Gandhi’s First Satyagraha Campaign in South Africa

Gandhi developed his satyagraha theory of nonviolent conflict during a tax resistance struggle in South Africa. Here are a couple of contemporary newspaper accounts that reference that struggle.

First, from the Western Times of :

Indians in South Africa

A mass meeting of 5,000 Indians passed a resolution declaring their resolve to go on general strike until the Government repeals the £3 tax, and releases passive resisters now in prison. One of the speakers was subsequently arrested.

Next, from the Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough of :

Right of the Husband.

The Indian Grievances Commission has issued its report. Dealing with passive resistance and the strike at the end of , the Commission finds that it was absolutely necessary for the police to use force during the recent disturbances at Mount Edgecombe and Esperanza.

The Commissioners regard the marriage question as the most difficult of all, and point out the impossibility of legalising polygamy in South Africa, but recommend the validation of monogamous marriages under a system which recognises the right of the husband to marry one or more other wives. They also recommend the repeal of the three-pound tax on the ground that it serves no good or useful purpose. –Reuter.

Next, from the Liverpool Echo of :

Indians in South Africa.

A New Bill of Rights.

 — With reference to the newly-published bill dealing with the grievances of Indians in South Africa, which in the main follows the lines of suggestions made by the recent Commission of Inquiry on the subject, Mr. Polak, who has been intimately associated with the Indian movement since its inception, stated in an interview with Reuter’s representative that the bill dealts [sic] with two of the points on which the passive resistance campaign was based which could be dealt with by statute — the £3 tax and the validation of the monogamous marriages.

Mr. Polak said he had received a telegram from Mr. Gandhi, the Indian leader, stating that the bill appeared to be satisfactory. In order to comply with the requirements of the passive resisters, however, Mr. Polak said it would be necessary to get assurances from the responsible Minister as regards a more sympathetic administration of the Immigration Act, and an undertaking that due regard would be paid to vested interests in the application of the gold and licensing laws. Mr. Polak further pointed out that acceptance of the present bill with every measure of thankfulness did not mean the abrogation of the general claim to civil equality in South Africa.

The remaining two points — namely, the right of South African Indians to enter the Cape and the question of declaration on entrance into the Orange Free State, Mr. Polak described as small matters of administration. –Reuter.

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