The Natal Indian Congresswas formally launched on 22 August 1894. Abdulla Haji Adam was its first president and M. K. Gandhi its first secretary. The second report of the Congress, written in October 1899, gives a rather detailed account of the body's activities for the preceding four years. Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 3, pp. 96-110.
The first report was published in August of 1895, one year after the establishment of the Congress. Owing to various causes, it has not been possible to prepare another report during the interval that has elapsed.
INCOME AND EXPENDITURE
From the memo annexed hereto, the members will be able to see at a glance what has been spent during the three years. It will be noticed that the chief items were incurred during the demonstration crisis, the memorial alone costing close on £100. If the expenditure has, on an average, been larger during the years under review than during 1894-5, the income, too, has considerably increased. One good result, and perhaps the most important, of the publication of the first report was that the Congress at once decided to make the annual subscriptions payable for the whole year in advance and the cumbrous method of collecting the subscriptions every month was given up. As a result, the subscriptions for 1895-6 were collected at once, and the activity shown in the year 1896 by some of the workers was really marvellous. They not only gave their time, but those that were able came forward with their carriages to go about collecting. The visit to Stanger in this respect was the most memorable. The president, Mr. Abdul Karim Haji Adam, Mr. Abdul Kadir, Mr. Dowd Mahomed, Mr. Rustomji, Mr. Hassam Juma, Mr. Madanjit, Mr. Paruk, Mr. Hoosein Meeran and Mr. Kathrada, including the hon. secretary, went out to Verulam, Tongaat, Umhlali, Stanger and the district beyond, in the carriages placed at the disposal of the workers by the president, by Mr. Abdul Kadir and Mr. Dowd Mahomed. At Tongaat, the members stayed at the store of Mr. Kasim Bhan till midnight, not caring whether they had their food or not, in order to induce that gentleman to become a member, but he was obstinate and the workers had to retire. But they did so only to put forth redoubled efforts the next morning. One of them rose up very early and without having even a drop of tea invaded Mr. Bhan's store, and the members sat there without having anything to eat till noon and left the store only after Mr. Bhan became a member and gave his subscription. They then went to the next station. On the way, Mr. Hassam Juma was thrown off his horse and was perfectly insensible for a few seconds. It was suggested that all should return as the road was bad and evening had set in. But Mr. Hassam Juma would not listen and the journey was kept up. At Stanger all these efforts were crowned with success. Mr. Mahomed Essopji, now unfortunately deceased, saw the zeal of the workers at Tongaat and became himself enthused, so much so that, although he was on his way to Durban on an important business, [he] chose to accompany the workers to Stanger where he entertained them all and was instrumental in securing for the Congress, in Stanger alone, the sum of over £50.
Many such instances can be given of the splendid devotion of the members under the leadership of our late president, Mr. Abdul Karim Haji Adam. The visit to Newlands through an uphill tract without any well laid-out roads, the journey to the Buttery place at night time through the fields without a guide, the journey to Isipingo, the pilgrimage to the store of Mr. Essopji Umar, where the members went at 5 o'clock in the evening and remained till 11 o'clock without food – all these deserve a chapter each. Suffice it, however, to say that the energy, devotion and single-mindedness shown for the cause by the workers during that time have seldom, if ever, been equalled. The same, however, unfortunately for us, cannot be said now. The fiery enthusiasm seems to have died out. Causes for such a state of things are many, some of which are such that the members cannot control them. But it is painful to have to record that they have not done much that might have been done and the confident hope that was entertained now two years ago that we would by this time have a fund amounting to £5,000 has, for the present, become a dream. The Congress has to discharge a liability of £300, perhaps £400, and it is difficult to say how the monies are to be got in. The subscriptions at Maritzburg, Charlestown, Newcastle, Verulam, Tongaat, Stanger and the other places have become overdue, and nothing has yet been done to call them in. While, at one time, the number of members reached the respectable total of near 300, strictly speaking the number now is only 37 That is to say, that there are only 37 who have paid up their subscriptions up to date. It is time the members woke up from their long sleep, or else it might be too late.
