GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Dadabhai Naoroji and Mahatma Gandhi - II

 

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917); statesman, often called The Grand Old Man of India.  He presided over three times the Congress session, in 1886, 1893 and 1906 Enunciated, for the first time, Congress goal as one of swaraj or independence. He was Member of the British Committee of the Congress in London.  As a rule I do send the weekly letter to you Sir William, Sir Mancherjee, and the East Indian Association. I enclose herewith copy of the letter addressed by me to Lord Milner on the plague correspondence. 1 Indian Opinion has entered on a third stage in its career. I would not weary you with the important step that has been taken in connection with it. You will see the full particulars published in it in the course of this month. It is now intended to have a weekly or a fortnightly letter from England of general interest but also dealing particularly with the Indian question in South Africa, as it may have effected [sic] from time to time in London Could you recommend anyone who would undertake the work and if so, at what rate? I have nothing special to report on the question this week. 2

The people at Home had so far forgotten themselves that they had actually elected a black man to the British House of Parliament; they, in this country, would never do it, they would not so far forget their colour,said Mr. Loveday. But what can we say to so ungentlemanly a remark? We think that the electors, who sent Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji to Parliament, despite the gibe of the late Lord Salisbury, fairly represented the accumulated statesmanship of some forty millions of British people. We have but one more inaccuracy to refute. Mr. Sampson stated that Indians made chairs and tables in their own houses in Johannesburg, and sold them on the open market, in competition with the goods of white manufactures. This is, bluntly, untrue. There are no Indian artisans in Johannesburg working on such a scale as this. Surely, the absurdity of such a statement is self-evident enough. 3 This will serve to introduce to you Mr. L.W. Ritch of Johannesburg. Mr. Ritch and I have known each other intimately for several years. Mr. Ritch holds very decided pro-Indian views and in order, among other things, the better to serve the Indian cause he is proceeding to England to study for the Bar. I shall esteem it a favour if you will be good enough to give him the benefit of your assistance. Mr. Ritch has studied the Indian question in South Africa. 4   

A reactionary policy is being followed throughout South Africa regarding the British Indians. I commend to your attention the current numbers of Indian Opinion wherein you will find that at the Cape they are trying to introduce a general Dealers’ Licenses Bill which is calculated to do a great deal of harm to the British Indians settled at the Cape. In Natal, as you will see, a Fire-arms Bill has been published in the Gazette which needlessly insults British Indians. There is, too, a reproduction of the Transvaal anti-Asiatic legislation in the district of Vryheid which has been lately annexed to Natal and the Municipal Corporation Bill contains clauses which are most objectionable. In the Orange River Colony disabilities upon disabilities are being imposed upon Indians through the instrumentality of bye-laws, and I venture to draw your attention to the fact that, while a great deal has been done there regarding the Transvaal legislation as also the Natal legislation, I have not yet seen a question out in the House of Commons regarding the Orange River Colony. I, therefore hope that this matter will also be taken up. The current number of Indian Opinion deals with the Natal Municipal Bill among other things and the next number will deal with the other matters referred to in this letter. 5 

I have not been able before now to reply to your letter of the 20th January regarding the South African Bulletin. Just at present it is very difficult to give any pecuniary help to the Paper as the funds have been almost exhausted in carrying on the fight locally. However, if you think that the Paper is deserving of support, I think it may be possible to pay £10 towards it. 6 Mr. Lyttelton is reported to have said that, since the decision in the test case in the Transvaal, the position of the British Indians had become better than before war. You will notice a reply to this statement in Indian Opinion of the 8th April in its first leading article. The position generally has certainly not become better [but] has become worse than before war, and the relief that the test case has secured for the Indians simply takes them back to the pre-war days; but even for this the Government can hardly take any credit as they opposed the Indian contention strenuously before the Supreme Court. In Natal, several Bills, as you will see from Indian Opinion, having an anti-Indian tendency are being introduced, and the Orange River Colony is ever tightening its grip of the Coloured people. Regulations are being passed in townships after townships, which, in my humble opinion, are unworthy of the British Constitution, and could never be sanctioned by Mr. Lyttelton, if they were introduced in the form of bills in the Legislative Council. I earnestly hope that you will protect and do justice to the British Indian subjects of His Majesty, who look to you for relief. 7

