Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy 60th Republic Day!!!

Happy 60th Republic Day !!!

Today we all Indians are celebrating Republic day, as usual. It is marked by celebrations, awards and speeches. We review our achievements and failures and decide the future course of action. At the same time we don’t forget to remember our freedom fighters.

Today I wish to pay my tributes to Mahatma Gandhi. After coming to South Africa my faith in the greatness of Gandhiji has multiplied. Since childhood, we have read and heard so much about him and I had full faith in his greatness…. his truthfulness, nonviolence, Satyagraha. After visiting the places where he lived, where he was thrown out of the train and where he united all Indians to resist injustice, I relived the experiences of a young man, in a foreign land, hurt by insults thrown to him and deciding to fight for his dignity. He was focused and determined and gave a tough time to the racist government of South Africa.

Gandhiji lived in South Africa for about 21 years (1893-1914) .He came here as a young barrister on the invitation of a businessman, Dada Abdulla to assist him in legal matters.

After coming here he saw that here Indians were treated badly as ‘inferiors’. They were called ‘coolies ‘and they did not have the voting rights. The turning point in his life came when at Pietermaritzburg railway station he was thrown out of the first class compartment although he had a valid ticket. He sat in the waiting room on that cold night shivering and scared. He was battling inside whether to leave this country or to oppose racism and he decided to fight.

He was influenced by the writings of Leo Tolstoy and one American writer Henry David Thoreau, specially his one essay ’civil disobedience’ made an impact on him .He took the path of passive, non violent resistance.

He united Indians and formed Natal Indian congress in1894. In 1906 when govt. promulgated a new act making it compulsory for all Indians to get registered and carry pass, he resisted. In Johannesburg a mass meeting was held and they decided to defy the law. Passes were burnt and many Indians including Gandhiji were jailed. At last Gen. Jan Christian Smuts had to negotiate a compromise. In the same way he resisted the marriage act and fought for voting rights. When a magistrate of a Durban court asked him to remove his turban he refused to do so. His struggle for Independence and equality influenced the African people also, although they had to fight a long battle against Apartheid. It was this strength and determination which he carried to India, fought British Empire with the methods which he experimented here -satyagrah and nonviolence, got us Independence.

Gandhiji’s contributions are well recognized by the Indian and South African community. Indian Consulate in Durban is also playing a vital role in keeping the heritage and spirit of our ‘Father of Nation’ alive. His monuments, his photograph and writings on walls at Pietermaritzburg station, the printing press, Gandhi settlement—all remind us of the inner strength of a great man and makes every Indian feel proud.

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