Unity in Diversity

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INTRODUCTION

One of the greatest leaders that the world has ever seen, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was a political figure, a social and political reformer, a humanist, a visionary and a spiritual leader, who took the country on the road to freedom. Gandhi, popularly known as the Mahatma, not only led the freedom struggle in India but also performed a pivotal role in the struggle of the Indians for civil rights in South Africa. Victimized by incidents of racial discrimination, Gandhi embarked on a crusade against injustice in South Africa that he continued the rest of his life. The twenty long years that Gandhi lived in South Africa, had a considerable influence on the formation of his political ideologies and the philosophies of his life. It was in South Africa that Gandhi's stature gradually began to gain height. His experiences and activities in South Africa provided the necessary background for his subsequent emergence onto the Indian political scenario. His greatest achievement in South Africa was perhaps the unification of the heterogeneous Indian community that comprised of disgruntled merchants and the bonded laborers. 

The ideological concepts with which Gandhi revolutionized the Indian political scenario were molded to a large extent in South Africa. The celebrated notion of Satyagraha emerged as a consequence of various influences that worked on him. He extensively read religious books on Hinduism, like the BhagwatGita, and Christianity in South Africa. The works of Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, John Ruskin and Ralph Waldo, also had significant influences on his thoughts. The notion of non co-operation, as a civilian weapon to fight governmental tyranny was discussed by all these major writers, but it was Gandhi who gave practical shape to the concept. He was the first one to organize Satyagraha struggle in South Africa. For Gandhi the doctrine of Satyagraha entailed passive resistance and commitment to the forces of truth. 

His second weapon, non violence or ahimsa also evolved in South Africa. This cardinal principle of Gandhian philosophy was imbibed from Jainism and Vaishnavism. Gandhi showed to the world how non violence could be used as an effective political tool to fight the injustices hurled by an oppressive government. For Gandhi, ahimsa entailed self control, swaraj or self rule, and chastity. Alongside, Gandhi embraced a philosophy that disapproved of the norms of Western civilization and conceived of moral reformation of the Indians.  Gandhi's Arrival in South Africa

Upon returning from England with a degree in law, Gandhi began a legal practice in Mumbai and Rajkot, Gujarat. However, he was unsuccessful to establish a career as a lawyer in both the places. At this point, Gandhi received an offer from the firm Dada Abdulla Seth and Company, to be the legal representative of the firm in South Africa. Gandhi accepted the offer and set sail for a whole new world in April, 1893. 

In the month of May, 1893, Gandhi reached Durban. Accompanied by Dada Abdulla, one of the richest Indian traders in Natal, who also happened to be his employer, he went to visit the Durban Court. The European magistrate at the court instructed Gandhi to remove his turban. He not only disobeyed the commands of the magistrate but issued a protect letter to the press. This was, however, just the lull before the storm. The final provocation took place during his journey to Pretoria from Durban shook the consciousness of the young lawyer to such an extent that he assumed a staunch position against racial prejudice. This incident played a major role in carving out the future course of Gandhi's life.  As Gandhi was preparing to return to India, after the completion of his lawsuit, the news of a proposed bill, to be introduced by the Natal Government, reached him. This bill would lead to disenfranchising of the Indians in South Africa. Pleaded by his fellow Indians, Gandhi remained back and took up the issue. Although...
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