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

 

F. S. Taleyar Khan and Mahatma Gandhi

 

F. S. Taleyar Khan was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He worked with him. Mahatma Gandhi wrote many letters to him for guidance. I am sure you would be good enough to excuse me for my inability to write to you earlier and send you the names of the chief men of South Africa. The reason is that I have been very busy with domestic business. I am writing this at midnight. I leave for Madras by tomorrow evening’s Mail (Sunday). I expect to stay there not more than a fortnight. If I am successful there I would thence proceed to Calcutta and return to Bombay within a month from today. I would then take the first boat to Natal. The latest papers received from Natal show that there is still much fight ahead. And that alone is sufficient to absorb the attention of two men of your activity if full justice is to be done to the cause. I sincerely hope that you will be able to see your way clear to join me in Natal. I am sure it is a cause worth fighting for. If you wish to write to me you may write to me at the above address and your letters will be redirected to me at Madras. I do not know at which hotel I shall put up there. The Natal hotels have made me quite nervous. 1

Your inquiry is certainly very pertinent. And you may depend upon it that I shall answer it most frankly. I start with the assumption that we work in partnership. Starting on your own account at once will be out of the question. There are cheques lying in my safe at Durban for about £300, the retainer for 1897, ending 31st July. These I propose to withdraw from the partnership to pay liabilities incurred here and if possible to pay the expenses that are now being incurred in connection with my office. I say if possible, because the balance may not cover the expenses at Durban. If past experience is any guide for the purpose, then I think I am safe in saying that the joint earnings for the first six months will be at the rate of £70 per month. As against that I place the joint expenses at £50 per month, i.e., if we share the same house. That would leave a clear profit of £120 to be divided equally between us after six months. This is the lowest estimate. And I should expect to earn that amount single-handed doing the Indian work side by side. It would not surprise me however if we earned £150 per month. This much I can promise. You should pay your own passage to Natal. Your expenses of admission will be paid out of the office. The expenses of your board and lodging also will be defrayed out of the office earnings. That is to say, if there is any loss during the six months’ trial it shall be borne by me. On the other hand if there are any profits you share them. Thus at the end of six months if you do not gain in money you will have gained considerably in experience of a different kind from that available in India. You will have realized the position of our countrymen in that part of the world and you will have seen a new country. I have no doubt that your connection in Bombay is such that a six months’ absence from Bombay would not mar your future career there if you are disappointed in Natal. The six months’ loss in Bombay will be required by what I have stated above. In any case, I cannot be too plain in saying that no one in our position should go to South Africa with a view to pile money. You should go there with a spirit of self-sacrifice. You should keep riches at an arm’s length.

They may then woo you. If you bestow your glances on them, they are such a coquette that you are sure to be slighted. That is my experience in South Africa. As for work, apart from pecuniary considerations, I promise that there will be more than sufficient to feed your activity that too legal work. Boarding together might present a slight difficulty. If you could manage with vegetarian food, I could place on the table most palatable dishes cooked both in the English as well as the Indian style. If, however, that be not possible, we shall have to engage another cook. At any rate that cannot be an insurmountable difficulty. I trust I have stated the position clearly. If there are any points requiring elucidation you have only to mention them. I do hope you will not allow pecuniary considerations to come in your way. I am sure you will be able to do much in South Africa more indeed than I may have been instrumental in doing. I have been seeing here the great men. The Madras Times has given its full support and it came out with a rattling good leading article on Friday last. The Mail has promised it. The meeting probably comes off on Friday. After the meeting I go to Calcutta and thence probably to Poona. Professor Bhandarkar has promised his full support and I think he can do some good. I halted for a day at Poona on my way here. I think I wrote to you that the Immigration Bill has received the Royal assent. (Events follow in such quick succession that I forget them soon.) This is an unexpected and terrible blow. I am now renewing the prayer for suspension of State-aided immigration. The Natal Agent-General’s diplomatic contradiction, about which you must have read in the papers, shows the necessity of the agitation in London also. There I am positive you can do much more than I can. It will be a very good thing if you could accompany me to Natal. 2 

It is quite true that you will be making a pecuniary sacrifice in going to Natal. But I am sure the cause is worth the sacrifice. I shall endeavour to catch the Courland which is expected to leave before the 20th instant. I wish you could be ready by that time. Will you consider the new Franchise Law of Natal and get the opinion of the eminent lawyers in Bombay if they would do so gratis? You will find the text of the Bill in the Franchise memorial and one legal opinion on it in the pamphlet. Any opinion obtained here will be very useful to us in Natal. I believe the meeting here will come off Friday week. The matter will be finally decided tomorrow. 3 The Indian question almost wholly occupies my attention. The memorial to Mr. Chamberlain on the recent events will be ready next week. I shall then send you a few copies. It will give you all the necessary information. The Natal Parliament is sitting now and has three anti-Indian Bills before it. As soon as the result is known, I shall write to you with reference to your kind proposal for the propaganda in London. It is a question whether it would be advisable, in the present state of public feeling, for you to land in Natal as a public man. Such a man’s life in Natal is, at present, in danger. I am certainly glad that you did not accompany me. The quarantine regulations, too, have been specially framed to prevent any more Indians from coming. 4

I am sending you the petition today and other papers. There is hardly time to write more. The question has assumed such a serious phase that the whole of India should rise up against the disabilities that are being placed upon the Indians. Now is the time or it will be never. And the decision of the question with regard to Natal will be applicable to all the Colonies. Why could not the public associations inundate the India Office with memorials protesting against the ill-treatment? The opinion is unanimous. To secure justice action alone is necessary. 5 This will introduce to you Mr. Alex Cameron sometime correspondent of The Times of India in Natal. During the time he was here, he tried to do everything he could for the cause of the Indians in South Africa. He is now proceeding to India to take part in the attempts of the Indians to remove the misunderstanding created about them owing to the recent events and any assistance that may be rendered to him will be greatly valued. 6

 

References:

 

  1. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, October 10, 18961
  2. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, October 18, 1896
  3. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, November 5, 1896
  4. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, March 27, 1897
  5. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, On or after April 2, 1897
  6. Letter to F. S. Taleyar Khan, December 17, 1897

 

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