all Indian business throughout the Transvaal ceased for theday, as a mark of respect towards the Chairman of the Hamidia Islamic Society, ImamAbdul Kadir Bawazeer, and the other Indian leaders who had been sentenced toimprisonment with hard labour for hawking’ without licences, as a protest against theTransvaal Government’s breach of faith. Indian hawkers and pedlars ceased theirrounds, much to the discomfort of those European housewives who depend so entirelyupon the services of these men.A large and enthusiastic meeting of over 1,500 persons
1
assembled in theprecincts of the Hamidia Mosque, Fordsburg, and listened intently to the addressesdelivered by Mr. Gandhi and other speakers. A few delegates from Reef towns attendedthough none were specially invited. Mr. Essop Ismail Mia presided. . . . Thefollowing is the full text of Mr. Gandhi’s speech:
I shall read to you telegrams that have been received fromseveral parts of South Africa in reply to the request of the BritishIndian Association and the Hamidia Islamic Society that all ourbrothers throughout South Africa should close all Indian businessstores as well as hawkingout of regard for the Chairman of theHamidia Islamic Society, who is also the Assistant Priest of this veryMosque under whose shadow we are standing this afternoon. Theresponse received has been most generous, and it shows how well thedifferent portions of the Indian community in South Africa have beenknit together. I think we may congratulate and thank the Governmentupon having, perhaps unconsciously, assisted us in doing thiswonderful thing. I think that a new spirit has been infused into Indiansthroughout South Africa, and if that spirit continues, I think that weshall have to thank the Government for it. Last January, when weembarked upon the passive resistance struggle in earnest, the groundhad been prepared for close upon 16 months, but it was only in themonth of January last that General Smuts and his co-Ministers wereable to test the reality of the feeling that underlay the whole Indianagitation against the Asiatic Act, which, rightly or wrongly, Indiansconsidered constituted an attack on their self-respect, their honour andtheir religion, but perhaps the finishing touch was not put upon thewhole thing when the prisoners were suddenly discharged owing to
1
The
Transvaal Leader 
report mentions that some Chinese, too, were presentin the gathering, the strength of which its correspondent estimated at 500.
 
2
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI
the compromise. That finishing touch, in my opinion, is being placedupon the whole thing on this occasion. Evidently, General Smuts hasbeen in-formed by some enemies from out of our own camp that theagitation last year and during the month of January was mostlymanufactured and that I was principally instrumental in keeping thefire up. I think that General Smuts has now, by this time, come tounderstand that the agitation was not manufactured, that themovement was absolutely sincere and spontaneous, and, if I had anypart in connection with the movement, the part that I played was thatof a humble interpreter bet-ween the Government and my owncountrymen. I was undoubtedly the first man to inform thecommunity of what the Asiatic Act meant. I was the first oneundoubtedly to point out that it bristled with objections, religious, andon the score of the community’s Honour, but, having done that, Iclaim to have done everything that it was my duty to do. It was theIndians themselves who recognized the importance of the obje-ctionsthat I ventured to place before them, and they decided solemnly andsincerely not to accept the Act. And here we are today in order toemphasize our objections, and we find also that one of the best men inSouth Africa among our own countrymen, the respected Chairman of the Hamidia Islamic Society, has chosen to go to gaol rather thanenjoy the liberty that he had received owing to his having received thevolu-ntary registration certificate. He chose to suffer with his humblercoun-trymen, the hawkers, and he felt that he himself would placehimself in the same category and suffer imprisonment for the sake of the honour of India, for the sake of the hawkers themselves, whom theGovernment wanted to have in their grip; and we have assembled thisafternoon to do honour to that beloved fellow-countryman of ours, asalso the others who have gone with him to share the miseries of a gaollife. It is true that the imprisonment is to last only four daysbut is itonly? Indians, who have not been used to a gaol life, who have neverbeen able to accommodate themselves to the hardships of life, to themeven a day’s imprisonment is a great thing, and does not sentimentcount for some-thing in matters of this sort? We and the EuropeanColonists have known all along that Indians would rather pay largesums of money in fines than go to prison. That feeling has beenshared universally by the Indians in South Africa, and, yet, today wefind the respected Cha-irman of the Hamidia Islamic Society, we findother prominent Ind-ians, willingly going to gaol, not because there isartificial agitation, but because they think sincerely that India’shonour is at stake, they feel that their self-respect is going to be lost, if they do not stand up and give a proper fight, and that fight not a fightwith any weapons but the cleanest. The cleanest weapon that we have
 
VOL. 9: 23 JULY, 1908 - 4 AUGUST, 1909
3discovered in self- defence is the weapon of passive resistance, is theacceptance of a gaol life or whatever the Government may choose toimpose upon us for a breach of its laws which we cannot, as humanbeings, accept. The tele-grams that the British Indian Association andthe Hamidia Islamic Society have received are from Pretoria, Durban,Fortuna, Warmbaths, Volksrust, Ermelo, Potchefstroom, Zeerust,Klerksdorp, Standerton, Middelburg, Salisbury, Christiana,Rustenburg, Kimberley, Nylstroom, Roodepoort, Lichtenburg,Lydenburg, Vereeniging, Pietersburg, Ven-tersdorp, Heidelberg, CapeTown and Springs. I dare say there are more telegrams still lying atthe office. I shall venture to read a few of these telegrams. Thepurport of all is sympathy and support to the cause of the BritishIndians, and decision to close all business throug-hout these places.
[Mr. Gandhi then read the telegrams.]
These telegrams show that the Indians are absolutely unanimousin the Transvaal, and the incarceration of the Chairman shows also thatthere is absolutely no difference of opinion between Mahomedansand Hindus, that all the different races of India who are in SouthAfrica have met in a common cause and well have they met, seeingthat the difficulties that surround one portion of the community surr-ound all the other portions of that community. Gentlemen, our ownposition is absolutely clear. Our friends have advised us and told usthat we should wait, that we should not take strong measures, and thatwe should not take any step that might be irrevocable. I do not quiteunderstand the meaning of this advice. I do know this, that the ques-tion of the burning of the registration certificates should not be defi-nitely decided Until we know exactly the legislation that the Govern-ment intend to pass. That we have done. Beyond that it is impossiblefor the Indian community to go. The Government have put a barrierbetween those who have taken out voluntary registration certificatesand those who are now coming into the country, and who are entitledto come in. The Government ask them to submit to the law. It is im-possible for these men to do any such thing at all, especially whentheir rights have been safeguarded under the compromise. What arethese men to do? Are they not to trade until they have received theirregistration certificates? Are they to live upon the charity of theirfellow-countrymen? I think that it is utterly impossible. Then thesemen must honestly earn their livelihood, and the only advice that itwas possible for the British Indian Association to give these men wasto trade in spite of the refusal to issue licences on the part of the Lic-ensing Officer.
1
The hawkers and store-keepers whose licences ended
1
 
Vide
“Johannesburg Letter”, Before 2-7-1908.

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