Satyagraha and the power of moral judgment of individuals in peril. (Referred properly as the “ruled.”)

smuts-gandhi, 1930.

    Smuts-Gandhi, 1930.

The Indian Relief Act of 1914 and the Smuts-Gandhi Agreement of 30 June 1914 marked the end of the satyagraha campaign, which extended from 1906 to 1914. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 12, pp. 448-52.

The struggle that went on for eight years has come to an end, and such an end as, we believe, hardly any other movement in modern times has been crowned with. The foundation of the struggle was laid in Johannesburg in September 1906. The issue then concerned only the Registration Act. The Government refused to listen to us. Gaol-going was resorted to. While the struggle had not yet ended, the Immigration Act was passed. A conditional settlement followed The Government failed to honor its commitment. The movement revived and had to be extended to cover the effect of the Immigration Act on the Registration Act. A new issue was thus added, that there should be no racial discrimination in the Immigration Act. Naturally, our feelings were aroused still further in consequence. The struggle was prolonged and a deputation went to England [in 1909]. The Union Government, however, refused in so many words to remove the racial discrimination. While the struggle was thus being prolonged, in 1911 again a provisional settlement came. This covered a third issue. Since a problem created by a law of the Transvaal had to be solved by the Union Parliament, the satyagrahistook the stand that they could not accept legislation which, though it might meet their requirement, would endanger the rights of others. Accordingly, a condition was included in the provisional settlement of 1911 to the effect that the existing rights of Indians in all the parts of the Union should be left untouched. There was no decision, however, until 1913. In the meantime, there was the visit of Mr. Gokhale. The Government gave him a promise that the £3 tax would be removed. Even so, had the Government granted the satyagrahis‘ demands in full during the settlement in 1913, the movement would not have been revived and the £3 tax would have had to be taken up as a separate issue.

Meanwhile, the Searle judgment raised the marriage question. This also entailed the loss of existing rights. In 1913, the lateMr. Fischer carried through the Immigration Act in the face of our protests. It conceded much, but also denied a few things. The marriage question was left unsolved and in other ways, too, existing rights were endangered. This led to the resumption of satyagrahaa fourth time and our demands naturally increased. Now that the Government has had to concede all the demands, the struggle has ended.

We can see from this, if we will, that every time the Government went back on its word, it was obliged to yield more to us. This it is which makes one say that chicanery never pays. Double-dealing may remain unexposed only where both sides play more or less the same [dirty] game. In satyagraha, one side alone plays this game. The satyagrahihimself cannot conceivably do so. We can also see that the more the struggle was prolonged the greater became the strength of the people and their capacity to suffer, so that the suffering that the masses endured towards the end of the last year was unparalleled in modern history. And, if the suffering has been great, the relief obtained has also been proportionately great. This correlation goes to prove another eternal law of Nature. Man can be happy only in the measure that he suffers. He who merely scrapes the soil on the surface can harvest nothing but grass. He alone can harvest grain that ploughs deeper. In other words, it is vain to hope for happiness without undergoing suffering. Thus it is that the life of austerity, the fakir’s self-denial and other such practices have everywhere been held in high esteem and their praises sung.

What the community has bought at the cost of so much suffering it will be able to keep and add to, only so long as it retains the same capacity for suffering. If it loses that capacity, it will lose all it has gained, and more. All this is plain enough, but we often lose sight of it.

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