I send herewith copy of Indian Opinion. The leading article shows to what extent it has now become possible under Law 3 of 1885 for the Indians to own land. The Supreme Court decision practically leaves them free, so long as they can get a European friend to become a trustee, to own fixed property. I draw your attention to the fact so that, in any legislation that may be drafted there, it may not be taken for granted that, under Law 3 of 1885, it is impossible for the Indians to own property. From what has been going on here, it appears that the new legislation to replace Law 3 of 1885 will be as much as possible on the lines of Law 3 of 1885, that is to say, it is not the intention of the Government here to give any greater rights that [those] enjoyed under Law 3 of 1885. Just as, therefore, Mr. Lyttelton has taken up the stand, saying that he would not, in view of the Supreme Court decision, consent to restrict the trading rights of the Indians, so also should he now refuse to sanction any legislation which would restrict an Indian’s rights to own landed property. The anti-Indian legislation that is at present being considered by the Natal Parliament is dangerously symptomatic. Almost every Gazette contains something about it. Indians are to be brought under the Native Department regarding the holding of fire-arms. Their occupation of rural land, unless they are owners, is not to be accepted as such for the purpose of levying a land tax. The Durban Town Council is asking for powers to impose licenses on store-holders and bring them within the Dealers’ Licenses Act. The Municipal Corporations Consolidated Law is intended to deprive the Indian of the municipal franchise. The latest Bills published in the Natal Government Gazette are intended to bring within the Dealers’ Licenses Act Native Eating House-keepers, and to restrict the scope of Hawkers’ Licenses to the magisterial divisions within which they have been issued (hitherto a licence to hawk outside municipal boundaries entitled the holder to hawk throughout the Colony excepting the municipal areas). All this legislation is unnecessary and insulting. I, therefore, venture to think that, as stated by Lord Curzon in his Budget speech, it is time that the next step was taken, namely, to suspend indentured Indian immigration to Natal, unless the Natal Government would cease their anti-Indian activity and amend, at any rate, the Dealers’ Licenses Act so as to give the aggrieved party the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. 8

Our Indian exchanges bring news with reference to the meetings held to commemorate the eighty-first birthday of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Grand Old Man of India, on the 4th September last. Public meetings were held all over India. The services rendered by Mr. Naoroji to India, in our humble opinion, are far greater than the services rendered by England’s Grand Old Man to England. Mr. Naoroji’s work has been pioneer work, and when he commenced it, few indeed were his helpers. The self-sacrificing devotion, with which he has pushed forward the cause of India, in season and out of season, has hardly any parallel in India; and it is no wonder that he stands unequalled by anyone in the estimation of millions of his countrymen. The spectacle of an old man of over eighty years wooing a British constituency, not for the sake of glory or honours, but in order that he may serve India the more, is most pathetic and magnificent. If the electors of North Lambeth send Mr. Naoroji to the new Parliament, they will have done themselves a unique honour. We echo the prayers that were offered by the millions in India for long life and health to Mr. Naoroji. 9 I beg to enclose herewith a statement showing the Indian position in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. I venture to think that there should be a joint deputation waiting on the new Ministers regarding the position. 10

I beg to invite your attention to the issue of Indian Opinion of the 10th March, containing a protest addressed to the Natal Government by the Natal Indian Congress regarding the imposition of prohibitive fees for certificates and passes that are granted under the Immigration Restriction Act. I need hardly say that the imposition is a totally unjust exaction for which there is not the slightest justification. Another serious blow to the Indian community in South Africa has been given in the Transvaal. You will see from the issue of Indian Opinion of the 17th March a case heard before the Supreme Court of the Transvaal under Law 3 of 1885.3 A full report of the case and comments thereon appear in the Opinion. Both the matters require urgent attention. 11 This is to introduce to you Mr. A. H. West who has been managing the International P. Press and sub-editing in Indian Opinion. Mr. West is one of the founders of the scheme under which the paper is being published. Mr. West is paying a short visit to his people and during that time he will do what public work he can.  12

I had your last cablegram suggesting that I should go to England alone by same steamer as the commissioners. I was making preparations accordingly, when a communication was received from the Natal Government accepting the offer of the Indian community to form an “Indian Stretcher-Bearer Corps”. I am, therefore, expecting to leave for the front any day. Under the circumstances, we have all decided that the formation of the Corps is far more important than a visit to England. It is recognized that I should be with the Corps, at least in the initial stages. It is evident that the Natal Government intends to test the capability of the Indians for ambulance work. I fear, therefore, for the present, I should abandon any idea of going to England. We here, therefore, hope that the Committee that is looking after Indian interests in South Africa will take the necessary steps to place the position before the Government. You will have seen the statement placed before the Constitution Committee on behalf of the British Indians in the Transvaal. It represents all that could be said in the matter. The statement appears in Indian Opinion for the 2nd instant. 13

