Rediscovering Jinnah’s Politics: Pakistan and Democratic Nation-Building in South Asia

A special contribution by Dr. TT Sreekumar
Jinnah’s image as an adamant fighter for a separate Muslim Homeland and hence as someone responsible for the division of India is often reinforced by Pakistan’s own constructions of his persona as father of the nation. An unkind fashioning of his politics as inherently sectarian obliterates the nuances of the strategic political positions held by Jinnah, his multiple subjectivities; the subtleties of the subaltern/minority politics he upheld and his visions of regional peace, cooperation and security.

The whirl of events in Pakistan causes concern in an historical sense. Pakistan’s political transformation has unfortunately negated a legacy, the legacy of Jinnah, inheriting which would have allowed better mediations for peace and democracy in the region. The ideals cherished by Jinnah who believed that Pakistan will progress only if they “work together in a spirit that everyone, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations” has been completely undermined both in India and Pakistan.

Jinnah’s visions of a non-theocratic democratic Pakistan are in no way inferior to the aspirations shared by Indian National Congress (INC) leaders of the time in rest of British India. Indian textbooks probably provide an uncharitable account of his role in India’s freedom struggle. After all, he was a great leader of the INC who took a profound role in re-imagining Hindu-Muslim unity, shaping INC’s Lucknow pact with Muslim League (ML) and democratizing minority politics in the subcontinent. Torn with sectarian violence, State repressions and increasing human right violations, South Asian countries in general and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in particular, would immensely benefit from a reassessment of Jinnah’s politics and ideals.

Jinnah’s image as an adamant fighter for a separate Muslim Homeland and hence as someone responsible for the division of India is often reinforced by Pakistan’s own constructions of his persona as father of the nation. An unkind fashioning of his politics as inherently sectarian obliterates the nuances of the strategic political positions held by Jinnah, his multiple subjectivities; the subtleties of the subaltern/minority politics he upheld and his visions of regional peace, cooperation and security.

Jinnah worked under constraints of negotiating minority rights and fractured nationhood. It was not Jinnah but Rehmat Ali who first demanded a separate State for Muslims in the North-West British India. Rahmat Ali clearly stated in his 1933 pamphlet (Now or Never: Are We to Live or Perish for Ever?)that he will not be satisfied with any arrangement that keeps what he for the first time called as PAKSTAN(an acronym for a confederation of regions such as Punjab, Afgania (part of NWFP), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan) in the federation of India as mooted by INC. It was Ali who persuaded Jinnah to return to India in 1934 and assume the leadership of Muslim League.

Rehmat Ali’s pamphlet is an important political document which challenges the very concept of India as a nation. He eloquently questioned the historical foundations of such a Nation arguing that Indian State is a British construction in which different cultures and “who have never previously formed part of India at any period in its history; but who have, possessed and retained distinct nationalities of their own” were being subjugated. (The later rhetoric of Communist Party leaders on nationalities and national struggles in the subcontinent perhaps owes to Ali as much as to Lenin and Stalin).

He talked about the viability, necessity and inevitability of a Muslim majority State in the North West with historical examples and detailed the role of a futuristic Islamic State in the subcontinent. Emphatically he declared that it will be unfortunate if “Muslims of PAKSTAN” were “deluded into the proposed Indian Federation by friends or foes”.

However, undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) has taken credit for identifying the political role of Jinnah, ML and the demand for Pakistan. PC Joshi has said: “We were the first to see and admit a change in its character when the League accepted complete independence as its aim and began to rally the Muslim masses behind its banner. We held a series of discussions within our party and came to the conclusion in 1941-1942 that it had become an anti-imperialist organization expressing the freedom urge of the Muslim people that its demand for Pakistan was a demand for self determination and that for the freedom of India, an immediate joint front between the Congress and the League must be forged as the first step to break imperialist deadlock. A belief continues to be held that League is a communal organization and what Mr. Jinnah is Pro-British. But what is the reality? Mr. Jinnah is to the freedom loving League masses what Gandhi is to the Congress masses. They revere their Qaid-e-Azam as much as the Congress do the Mahatma. They regard the League as their patriotic organization as we regard the Congress” . (Congress and the Communists, PC Joshi, People’s Publishing House Bombay, p 5).

Communist Party regretted that they had toed the Congress line for a single Indian State for too long. CPI leader Adhikari maintained that ” In 1938, were yet wrapped in the theory like the rest of the nationalists, that India was one nation and that the Muslims were just a religious cultural minority and that the Congress-League United Front could be forged by conceding ‘protection of cultural and religious rights and demands’. We stood on the same basis as the Congress leadership, and were guilty of the charge of denying the peoples of the Muslim nationalities their just right to autonomy in free India. Since 1940, the party began to see that the so called communal problem in India was really a problem of growing nationalities and that it could be solved on the basis of the recognition of the right of self determination, to the point of political secession of the Muslim nationalities as in fact of all nationalities which have India as their common mother land. In those days many comrades were shocked by the formulation that India was not one nation and its development was in the direction of a multinational unity… the demand for Pakistan if we look at its progressive essence is in reality the demand for self determination” (G.Adhikari, Pakistan and National Unity, People’s Publishing house, August 1942, pp. 29-30)

The issue is not whether the two nation theory of Muslim League or the multi nation theory of the Communists was historically wrong. Fundamental issue is the pathological nature of democracies that emerged in the subcontinent during the post colonial period. Destiny had it that Jinnah did not live to realize his dreams. I am not certain if he had lived longer he could have built up a nation he cherished. Politics is too complex to make such counter factual questions relevant. Nevertheless, a near total absence of a discourse on the political ideals and passions of Jinnah in the whole subcontinent in the post-colonial period is indicative of the archival violence that silences voices different from the mainstream views. Not only Pakistan, India also stands to benefit from a reassessment of the unique positions that Jinnah upheld. His leadership still remains as an exemplary example of a practice of minority politics foregrounding democracy for nation-building and achieving fundamental human rights.

(The writer is an Assistant Professor, Communication & New Media Programe ,Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ,National University of Singapore)



Filed under History, India, Jinnah, Pakistan, Politics

35 responses to “Rediscovering Jinnah’s Politics: Pakistan and Democratic Nation-Building in South Asia

  1. YLH

    A very well written article. Thank god Indians are beginning to balance out the biased demonization that their books subject Jinnah to.

  2. nikita

    demonization is a very strong word, none of the history books ignore Jinnah’s contributions in forming a bridge bet. congress n muslim league in 1916 but he is more deeply etched in the minds of the Indians as the chief founder of Pakistan n a propounder of two nation theory and hence better known for the latter.

  3. Indian textbooks and official history generally placed Jinnah in a poor light. But as I can see from the recent Indian academic works and newspaper articles, there is a reassessment not only about Jinnah’s place, but even about the factors that led to partition of the country. Perhaps the experiences of the past half century led to this rethinking, marred by communal clashes, sectarian violence and a realization that the state, after all, is a structure that rules not by consensus but by force.

  4. sherryx

    Is this “demonizing” worse than what is being done with Gandhi and Nehru in Pakistan, in which case usually lines of decency are also crossed!!

  5. Greywolf

    Could you point out where in Pakistani textbooks are Gandhi and Nehru demonized? They are ignored at times but certainly not demonized.

    Infact there is much that Pakistanis can use against Gandhi and Nehru – like the former’s racism against black people and his weird sexual habits and the latter’s hypocrisy on several issues but you find none of this in Pakistani textbooks.