THE CONGRESS WORK IN THE MONTH OF OCTOBER 1895
The Transvaal Volksraad passed a resolution in October 1895 exempting British subjects from compulsory military service with the proviso that Indians were not included in the term 'British subjects'. The Congress, although strictly speaking, we are not supposed to actively interfere with the affairs of our fellow-brothers in the South African Republic, with their concurrence tool up the question. A cablegram was drafted and was forwarded from the Transvaal to our sympathisers in London, and a memorial was also sent in due course, with the result that the obnoxious resolution, so far as is known, has not yet been accepted by the British Government.
That month introduced us to Mr. Ernest Hatch, a Conservative member of the British Parliament. He was touring through South Africa. Some persons in Johannesburg took him to the Indian locations, showed him the worst pan' in the Indian quarters, and the papers said that Mr. Hatch was very disgusted with what he had seen and that he was going to study the Indian question. From Johannesburg he came to Durban and some of the members of the Congress thought it advisable to meet Mr. Hatch and place before him the Indian view of the question. He met a deputation of about 50 representative Indians and returned a very sympathetic answer to what was said to him and promised to do what he could in England. He marked with approval the moderation with which, in his opinion, we carried on our work. Mr. Hatch was presented with some Indian curiosities.
The franchise question had not yet been settled and during the latter part of the year 1895, it was very much discussed in the papers. Everybody seemed to think that the Indians were attempting to claim a new privilege which had been, hitherto, withheld from them, that they wanted a vote for each Indian, that they never possessed any franchise right in India and that if the Natives of South Africa could not possess it, much less could an Indian. It became very necessary to answer all these misrepresentations and to remove the misunderstanding. A pamphlet entitled The Indian Franchise: An Appeal to Every Briton in South Africa was prepared. Seven thousand copies were printed, one thousand of which were paid for by Mr. Abdul Karim Haji Adam, and they were widely distributed, some in England also. It was largely noticed by the South African press and it gave rise to some sympathetic and some bitter and much indifferent correspondence. A special article was devoted to it in the London Times and the writer accepted all the propositions advanced therein. This was in December 1895.
In the early part of 1896, as most of the questions placed by the Congress before the Secretary of State for the Colonies were yet unsettled, it was considered necessary to place a review of the whole situation before our friends in London and India. A general letter was, therefore, prepared and was sent to them under the signatures of the representative Indians in Natal. It was about this time that the regulations with reference to the then newly established township of Nondweni in Zululand was published. It was provided therein that the Indians could not buy or possess even in that township. As soon as they were published in the Government Gazette, a memorial was drawn up protesting against the exception, and submitted to H.E. the Governor. The Natal Mercury admitted the justice of our contention. His Excellency, however, could not see his way to remove the prohibition.
Thereupon, a petition was forwarded to Mr. Chamberlain, and Sir M. M. Bhowanaggree on receipt of the memorial put a question in the House of Commons. The London Times gave nearly two columns to the matter and the committee of the National Congress also took it up. It might be noticed here, parenthetically, that the publication of the above regulations brought to light the fact that similar regulations were passed with reference to the earlier established townships of Melmoth and Eshowe. The above memorial included these two townships also. The prohibition has now been removed. Had it not been for the vigilance of Mr. Adamdji Miankhan, this matter might have altogether escaped the notice of the Congress; for he it was who first came to know about it, and brought it to the notice of the honorary secretary.
About May 1896, after inspection of many properties and after much consultation and deliberation, the property registered in the name of Niddha, a free Indian woman, with a brick house and store, was bought by the Congress for £1,080. It was unanimously resolved that it should be registered in the names of the seven persons who have the power of signing cheques on behalf of the Congress as trustees therefore. The property now brings a rental of about £10 per month, its rate payable value is £200 and the yearly rates payable to the Corporation this year have been £9. 17s. 6d. The Gardiner Fire Assurance Society insures the buildings for £800. Most of the tenants are Tamil people. A bathroom was badly required by them and volunteers have put up a temporary structure, Mr. Amod Jeewa supplying the bricks free of charge. It is reckoned that this work has saved the Congress over £8. In April of 1896, as the funds of the Congress thus seemed to be in a prosperous condition and as it became necessary to remove from Mr. Moosa Hajee Adam's place, it was felt that the Congress might well take a step forward and be better housed. Accordingly, the spacious hall now occupied by the Congress was rented at a monthly rental of £5, being an increase of £3 per month over the rent previously paid.