I have just returned from the front. I have your letter telling me that you have forwarded to the Secretaries of State for the Colonies and India our statement submitted to the Constitution Committee. I enclose herewith copy of my letter to Sir William Wedderburn for your information. May I tender you my congratulations on the success of your granddaughter at her examination for the M. A. degree of the University of Edinburgh? 14 

 

 

The Colonial Secretary, Mr. Duncan, has made a statement in the Legislative Council of which I send you copy herewith. The statement is most extraordinary, and if legislation is introduced based on it, frightful injustice will be done to the Indian community. There is not a vestige of justice and Air treatment about the proposed legislation. Robbed of the soft words which clothe it, it means that every Indian in the Colony will have to be now registered for the third time without the slightest excuse. Land is to be registered in the names of Indian trustees for religious purposes, but this is no gain whatsoever as the Supreme Court has decided that such land can be registered in spite of Law 3 of 1885. The only relief that is to be granted is in one individual case about which I have already written to you, namely, that of the estate of the late Aboobaker Amod, and if that relief is granted, it is not a question of just and fair treatment but it is a question of simple duty to be discharged by the British Government towards an individual British subject. If the proposed legislation is passed, the position of the British Indian will, as a matter of fact, be much worse than it is now.

It should not be forgotten that the £3 registration is not an annual tax. Those who are in the Colony have paid the £3 and, under Law 3 of 1885, they cannot be called upon to pay over again. The proposed remission is, therefore, totally meaningless, for it is not to apply to newcomers, who are to be barred entirely until the coming Responsible Government chooses to pass an immigration law which may impose very severe restrictions. The question of granting visiting permits is also, I have no hesitation in saying, a blind, because such permits can be legally granted even under the existing law. That they are not granted where they ought to be is a discredit attached to the Government from which it cannot free itself by passing new legislation. I very much fear that the real situation is not understood by the Imperial Government, and that the local Government has evidently convinced the Imperial Government that, by passing legislation in the direction sketched by Mr. Duncan, they would be really granting concessions. I have said before that, under the proposed legislation, the position would be much worse. I say so because I know that endless mischief is likely to be caused by new legislation. Indians were registered during the rule of the Dutch Government; registration then was simple. They were again registered after British rule was established; registration was then much more complex, and respectable Indians have been called upon to put their thumb-impressions.

The third registration, if it comes at all, will, it is needless to say, be stricter still. All this because a few Indians who were not resident before war have stolen into the Colony and if they have done so, it is owing to the corrupt officials who were in charge at one time of the Permit Department. The matter had become so serious that, on the initiative taken by the British Indian Association; these officials were arrested and criminally tried. They were discharged by an indulgent jury but the Government was so satisfied of their guilt, that both these officials were discharged. I hope, therefore, that unless some substantial justice can be done to British Indians before Responsible Government is granted, and unless the British Government will, in accordance with pre-war promises, put them, in its own words, on the same footing as British Indians at the Cape, it will be infinitely better that Law 3 of 1885 remained as it was and that the whole question was considered by Responsible Government. Of course, all these remarks will still leave it free to the Government to do justice in the case of the late Aboobaker Amod with which, after all, the British Indian community as a whole is not concerned. The unforeseen situation having arisen here, the question of a deputation proceeding from South Africa must remain in abeyance, as all the energy will have to be concentrated upon preventing this latest proposal to perpetrate an injustice on the British Indians in the Transvaal. I venture to think that a personal interview with the Secretary of State for India as also the Secretary of State for the Colonies is necessary. 15

The fourth of September will be the eighty-second birthday of the Honourable Dadabhai Naoroji, the veteran patriot of India, who is its “Grand Old Man” as not even the late Mr. Gladstone was of England. The spectacle of Mr. Naoroji tirelessly fighting India’s battles, hoping against hope, living a life of self-imposed exile and of incessant energy that would do credit to a youth of twenty-five, is magnificent, ennobling and inspiring. No one can, with any justification, talk of India as in its decline when it produces even one such life as Mr. Naoroji’s. To him, India’s service is the breath of life. It is his religion and it is his one occupation. He has dedicated his all to India as no one else has. We cannot but think that it is his intense love and devotion to the cause which enable him to bear his years as lightly as he has done. Shall we say it is also a result of divine pleasure over so much pure sacrifice of self? To us in South Africa, a life such as this teaches many a lesson and we can render no greater homage and offer no more sincere prayer for yet more divine pleasure to be bestowed upon the Grand Old Man than by endeavouring to copy the life that Mr. Naoroji has placed before all India. We feel certain, in fact we know, that nothing will give him greater pleasure than to know that we cherish his life’s work and that we want to follow in his footsteps, and that even after the grave has closed over him, he will live in our memories and in our deeds. Those that are connected with this journal have in many of their trials been uplifted by the remembrance of this one name. Indeed, the enterprise has been possible only because of the great example set by the noblest Indian patriot living. Our heartfelt prayer goes to the Almighty for a long life to the Grand Old Man of India. 16

