Satyagraha in South Africa

It is thus a biographical note on Gandhi’s final days in South Africa goes: It was illegal for the Indians to cross the border from the Transvaal into Natal, and vice versa, without a permit. Indian women crossed the border without permits and persuaded the Indian miners in Newcastle to strike. They succeeded and were arrested. 

The strike spread and thousands of miners and other Indians prepared, under Gandhi’s leadership, to march to the Transvaal border in a concerted act of non-violent defiance. Gandhi made strict rules for the conduct of the satyagrahis who were to submit patiently and without retaliation to insult, flogging or arrest. 

He was arrested and sentenced, but the satyagraha spread. At one time there were about fifty thousand indentured laborers on strike and several thousand other Indians in jail. The government tried repression and even shooting, and many were killed. 

At the end the Government yielded. Gandhi was released and in January 1914, a provisional agreement was arrived at between him and General Smuts, the ruler, and the main Indian demands were conceded. 

Gandhi’s work in South Africa was now over and in July 1914, Gandhi left South Africa. Before leaving, he sent a pair of sandals he made in jail to General Smuts as a gift. 

Recalling the gift twenty-five years later, the General wrote : “I have worn these sandals for many a summer since then even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”