Gokhale’s tribute to Gandhi

The Indian National Congress was held at Lahore in late December(1909). Gokhale moved a resolution on the South African situation and paid a glowing tribute to Gandhi:

“After the immortal part which Mr. Gandhi has played in the South African affair I must say it will not be possible for any Indian, at any time, here or in any other assembly of Indians, to mention his name without deep emotion or pride. (Here the huge Congress gathering rose to its feet and accorded three hearty cheers for Gandhi) Gentlemen, it is one of the privileges of my life that I know Mr. Gandhi intimately and I can tell you that a purer, a nobler, a braver and a more exalted spirit has never moved on this earth. Mr. Gandhi is one of those men, who living an austerely simple life themselves and devoted to all the highest principles of love to their fellow beings and to truth and justice, touch the eyes of their weaker brethren as with magic and give them a new vision. He is a man, who may be well described as a man among men, a hero among heroes, a patriot amongst patriots, and we may well say that in him Indian humanity at the present time has really readied its high watermark.”

Mr. Natesan spoke movingly on South Africa. The audience frantically responded and showered notes and gold. Women tore off their rings and bangles and Rs. 18,000 were collected on the spot. For the first time Gandhi’s name was mentioned in the official resolution of the Congress. It called upon Voice of Indians of whatever race or creed to help the satyagrahis unstintingly with funds.

President Malaviya cabled Gandhi: “Congress deeply appreciates and admires the heroic struggle of the brethren, urges continuance and promises the utmost support Cabling funds. Have cabled Botha to grant relief.”


Gandhi during the visit of Indian political leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale to South Africa, Durban, 1912. Below row, center, from left: Dr. Hermann Kallenbach, Gandhi, Gokhale, Parsee Rustomjee

On January 10, 1910 Ratan Tata wrote to Gandhi from Bombay: “My warm appreciation of the noble struggle our countrymen are waging and I am gratified to find that the beginning thus made by me (Rs. 25,000 in donation) has been followed up, though not quite well as I would have wished. I need hardly add that I shall watch the progress of the struggle with great interest and sincerely hope that these brave efforts for the vindication and upholding of the country’s honour and dignity will soon be crowned with the success they deserve.” The Nizam of Hyderabad subscribed Rs. 2,500 to the fund, Ratan Tata gave another Rs. 25,000, Mr. J. B. Petit sent £400.

The All-India Muslim League held at Delhi referred to the martyrdom of Indians in South Africa. The Aga Khan collected Rs. 3,000 on the spot for the Passive Resistance Relief Fund.

Ghandi in zanzibar

In his address immediately after landing in Bombay,(after his South Africa visit) Gokhale said:

“Only those who have come in personal contact with Mr. Gandhi as he is now, can realize the wonderful personality of the man. He is without doubt made of the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are made. Nay, more, he has in him the marvelous spiritual power to turn ordinary men around him into heroes and martyrs. During the recent passive resistance struggle in the Transvaal—would you believe it—2,700 sentences of imprisonment were borne by our countrymen there under the guidance of Mr. Gandhi to uphold the honour of their country. Some of the men among them were very substantial persons, some were small traders, but the bulk of them were poor and humble individuals, hawkers, working men and so forth, men without education, men not accustomed in heir life to think or talk of their country. And yet these men braved the horrors of jail life in the Transvaal and some of them braved them again and again rather than submit to degrading legislation directed against their country. Many homes were broken in the course of that struggle, many families dispersed, some men at one time wealthy lost their all and became paupers, women and children endured untold hardships. But they were touched by Mr. Gandhi’s spirit that had wrought the transformation, thus illustrating the great power which the spirit of man can exercise over human minds and even over physical surroundings. In all my life I have known only two men who affected me spiritually in the manner that Mr. Gandhi does—our great patriarch, Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, and my late master, Mr. Ranade—men before whom not only are we ashamed of doing anything unworthy, but in whose presence our very minds are afraid of thinking anything that is unworthy. The Indian cause in South Africa has really been built up by Mr. Gandhi. Without self, and without stain, he has fought his great fight for this country during a period now of twenty years and India owes an immense debt of gratitude to him. He has sacrificed himself utterly in the service of the cause. He had a splendid practice at the bar, making as much as five to six thousand pounds a year, which is considered to be very good income for a lawyer in South Africa. But he has given all that up and he lives now on three pounds a month like the poorest man in the street. One most striking fact about him is that though he has waged this great struggle so ceaselessly, his mind is absolutely free from all bitterness against Europeans. And in my tour nothing warmed my heart more than to see the universal esteem in which the European community holds Mr. Gandhi. At every gathering the leading Europeans, when they came to know that Mr. Gandhi was there, would immediately gather round him anxious to shake hands with him, making it quite clear that though they fought him hard and tried to crush him in the course of the struggle, they honoured him as a man.”

Image Source :: 1912 Gandhiji in Zanzibar by Bipin Suchak


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