Gandhi is considered by many around the world as the father of the Indian independence movement. Gandhi spent over 20 years in South Africa working to fight discrimination. It was in South Africa that he developed his concept of Satyagraha, a non-violent way of protesting against discrimination. The first time Gandhi used Satyagraha was in South Africa beginning in 1907 when he organized opposition to the Black Act. In 1907, the Black Act was passed, requiring all Indians to keep registration documents on them at all times.
Gandhi’s first hand experiences in dealing with discrimination began in South Africa. In Chapter VII ‘Some Experiences,’ Gandhi recalls on his first days of his arrival the incident at the Durban court where he was asked to remove his turban. He refused and left the court. He quickly learned that Indians where divided in different groups. “One was that of Musalman merchants, who would call themselves ‘Arabs.’ Another was that of Hindu, and yet another of Parsi, clerks. The Hindu clerks were neither here nor there, unless they cast in their lot with the ‘Arabs.’ The Parsi clerks would call themselves Persians. These three classes had some social relations with one another. But by far the largest class was that composed of Tamil, Telugu and North Indian indentured and freed labourers.” Gandhi learns the plight of the indentured laborers later on in his stay in South Africa.
Another firsthand account of discrimination was on the train to Pretoria from Durban. Gandhi was still, at this time, accustomed to traveling first class. “But a passenger came next, and looked me up and down. He saw that I was a ‘coloured’ man. This disturbed him. Out he went and came in again with two officia...
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... It was law, and not just a social abnormality.
Gandhi prepared to leave India after his case concluded when he reads in the newspaper of a new bill – the Indian Franchise – “which sought to deprive the Indians of their rights to elect members of the Natal Legislative Assemble” If the bill were to pass, Gandhi felt it would be a terrible blow to his people and their fight for rights. “This Bill, if it passes into law, will make our lot extremely difficult. It is the first nail into our coffin. It strikes at the room of our self respect.” The Indian peoples rights to trade were eliminated in the Orange Free State were gone. Gandhi would not leave South Africa now and his farewell party turned into a working committee against the bill. ‘Thus God laid the foundations of my life in South Africa and sowed the seed of the fight for national self respect.”
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