During the first session of the Natal Parliament, 1896, it became known that Mr. Chamberlain had decided to advise the Natal ministers to [remove] the Franchise Act, specially preventing persons of Asiatic extraction from being placed on the voters' roll, from the statute-book of the Colony by passing a general Act. A Bill repealing that Act and disqualifying persons, and descendants of persons belonging to countries that have not hitherto possessed elective representative institutions founded on the parliamentary franchise from becoming voters at the parliamentary elections was thereupon brought in. The Congress felt that, although this Bill did not apply to the Indians, as it was to be passed with a view to disfranchise them alone, it was necessary to oppose it and, therefore, a petition embodying the views of eminent person as to the existence of representative institutions in India was submitted to the Legislative Assembly. This evoked so much opposition to the Bill on the part of some of the members of the Legislative Assembly that at one time it seemed as if the Bill would be thrown out. Sir John Robinson cabled to Mr. Chamberlain and obtained his permission to add after 'institutions' the phrase ‘founded on the parliamentary franchise'. This addition materially disarmed opposition to the Bill and it passed both the Houses in spite of our petition to the Legislative Council. Mr. Laughton, at the time of the controversy, wrote a letter to the Natal Advertiser and gave it, as his opinion that, in spite of the addition above referred to, the Bill would be inoperative so far as the Indians were concerned. The Bill reserves to the Governor the right to grant special exemption to those coming under it. A petition protesting against the Bill was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but it has received the royal assent and is now the law of the land. It is quite competent for us at anytime to bring up a test case as to whether or not we have institutions in India such as are contemplated by the Act, or to apply to the Governor for special exemption. The necessity for either has not yet arisen. We have all alongcontended that it was not political power that we wanted, but that it was degradation which the first Franchise Bill involved that we resented, and our protest has evidently been respected by Her Majesty’s Government.
The birth of a son to Mr. Abdul Kadir in the month of March 1896 deserves a special paragraph. At the ceremony performed in the Congress Hall to commemorate the event, over 500 people gathered together. The hall was brilliantly lit up; Mr. Abdul Kadir made a present to the Congress of £7. This was followed by others and the donations given on the occasion amounted to £58.
During the presidency of Mr. Abdulla Haji Adam, a resolution was passed 25 and upward should receive a silver medal. After the institution of the medals many members had, before the month of April 1896, qualified themselves for the honour. Mr. Dowd Mahomed was the most conspicuous in this respect, and it was the unanimous wish that the resolution should be put in force with respect to his work. Consequently, a special meeting was held and a silver medal with a suitable inscription, accompanied by a testimonial, was presented to him.
By this time it became necessary for the honorary secretary, owing to domestic reasons, to leave for India for a short visit. The Congress decided that he should take advantage of his visit home and lay before the Indian public the grievances of the British Indians residing in South Africa. A letter appointing him as delegate was consequently given to him and a draft for £75 was also given to defray the expenses of travelling, printing and other out-of-pocket disbursements in connection with the work. An address was presented to him by the Congress and a gold medal. The Tamil members of the Congress held a special meeting and presented a further address. The honorary secretary in, reply to all the addresses said that the presentation was premature, the work was not yet finished. He, however, took the addresses and the presents as tokens of love, and said that, if the sentiments expressed by the people were genuine, before his return the members would so work as to swell the Congress balance from £194 to £1,194 by the addition of £1,000 by subscriptions and donations. These presentations were widely noticed by the S. African press, not altogether in an unfriendly spirit. He left for India by the Pongolaon the 5th of June 1896.
