Gandhij's Launch of Satyagraha (Nonviolent Protest), a Hundred Years Back.
Satyagraha was launched a hundred years back in South Africa by Gandhiji. The term is a combination of the words satya (meaning truth) and agraha (firmness). It was a method of tackling an opponent through peaceful nonviolent methods, honesty and humility, as opposed to aggression.
On 22nd August 1906, The Traansvaal Government In South Africa, under British control passed a law requiring all Indians, Arabs and Turks to register with the government. Those who declined to register could be punished; this included imprisonment or deportation. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer, was among the 100,000 Indians in South Africa then. At that time he was employed with a Muslim company. Gandhiji opposed the registration law on the grounds that it was discriminatory. On Sept 11th, 1906, Gandhiji called a meeting of Indians to discuss methods of resisting this law. At the meeting was present Sheth Haji Habib, an old resident of South Africa, who was so moved by Gandhiji’s call that he resolved to suffer the consequences of “a spiritually-endowed fight for justice in the name of God.” Many Indians were deported, many imprisoned, some were tortured and killed. There was a public outcry in India over this.
In the meantime, in an unrelated event, white railroad employees threatened to go on strike. Gandhiji, at this juncture called off a protest march that was scheduled, saying that the aim of satyagraha was not to take advantage of an adversary’s problems, but to win him over. General Smuts then adopted a more conciliatory attitude towards the movement, declaring that he could not imprison all Indians in South Africa, all at once. Thirty years later, Smuts declared – “It was my fate to be the antagonist of a man for whom even then I had the highest respect…He never forgot the human background of the situation, never lost his temper or succumbed to hate, and preserved his gentle humour even in the most trying situations. His manner and spirit then, as later, contrasted markedly with the ruthless and brutal forcefulness that is the vogue in our day…His method was to deliberately break the law, and to organize his followers into a mass movement…large numbers of Indians had to be imprisoned for lawless behaviour.”