  6. nikita

    m not a fan of gandhi but he was never a racist, infact u have a vey poor sense of history, gandhi’s entry into the political arena began in south africa where he protested against the racism perpetrated by the colonial rulers, he was himself a victim of racism there. n it seems stupid to dislike a person just because of his sexual habits, which by the way do not come in ur ambit of concern.

  7. YLH


    Gandhi’s statements were extremely racist against black people. You ought to read his collected works.

    Research this more. You’ll understand what I am talking about.

  8. Hayden

    Gandhi was a grat advocate for what he believed in but you have to realise that both Pakistani and Indian perceptions differ on Jinnah and Gandhi, ultimately neither can be trusted!
    Gandhi in India is virtually canonised, scepticsim of him is looked down upon, so this is why not many historical writings of him in India are well produced, most adhere to him. Jinnah, yes is demonised by Indian thought, mainly because he is accused of partitioning “Mother India” as AS. Ahmed notes. But what one must understand is that by 1937, after Jinnah’s reformation of the Muslim Leaugue he still advocated an ‘Indian’ independence. But with increased pressure by Nehru, Jinnah was forced into a corner where he was the only representative of the Muslim people who were slowly being repressed into a minority status whilst Congress assumed more power. So evidently Nehru pushed Jinnah into the ‘two-nation thery’ which he originally rejected. And as for communal violence which has marred Jinnah’s perception in India, like the ‘Day of action’ again Nehru had forced Jinnah into a corner, this is not to say that Jinnah instigated violence, but he did sought for Muslim protest which got out control. But why is he blamed as the harbinger of Indian doom when there are many more instances where Gandhi organised ‘hartals’ to boycott British goods which were paradoxically supposed to be ‘peaceful’ and yet many times over his protests ended with violence, especially communal!
    In Pakistan Gandhi is not perceived as a demon himself, it is just that he has been greatly omitted in favour for a Mislim history, with Muslim hero’s like Jinnah! This also is bad history as the canonised image of Jinnah has been exploied by the governnment to keep the people faithful and abiding to there doctrines.

    I don’t know whether Gandhi’s statment’s are racist as I haven’t read anything about that issue, but in my opinion I was actually mesmerised by the romantic perception of Gandhi, but on further research musch of his methods were spontaneous, inane, and often impracticable. More importantly it must be understood that the Indian blame of Jinnah, as introducing religion into politics is fallacious, given that he was forced into that position and that was all he could use to unify the Muslims and advocate their cause. Gandhi was the inherent person to introduce religion onto politics which needs no debate given all his mass prayers and movemnet that were soley religiously driven!

  9. Majumdar

    The difference between MAJ (pbuh) and MKG, as a friend here once told me, was not about religion but about modernity. While the former stood for a progressive modern India and Muslim community, the latter embraced the most retrogade lot especially among Muslims.

    MAJ (pbuh)’s stock is going up day by day even in India while Nehru and Gandhi are increasingly discredited and despised figures even in their own homeland. Considering that India has been demonising MAJ (pbuh) all the time and raising Gandhi and Nehru to divine status, that says a lot.


  10. Hayden

    well that’s interesting!
    I’s good to see India becoming more critical of their history, and so leads us onto the path of good historiography!

  11. I dont think Jinnah is ‘demonized’ at all in Indian textbooks. They are online, search for NCERT textbooks online.

    The real hero as far as most Indians are considered today is Dr. Ambedkar (I am not taking abt the middle class urban minority). He, by the way, did not have very charitable views of Hindus or Muslims.

  12. nikita

    nehru, gandhi and jinnah were, at the end of the day politicians and to give anyone of them divine status would be tomfoolery, each one of them was a human and had a good share of flaws. all of them, while projecting themselves as the champions of their respective cause or community did eye political power(nehru’s dominance within the congress became evident after independence resulting in congress stalwarts leaving the party and giving rise to internal factions that spiralled congress out of control once he passed away). jinnah was pushed to the background in the congress with the entry of gandhi, the refusal of jinnah’s 14 points over the nehru report that was seen to be placatory towards the hindu right wing is a manifestation of that, till 1940 jinnah had not come with a decisive plan on pakistan, however the blatant refusal of nehru to form a coalition government with the muslim league in the united provinces after the 1937 provincial elections did cast a shadow over his mind . jinnah did not directly instigate the violence on the day of direct action, but he did not do anything to stop it either. similarly to say that it was jinnah only who brought religion into the forefront of politics would be unfair, tilak and other extremists, whether knowingly or unknowingly did the same, the same is applicable for gandhi who did this through his incessant emphasis on ram rajya that had a very limited appeal(for that matter even the non cooperation movement started by him had religious undertones). partition of india was a result of numerous historical and cultural factors, no one person can be singularly held responsible for this. the reason for the mass popularity of gandhi and nehru ,according to me,can be also attributed to the facts that the party with which they were associated, as a whole, played a pivotal role during the time of the british rule and had begun to be seen as the saviour of newly independent india and that for 30 years after independence congress was the only dominant party as there was the virtual absence of any strong opposition in the political landscape.. however even today, no one leader is considered as the real hero of india’s freedom struggle, be it ambedkar, gandhi or nehru..its high time that we realize that its dumb to either canonise or demonize any one f them.

  13. chary

    Gandhi’s tools for freedom struggle are all derived rationally. Their apparent resemblance to any religeous practice is a pure coincidence.

    The sathyagraha, the fasting, the hindu saint like dressing etc all have reasons based purely on rational thinking. Not only these three but all the practices done by gandhi in his life are based on his conscience. He never took any religious doctrine for granted, he rather experimented in his own life and embraced those which he found to be correct.The reason behind these tools are clearly given in his autobiography, and none of them have religious background.

    IMHO sidelining or ignoring key persons in history is as bad as demonizing (which is apparent today by the way indians view jinnah and pakistanis view gandhi.)

    “there are many more instances where Gandhi organised ‘hartals’ to boycott British goods which were paradoxically supposed to be ‘peaceful’ and yet many times over his protests ended with violence, especially communal!”

    Hayden, can you please tell one instance in which Gandhi’s peace protests have actually caused communal violence?

    ” but on further research musch of his methods were spontaneous, inane, and often impracticable”

    I am keen to know details about your research. I am also doing my own sort of research on Gandhi’s methods. Your details will be very much helpful.

    You are absolutely mistaken. Gandhi is remembered in South Africa as the person who has protested against racism.

    “his weird sexual habits and the latter’s hypocrisy on several issues”

    I couldn’t understand what weirdness you saw in the sexual habits of Gandhi. All details about these are given by _himself_ in his autobiography. One must be bold enough to do so.

    I beg you to cite one instance where Gandhi was guilty of hypocrisy.

    indeed it is happy to see people having a dispassionate view.

    “Gandhi’s statements were extremely racist against black people. You ought to read his collected works.”

    I did considerable research (and still doing) on his works. I could not see any reason to believe that Gandhi was a racist.

  14. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Chary,

    Three issues:

    1. Gandhi’s use of Hindu religious philosophy was the match needed to light up the powder keg of India. And that is precisely what happened.

    2. While Gandhi is recognized for influencing Mandela and the ANC’s valiant struggle, I don’t think it is fair to say that there isn’t any acknowledgement of the racist statements he made… here is a Guardian report:

    3. Here are Gandhi’s own words:


    “A general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are
    little better, if at all, than the savages or natives of Africa. Even
    the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result
    that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.