During his absence, Mr. Adamji Miankhan was appointed acting honorary secretary. Soon after his reaching India, the honorary secretary published a pamphlet entitled Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa: An Appeal to the Indian Public. Four thousand copies were printed and widely distributed. The Times of India was the first to notice it and, in the course of a sympathetic leading article, advocated a public inquiry. Almost every newspaper of note in India took up the question. The Pioneer, while admitting the grievances, thought that the question was extremely complicated, that it was difficult to dictate a particular policy to the self-governing Colonies, and that, under the circumstances, South Africa for better-class Indians was a country to keep away from. The Simla correspondent of the London Timescabled a summary of the pamphlet, adding thereto the views expressed by the Times of India and the Pioneer. After the publication of the pamphlet, the leading men in Bombay were waited upon by the honorary secretary, who was frequently accompanied by the late president, Mr. Abdulla Haji Adam, who happened at the time to be in Bombay.
At the suggestion of the Hon'ble Mr. P. M. Mehta, a public meeting was held in the hall of the Framji Cowasji Institute on the 26th September, Mr. Mehta presiding. The hall was packed. After the honorary secretary had read his address, a resolution sympathising with the Indians in South Africa and authorising the president to draw up and forward to H. M.'s Principal Secretary of State for India a memorial in connection with the matter was unanimously passed. The late Hon'ble Mr. Jhaverilal Yajnik, the Hon'ble Mr. Sayani and Mr, Chambers, the editor of the Champion, spoke to the resolution. Full reports of the meeting appeared in the daily newspapers, and the Presidency Association forwarded by a cable a summary of the proceedings to London.
Madras was next visited, and the leading men were interviewed. Under the auspices of the Madras Mahajan Sabha a circular was drawn up calling a public meeting at Pachaiyappa's Hall. The circular was signed by about 40 representative members of the various communities in Madras, Raja Sir Ramsamy Mudliar being the first signatory. The Hon'ble Ananda Charlu presided. The hall was crowded and after the address was read resolutions similar to those passed in Bombay were unanimously carried. A special resolution was also passed suggesting the stopping of indentured labour to Natal. Mr. Adams, Mr. Parameshvaram Pillay, Mr. Parthasarathy Naidu spoke to the resolution. All the leading dailies fully reported the proceedings. After the meeting was over, there was such a scramble for the above pamphlet that all the available copies were taken up and to meet the demand of the public 2,000 copies were printed in Madras. On the appearance of the cable of the Simla correspondent of the London Times in that paper, Sir (then Mr.) Walter Peace, the Agent-General for Natal, was interviewed and he stated in reply that there were no grievances, and made many other statements. The special feature of the Madras address was an exhaustive reply to Sir Walter Peace. This reply was printed as an appendix to the 2nd edition of the pamphlet.
After a fortnight's stay in Madras, the honorary secretary travelled to Calcutta. There he interviewed the leaders of public opinion. Sympathetic notices were taken by the Englishman, the Indian Mirror, the Statesman and both English and vernacular papers. The committee of the British Indian Association met to hear the honorary secretary, and decided to adopt a memorial to the Secretary of State for India. While arrangements were being made to hold a public meeting, a cable from Natal was received asking the honorary secretary to return at once. The meeting had, therefore, to be abandoned and he left Calcutta for Bombay. A meeting was, however, held in Poona under the auspices of the Sarvajanik Sabha. Prof. Bhandarkar presided. The meeting passed resolutions on the lines of those passed at Madras, to which Prof. Gokhale, Hon'ble Mr. Tilak and Prof. A. S. Sathe spoke.
