Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Was Gandhi a racist?

Gandhi may not have liked black people:

The British-trained barrister was supposed to have been on a brief visit in 1893 to represent an Indian company in a legal action, but he stayed to fight racist laws after a conductor kicked him off a train for sitting in a first-class compartment reserved for whites.

Outraged, he started defending Indians charged with failing to register for passes and other political offences, founded a newspaper, and formed South Africa's first organised political resistance movement. His tactics of mobilising people for passive resistance and mass protest inspired black people to organise and some historians credit Gandhi as the progenitor of the African National Congress, which formed in 1912, two years before he returned to India to fight British colonial rule.

However, the new statue has prompted bitter recollections about some of Gandhi's writings.

Forced to share a cell with black people, he wrote: "Many of the native prisoners are only one degree removed from the animal and often created rows and fought among themselves."

He was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians to the level of the "raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness".

The Johannesburg daily This Day said GB Singh, the author of a critical book about Gandhi, had sifted through photos of Gandhi in South Africa and found not one black person in his vicinity.

Ironic when you realize that Gandhi was supposed to have inspired Martin Luther King.

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