    Collected works of MK Gandhi, Vol. 1, pg 150-151

    “the whole objection to the Indian proceeds from sanitary grounds, the
    following restrictions are entirely unintelligible:
    1. The Indians, like the Kaffirs, cannot become owners of fixed property.
    2. The Indians must be registered, the fee being 3 pounds 10S.
    3. In passing through the Republic, like the Natives, they must be
    able to produce passes unless they have the registration ticket.
    4. They cannot travel first or second-class on the railways. They are
    huddled together in the same compartment with the Natives.
    So far as the feeling has been expressed, it is to degrade the Indian
    to the position of the Kaffir. ”
    Petition to Lord Ripon, CWOMG, Vol. 1, pg 199-200

    “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be
    inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the
    level of a raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole
    ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with
    and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness ”
    Address in Bombay, CWOMG, Vol. 2, pg 74

    “…A reference to Hunter’s ‘Indian Empire’, chapters 3 and 4, would
    show at a glance who are aborigines and who are not. The matter is put
    so plainly that there can be no mistake about the distinction between
    the two. It will be seen at once from the book that the Indians in
    South Africa belong to the INDO-GERMANIC STOCK or, more properly
    speaking, the ARYAN stock We believe as much in the purity of race as
    we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve these
    interests, which are as dear to us as to them, by advocating the
    purity of all races, and not one alone. We believe also that the white
    race of South Africa should be the predominating race. ”
    Indian Opinion 24-9-1903, CWOMG Vol. 3, pg 453

    …The petition dwells upon “the co-mingling of the Coloured and white
    races”. May we inform the members of the conference that, so far as
    the British Indians are concerned, such a thing is practically
    unknown? If there is one thing, which the Indian cherishes more than
    any other, it is the purity of type. Why bring such a question into
    the controversy at all?
    The Transvaal Chambers and British Indians, Indian Opinion 24-12-03,
    CWOMG Vol. 4, pg 89

    Why, of all places in Johannesburg, the Indian Location should be
    chosen for dumping down all the Kaffirs of the town passes my
    comprehension. …Of course, under my suggestion, The Town Council must
    withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of Kaffirs
    with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly
    Indian Opinion, 10-4-04, CWOMG Vol. 4, pg 130-131

    It is one thing to register Natives who would not work, and whom it is
    very difficult to find out if they absent themselves, but it is
    another thing and most insulting to expect decent, hard-working, and
    respectable Indians, whose only fault is that they work too much, to
    have themselves registered…
    What is a Coolie, Indian Opinion 2151904, CWOMG Vol. 4, pg 193

    It reduces British Indians to a status lower than that of the
    aboriginal races of South Africa and the Coloured people.
    Indian Opinion 15-9-1906, CWOMG Vol. 5, pg 419-423

    Mr. Stead has boldly come out to give us all the help he can. He was
    therefore requested to write to the same Boer leaders that they should
    not consider Indians as being on the same level as Kaffirs.
    Indian Opinion, 15-12-1906, CWOMG Vol. 6, pg 183

    …the Governor of the gaol tried to make us as comfortable as he
    could…But he was powerless to accommodate us beyond the horrible din
    and the yells of the Native prisoners throughout the day and partly at
    night also. Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed
    from the animal and often created rows and fought amongst themselves
    in their cells.
    Indian Opinion 7-3-1908, CWOMG Vol. 8, pg 120

    Apart from whether or not this implies degradation, I must say it is
    rather dangerous. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized — the convicts
    even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty, and live almost like
    animals. Each ward contains nearly 50 to 60 of them. They often
    started rows and fought among themselves. The reader can easily
    imagine the plight of the poor Indian thrown into such company!
    Indian Opinion, 7-3-1908, CWOMG Vol. 8, pg 135

    When I reached there, the chief warder issued an order that all of us
    should be lodged in a separate room. I observed with regret that some
    Indians were happy to sleep in the same room as the Kaffirs, the
    reason being that they hoped there for a secret supply of tobacco,
    etc. This is a matter of shame to us. We may entertain no aversion to
    the Kaffirs, but we cannot ignore the fact that there is no common
    ground between them and us in the daily affairs of life. Moreover,
    those who wish to sleep in the same room have ulterior motives for
    doing so. Obviously, we ought to abandon such notions if we want to
    make progress.
    Indian Opinion, 6-1-1909, CWOMG Vol. 9, pg 149

    CWMOG = Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi

    I personally concur with the view that Gandhi was a politician… and we may be more tolerant of these shortcomings and faults, if the world would not make such an awful big deal about his saintliness… and ofcourse if Gandhi the film was recognized for what it was – primarily a work of fiction.

    Growing up I always had a net positive view of Gandhi… I personally found the experience of watching Gandhi the movie to be a turning point on that.. and I have spent the last many years trying to balance out the picture by pointing out the obvious pitfalls of Gandhian ideology… the anti-modernism, the social-conservatism, the strange mix of judaeo-christian guilt and distortion of Vedanta philosophy…. further complicated by Gandhi’s caste-hindu upbringing.

    That said…now I am ready to turn the page… and accept Gandhi for what he is – a very flawed but remarkably influential figure in human history… but for that the other side must meet me half way… and recognize the mistakes Gandhi made especially vis a vis Jinnah and Dr. Ambedkar.

  15. chary

    Dear Yassar,

    Thanks for the details.
    I will be able to reply only after 30th of this month.

  16. alokm

    YLH you want me to re-paste the comments from collected works to prove otherwise.

    Stop slandering.

    and Majumdar go see a mirror.

  17. yasserlatifhamdani

    “stop slandering”

    I would be slandering only if these comments did not exist in the collected works.

    So stop throwing terms you don’t understand.

  18. aloku

    YLH is again editing the comments section, he is like a monkey given some powers and gone berserk.

    shame to you RAZA shame to you

  19. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear alok,

    Please don’t lie. I did not edit a single c0mment so far- primarily because I was in busy in a meeting.

    However… I will now delete your personal attacks.

  20. aloku

    Raza its only your decency which brings me here…otherwise if it were people like YLH Pak tea house will lose it relevance very soon.
    Be warned in advance if u want to save this tea house.

  21. yasserlatifhamdani

    PS: I just saw your comment pending. It was pending because it had a URL in it. I would have approved it. Any comments by non-moderators with a URL or an EMAIL go to “pending” file.

    Now – thanks to your abusive post- I am going to leave it as it is and allow Raza to see whether it should or shouldn’t be approved- once he returns from his foreign trip.

  22. yasserlatifhamdani

    “it were people like YLH Pak tea house will lose it relevance very soon.”

    Why don’t you ask Raza to remove me ? See what he has to say. Maybe he has a different view on the matter.

  23. aloku

    why dont you run your own tea house and see if it flourishes or flounders?

  24. aloku

    well reagrding my post you dont have guts to put it here, the liar and manipulator you are….stop editing people’s comments and get a life!

  25. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Aloku,

    I am afraid this attitude is not going to get you anywhere. I did not edit your post. Any post with URL automatically goes into pending section and a moderator has to approve it. Since you think I am an unfair arbiter in the matter, I will not touch your post. We will wait for Raza to come back and approve it – whenever that is.

    However I would love to post the URL right here that you wanted to post desperately:

    I would like people to see for themselves that every single word I quoted is a genuine quotation of Mr. Gandhi from his collected works.

    The problem with people like you is that you want all or nothing. Had you read my post in the right spirit, I have clarified my point of view on Gandhi. But instead of seeing that all I want is a more balanced understanding of the man, you want to abuse me for pointing out what is so obviously true about him.

