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Sent to Tridip Suhrud on March 14, 2014, for special issue of :Seminar on Gandhi

FILLING THE GAPS IN THE GANDHI ARCHIVES OF INDIA


E. S. Reddy
Shortly after my retirement from the United Nations in 1985, I began to edit the speeches and
writings of Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, respected leader of the South African liberation movement. Shafiur
Rahman, a friend from the anti-apartheid movement, told me in London that there was much
additional correspondence between Gandhi and Dr. Dadoo at the Institute of Commonwealth
Studies. It was in a restricted collection of Ms. Frene Ginwala and was not in the Collected
Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG). I met Ms. Ginwala and she told me that Pyarelal had
given her access to the correspondence when she was in India doing research for her doctoral
dissertation at Oxford University.
A few years later, I obtained a copy of her dissertation through the Yale University Library and
found that she had given as the source Documents Received from Shri Pyarelal at the National
Archives of India (File No. 5-52/69). At my request, T.G. Ramamurthi went to the National
Archives and informed me that there were three microfilm reels in the collection. One of them
was the correspondence of Gandhi with South Africans from 1939 to 1941 and had 150 pages.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, then in the Presidents Office, was kind enough to get me printouts. These
letters were important for South African Indian history and explain why Gandhi advised Indian
militants to postpone passive resistance in 1939. 1 I informed the Office of CWMG so that they
could obtain copies of Gandhis letters in the three reels.
I learnt then that when Gandhi was assassinated, Pyarelal had taken away the files - instead of
depositing them in the archives or handing them over to Navajivan or to the Gandhi family - for
use in his own research on the biography of Gandhi. Treating them as his property, he gave only
a few items to the Office of CWMG and allowed the National Archives to microfilm a fraction of
the papers. The National Archives indexed them under Pyarelal rather than Gandhi, so that
hardly any scholars knew about it.
When Pyarelal passed away, Haridev Sharma persuaded Sushila Nayyar to deposit the files in the
Nehru Memorial Museum. They filled six shelves and were kept in a restricted collection in the
name of Pyarelal rather than Gandhi. Fortunately, he arranged to allow access to the Office of
CWMG and the letters by Gandhi were published in Supplementary Volumes of CWMG with
credit to Pyarelal Papers. Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Courtesy: Beladevi Nayyar
1 I published the letters in the book I edited Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo, South Africas Freedom Struggle: Statements,
Speeches and Articles, including Correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi. Volume 95 of CWMG contains letters by
Gandhi to Dr. Dadoo on pages 100, 102-4, 106, 110 and 130.

and Dr. Sushila Nayyar. The collection, which also included numerous letters to Gandhi,
remained restricted.
I wrote to the Prime Minister, Shri Narasimha Rao and to Shri. K.R. Narayanan, then VicePresident, suggesting that they take action to make the collection public. Nothing happened until
some years after Sushila Nayyar and Beladevi passed away. The Nehru Museum found that their
heir was a resident in the United States. N. Balakrishnan, then Acting Director of Nehru
Museum, was able to get the restriction removed.
For fifty years, these papers of Gandhi were kept away from the public, including descendants of
Gandhi.
It was during consultations at this time that I developed a passion to find Gandhis writings and
correspondence which were not in the CWMG, in order to fulfil the commitment of India. I was
only trying to obtain copies of the documents. The archives or the individuals who received
letters from Gandhi have the legal right to keep them. But texts of those documents are essential
for research on the life and thought of Gandhi.
The Office of CWMG, established by Prime Minister Nehru in 1954, undertook the monumental
task of collecting, authenticating, editing and publishing of all the writings and speeches of
Gandhi. Nehru wrote in the foreword to the first volume of CWMG:
It is most necessary that a full and authentic record of what he has written and said
should be prepared this is a duty we owe to ourselves and to future generations.
Nothing was censored, not even his statements in early years which are used by his detractors to
condemn Gandhi. There is hardly any parallel for this undertaking.2
The resources of the Office were, however, limited. Outside India, it could employ researchers
only in Britain and South Africa for short periods. It had no researcher in the United States
though Gandhi had extensive correspondence with Americans.
The two researchers did what they could and numerous items found by them appear in CWMG.
But many items appeared in archives and publications in later years and were not available in
India.
Many people who had received letters from Gandhi donated the originals or sent copies to the
archives in India. But even Pyarelal, a member of the Advisory Board of CWMG, and Henry
Polak, a consultant, did not provide precious documents they had. I am not aware that the Office
tried to contact Hannah Lazar, the niece of Hermann Kallenbach, who had emigrated to Israel
with hundreds of documents which Gandhi entrusted to Kallenbach. If even the letters of these
2 So far as I know, the only parallel outside India is The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, published in 1953, in
eight volumes by the Abraham Lincoln Society. It can be searched at quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln.