The honorary secretary left India by the Courlandon the 27th November 1896. A summary of the cablegram by the Simla correspondent of The Times, referred to above, was sent by Reuter to the South African press. This summary gave an impression of the pamphlet circulated in India that cannot be borne out by a perusal thereof. It, however, gave offence to the European colonists. The newspapers published violent articles. This gave rise to an anti-Asiatic agitation on an organized scale and the Colonial Patriotic Union was established. It appears that, soon after the publication of the articles, copies of the above-mentioned pamphlet, which were forwarded here, were supplied to the press, which thereupon took the right view of the situation and admitted that there was nothing in it to justify the violence of the language used against it. The agitation, however, continued, and many exaggerated statements likely to inflame the public mind were made by the Union. Meanwhile, the Courlandarrived, preceded by the Naderiby a few hours, which also brought Indian passengers. The prolonged quarantine of 23 days, the formation of the Demonstration Committee, the marching of the Committee procession to the Point to prevent the Indians from landing, the landing of the passengers, the mobbing of the honorary secretary, his narrow escape in the guise of an Indian constable, the splendid help rendered by Supdt. Alexander and his force, the sudden change of the tone of the press, the severe verdict passed by it on the action of the Demonstration Committee, the recognition of the services rendered by the police on the part of the Indian community, the demonstration memorial to Mr. Chamberlain . . . giving the full history of tile crisis are all fresh in the minds of the members of the Congress. Two traits of Indian character came out prominently during the critical period. The establishment of the Quarantine Fund for the relief of the sufferers, on the two ill-fated vessels was a work which showed Indian liberality to the best advantage; and the peaceful behaviour and the quiet resignation during the most irritating times extorted the admiration even of those who were least likely to notice the goods traits of our people.
During the session of Parliament that followed, the Government, according to their promise to the Demonstration Committee, introduced four anti-Asiatic Bills, viz the Quarantine, Immigration Restrictions, Dealers' Licenses, and Uncovenanted Indians Protection Bills. Petitions were sent to both the Houses but in vain; and the Bills were passed. A petition was therefore sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The reply is not altogether satisfactory. Mr. Chamberlain, however, sympathises with us and grants our request with reference to the Indians Protection Act. This legislation may fairly be said to have closed one part of the Asiatic question and that, it would appear, to an extent in our favour. Ever since the establishment of our institution, we have fought against colour legislation ”” against legislation imposing special disabilities on the Indians. That principle has evidently been admitted. Of course, this does not mean that we have nothing further to do or that the solution is satisfactory. On the contrary, we have now to fight against opposition much more subtle because indirect. The above legislation, although nominally directed against all persons, is in practice applied to the Indians alone. We have, therefore, to endeavour not only to get the legislation repealed or modified, but we have also to watch the operation of the various Acts and so far as possible to induce the authorities not to make it unduly severe and irksome. All that requires on our part constant efforts, unceasing watchfulness, and unbreakable union amongst ourselves, a large measure of self-sacrifice and all those qualities that ennoble a nation. And then victory must be ours, for our case has been universally regarded as just, our methods moderate and without reproach.
In this connection it might be well to consider and dispose of one complaint that has been raised against the Congress and that is due to ignorance of past events. It has been said that, if we had not started the movement to obtain redress, our position might not have been so bad as it now is. Little do those people who advance this argument know that the agitation against the Indians is as old as their advent to the Colony. What would have happened if we had not attempted to stem the tide of that agitation? The answer is simple - what has happened to the Indians in the Orange Free State. The Europeans there agitated against the Indians, who sat silent until it was too late, and we have now no foothold in that State. In the Transvaal we awoke when half the ground was lost, and because we raised our voice against the European opportunity we have yet hopes that, though we may not be able to recover the lost ground, we would at least be able to retain what little yet remains to us. Similarly, in Natal we woke just when the anti-Asiatic feeling was being crystallized into legislation and, therefore, our position is not what it might have been otherwise. If the above feeling had not been allowed to assume the proportions that it did in 1894, we might fairly infer, from the course events took in the other States of South Africa, that our position might have been much better than what it is. To prosecute the enquiry further, the repeal of the anti-Indian regulations for the township of Nondweni in Zululand, the repeal of the first franchise Act which especially applied to the Indians, the non-acceptance of the anti-Asiatic clause in the Commando Treaty in the Transvaal, Mr. Chamberlain's famous dispatch in reply to the Transvaal memorial entirely sympathising with us, the marked improvement in the tone of the press in Natal and other matters which would readily occur to those who have cared to follow our proceedings, may be claimed as the direct and tangible results of our movement.