    “why dont you run your own tea house and see if it flourishes or flounders?”

    I am. It is… and it is flourishing.

  26. aloku

    oh really shall i tell you a more balanced view about jinnah? or will you delete it as u did last time?

  27. aloku

    eyerone can see from the collected works of gandhi, his thousands of speeches against racism,equal rights for blacks, discrimination based on religion caste creed and gender

    what you have done slyly is to select few lines which he said before he started his satyagraha in south africa.

    you could not see the thousand quotes but you saw the single quote against.

    well the fault is in your intention.

    i have already rebutted all your accusations point by point from collected works and dont want to waste my time by arguing with you.

  28. aloku

    After his return to India, Gandhi remained in touch with African struggles and the state of civil liberties in Africa. In October 1920 he was in the midst of a struggle in India. But we find him commenting in Young India: “Look at the trial of an English officer and the farcical punishment he received for having deliberately tortured inoffensive Negroes at Nairobi.” (CW, Vol 18, p 321).

    Gandhi drew inspiration not only from his experiences in South Africa but also from his reading of the history of Africa as a whole. On one occasion in 1920, when asked to explain his movement for non-cooperation with British rule, he cited the example of Somaliland (Somalia) from the interior areas of which the British had evacuated in 1909-10. In an interview to The Times of India, reproduced in the journal Young India under the title “Swaraj in Nine Months”, Gandhi said: “This movement is an endeavour to purge the present Government of the selfishness and greed which determine almost everyone of their activities. Suppose that we have made it impossible by dissociation from them to feed their greed. They might not wish to remain in India, as happened in the case of Somaliland, where, the moment its administration ceased to be a paying proposition they evacuated it.” (Young India, December 29, 1920, CW, Vol 19,169).

    In 1921 Gandhi wrote feelingly against “insolence, pride of race, religion or colour.” (Young India, June 1, 1921, CW, Vol 20, p.159).

    African- American interest in Gandhi’s movements had also been aroused. In March -April 1919 Gandhi had called for a protest in India against the Rowlatt legislation sought to be introduced by the colonial regime. The legislation which envisaged arbitrary detention, and trials without effective legal assistance, cutting off pleadings and appeals, was a serious assault on democratic rights. The protest was followed on April 13, 1919 by the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in which an unarmed crowd in Amritsar, in northern India, was fired upon by British-led troops. In September 1919, the African-American political activist Hubert Harrison, considered the Father of Harlem Radicalism, writing in the New Negro under a pseudonym, condemned the Rowlatt legislation and described it elsewhere as “the rottenest legal terrorism that the modern world has yet seen”. [Jeffrey B. Perry, (ed.) A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 2001, p. 213].

    In October 1921, a few days after Gandhi issued a manifesto for his movement of non-cooperation with the British regime, Harrison wrote that Gandhi, “stands out among men of all colours today as the greatest, most unselfish and powerful leader of the modern world.” [Jeffrey B. Perry, (ed.) op. cit. p. 314]

    In the same year, in an address in South Africa, Rev Zaccheus R. Mahabane, President of the Cape Province National Congress, expressly contemplated the possibility of Gandhian resistance. Mahabane warned: “… let no race or class or creed be driven to such a condition of despair as it might be compelled to adopt the Gandhian policy of ‘non-co-operation’ – taxation without representation leads to this.” [Thomas Karis and Gwendolen Carter (eds.) op. cit.; Volume 1, p.296].

    Mahabane was later, in 1924 and again in 1937-40, to be President General of the African National Congress. He was also the president of the Non-European Unity movement activated in 1943.

    The urge to explore the possibilities of Gandhi-type methods was expressed regionally as well. In 1924 the eclectic James Thaele, a Lovedale product, who had later graduated in the United States, became, shortly after returning to South Africa, the President of the Western Cape Congress. “Periodically he argued for non-co-operation with the authorities and also referred to the Gandhian example of passive resistance.” (Peter Walshe, The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress 1912-1952, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1971, p. 166).

    Gandhi was in personal contact with leading African-American personalities like Dr W E B DuBois, the pioneer of the Pan-African movement, who was to spend his last days in Ghana. Dr DuBois had been repeatedly referred to in Gandhi’s Indian Opinion in South Africa. In 1911 Indian Opinion had carried laudatory references to Dr DuBois and his role. Gandhi, for his part, had been referred to in the pages of Dr DuBois’ journal, Crisis, since at least the early nineteen twenties. Crisis, a monthly journal from New York, was the organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In March 1922, the month in which Gandhi was to be arrested, Crisis carried a five-page long appreciative article on Gandhi. The Crisis article referred to the massacre in Amritsar in 1919 and set out in detail the content of Gandhi’s non-co-operation and boycott movement. Crisis went on to observe: “The second outstanding factor in Mr Gandhi’s program is the idea and practice of non-violence or passive resistance. Like the principle of non-co-operation, it kills without striking its adversary.” (Gandhi and India, Crisis, New York, March 1922). Years later, writing in 1957, Dr DuBois was to recall that “(w)ith the First World War came my first knowledge of Gandhi”. (W E B DuBois, Gandhi and the American Negroes, Gandhi Marg, Bombay, July 1957, Vol 1, Number 3, p.175) Referring to the NAACP, Dr DuBois wrote: “I remember the discussion we had on inviting Gandhi to visit America and how we were forced to conclude that this land was not civilized enough to receive a coloured man as an honoured guest.” (Idem).

    Gandhi sent Dr DuBois a “love message” for Crisis on May 1, 1929.
    Marcus Garvey too was in touch with Gandhi. Garvey, Chairman of the Fourth Annual International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World, had on behalf of “the Negroes of the world” sent greetings to Gandhi for the “fight for the freedom of your people and country”. Garvey added: “We are with you”. Gandhi, who had been released in early 1924 after spending nearly two years in prison, said “I gladly publish and gratefully acknowledge” Garvey’s message; it was carried by Gandhi in Young India on August 21, 1924 with the following comment:

    “Theirs is perhaps a task more difficult than ours. But they have some very fine workers among them. They have fine physique. They have a glorious imagination. They are as simple as they are brave. M. Finot has shown by his scientific researches that there is in them no inherent inferiority as is commonly supposed to be the case. All they need is opportunity. I know that if they have caught the spirit of the Indian movement, their progress must be rapid.” (CW, Vol 25, p. 26). Incidentally, M Finot’s was a work to which Gandhi had referred even during his South Africa days. (See letters to L. W. Ritch, April 12 and 18, 1911 CW, Vol 11, p. 22 and p. 29).

    Later in 1924 Gandhi commented on the case of Harry Thuku of Kenya who was described by C F Andrews as “one of the brightest lads I had seen” in East Africa. Thuku, who had protested against the flogging to death of some of his countrymen and against forced labour by African unmarried girls on plantations of white settlers, was detained without trial and deported to Kisumayu. Gandhi described Thuku as the victim of “lust for power” and wrote that if Thuku “ever saw these lines, he will perhaps find comfort in the thought that even in distant India many will read the story of his deportation and trials with sympathy.” (Young India, December 18, 1924, CW, Vol 25, p. 398). Thuku, a telephone operator in Nairobi, had taken to the politics of protest by forming the “Young Kikuyu Association”. (See Basil Davidson, Africa In History: Themes And Outlines, Paladin Books, Granada Publishing, St Albans, 1974, p. 298). This had soon become the East African Association, gaining wide membership and spearheading strikes by the growing working class in Kenya.

