We are celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s 148th anniversary today. His unparalleled contribution to the Indian Independence movement and mantra of non-violence inspire people for civil right movement and freedom across the globe.
The great soul (Mahatma), who dedicated his entire life for activism, had not only given us Independence back in the country but also left his footmark in South Africa at the very young age of 24.
He developed the philosophy of Satyagraha (peaceful resistance to political prejudice) there that turned out as his strength and helped him in securing freedom for the nation.
Gandhi in South Africa
Gandhi earned his law degree from London and went to South Africa in 1893 on a temporary assignment to represent a local trader in a court of law.
When he arrived in the country, racial discrimination was on the surge due to the increase of Indian population and he learnt at the beginning that the migrant community living in Durban was on the target.
Gandhi witnessed the social stigma when he arrived to represent the trader in court and the magistrate asked him to remove the turban he was donned. Mahatma declined his request and preferred to walk out from the court as he dubbed it as a sign of disrespect to his nation. The matter was published in a local Newspaper, Natal Advertiser, that brought him headlines and he was recognised for his sense of dignity.
Afterward, he experienced another incident on June 7, 1893, when he was travelling to Pretoria for and the conductor asked him to leave the first class compartment despite he had the ticket for the same.
A few fellow travellers had questioned his skin colour. Gandhi was thrown out from the compartment at Pietermaritzburg station. The incident changed his life, and he stood up against racial discrimination and made active non-violence as his mission.
Indians were not allowed to walk on the footpath and once Gandhi was kicked by a police officer out of the footpath sans warning.
He was disturbed with such inhumane practices and decided to fight for civil right. He took the matter before British colony for referring Indian Hindus and Muslims as “Kaafir”.
When the British declared war against Zulus, Gandhi had extended his support and had asked India people to serve them as volunteers in ambulance unit. Gandhi’s philosophy was invented from this very right place and his political involvement, and influence also grew.
He became popular among Indian population for his providing legal service and discovered term “Mahatma” for himself in 1914.
The black South African people were allowed to cast their vote in 1994 and they consider Mahatma Gandhi as their hero.