The various associations in South Africa have simply done their duty by forwarding congratulatory messages to the Honourable Dadabhai Naoroji on his eighty-second birthday. This birthday anniversary has become a day of national rejoicing throughout India, and Indian life in South Africa seems to us to be incomplete without a reproduction, on however humble a scale, of what has been going on in India for years in connection with the birthday anniversary of the one man who is enshrined in the hearts of millions of Indians as is no other man at the present day. These voluntary offerings must be a matter of very great solace to the aged patriot, and it cannot but further the work that he has been doing so ungrudgingly for over half a century. We hope that, having commenced it, Indians in South Africa will make the sending of these messages an annual feature, and hope that they will be privileged, for many years to come, to be able to commemorate the day. We publish with this issue a supplement, containing a portrait of the Hon. Dadabhai Naoroji. 17

You will see something in the current issue of India about the election of Mr. Naoroji to the Presidentship of the Congress. You need not deal with the matter in the paper. I have no time to go into the reasons. Had it been necessary I would have dealt with it from here. You may reproduce two notes from India without any comment, regarding the treatment of indentured Indians on board the Umfuli. 18 We have been authorized by the British Indian community in South Africa to form a committee for securing fair and just treatment of British Indians in South Africa. It is proposed to call the committee “South Africa British Indian Vigilance Committee”. We shall be pleased and obliged if you will kindly let us know whether you will be good enough to join the committee. We may state that no continuous and active work will be expected of the members of the committee, except by those who will also allow themselves to be nominated as members of a small executive committee. We are anxious to secure the moral support and influence of all who should consider that British Indians in South Africa are not receiving fair and just treatment. Mr. L. W. Ritch of South Africa has consented to act as secretary to the committee. 19 

Mr. Naoroji has paid £3.10.0 for a cable he sent to the British Indian Association in Johannesburg in connection with the Asiatic Ordinance. The Acting Secretary of the Association now writes to me that he has received a memo from Mr. Naoroji. Will you kindly refund the amount to Mr. Naoroji out of the funds sent to the Committee for disbursements about the Ordinance? I had intended to speak to you about it when I saw you at Palace Chambers. 20 I have your notes. I had hoped that I would be able to wait on you personally and explain the letters from Mr. Polak. However, I have been so very busy in connection with the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance that I have not been able to do so. Now that Tatham’s Bill has been rejected by the Natal Assembly, nothing remains to be done for the present. The petition from Mr. Abdul Ganie you have dealt with already. 21  I beg to enclose herewith for your perusal copy of my letter to Sir William. I do think that India should, from week to week, prominently discuss this matter. Whatever is done in the Transvaal will be followed throughout the Colonies, and, if the principle of degrading racial legislation that underlies the Ordinance is once accepted, there will be an end to Indian immigration. 22 

The Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji, spent a lifetime in trying to get redress for Indian grievances but that redress has not been obtained. We should follow the example of Japan and unite, become industrious and educate ourselves. I think it is better to go to jail than to submit to this law. In England women go to jail in defence of their rights; how can we men be afraid of doing so? What does it matter if we have to die for our motherland? We should follow the example of great men like Babu Surendranath Banerjea. I think it is better to return to India than to live on here in humiliation. 23 The birthday of Dadabhai Naoroji, the Grand Old Man of India, falls on September 4. He is nearing the end of his days on the earth. As time passes, the light of the Grand Old Man is growing brighter. London to him is a wilderness. He has taken residence in this wilderness like a hermit for the sake of his country. Those who have seen his office in England know that it does not in any way differ from a hermitage. Hardly two people can sit in it. Sitting there, he shoulders the burden of the sufferings of the vast millions of India. Though he has reached an advanced age, he is capable of harder work than an Indian youth. We wish him a long life, and pray to the Creator to give us, and to all those connected with this journal, a heart as pure as his. We advise our readers to emulate his patriotism, that being the only right way to cherish the name of this [Grand] Old Man who is a grandfather indeed. The Indians of the Transvaal should bear in mind that they have to be faithful to their resolve as the immortal Dadabhai has been to his for our sake. We believe all associations of Indians will hold meetings on that day and send telegrams of congratulations. It is our intention to give a photograph of the Grand Old Man on every birthday of his. Accordingly, we shall publish next week, that is, at the earliest opportunity after the birthday, a photograph of his which, we recommend, should be got framed and preserved by everyone. 24