    Interestingly, Thuku had been arrested in March 1922, five days after Gandhi’s own arrest in India. The colonialists had been evidently worried and a Church of Scotland missionary at Kikuyu “warned friends in London of the growing African unrest and wrote that Thuku was trying to become the Gandhi of Kenya.” (Robert G. Gregory, India and East Africa: A History of Race Relations within the British Empire 1890-1939, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, p. 216).

    Gandhi, along with Andrews, had also repudiated the suggestion floated by Sir Theodore Morison of the India Office, among others, for reserving German East Africa for administration by the Government of India. (Gregory, op. cit. pp. 173-174, pp. 192-193, p. 217, pp 280-281, pp 503-504). Andrews arrived in Mombasa, Kenya on December 1, 1919. And by December 4, he was able to inform Gandhi that the local Indian Congress leaders were prepared to dissociate themselves from the idea. (Hugh Tinker, The Ordeal of Love: C F Andrews and India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1979, p. 162). The Imperial Indian Citizenship Association published a memorandum authored by C F Andrews on the subject. Andrews wrote of the suggestion made by Sir Theodore Morison that “Mahatma Gandhi himself was opposed to it.” [Indian Quarterly Register (republished as Indian Annual Register), 1925, Vol 1, p. 371]

    That was consistent with the attitude that Gandhi sought to inculcate. Earlier, in March 1924, Gandhi had been approached by Mahadeo Panday and Caramat Alli Macdoom who wrote to him about the prospect of an African influx in British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America and that the Africans were seeking the same entitlements as were offered to Indians there. Gandhi, who was then convalescing in Bombay after a surgery, replied on March 28, 1924: “You state that the Negroes are clamouring for the conditions offered to our Indian colonists. Personally I do not mind it, nor need our countrymen in British Guiana fear the proposed influx of the Negroes. If the 1,30,000 Indians give a good account of themselves, they will bless themselves and bless the Negroes and everyone else who goes there.” (CW, Vol 23, p.332).

    A delegation from South Africa led by Gandhi’s old friend Dr Abdurrahman visited India in 1925. It was present at the Kanpur session of the Indian National Congress, which was also addressed by Dr Abdurrahman. When Gandhi spoke at the session he criticised South African Europeans for their policies but also referred to his friendships with individuals among them. In this context he mentioned in particular “that great poetess and philanthropist and that most self-effacing woman – Olive Schreiner.” (December 26, 1925, CW, Vol 29, p. 361). In a tribute reminiscent of the one he had given to Doke more than a decade earlier, Gandhi said of Schreiner:

    “She knew no distinction between white and black races. She loved the Indian, the Zulu and the Bantu as her own children. She would prefer to accept the hospitality of a South African Native in his humble hut.” (Idem).

    Gandhi saw clearly the interconnectedness of the various struggles against racial discrimination although he was cautious at this time about the possibility of an amalgamated struggle. Thus in July 1926 Gandhi wrote emphasising a vital axiom about the struggle against racial discrimination which set limits to how far Indian demands could be expected to be met in South Africa without a forward movement in that country as a whole: “I do not conceive the possibility of justice being done to Indians if none is rendered to natives of the soil”. (Young India, July 22, 1926, CW, Vol 31, p. 182)

    Drawing attention, earlier in the same year, to certain racial disabilities in Glasgow in Great Britain, Gandhi made a world-wide projection of his concept of non-violent non-co-operation which he had, six years earlier, introduced in India. Citing the racial disabilities within Britain, he now wrote: “The question therefore that is agitating South Africa is not a local one but it is a tremendous world problem. …There is however no hope of avoiding the catastrophe unless the spirit of exploitation that at present dominates the nations of the West is transmuted into that of real helpful service, or unless the Asiatic and African races understand that they cannot be exploited without their co-operation, to a large extent voluntary, and thus understanding, withdraw such co-operation”. (Young India, March 18, 1926, CW, Vol 30, pp. 135-136)

    The international struggle against race continued to arrest his attention. A mere two months later, Gandhi, writing to Amy Jacques Garvey, acknowledges receipt of books relating to Marcus Garvey. [May 12, 1926, CW, Vol 95, (Supplementary Vol V), p. 53]. Miss Garvey wrote: “Of the many acknowledgements of the books received, I cherish most the one from M K Gandhi, the Mahatma of India, dated May 12, 1926, from ‘The Ashram, Sabarmati, India.’ He addressed me as ‘Dear Friend’.” [Amy Jacques Garvey, Garvey and Garveyism, Octagon Books, New York, 1986, p. 168, cited in E S Reddy (ed.) Mahatma Gandhi: Letters to Americans, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 1998, p.251 and p. 359]

    Gandhi had taken France to task for the treatment meted out to the Riffs in Morocco (Young India, November 12, 1925, CW, Vol 28, p. 441). In an article in Young India on October 14, 1926 entitled “Race Arrogance”, Gandhi referred to information “showing the wrong done by white Europe to the Abyssinians and the Riffs and the injustice that is being daily perpetrated against the Negro in the United States of America in the name of and for the sake of maintaining white superiority”, while reminding Indians that: “Our treatment of the so-called untouchables is no better than that of coloured people by the white man”. (CW, Vol 31, pp. 492-493)

    This is a recurring theme in Gandhi for on January 14, 1926 he had written in Young India of the Indian suppressed classes : “We must yield to them the same rights as we would have the Europeans concede to our countrymen in South Africa.” (CW, Vol 29, p. 400).

    “The false and rigid doctrine of inequality has led to the insolent exploitation of the nations of Asia and Africa.”, he wrote. (Young India, August 11, 1927, CW, Vol. 34, p. 315).

    A few days later an Indian in Mabuki, in French Africa, wrote to Gandhi about some Indian traders who had lived with Negro women and had offspring but left them behind with no provision for their maintenance. Observing that he had come across similar instances in Delagoa Bay, Gandhi wrote: “The best course, certainly, is that a trader who cannot observe self-control should take his wife with him. If he goes alone and forms a union with a Negro woman, he should behave decently, treat her with love and accept the responsibility of providing for the children which may be born to her. He should understand that under the law, he is bound to provide for the maintenance both of the woman and her children.” [(From Gujarati) Navajivan, August 28, 1927, CW, Vol 34, p. 406]

    Some lessons that Gandhi had learnt from African history were to play a profound role in the formulation of his non-cooperation and boycott strategies in India. He had already referred at the end of 1920 to the British evacuation from (the interior of) Somaliland, to suggest that non-cooperation could result in similar withdrawal from India. Eight years later he stressed some economic conclusions not only from the Somali experience but also from the British withdrawal from and subsequent reconquest of the Transvaal. In an article entitled “How We Lost India”, Gandhi wrote in 1928: “It is characteristic of the British people that they give up their hold on the country from which they can obtain no wealth. They did so in the case of the Transvaal in the year 1884, and when they saw wealth there they launched a war in 1900 in order to gain possession of it. They gave up Somaliland when they could not make money there.” [(From Gujarati) Navajivan, November 4, 1928, CW, Vol 38, p. 14]. British rule, he went on to observe, “functions with the help of our merchants”. (Idem). And that was why, Gandhi stresses in the article, boycott of foreign cloth was necessary.