could not be incorporated in the CWMGs 90 volumes, there was clearly a great need for
renewed efforts to trace all available documents.
Amrit Modi at Harijan Ashram and Haridev Sharma at Nehru Memorial Museum were able to
find numerous documents, mainly within India. I was perhaps the only person searching abroad,
especially in the United States and South Africa, and sending copies to the Indian archives.
I could count on help from the library staff at the Yale University, the Witwatersrand University
in Johannesburg, the Documentation Centre in Durban, and the Nehru Museum in New Delhi to
whom I had donated my extensive collection of books and papers on the freedom struggle in
South Africa.
I obtained access to the library stacks of Yale and Harvard Universities and looked into all books
on Gandhi or memoirs of persons who had met Gandhi which, I thought, may have
correspondence or records of interviews with Gandhi. I searched periodical indexes and referred
to articles on Gandhi. I went through annual indexes of New York Times and other newspapers. I
searched the volumes of National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, published since
1955, which indexes documents acquired by archives in the United States.
I found a number of letters to and by Gandhi, and accounts of many interviews with Gandhi.
During my research on books I edited on Gandhis letters to America, his correspondence with
Nordic countries and Sarojini Naidu, and Gandhi and South Africa, 1914-48, my collaborators
and I found several more documents. Some of the items I found were not of great significance,
but I felt that every statement by Gandhi deserved to be preserved and made available in India.
J.M. (Moore) Crossey, the Curator for Africa at Yale, showed me the correspondence they had
some years earlier with Hannah Lazar and her lawyer. She wanted to sell the Kallenbach papers
to Yale for perhaps $10,000. But she changed her mind and decided that they should go to South
Africa. He also informed me that Sotheby had sold a collection of 105 letters of Gandhi in the
1970s to an anonymous purchaser, long before India bought letters from the Kallenbach and
Polak families in the 1980s.
Some years later, I learnt from James Hunt, an eminent scholar, that the Local History Museum
in Durban had 57 letters from Gandhi to Kallenbach. I wrote to them for photocopies. But they
had decided not to supply photocopies, and published the letters in a pamphlet. When I visited
the Museum in 1995, they told me that they had obtained the letters at a modest price from a
seller in Johannesburg.
After India established diplomatic relations with Israel, I suggested to Prime Minister Narasimha
Rao that India contact the family of Hannah Lazar in Haifa to get copies of papers of Gandhi and
Kallenbach in their possession. I felt that papers of Kallenbach were also important for research
on Gandhi. The Prime Minister sent my letter to the Indian mission in Israel, but I did not hear of

any action. Many years later, Ramchandra Guha was able to visit the family in Haifa and found
that they still had some letters of Gandhi. He urged the Indian Government to acquire them.
Meanwhile, I learnt from Moore Crossey that the catalogues of South African libraries and
archives were digitised and that he had a composite catalogue. I noted items related to Gandhi
and Anne Cunningham at Wits Library helped to get me copies, especially from the University
of Cape Town. Among these were a letter by Harilal soon after he left his father in Johannesburg,
and several important letters of Elizabeth Molteno and Emily Hobhouse which had information
on how these women helped Gandhi to secure the settlement in South Africa in 1914. On my
visit to South Africa in 1991, I obtained from the South African Library in Cape Town copies of
the correspondence between Olive Schreinr and Kallenbach in London. It contained a letter by
Olive Schreiner to Gandhi.
Search for documents has now become easier as libraries, archives and newspapers digitised
their indexes and many documents became available in databases.
The National Archives of South Africa has set up a search feature on its website3 to search for
documents at the old Natal and Transvaal Archives and at South African archives, as well as in
major South African libraries. The Natal, Transvaal and South African Archives have more than
three hundred documents of Gandhi. Most of them are routine petitions on behalf of his clients,
but some are of wider interest. The National Archives, however, does not mail copies. I
employed a researcher to get me photocopies of the documents from the Natal Archives in
Pietermaritzburg, and donated them to the Nehru Museum. I suggested to the Indian Government
to obtain copies of the documents in the Transvaal and South African archives in Pretoria
through the Indian High Commission, but no action has been taken.
The Government departments, unfortunately, take no action unless an auction of documents or
memorabilia gets publicity and provokes public agitation. I believe that it is not necessary to
bring all original documents to India. Gandhi belongs to the world, not only India.4 India,
however, should try to get digital copies of the documents even if they are deposited in archives
abroad.
I have described briefly my efforts to search for the documents in the United States where I live
and in South Africa and Nordic countries.5 I hope this will encourage scholars in other countries,
especially academics, to undertake such searches as a labour of love and send copies to archives
in India.
3 http://www.national.archives.gov.za/
4 It is, of course, necessary to discourage sale of documents of Gandhi as commodities and encourage their deposit
in archives in India or abroad. The auctions have become corrupted and have inflated the prices whenever the
Government was interested.

I would also suggest that the Government arrange to prepare a comprehensive index of the
correspondence and writings of Gandhi as these are dispersed and many documents found after
the publication of CWMG are not indexed.
E.S. Reddy is a former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and director of the Centre against
Apartheid. Since his retirement in 1985, he has written extensively on the history of the South African freedom
mo9vement and on Gandhi.

5 I donated copies of all documents I found to the Office of CWMG until it was closed in 1994. All those
documents, as well as articles on Gandhi in American periodicals and books, are in my collection at the Nehru
Memorial Museum. I have sent copies of most of the documents to National Archives of India, National Gandhi
Museum in New Delhi and the Gandhi archives at the Harijan Ashram in Ahmedabad.