In the beginning of 1897, a cablegram was published in the papers from the Chief Justice of Bengal, in his capacity as the chairman of the Indian Famine Charitable Relief Committee, appealing for help to the fund. As soon as the cablegram became known, it was realized that a special effort on the part of the Indians in Natal was necessary. A meeting of the colonial-born Indians was held in St. Aidan's school room, and there all present promised not only themselves to give what they could but to work also in getting in donations. A meeting of the merchants took place on Mr. Peerun's premises and a fund wasstarted; but that did not seem to satisfy the gentlemen present and they thought that something more was necessary. Another meeting, therefore, took place on the premises of Messrs. Dada Abdulla & Co., and almost all those who had subscribed on Mr. Peerun's premises doubled or trebled the amounts first put by them, Mr. Abdul Karim rising from £35 to £100, Mr Abdul Kadir from £36 to £102, Mr. Dowd Mahomed putting down £75. A strong committee representing all classes and creeds amongst the Indian community was formed. Circulars in English, Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu and Hindi were issued and widely distributed. Workers went out all over the Colony collecting subscriptions from high and low, and within a fortnight a sum £1,150 was collected, the expenses for collection amounting to less than £20.
The N.I.E. Association under the superintendence ofDr. and Mrs. Booth gave two benefit performances in the Congress Hall. An improvised stage was erected and the members with some non-members played 'Ali Baba and Forty Thieves', the hall being packed full on both the occasions and the proceeds amounting to £40.
Capt. Younghusband, the special correspondent of the London Times who was for some time on duty in India, paid a visit to Durban. The Indian side of the Indian question in South Africa was placed before him and all the documents were supplied to him. Messrs. Dada Abdulla & Co. entertained him to dinner at the Congress Hall and invited the leading Indians. He has devoted a special chapter to our question in his book on South Africa and, while favouring the attitude taken up by the Europeans, places the Indian side of the question pretty fairly.
Congress was not behind-hand in connection with the Diamond Jubilee festivities. An address carved on a silver plate in the shape of a heart mounted on a plush and framed in Natal yellow-wood was presented to Her Majesty on behalf of the Indians in Natal. A deputation consisting of our leading members specially waited on His Excellency the Governor for the presentation of the address. An address similarly worded was sent from the Transvaal Indians also.
Under the auspices of the N.I.E. Association the Diamond Jubilee Library was opened on the Jubilee day by Mr Waller, the then magistrate of Durban. The mayor, Mr. Laughton, Mr. Osborn, the librarian of the Durban Library, Dr. Booth and a few other Europeans attended the opening ceremony. Letters of sympathy were received from those who were unable to attend, among them being the Hon. Mr. Jameson and the deputy mayor, Mr. Collins. The Congress Hall was brilliantly lighted for the occasion. The credit for the success of the opening ceremony and the decorations is entirely due to the efforts of Mr. Bryan Gabriel, though it is but fair to mention that during the last portion of the decorations he was assisted by other workers also. It is painful to have to report that the library has not been as successful in its career as was its opening. The attendance has been nil. The members of the Educational Association subscribed for the expenses of the library and the Congress had voted an equivalent amount.
During all this time, between June of 1896 and that of 1897, as has been said above, Mr. Adamji Miankhan held the post of the hon. secretary. It was now time for him to go to India. He, therefore, handed over his charge to the hon. secretary. A special meeting of the Congress was held to consider the advisability of doing some honour to Mr. Adamji Miankhan to mark its appreciation of Mr. Adamji's services during the trying times. While all the members recognized the self-sacrifice, the zeal and the ability and tact with which Mr. Adamji worked for the Congress, opinion was divided as to whether or not an address should be presented to Mr. Adamji. After some discussion the resolution to present him with an address was carried by a narrow majority, but the opposition was so strong that the majority decided not to proceed with the address as it was considered that in such matters unanimity of opinion was necessary. And Mr. Adamji Miankhan left for India unthanked and unhonoured.