    In 1929 Booker T Washington’s institute at Tuskegee, Alabama received C F Andrews. After the meeting, Prof Robert Moton, another leading African-American intellectual, who had succeeded Booker T Washington at Tuskegee, sent a message to Gandhi on February 24, 1929: “India, Africa and America joined hands last night. Love and greetings from Tuskegee.” (Young India, February 28, 1929, CW, Vol 40, p. 48) The Tuskegee Messenger of March 9, 1929 reported Andrews’ message as a “a plain unadorned story of the two greatest spirits in the world today, Tagore and Gandhi.” (cited in Charles Freer Andrews by Benarsidas Chaturvedi and Marjorie Sykes, first published, London 1949; reprint, Government of India, Publications Division, New Delhi, 1971, pp. 269-270)

    Later the same year, Gandhi sent a message, referred to earlier, to Crisis, the organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Its editor, the leading African-American intellectual, Dr W E B DuBois had written to Gandhi requesting a message for the “twelve million people who are the grandchildren of slaves and who amid great difficulties are forging forward in America.” [Herbert Aptheker, ed., The Correspondence of W E B DuBois, Volume 1, University of Massachusetts Press, (Amherst) 1973, pp 402-403] Gandhi in his message on May 1, 1929 wrote: “Let not the 12 million Negroes be ashamed of the fact that they are the grandchildren of slaves. There is no dishonour in being slaves. There is dishonour in being slave-owners. But let us not think of honour and dishonour in connection with the past.” [See E S Reddy, (ed) Mahatma Gandhi: Letters to Americans, op. cit., p 248 and p. 317]

    Meanwhile in the South Africa of 1929-30 suggestions would again be made from time to time for adoption of Gandhi’s method as, for example, by James Thaele, referred to above, and Brandsby7 Ndobe in the Western Cape. According to one account: “At that time Brandsby Ndobe, secretary of the Western Cape ANC, replying to a Court charge of incitement to public violence, explained his speeches as geared to the fight for non-European rights and for equality. He was not, he said, intent on warfare but had always insisted on passive resistance and non-violence; like Thaele, he too used Gandhi as an example.” (Walshe, op. cit., p.166)

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    In 1931 British intelligence in Sudan reported: “There is no doubt that especially the younger element of the intelligentsia have a great admiration and sympathy for Gandhi, and that when the movement in India was at its height, they followed the news with keen interest. In private assemblies they discussed the efficiency of the boycott weapon and agreed that Gandhi had discovered in it the only weapon which the…East could employ effectively against imperialism. The influence of Gandhi and Indian politics can be unmistakeably seen in the Gordon College strike (of 1931) and attempted boycott of sugar by pupils”. (Based on extract from Political History of Sudan, 1924 to 1931, Archives, Khartoum, reproduced in Muddathir ‘Abd Al-Rahim, Imperialism and Nationalism in the Sudan: A Study in Constitutional and Political Development, 1899-1956, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1969, p. 125n)

    During his visit to London, Gandhi was asked on October 31, 1931: “For some years Britain would continue certain subject territories like Gold Coast. Would Mr Gandhi object?”

    “I would certainly object”, was Gandhi’s reply (CW, Vol 48, p. 255). He continued: “India would certainly aspire after influencing British policy….. I do not want India to be an engine of oppression”. (Idem) He spoke on this occasion about the exploitation of Zulus and Swazis, which he described as “radically wrong” (Idem).

    Marcus Garvey had written to Gandhi on behalf of the Universal Negro Improvement Association saying that he was in London for a short while, being due to leave on November 1.

    “My people desire me while here to see you”, Garvey wrote and suggested October 31 or November 1. (Marcus Garvey to Gandhi, October 29, 1931, Gandhi Papers, Vol 52, Serial Number 18198, National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi). Whether a separate meeting could be arranged with Garvey at such short notice is not known, and on the morning of the day of Garvey’s departure, Gandhi was scheduled to be in Cambridge.

    Speaking there on November 1 at Pembroke College, Gandhi was direct: “What about the South African possession? I would not insist on a transformation of Britain’s relations with them, as a condition precedent to our partnership. But I should certainly strive to work for the deliverance of those South African races which, I can say from experience, are ground down under exploitation. Our deliverance must mean their deliverance. But, if that cannot come about, I should have no interest in a partnership with Britain, even if it were of benefit to India. Speaking for myself, I would say that a partnership, giving the promise of a world set free from exploitation, would be a proud privilege for my nation and I would maintain it for ever. But India cannot reconcile herself in any shape or form to any policy of exploitation and, speaking for myself, I may say that, if ever the Congress8 should adopt an imperial policy, I should sever my connection with the Congress.” (Young India, November 19, 1931, CW, Vol 48, p. 261)

    Ras Makonnen, the Pan-African organiser from British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America, has recorded that during this visit Gandhi “received official treatment” from the League of Coloured Peoples, headed by the Jamaican physician, Dr Harold Moody, and “that was the occasion when Kenyatta first met Gandhi.” (Ras Makonnen, Pan-Africanism From Within, Oxford University Press, Nairobi, 1973, p. 127) The League had been organised in England by Dr Moody, Jomo Kenyatta and the activist from South India, N G Ranga, who was later prominent in the Indian freedom struggle and peasant movements. (N G Ranga, Fight For Freedom, S. Chand & Co, New Delhi, 1968, p.130)

    Kenyatta’s biographer, Jeremy Murray-Brown, writes about the meeting between Gandhi and the future leader of Kenya:
    “Kenyatta met the Indian leader in November 1931, and Gandhi then inscribed Kenyatta’s diary with the words: ‘Truth and nonviolence can deliver any nation from bondage’. Kenyatta was to give much thought to reconciling that idea with African tradition.” (Jeremy Murray-Brown, Kenyatta, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1972, pp. 156-157). Kenyatta, who had already been prominent in public activities in Kenya, had contacts with English Quakers with whom Gandhi was in touch. Kenyatta often met Gandhi’s friend and biographer C F Andrews at Hampstead. (Murray-Brown, op. cit. p.358)

    More than twenty years later when the distinguished Indian barrister, Diwan Chaman Lall, would visit Kenyatta in prison as his counsel, he would record: “On the last day of my visit to him , in the small prison at Kepenguria9, he took me into his barn-like cell and bending over his solitary suit-case searched in a corner for a little diary which he had treasured since the year 1931 because it contained an inscription in the hand-writing of Mahatma Gandhi…. A man who cherished Mahatma Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence even within the precincts of the gaol obviously cannot be accused of dictating a different course.” [D. Chaman Lall, Foreword to (Indian edition of) Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya: The Land of Conflict, The India-Africa Council, New Delhi, 1953, p.1]

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    Africa spoke to him in prison, through Egypt. Messages of sympathy carrying greetings from the Egyptian people came from Safia Zaghloul Pasha and Mustafa Nahas Pasha in September 1932 at the time of Gandhi’s fast. Gandhi wired back his thanks to Madame Zaghloul Pasha for a “loving inspiring message” (September 24, 1932, CW, Vol 51, p. 133) and to Mustafa Nahas Pasha, “deeply touched” (September 26, 1932, CW, Vol 51, p. 142).

