Gandhi and Indians. Tamils, Calcutta Men, Mohamedans, Hindus, Brahmins, Banyas and still more.

indianIndian Opinion (I.O.), gave following information: “This weekly newspaper is published in four languages, namely English, Gujarati, Tamil and Hindi in the interests of the British Indians residing in South Africa. The policy of the paper would be to advocate the cause of the British Indians in the subcontinent.  It would persistently endeavour to bring about proper understanding between the two communities.” Then it recounted “The advantages to the Indian community in subscribing to and supporting this paper” and “The advantages to the European community“, and “To Europeans and Indians alike, it would serve as the best advertising medium in those branches of the trade in which Indians are especially concerned.  The meetings were well publicized in Indian Opinion. These organizations sponsored the distribution of over 500 complimentary copies to the officials and prominent people in South Africa and in Britain and India. The paper sought to shape a national identity amongst Indians divided along various lines. It had boldly declared in an editorial during its first year: “We are not, and ought not to be, Tamils or Calcutta men, and Mohamedans or Hindus, Brahmans or Banyas, but simply and solely British Indians.”  That was the period when Gandhiji firmly believed that the British empire was essentially and inherently good, and based on the values of justice, fairness, racial equality, and freedom, and whatever deficiencies were there, were aberrations introduced by colonial administrations. He had faith in Queen Victoria’s promise in 1858, after the ‘First War of Independence’ in India, of equality of all British subjects irrespective of ‘race or creed’. He wrote in Indian Opinion (9.7.1903) under the title “This memorable Proclamation Magna Charta of the British Indians, is worthy of the attention and the study of the people of South Africa, especially at a like this, when a sustained agitation has been set up against British Indians.” So, he was sure that justice could be achieved if it was sought through constitutional means, and hence his stress on representations, and petitions to press for redress of the difficulties faced by Indians in South Africa. The primary concern was thePROTECTION of Indians against injustice. For example, Indian Opinion (23.7.1903) wrote under the title ‘The Lion and The Lamb’: “In our days, the European lion wishes to repeat the feat on the Indian lamb. He therefore in fact says to the Indian, ‘I will have none of you, for you swell in shanties, and live on the smell of an old rag’ such is the gist of the minute presented by His Worship the Mayor of Durban on the proposed Indian Bazaars.”  Indian Opinion started publishing news and views concerning South African Indians including reports on discriminatory law cases involving Indians, letters to editors of local press correcting adverse reports about Indians, important happenings in India, and contributions on social, moral and intellectual subjects. There was an article on ‘Indian Art’ [I.O. 17.9.1903; CW 3:447], an example of intellectual and aesthetic writing by Gandhi as also of the fact that his ideological stance was still in the process of maturing: “The Times of India gives a very interesting description of the new palace which is being built at Mysore for the Maharajah. We reproduce portions of it for the edification of our South African readers, both European and Indian. The former will be able to realize what Indian art means, as also that India is not a place dotted merely with huts inhabited by savages. To the Indians who have never been in India, it would be a matter of national pride and satisfaction that the enlightened potentate of Mysore is bent on encouraging Indian art, and on reviving it in a most practical form.” It also included a writeup on India art from the late Sir William Wilson Hunter’s Indian Empire, giving a highly appreciative overview of multifaceted Indian architecture.

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