Article 5-Gandhi’s Work in South Africa

Both Seth Abdullah and Seth Taiyab had agreed to entrust the on going dispute between them to Seth Hazi who was confidant of both parties and who had a good impression about his wisdom , his sense of impartiality . Seth Hazi studied the matter in great details , discussed several times with Gandhi and the lawyers of both sides . He pronounced the verdict in favour of Seth Abdullah . According to the decision  Seth Taiyab had to pay to Seth Abdullah 37  thousands pounds in a total disputed amount of Forty Thousands pounds  .  It was a big amount for Seth Taiyab which would lead him to bankruptcy and  mockery in both social as well as business circles .

Gandhi had a complete picture of financial status  of Seth  Taiyab . He met Seth Taiyab ; he could sense his anger but came to his rescue by telling that Seth Abdullah had agreed to take the money in reasonable installments . This arrangement of easy installments  was a life giving breath to a  gasping Seth Taiyab . He  wondered how Gandhi could prevail upon Seth Abdullah for payment in easy installments . Gandhi had a simple answer “ You had agreed for out of court settlement much to the surprise of Seth Abdullah , similarly Seth Abdullah has shown his magnanimity in payment ; after all both of you had been friends , are respected by society and business people . I was wanting that mutual trust , respect between both of you , earned by long association , should not suffer “. This was Gandhi , a true humanitarian ; welfare of others was uppermost in his mind ; otherwise he would have simply prolonged the case and would have continued to stay in South Africa .

Having settled the dispute  which was his main assignment to visit South Africa ,  Gandhi decided to come back to India ; his contract of one year was also coming to an end . He returned back to Durban . Seth Abdullah personally received Gandhi at railway station .  Seth Abdullah was extremely happy the way Gandhi settled the dispute in favour of Abdullah and Co . Against his wishes,  he arranged a farewell function in honour of Gandhi .  The function was attended by all important persons of Indian community plus Mr Baker , the lawyer , Rustam Ji a close Parsi friend , Seth Hazi , the mediator , Ledu a white business man etc . There was lot of excitement in the community ; all were full of  praise for Gandhi who had made a dent in their life for the better in a very short time  amid so much of injustice .

One gentleman drew the attention of Gandhi towards a news item published in a daily about the voting rites of black community in South Africa . It transpired that Govt was bringing a bill in Parliament to restrict the voting rights of the community . The reason was one Mr Aiskemb  won his parliamentary seat over Mr Warf Engineer on the favourable votes given by Indian community . Mr Aiskemb was a lawyer and used to take up court cases of Indians ; he was therefore very popular among Indians . Mr Warf Engineer who got defeated had the backing of ruling party . Consequently the  white govt was very much upset  and wanted to curtail the voting rights of Indians through this bill . The argument given by the govt was that the black community in South Africa was  extremely backward , illiterate , does not understand the meaning and importance of vote in a democratic set up etc etc . The influential persons present in the party requested Gandhi to stay back and help them to defeat the bill otherwise it will be another blow to their identity .

Gandhi was in double mind . He had left his family behind assuring to come back in one year time . On the other side he was serving the cause of his own people who were in a bad situation , helpless in a mighty set up . He further argued in himself “  perhaps staying back and fighting against this bill , may enhance his reputation in  legal career . Amid conflicting thoughts , he agreed to stay back subject to the condition that  all concerned Indians will support him and that required money will be made available to fight the bill .

Gandhi called a meeting of well meaning influential Indians including Seth Abdullah , Seth Hazi , Rustam Ji . Some officials of private firms , office clerks , govt officials were also present . Gandhi also involved those educated Indians who were sons of Indian community ( Coolies ) ; they were lucky to get education and  had become lawyers . They were now moving among white lawyers .  These Indians had got converted to  Christianity  and were thus endeavoring to rise in social status  and professional career . Important among such converted educated Indians was  Mr Paul who was a translator in Durban court ; he was  in a way  a link between the court and Indian community and enjoyed lot of influence among Indians .  Another gentleman was a teacher of  Mission school Mr Subhan Gadfrey .

Gandhi addressed that select gathering of Indian community . He introduced himself and spoke : “ This bill is yet another blow to the identity of Indian community . If it gets the approval of Parliament , the status of Indian people will be greatly marginalized . We are working here for the white community , white government and therefore we should have the voting rights . If the voting rights are curtailed , there will be questions on citizenship . We will be leading the life of animals . Denial of voting rights would be against the Agreement of empoloyment . It will also result that your  representative will never be selected to be a Member of Parliament and there would be no body to take up your issues if any in the Parliament . “

Gandhi was able to make his point . Mr Gadfrey spoke on behalf of educated youth “ We have to put aside our caste and religion ; foremost is our country , our motherland and our honour and dignity “ . A motion presented by Rustam ji was passed . It was decided to take up the matter with govt not to present the bill in Parliament and that Mr Gandhi be given full powers to handle the matter as he deemed fit .

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