    Gandhi’s thoughts were again on the educational aspects of the struggle against social oppression. While still in Yeravda Central Prison, Gandhi wrote to G. Ramachandra Rao on April 14, 1933 appreciatively of the educational work at the Tuskegee Institute: “I wish you every success in producing an Indian Tuskegee.” He asked Rao to devote himself “might and main” to producing, from among the oppressed castes or outcastes, “a prototype of Booker T Washington.” (CW, Vol 54, p. 406).
    Writing a few weeks after his release from prison in May 1933, Gandhi again commended the work done for Blacks in the United States by the Hampton Institute, Virginia and Tuskegee Institute, associated with the names of General Samuel Armstrong and Booker T Washington respectively. He praised the work of the “white men” at Hampton, comparing it with the work done by some ‘upper caste’ Hindus for Dalits, or Harijans, in India. Hampton was for Gandhi a “great enterprise and a noble monument of the industrious and exceedingly well-informed zeal of a handful of white reformers”.

    He referred to Tuskegee as a “noble edifice” built by Booker T Washington with his “limitless faith and equally limitless application”. (Harijan, July 29, 1933, CW, Vol 55, pp. 322-324) He had been an admirer of both General Armstrong and Booker T Washington from his early days in South Africa. (Indian Opinion, September 10, 1903, CW, Vol 3, pp 437-440). Coming back to India, he had welcomed the decision of the Hassan Municipality in Karnataka in 1927 to establish an institute for the uplift of scheduled tribes “on the lines of the Tuskegee Institute of Booker T. Washington.” (August 3, 1927, CW, Vol 34, p. 278) Booker T Washington is praised also in Gandhi’s “Satyagraha in South Africa” which appeared successively in Gujarati and English in the 1920s. In this book the race situation in the United States is also discussed and the practice of lynching African-Americans, in whose case “the black pigment of their skin constitutes their crime”, is criticised. (CW, Vol 29, p. 78)

    Gandhi sent a message on the centenary of the abolition of slavery for the international celebration that was fixed for July 29, 1933 in Hull, England. This was William Wilberforce’s native town. (CW, Vol 55, p.317) In his message Gandhi said: “India has much to learn from the heroes of the abolition of slavery for we have slavery based upon supposed religious sanction and more poisonous than its Western fellow.” He compared the abolition of slavery with the abolition of untouchability. (CW, Vol 56, pp 88-90)

    On May 7, 1934 Gandhi answered some queries from Carl Murphy, President of the Afro-American Newspapers, Inc., publishers of The Afro-American, Baltimore, Gandhi wrote: “Prohibition against other people eating in public restaurants and hotels and prohibition of marriage between coloured people and white people I hold to be a negation of civilisation.” [Reproduced on February 7, 1948 by The Afro-American, Baltimore, a few days after Gandhi’s assassination. For text see E S Reddy, (ed) Mahatma Gandhi: Letters to Americans, op. cit. p. 278]

    Speaking to a delegation of African-Americans, including Dr Howard Thurman, Mrs Sue Thurman and Mr Carrol, the Pastor of Salem, in February 1936, Gandhi advised non-violent non-co-operation against any community indulging in lynchings: “I must not wish ill to these, but neither must I co-operate with them. It may be that ordinarily I depend upon the lynching community for my livelihood. I refuse to co-operate with them, refuse even to touch the food that comes from them, and I refuse to co-operate with my brother Negroes who tolerate the wrong. That is the self-immolation I mean. I have often in my life resorted to the plan.” (Harijan, March 14, 1936, CW, Vol 62, p. 201)

    Gandhi had asked them about race relations in the United States: “Is the prejudice against colour growing or dying out?” and “Is the union between Negroes and the whites recognized by law?” (Ibid., pp 198-199). Dr Thurman tackled the first question, suggesting that the answer varied from place to place, with white students in the South wishing “to improve upon the attitude of their forbears” but things being somewhat ugly in the industrial centres of the Middle West. (Ibid., pp. 198-199) Pastor Carrol said in reply to the second question: “Twenty-five states have laws definitely against these unions….” (Ibid., p.199) ). Gandhi concluded on a note of hope: ” … it may be through the Negroes that the unadulterated message of non-violence will be delivered to the world.” (Ibid., p. 202) The meeting ended with Mrs Thurman singing two Afro-American spirituals: “Were you there, when they crucified my Lord” and “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” (Ibid., p. 202n).

    In the following year Gandhi sent a message to African-Americans through Dr Channing Tobias, an African-American who called on him on January 10, 1937: “With right which is on their side and the choice of non-violence as their only weapon, if they will make it such, a bright future is assured.” ( CW, Vol 64, p. 230)

    To Prof Benjamin Mays, an African-American who was then at Howard University and had called on him, Gandhi stressed some important aspects of non-violent struggle. He saw passive resistance as active resistance. According to him: “Passive resistance is a misnomer for non-violent resistance.” (Harijan, March 20, 1937, CW, Vol 64, p.221) Further, Gandhi told Prof. Mays, non-violent resistance had the merit that it could evoke participation on a wide scale: “The maimed and the blind and the leprous cannot join the army of violence. There is also an age-limit for serving in the army. For a non-violent struggle there is no age-limit; the blind and the maimed and the bed-ridden may serve, and not only men but women also. When the spirit of non-violence pervades the people and actually begins to work, its effect is visible to all.” (Ibid., p. 223) Later Prof. Mays became President of Morehouse College in Atlanta where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., studied. He was a close friend of Dr. King’s father and was to deliver the funeral oration when the son was assassinated.
    Gandhi had been giving some thought to the future of the Phoenix Trust, the institution he had left behind in South Africa, not far from Durban. On May 21, 1938, 24 years after leaving South Africa, he wrote to his old friend Hermann Kallenbach, “the only active trustee”, thinking aloud about the sale of its printing press and still nursing one wish: “I hope we can hold on to the land, turn it into a model agricultural farm, and settle on it Indians or even Zulus – provided of course that is made self-supporting”. [CW, Vol 96, (Supplementary Vol VI) p 293]

    Meanwhile, Italy’s role in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) kept inviting attention. Gandhi’s concern for the Abyssinians was reiterated in December 1939 (Harijan, December 9, 1939, CW, Vol 71, p. 10). As we have seen, Gandhi had already referred to European wrong in Abyssinia in Young India on October 14, 1926 (CW, Vol 31, pp 492). He disapproved of Italy’s conduct in relation to Abyssinia, saying in 1935 that it sought “submission of the people of the beautiful land”. (Harijan, October 10, 1935, CW, Vol 62, p. 29)

    In 1939 Neville Chamberlain claimed on behalf of the England of his day: “If imperialism means the assertion of racial superiority, suppression of political and economic freedom of other peoples, the exploitation of the resources of other countries for the benefit of an imperialist country, then I say these are not the characteristics of this country.” Gandhi answered: “This is pleasing to the ear but does not square with the facts. The policy adopted in Kenya, the clove business in Zanzibar, the Ottawa Pact, not to speak of the Dominions which exploit the so-called uncivilised races of the earth, do not show as if the imperial spirit was dead.” (Harijan, December 9, 1939, CW, Vol 71, p. 6)

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    1940 marks the beginning of a politically stressful period in India. Even so, Gandhi not only kept his ear on African affairs but seemed also to be tuning in closely. The South African Constitution came in for severe criticism from Gandhi on September 29, 1940:
    “The coloured man is dirt. There shall be no equality between the whites and the coloured races. Thus runs the South African constitution.” (Harijan, October 6, 1940, CW, Vol 73, p. 65)

    There were continual visits and messages to Gandhi from African-Americans. Early in 1942 messages were brought to him from Dr George Washington Carver, the famous Professor of Botany and agricultural scientist at Tuskegee in the United States, with whom Gandhi had been in contact. Carver had been referred to in Indian Opinion as early as in February 1909. Langston Hughes, the leading African American writer who wrote a moving poem at the time of Gandhi’s fast in prison in February 1943, tells us that like Booker T Washington, “Carver had been born in slavery.” (Langston Hughes, Famous American Negroes, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1954, p. 69) Carver was about five years elder to Gandhi.