Our readers will be sorry to learn that Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji was unable to attend the magnificent farewell party that was arranged in his honour, owing to sudden illness. The party was attended, as appears from the full report given in India to hand, by politicians representing all shades of opinion the absence of any cable news shows that the Grand Old Man has regained his health, and that his abstinent, austere, and temperate life, so eloquently described by Sir Mancherji, has stood him in good stead. We hope that he will long be spared to the country he loves so well. 25 The revered Dadabhai Naoroji is at present in England. In view of his very old age and his poor health, he had intended to pass the latter part of his life in his own country. Hence, a very big reception was held in London in his honour. Unfortunately, he fell ill on the very day. He could not attend the reception and his [plan of] returning to his country had also to be given up. This news came from England by the last mail, and almost a month has elapsed since then. Till now no telegram has been received, which gives us reasons to believe that India’s Grand Old Man is still safe, and that in all probability he is in good health. More news ought to come by the next mail. 26 

It is again our privilege to join with our brethren throughout India and the Colonies on the occasion of the birthday of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the greatest living Indian. Yesterday he entered upon his eighty-fourth year. His life has been a strenuous one, devoted to his people and his beloved country. Now the aged patriot is living in quiet retirement in India, enjoying the rest which he has so nobly earned. Indians in South Africa, and especially those in Transvaal, may take courage for the fight by remembering that Mr. Dadabhai has spent practically the whole of his life fighting for the rights and freedom of his fellow-countrymen. Therefore, the greatest honour we in South Africa can do him is to follow his example, never flinching from the struggle until we have gained for ourselves, and for the generations to follow, that complete freedom which is the right of every subject of the King-Emperor. 27

 

 

Yesterday was the birthday of the Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji. He has entered on his eighty-fourth year. In India, his birthday is an occasion of public celebrations all over the country Enthusiastic meetings are held by the public bodies in the country and messages are sent wishing him a long life. The messages sent to him by associations in South Africa have been given elsewhere in this issue. They have done their duty in sending these. We wish him a long life and pray to our Maker to grant us, and others associated with this journal, hearts as pure as his. We urge our readers to emulate the spirit of patriotism of this Dada he is indeed a veritable grandfather which is the right way of cherishing his name. The Transvaal Indians must see to it that they honour their pledge as the immortal Dadabhai has honoured his for our sake. Our present campaign in South Africa is such that it would not be enough even if hundreds of heroes like Dadabhai were to come forward to join it. And so long as they do not come forward, we can make no progress in our political life or in any other field of activity. As announced last year, we give in this issue a photograph of the Grand Old Man. 28

The latest mail from India reports the sad news of the passing away at Versova of Mrs. Goolbai, wife of India’s Grand Old Man, Dadabhai Naoroji, at the age of eighty. Indians all over the world cannot but deeply sympathize with the revered old man in the loss of his life-long partner and friend May the soul of the departed rest in peace. We pray to God to give courage and fortitude to Dadabhai, who is indeed looked upon as the Dada of India’s millions, to enable him to bear in his old age the burden of this latest loss. 29 The first Indian to become a member of the British Parliament was Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji. Born on September 4th, 1825, in the city of Bombay, he was educated at the Elphinstone School and College, and was, at the age of 29, made Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy being the first Indian to receive that honour. In 1855, Mr. Naoroji visited England as partner in the first Indian business to be established in that country. The University College, London, did him the honour of appointing him Professor of Gujarati; and one of the benefits gained for India by Mr. Naoroji was the admission of Indians to the Civil Service in 1870. He was made Prime Minister of Baroda in 1874, and a year later was elected a member of the Corporation and Municipal Council of Bombay, to which body he gave five years’ valuable service. Mr. Naoroji was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council from 1885 to 1887. The Indian National Congress honoured him by electing him President in 1886, 1893, and again in 1906. Mr. Naoroji sat in the House of Commons from 1893 to 1895 as Liberal member for Central Fins bury, London, and he did good work for his country as member of the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure, etc., and, in 1897, gave evidence before the Welby Commission. From the very commencement of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, he was a diligent member and hard worker. Among the publications from the pen of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji are: England’s Duty to India, Admission of Educated Natives into the Indian Civil Service, Financial Administration of India, and what is, perhaps, the best known of his many writings, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India. In 1906, the venerable Dadabhai journeyed to the Motherland to preside over the Indian National Congress, a task which was a tremendous strain upon even his iron constitution and indomitable spirit. Since the Calcutta Congress of 1906, Mr. Dadabhai has practically retired from public life, and in 1907 he went to reside at Varsova, a small fishing village in the Bombay Presidency where he still watches with a keen interest the progress of events in India which go to make or mar its future. Truly has he earned for himself the honoured title of The Grand Old Man of India. 30