This is one of the slips committed by the Congress and shows that we are but a human institution liable to err as any other. The hon. secretary as such held a party at his house in honour of Mr. Adamji. Printed invitations were issued and all leading Indians attended. Laudatory speeches were made to which Mr. Adamji gave a suitable reply. The president, the hon. secretary and other members saw Mr. Adamji off at the Point. Mr. Adamji Miankhan has proved worthy of the responsibility that was placed upon him by the Congress. During his tenure he convened the meetings regularly, collected the rents properly and kept a very accurate account of all that was spent. He undoubtedly seems to have cultivated good relations with members of the Congress generally. Above all, the one quality that is needed in the holder of that post more than any other, namely calmness of mind under all the irritation from within and without and the ability to put up with the different dispositions if the members, he displayed in abundance. The Jubilee address might never have been sent but for the care and anxiety with which he worked in order to have it ready in time. Mr. Adamji has shown that the Congress can go on and local men can properly do its work.
When it was announced in the papers, two months prior to the day of celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, that Mr. Chamberlain would take advantage of the occasion to meet the Premiers of the different Colonies and discuss with them certain questions affecting the British Empire, among them being included the Indian question, it was thought advisable to send somebody to London with a view of watching the Indian interests. Mr. M. H. Nazar of the firm of Nazar Bros. of London, a member of the Stockholm Oriental Congress and nephew of the late Justice Nanabhai Haridas, who had come to Natal in the December of 1896 and who had rendered splendid help to the community during the demonstration crisis, was unanimously selected as the delegate and he went duly authorized to England. Mr. Nazar went to England without any remuneration being paid for his services. The Congress was to pay his out-of-pocket expenses only. He remained in London in connection with the work beyond the expected time on the advice of the gentlemen whom he was specially requested to consult in everything he did and whose advice he was to he guided by. He received much support from our sympathizers in London. He was able to move the East India Association on our behalf and that influential body has forwarded a powerful memorial to Lord George Hamilton, and has also sent a communication to the Indian Government directly. Mr. Nazar holds letters of sympathy for our cause from several distinguished Englishmen, and Sir M. M. Bhownaggree in a letter addressed to us speaks very highly of his work. In this connection, the extraordinary self-sacrifice made by the colonial-born Indians and the subscription raised at a single evening's sitting to the extent of over £35 amongst themselves, numbering about fifteen poorly paid young men who have never extended their horizon beyond South Africa, cannot but be mentioned. Mr. C. Stephen laid aside his silver watch and all he had in his pocket, and his example, to their credit, was followed the others present at the meeting, and the Nazar Fund Committee were able next day to cable him £75.
About the end of last year, the Durban Town Council passed certain regulations, one of which prevented Indians from owning or holding licences for rickshas. A protest was at once drawn up, signed by the leading Indians and forwarded to the Governor. Copy of the protest was sent to the town council which at once decided to take off the prohibition. Soon after the Immigration Restriction Act came into operation, seventy-five Indians were arrested wholesale in Dundee on the alleged ground that they were prohibited immigrants. Ultimately they were discharged. Last January, the licence officer appointed by the Newcastle Town Council, in virtue of the Dealers Licenses Act above referred to, declined to issue licences to any of the Indians. On appeal, the town council granted six licences and refused three. The matter was taken before the Supreme Court and Mr. Laughton, the appellant's counsel, ably argued that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court even on the merits of the case was not ousted by the Act. The court, however decided against the appellant, His Lordship, the Chief Justice, dissenting. Congress has taken the matter up and an appeal has been lodged in the Privy Council ”” Mr. Asquith, the leading counsel, has been retained in the case. The result is likely to be known in November. The question as to whether vendors without any shop are required to take out a retail licence was raised andcase was taken to the Supreme Court in the name of one Moosa, a vegetable dealer, and that court has decided that no licence is required to be taken by such vendors. This matter was brought before the Congress by the vegetable vendors and it was taken up, a member promising to pay the out-of-pocket expenses. The case was won, but the disbursements have not yet been paid him and they will be a charge on the Congress.