    Harijan carried the following record of Gandhi’s conversation with Dr Carver’s representative, Dr John. It suggests that there were earlier contacts between Gandhi and Dr Carver.

    “Gandhiji laughingly said: I will not accept the messages, unless Dr Carver comes and delivers them himself.
    Dr John said Dr Carver was too old now to come to India. But he remembers Gandhiji whenever he has an Indian visitor…
    The very first question that Gandhiji asked Dr John about Dr Carver was: But even this genius suffers under the handicap of segregation, does not he?

    Oh yes, as much as any Negro.

    And yet these people talk of democracy and equality! It is an utter lie.

    But Dr Carver is never bitter or resentful.

    I know, that is what we believers in non-violence have to learn from him. But what about the claim of these people who are said to be fighting for democracy?” (Harijan, February 15, 1942, CW, Vol 75, p. 292)

    When Dr Carver passed away the following year Gandhi was in jail.

    A few months before the All India Congress Committee (AICC) of the Indian National Congress decided in 1942 upon the Quit India movement against British rule, Gandhi wrote an article entitled “To Every Briton”. In it he asked every Briton “to support me in my appeal to the British at this very hour to retire from every Asiatic and African possession and at least from India. That step is necessary for the destruction of Nazism and Fascism. In this I include Japan’s ‘ism’ also. It is a good copy of the two.” The article bore the date May 11, 1942, the day after the anniversary of the Great Indian Revolt of 1857, and was published in Harijan on May 17, 1942. (CW, Vol 76, p. 98)

    During this week Gandhi was reported to have told Congressmen: “Even before the communists ever said it, I have been thinking of a new mode of life. But it is impossible unless Britain withdraws to let the Indians and the Negroes be free.” (May 15, 1942, CW, Vol 76, p.111) He replied to a cable from “The Sunday Despatch” and wired repeating words he had earlier used in an interview to the Press on May 16: “Both America and Britain lack the moral basis for engaging in this war unless they put their own houses in order by making it their fixed determination to withdraw their influence and power both from Africa and Asia and removed the colour bar.” (Harijan, June 7, 1942, CW, Vol 76, p. 164).

    At the beginning of the following month Gandhi addressed President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States. A crisis had been building up in India and Gandhi had been thinking in terms of another round of struggle. Even at this time, when Gandhi needed American sympathy, he did not fail pointedly to remind Roosevelt of Africa and of the African-American plight: “I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India and, for that matter, Africa are exploited by Great Britain and America has the Negro problem in her own home. But in order to avoid all complications, in my proposal I have confined myself only to India. If India becomes free, the rest must follow, if it does not happen simultaneously.” (July 1, 1942, CW, Vol 76, p. 265)

    A few days later he noted the Herculean effort made by England to defend itself in the Second World War and wrote: “In their schools the rulers teach us to sing ‘Britons never shall be slaves’. How can the refrain enthuse their slaves? The British are pouring blood like water and squandering gold like dust in order to preserve their liberty. Or, is it their right to enslave India and Africa? Why should Indians do less to free themselves from bondage?” (Harijan, July 12, 1942, CW, Vol 76, p. 273)

    A fortnight later another article by Gandhi, dated July 18, 1942, under the title “To Every Japanese” was carried in the Harijan. Gandhi wrote: “Even if you win it will not prove that you were in the right; it will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. This applies obviously to the Allies too, unless they perform now the just and righteous act of freeing India as an earnest and promise of similarly freeing all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa.” (Harijan, July 26, 1942, CW, Vol 76, p. 311) He was to be arrested within the subsequent 15 days upon the adoption of the famous Quit India Resolution by the All India Congress Committee at its Bombay session on August 8, 1942.

    Langston Hughes summed up both the African-American and Gandhi’s case:

    “If you believe/ In the Four Freedoms, too. / Then share ’em with me – / Don’t keep ’em all for you / ….. You can’t lock up Gandhi, / Club Roland Hayes, / Then make fine speeches / About Freedom’s ways.” [How About It, Dixie, October 1942, in Arnold Rampersad & David Roessel (ed.) op. cit., p.291 and p.659n]10

    In September 1942, the African-American leader and trade-unionist, A Philip Randolph, had addressed a Conference of the March-on-Washington Movement in Detroit, United States. Randolph, who had become known for organising a national union of Sleeping Car Workers in 1925, had given a call in 1941 for a march by thousands of African-Americans to demand employment opportunities. In response, US President Franklin Roosevelt had issued an order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Randolph had then called off the march but the Movement to which the call gave birth remained. At the Detroit Conference, Randolph “suggested affinities between the Movement’s technique of mass action and Gandhi’s nonviolent direct action in India.” [Francis L. Broderick and August Meier, (ed.) Negro Protest Thought in the Twentieth Century, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 1965, p. 201]

    Calling for the building up of organisational capacity to wage mass struggle, Randolph said: “Witness the strategy and maneuver of the people of India with mass civil disobedience and non-co-operation and the marches to the sea to make salt. It may be said that the Indian people have not won their freedom. This is so but they will win it.” (Ibid., p. 207) He declared: “India is now waging a world shaking, history making fight for independence. India’s fight is the Negro’s fight.” ( Ibid., 210)

    There was to be no thoughtless borrowing though. In March 1943 Dr W E B DuBois, who admired Gandhi, discussed in an article the possibilities of non-violent non-co-operation being adopted by African-Americans but pointed to certain differences between the Indian situation and that prevailing in America. He stressed that “insofar as this partakes of the nature of a general strike, we must remember that while the Indians form practically the whole working class of India, without whose co-operation all industry would collapse, American Negroes are but a fifteenth or at most a tenth and can be and indeed often are, replaced and barred from work”. [W E B DuBois, Doubts Gandhi Plan, Amsterdam News, March 13, 1943, in David Levering Lewis (ed.), W E B DuBois: A Reader, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 1995, p 409 ]

    The problem in America was to expand work opportunities for the African-Americans and Dr DuBois did not therefore recommend strikes. The weapons and tactics in the two situations could not be the same. He felt also that “we…are not ready for systematic lawbreaking” and doubted whether this was “good policy” in the American context. (Idem) Dr DuBois made a reference to Gandhi’s fast in jail, a few days earlier in February-March 1943, which “is setting four hundred millions of men aquiver and may yet rock the world” while suggesting that such methods would probably not work in the West. (Idem)

  32. aloku

    i have more material to post….or are u enlightened now?

  33. YLH

    Yawn. You think if you post enough times, Gandhi’s racist comments can be drowned out?

    Did Gandhi say all that I quoted from him or not?

    If he did- the argument stands and no matter how many quotes you produce, it is quite clear Gandhi’s views were in South Africa- which were clearly racist. And none of the statements you’ve produced constitute an apology or “distancing” of Gandhi from the views he held in South Africa.

    And the rest are merely quotes on Gandhi.

    Now stop spamming this website thank you.

  34. Milind Kher

    Had political maneuvering which led to Jinnah’s ouster not happened, and had Jinnah become PM of an undivided India, probably partition would not have happened at all.

    Anyway, that is water under the bridge now. It is important for people in Pakistan to work towards his ideals. It will help draw Pakistan closer to India.

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