Tomorrow is the 86th birthday of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Grand Old Man of India and the Father of Indian Nationalism. Every year brings us nearer the day when we must part with him in the flesh. The best honour that we can render him is to imitate him in his noble career and dedicate our all to the service of the Motherland. On the first page we give a brief biographical sketch with portrait of the aged patriot. 31 Our readers hardly need a reminder that India’s G.O.M. celebrates his eighty-ninth birthday on Thursday next, the 4th September. We again have the pleasure of expressing our good wishes to India’s greatest son. Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji has done more than one man’s share of public work and is now enjoying rest from his labours. The memory of his strenuous life in the interests of his countrymen is a constant spur to our small efforts. Such lives make a nation rich not in material possession but in all that goes to make national honour and faithfulness to duty. For those who may wish to send messages of congratulations and who may not know his cable address we may state that messages addressed “Dadabhai Naoroji, Versova, Bombay”, will find him. We present with this issue a special supplement, giving the portrait of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji. 32

I have heard that the wealthy Parsis of Ankleshwar are opposed to non-co-operation. India is the land of the Parsis as much as it is of the Hindus and Muslims. Was Dadabhai Naoroji not an Indian? Was Sir Pherozeshah also not an Indian? Parsis should feel as much for the country as the others do. We shall reason with the Parsis, fall at their feet and beg money from them. We shall bow to them if they send their children to our schools, and bow to them even if they do not do so. We shall in this way show them that they should also make their contribution in this great struggle that is going on in India. Win the Parsi brethren over with love. Tell them that it is your dharma to explain their duty to them. 33 Our late Dadabhai Naoroji wrote that the expenditure of soldiers and of railways was daily increasing. The trade of India had been made so much worse that crores of rupees were every year going away abroad. The Rowlett Act, the Press Act, the compulsion of students and the unveiling of women had never been seen during the time of Dadabhai Naoroji. If you say that we have been favoured with the Council and that Lord Sinha has been appointed Governor of Bihar, then I would tell you that your slavery has now become complete. India is much worse than what she was 50 years back. The people of India are more cowardly than they were 50 years back. They had strength to draw swords 50 years back, but now they have become weaker. It is very difficult to liberate India from the bond of slavery. The Muslims have been seduced to go abroad and made to fight against the Turks and occupy Mesopotamia. 34

The birth anniversary of the Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji, fell on 4th September; but the National Women’s Council arranged the function on the 30th August to suit my convenience since I had to be present in Poona on the 4th. Dadabhai led the life of a rishi. I have many sacred memories of him. This Grand Old Man of India was, and continues to be, one of the great men who have moulded my life. I think the memories that I recounted before the sisters are worth being reported to the readers. I had the privilege to see Dadabhai in 1888 for the first time. A friend of my father’s had given me a letter of introduction to him, and it is worth noting that this friend was not at all acquainted with Dadabhai. He, however, took it for granted that anyone from the public could write to such a saintly person. In England, I found that Dadabhai came in contact with all students. He was their leader and attended their gatherings. Ever since, I have seen his life flowing in the same rhythm till the end. I was in South Africa for twenty years, and exchanged hundreds of letters with Dadabhai during the period. I was astonished at the regularity with which his replies came. My letters used to be typed, but I do not remember any typed reply from him. The replies were all in his own hand, and moreover, as I came to know subsequently, he would himself make copies of his letters on a tissue-paper book. I could find that most of my letters were replied to by the return of post. Whenever I met him I tasted nothing but love and sweetness. Dadabhai would talk to me exactly like a father to a son, and I have heard from others that their experience was the same as mine. The thought uppermost in his mind all the time was how India could rise and attain her freedom. My first acquaintance with the extent of Indian poverty was through Dadabhai’s book; I learnt from that book itself that about three crores of men in our country are half-starved. Today this number has increased. His simplicity was without limit.