In the month of March, an illuminated address was presented to Mr. G. V Godfrey for his being the first Indian to have passed the civil service examination of the Colony. Special subscriptions were raised for the purpose and a special committee was formed. In this connection, it ought to be mentioned that Mr. Godfrey senior has set an example which other parents may follow with much profit. Himself by no means a particularly educated man, he had made it his sole aim to bring up his children in a suitable manner and to provide for them the best education. He sent his eldest son to Calcutta and gave him a university training there. He (the eldest son) is now gone to Glasgow is studying for medicine.
About 20,000 pamphlets, copies of memorials and letters, have been written and have been distributed during the years under review.
In the month of August 1898, Mr. Abdul Karim Hajee Adam Zaveri, having occupied the Congress chair ever since his brother's departure in 1896, with much credit to himself and to the universal satisfaction of the members, sent in his resignation. He was requested to re-consider his decision but he said he could not, and Mr. Cassim Jeewa was elected in his place. He occupied the chair till the March of this year and then resigned as he wanted to leave the Colony. Mr. Abdul Kadir was unanimously elected in his place and still holds the position of the head of the community. It is sad to record that Mr. Cassim Jeewa was drowned last May while on his way from Calcutta to Rangoon. Much sympathy was shown to his bereaved father, and the Congress authorised the president to send him a letter of condolence.
Dr. Mehta, a graduate and gold medallist of the Grant Medical College and barrister-at-law of the Middle Temple, London, and sometime Chief Medical Officer of the Idar State, paid a visit to Durban. He was well received by the community and feted by the prominent members. Mr. Rustomjee's generosity has provided Congress with linoleum worth £22. 10s. 1d., a costly brass-plate Congress board, lamps and other knick-knacks.
During the early part of Mr. Abdul Karim's tenure of office, the institution of fines for late attendance at the Congress meetings was founded. Many members paid five shillings for each late attendance. It has now fallen into disuse, and much have we fallen back from our first love that now it is difficult to form even a quorum at the Congress meetings before 9 p.m., that is, one and half hours after the appointed time. It was due to the special exertions of Mr. Abdul Karim that it was decided that every merchant should pay a farthing on every packet he imported, four packets of salt being counted as one. Nearly £195 have been thus received by the Congress, but the sum does not even represent one-tenth of what would be received if every merchant paid up the amount due by him to the Congress on his account.
It will be recollected that tickets were issued in order to enable the workers to collect small donations without the necessity of writing out receipts. The plan has proved almost a failure except that Mr. Madanjit brought from the Stanger district about £10.
The Congress members raised a subscription in aid of the Indian hospital established in the year 1898 by the exertions of Dr. Lillian Robinson under the advice, help and control of Dr. Booth, and guaranteed to pay £160 or £6. 13s. 4d. per month for two years in lieu of rent. The hospital was formally opened on the 14th day of Sept. 1898.
The outlook at present is gloomy so far as the internal work of the Congress is concerned. Members do not possess half the enthusiasm that was displayed in 1895 and 1896. Subscriptions in all the outlying districts have become considerably overdue. It would, however, be hardly fair to attribute this apparent neglect of the Congress work to wilful apathy on the part of the members. The Indian communities have passed and have been passing not only through serious political troubles, but have also with the other communities severely suffered from those of the war. These two combined have naturally given rise to despair but it is hoped that the despair is only temporary and that, after a calm survey of the situation, which is not without its bright spots, as will have appeared from the foregoing, the old enthusiasm will revive with redoubled force.
The Congress rules need to be recast and it appears necessary now to be strict in observing them. So far, those that have not paid up their subscriptions have been allowed to be considered as members and to have a say in Congress matters. This practice is very undesirable.
The test case as to the interpretation of the Transvaal Law with reference to the Asiatics has been tried. Our fellow brothers in the South African Republic engaged the services of the best counsel and spared no pains, but the judges, with Justice Jorrisen dissenting, have decided against us. It is too soon yet to forecast the result of the decision. Messrs. Jeremiah Lyon & Co. of London has taken up the cause of the Indians in Rhodesia. They are doing the work zealously and hope to be successful. They have distributed circular letters and papers amongst the leading merchants in Durban.