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

 

Imperial Conference and Mahatma Gandhi

 

Mr. Gandhi denied the imputation that the Indians had insulted the Government by putting the most offensive construction upon the Government’s Acts. They would warmly welcome a reference of their case to the Imperial Conference; feeling assured that the result would be a humane and satisfactory arrangement which both sides would abide by. Mr. Gandhi complained of the excessive power given to the Government by the Immigration Restriction Act in dealing with passive resisters a power which he considered altogether disproportionate to the offence. He anticipated that Indians who declined to register would have their trading licences refused on January 1, with the result that they would continue to trade without licences. 1 Sorabji has been discussing with me the problem of going to the Imperial Conference. There are some reasons why one may go to advantage. I feel however that if the struggle does not end, I must not go. But the matter cannot be decided through the post. I simply mention it so that you may discuss it with Ritch and Sorabji. 2 

What is a deputation to do in London? The Imperial Conference will be concerned with general principles, not details. If passive resistance be closed, our question will largely consist of details. It is possible to do something with the Colonial Secretary. But has that time yet arrived? May it not be better to await developments here? On the other hand, may not a deputation prevent the threatened Gold Law measures? Thus, there are arguments for and against. It seems to me that if a deputation is to be sent, we should send the following cable: Cable Lord Ampthill’s opinion regarding small deputation proceeding view Imperial Conference although passive resistance may end other local grievances serious specially threatened action Gold Law. 3 The whole question as you know will be discussed before the Imperial Conference. You should therefore wait. Now just think it over and let me know.” He paused and continued: “I do not know how your people spread. They go everywhere. I have now more petitions against dealers. My difficulty of the future will be regarding them. I do not want to disturb them. I want to let things remain as they are. But I do not know what will happen. 4 

Moreover, friends in London and India have not yet been informed of the settlement being actually completed. And, in view of the approaching Imperial Conference, we here are anxious to give definite information to the friends in England. May I, therefore, request an early reply to my letter? Could you please telephone tomorrow some definite information? 5 General Smuts reconsidered his position and eventually accepted the co-operation of the passive resisters. He could not carry his legislation during the last Parliament and yet, owing evidently to the Imperial Conference and the approaching Coronation, desired cessation of passive resistance. The passive resisters then offered to suspend their operations if General Smuts undertook to grant their cardinal demands and to pass them into law next session of Parliament and further promised not to penalize passive resisters for their passive resistance. The correspondence we publish is, as will be seen, largely taken up with what may be termed the non-essential and ephemeral part of the settlement. Whatever intricacy there may be regarding this part of the settlement, there is none as to its main part, viz, the repeal of Law 2 of 1907 and amendment of the present Transvaal immigration law. 6 

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