It so happened that someone criticized him in 1908. I found it extremely intolerable and yet I was unable to prove that it was wrong. I was troubled by many doubts. I thought that it was sinful to entertain doubts about a great patriot like Dadabhai. Therefore I sought an appointment and went to see him with the consent of the critic. That was the first time I went to his private office. It was made up of a very small room with only two chairs. I entered. He asked me to sit in a vacant chair but I went and sat near his feet. He saw distress on my face and questioned me, asking me to speak out whatever weighed on my mind. With great hesitation I reported to him the criticisms of his detractors and said, “I was troubled by doubts on hearing these things and, because I worship you, I consider it a sin to keep them back.” Smilingly, he asked me, “What reply do I give you? Do you believe this thing?” His manner, his tone and the pain that was so apparent in his words, were enough for me. I said, “I do not now want to hear anything more. I have no trace of a doubt left in me.” Even then he told me many things relating to this matter, which it is not necessary to recapitulate here. After this event I realized that Dadabhai was an Indian living in the simple style of a fakir. A fakir’s style does not imply that a man should not have even a farthing; but Dadabhai had forsaken the luxuries and standards which other people of his stratum were enjoying during those days. I myself and many others like me have learnt the lessons of regularity, single-minded patriotism, simplicity, austerity and ceaseless work from this venerable man. At a time when criticism of the Government was considered sedition and hardly anyone dared to speak the truth, Dadabhai criticized the Government in the severest terms and boldly pointed out the shortcomings of the administration. I have absolutely no doubt that the people of India will remember Dadabhai affectionately as long as India endures as an entity in the world. 35

Dadabhai Naoroji. It was he who first introduced us to the statistics that were prepared by English administrators and from these statistics he showed that India was daily growing poorer and poorer. 36 If the reminder was needed, Mr. Bharucha has reminded the public that 4th September next is the centenary of Dadabhai Naoroji. Whilst he was alive, we called him, as he was, the Grand Old Man of India. He was the father of Indian nationalism. He was the first to introduce the word ‘swaraj’ in Congress parlance and was as ardent an advocate of it as Lokamanya himself. His service to the country was long, steady, and selfless. He taught us to understand the poverty of the masses. His articles on that subject are still the Indian patriot’s text book. His statistics stand almost unchallenged to this day. He had a record for unblemished character. How shall we celebrate the centenary of Dadabhai Naoroji, one of the noblest sons of India? Meetings we must have wherever the Congress flag flies. I would like to make these meetings business meetings that would take us a few steps definitely forward towards our goal. Though a full representative of educated India, Dadabhai thought for and of the masses. His spirit lived in their midst, the swaraj of his dreams included the economic amelioration of the masses. What can better bring the classes nearer to the masses than the spinning-wheel and khaddar? I would suggest rising of subscriptions at these meetings for the Deshbandhu Charkha and Khaddar Memorial. The meetings may also pass resolutions about hand-spinning and use of khaddar. Wherever there is a surplus stock of khaddar, volunteers may dedicate the day to hawking khaddar. From now those who have leisure may utilize the whole of the day for spinning good yarn and presenting it at these meetings for the nation. These are my suggestions. They may not commend themselves to everybody. Let those who do not appreciate my advice adopt any other form that may commend itself to them, but I hope that all parties without distinction will celebrate the centenary in a manner worthy of the occasion. 37 

Dadabhai justly earned the affectionate title of the G.O.M. of India. Was it not he who first introduced us to the problem of the deep poverty of the masses? In discovering the growing poverty of the masses Dadabhai put his finger upon the root evil of the present system of Government. In my opinion, therefore, the best way we can celebrate the forthcoming Centenary is to do something tangible for dealing with the problem of poverty. It cannot be dealt with satisfactorily save through the universal adoption of spinning-wheel and khaddar. Hence it is that I have unhesitatingly recommended the celebration of the Centenary by making collections for khaddar and charkha, by holding khaddar exhibitions, by hawking khaddar and in every becoming manner pushing forward the cause of khaddar and the spinning-wheel, in other words the cause of the millions. 38 Mahatma Gandhi said he was a real worshipper of Dadabhai Naoroji, the Dada of India. Any man or woman who did his or her duty and died in the performance of it, the name of such a person would never die. Dadabhai was with them in spirit, although he was not there in his physical body and his sweet voice could not be heard by them anymore. The passage of time had merely made Dadabhai’s name dearer to them and it was more deeply engraved on their hearts. It was in 1888 that he had occasion to sit at the feet of Dadabhai and, although he was not reading newspapers then in the same way as he was not reading them now he had heard the name of Dadabhai. A Deccani gentleman gave him a letter of introduction to Dadabhai, although he was not acquainted with him and, when he took it to him in England, although Dadabhai did not know the writer of the letter, he took him (Gandhiji) to his heart and said: If you are ever in any difficulty come to me. Dadabhai was living in England not to enjoy life, or play any games or to go to the theatre, but to serve India. He there had a large number of Indian students under his care, to whom he acted guardian, but had he done only that he would never have been remembered by Indians. .Although Dadabhai had never been into the villages, yet his heart was so big that it found room for the poor villager.

