Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
ANTI-INDIAN CAMPAIGN IN SOUTH AFRICA
As one expected to understand the situation created in South Africa by the anti-Asiatic movement now going on there, and especially the Class Areas Bill now under consideration by the Union Parliament, I deem it my duty to place my opinion on the situation before the public. The anti-Asiatic agitation on the part of Europeans in South Africa is no new thing. It is almost as old as the first settlement of unindentured Indians in South Africa, and is principally due to trade jealousy on the part of white retail traders. As in other parts of the world so in South Africa, interested men, if they sufficiently persist, find no difficulty in gathering the support round them of those who are not so interested, but who do not think for themselves. The present agitation, I remember, was begun as early as 19214, and the Class Areas Bill is, no doubt, one result of that agitation. Before dealing with the nature and effect of the Bill, It is necessary to point out that it is in breach of the compromise of 1914 arrived at between the Union Government and the Indian community of South Africa. But it was a compromise to which both the Indian Government and the Imperial Government were as much party as the Union Government and the Indian community, because the compromise was arrived at with the knowledge and concurrence of the Imperial the and Indian Governments.
The latter had even sent Sir Benjamin Robertson as a representative, technically to watch the course of the Commission that was appointed by the Union Government to inquire into the Indian position, but in reality to negotiate a settlement. The main terms of the compromise were settled before Sir Benjamin Robertson, who represented the Indian Government, returned to India. In accordance with that compromise, no further anti-Asiatic legislation was to be passed by the Union Government. The understanding at the time was that the legal position of the Indian would be gradually improved and that the then existing anti-Asiatic legislation would, in time to come, be repealed. The contrary has, however, happened. The public may remember that the first attempt to break the spirit of the compromise was made when, in the Transvaal, an attempt was made to enforce the existing legislation adversely to the Indians and contrary to the practice that prevailed at the time of the compromise. The Class Areas bill, however, goes much further in restricting Indian liberty. Whatever may be the other implications of the compromise, this much cannot be disputed by any party, that the settlement of 1914 pledged the Union Government not to put further restrictions upon the Indian liberty, and apart from the general powers of disallowance vested in His Majesty under the Letter of Instructions addressed to the Governor-General of South Africa, the Imperial Government if they would be true to their trust are bound, at any cost, to insist upon the observance of the terms of the compromise referred to by me.
We in India may not ignore the difficulties of the Union Government which is dependent for its existence solely upon the will of the Europeans of South Africa expressed through their elected representatives to the exclusion of Indians and the natives of the soil. This unwarranted exclusion is the original flaw in the South African constitution, as it is to be found in the constitution of most of the self-governing Colonies which have their native populations and Indian populations. As the Imperial Government permitted the flaw, it is in honour bound to prevent untoward results arising from it. South Africa and Kenya will presently show what moral worth there is in the Imperial system. Pressure of public opinion may, and probably will, bring about temporary relief in both the places; but it will be only temporary. It can merely postpone the final act in the tragedy unless some unforeseen radical change, either in England or in India, takes place and now for the Bill itself. Unlike the Natal Municipal Franchise Bill, which happily the Union Governor-General has in effect vetoed and which applied only to Natal, the Class Areas Bill is designed to apply to all the four provinces. It enables the Government to segregate all the domiciled Indians and other Asiatics alike for residence and trade. It is, therefore, an extension, in a modified manner, of the location system devised as early as 1885 by the late Transvaal Government. Let me say in a few words what the segregation may mean. The Indian Location in Pretoria, where, in spite of the Law of 1885, not a single Indian has been as yet compelled to remove, is situated far away from the town itself and entirely outside the beat of the buyer, whether English, Dutch or native. The only trade possible in such Locations is trade among themselves. Segregation, therefore, carried out to the full means nothing less than compulsory repatriation without any compensation. It is true that the Bill appears to preserve to a certain extent the existing rights. But that reservation is of little consequence to the Indian settlers. I do not wish to burden this note by citing illustrations from my South African experience to show how such reservations have, in practice, proved almost useless. Finally, let it be remembered that, when Indian emigration to South Africa was unrestricted, the fear of the Europeans was expressed to be that South Africa might be swamped by India’s millions.
All the South African statesmen then used to say that South Africa could easily digest a small Indian population and could even give it a liberal treatment, but that the European settlers could never rest content so long as the possibility of swamping remained. Now that the so called message to Gujarat Vidyapith message to Gujarat Vidyapith fear of swamping has been removed, practically since 1897, the cry is raised for segregation; and, if that is accomplished, the next step will be compulsory repatriation. If the segregated Indians do not voluntarily retire, the fact is that the more accommodating the European settlers of South Africa find the Imperial trustees to be, the more grasping they become in their anti-Asiatic demands.