He not only had a heart big enough to include all the Indian communities, but even the poorest of the poor were remembered by him. He knew that the poor villagers were dumb and he wanted to make their voice heard by the rulers of this land. He knew that the villagers could not get even one square meal a day, not to speak of such luxuries as ghee and milk. And what Dadabhai had said 30 or 40 years ago was true even to this day. Dadabhai knew that, so long as a majority of Indians were skeletons and were mere bags of bones, they could not achieve anything. In England Dadabhai had a small office-room for doing his work and he lived there like an ascetic serving the cause of India. The speaker said he was a true worshipper of Dadabhai and it did not matter to him even if his idol had blemishes. The audience that night had come to that meeting to worship Dadabhai, but how many of them were actuated by a sincere desire to do so? Dadabhai had taught him two things: that he must give his idol his fullest love and worship without any reservation and that, if he wanted to serve India, he must serve the poor. Gandhiji said he could only serve the poor by becoming the very poorest of the poor, the meanest of the mean by becoming a Hindu, a Muslim and a Parsi, for to Dadabhai all Indians were alike. Although Dadabhai was staunch Zoroastrian, he never disliked the other communities. He even respected Englishmen. Dadabhai never said that India alone should be great at the cost of the whole world. He was willing to sacrifice India for the good of the world, but for that purpose a free nation was required, and he knew that a slave nation could not do anything. Therefore, through his noble life he worshipped at the shrine of the goddess of freedom and liberty. It was said that if they offered their God even a simple flower, He was pleased and that merely showed how easy it was to please Him, provided they were sincere. The best way of celebrating the centenary of Dadabhai was to resolve to serve the country. Gandhiji asked the audience not to follow whatever Dadabhai did, but do only that which would please his soul. He who could serve India ceaselessly, sincerely, and whole-heartedly would always be honoured, and to do that was the only way they could celebrate the centenary of Dadabhai. 39 

 Mr. (afterwards Sir) Ratan Tata sent me a cheque for Rs. 25,000 when I most needed it during the Satyagraha in South Africa and Dadabhai Naoroji. How can I describe my debt to him? He took me to his bosom when I was an unknown and unbefriended youth in England, and today his grand-daughters are a tower of strength to me in my khadi work. 40  The late Dadabhai Naoroji showed by telling figures how the wealth of India was drained away from year to year owing to the foreign rulers living their more than princely lives practically outside India even whilst they were nominally and physically living in India. The favourable balance of India represents the continual bleeding process to which she is subjected in order to sustain a rule which is based not upon the goodwill of the people but upon a show of force which is kept up at an extraordinary expense of which a large part goes out of India. 41

 

References: 

 

  1. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, November 5, 1904
  2. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, December 10,1904
  3. Indian Opinion, 7-1-1905
  4. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, March 11, 1905
  5. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, March 20, 1905
  6. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, March 25, 1905
  7. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, April 10, 1905
  8. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, June 24, 1905
  9. Indian Opinion, 7-10-1905
  10. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, February 26,
  11. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, March 19, 1906
  12. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, May 16, 1906
  13. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, June 8, 1906
  14. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, July 30, 1906
  15. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, August 6, 1906
  16. Indian Opinion, 1-9-1906
  17. Indian Opinion, 8-9-1906
  18. Letter to H. S. L. Polak, October 26, 1906
  19. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, November 16, 1906
  20. Letter to British Committee, November 17, 1906
  21. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, November 17, 1906
  22. Letter to Dadabhai Naoroji, March 25, 1907
  23. Indian Opinion, 6-4-1907
  24. Indian Opinion, 31-8-1907
  25. Indian Opinion, 26-10-1907%0

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