63. Colonisation scheme: the colonial-born Indians respond - From the book "A Documentary History of Indian South Africans" edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

From the book: A Documentary History of Indian South Africans edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

There had long been a feeling among some, especially the colonial-born, that the South African Indian Congress did not sufficiently represent their interests. In their view, trader interests predominated in the Congress. They were disenchanted with the limits that Cape Town Agreement placed upon S.A.I.C. political strategy. The differences surfaced visibly when the S.A.I.C. decided to participate in the Colonisation Enquiry Committee. The colonial-born felt abandoned and betrayed, and decided to form the Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association. At the first conferences C.B.S.I.A., held in Durban 31 December 1933 and 1 January 1934, Albert Christopher explained the basic philosophy in forming the new organisation. His address is reproduced here in part. Source: Indian Opinion, 5 January 1934.

We who are South African-born Indians and permanent settlers in this land have come together to consider our life and existence in this country. There have been let loose forces in this country which we fear will, as times go on, make our position worse than it is.

You know that for some years the Congress has been in existence and like its predecessors has worked on lines which did not make for the advantage and improvement of all.

We who have been in the Congress and have worked in it have endeavoured to initiate movements for the betterment of all, but those who were in a position to help have never supported them. The attitude on the part of some has kept the community back. They have agreed whenever any trouble threatened us in this country to some scheme which had for its object reduction of our community and we know that such reduction was affected by pressure of economic circumstances and illiteracy of our working class and others which forced them to leave the country,

COLONISATION ENQUIRY

We have just now in this country a colonisation enquiry that is ascertaining to what extent our people would go to other countries and for this purpose an investigation has been taking place into their economic conditions.

On that committee of enquiry the Congress is represented and yet no objection has been raised by it or its representative against the committee conducting such an economic enquiry. But could we expect it to be otherwise?

The last Indian delegation came to South Africa in response to the urgent call of the Transvaal Indians in connection with the then Asiatic Land Tenure Bill, now an Act, but the delegation found that it could do nothing about the Bill and the Cape Town Agreement itself was in danger. It then spoke of a colonisation mission which the Indian Government was to undertake to explore outlets for its surplus population, and suggested that Indians in South Africa should have no objection to co-operate in such an exploration as they would not in any way be bound by it, for the exploration in itself was to be taken on behalf of her surplus population, and that the findings of such a mission would be first submitted to the people of India, and if it were found in any way favourable, it would then be for the Indians in South Africa consider whether any of them would care to go to these new colonies of India.

The suggestion was agreed to, subject to the following clauses:

1.The Congress agrees to co-operate with the Governments of India and Union of South Africa in the former's mission to explore outlets for colonisation in regard to her increasing population, provided that such cooperation on the part of the Congress is taken as inspired by patriotic motives, and to ascertain whether there exist any good opportunities for South African Indians in the countries explored, and not on the score of Indians being deemed undesirable in the Union or that the Indian population is to be reduced; provided also that the assisted emigration scheme which formed part of the last Agreement is eliminated and the Congress will be free as part of its policy to oppose it.

2. The Congress also reserves the right to reject the Agreement and to withdraw its co-operation in the above scheme should any points in the Agreement or other subjects dealt with by the Round Table Conference not meet with the approval of the Congress.

But even this decision was not arrived at unanimously for every attempt was made by several of those who are still in the Congress to agree to co-operate unconditionally because this was what the Indian delegation required and which we were not prepared to give, and in the end they accepted the assurance at co-operation in the terms set out.

Therefore the terms of reference as announced by the Minister of Interior in June last came as a shock to us, for it was a vital departure from what was the understanding at the time of the last Round Table Conference. The terms of reference were published with the concurrence of the Indian Government, whose Agent in South Africa in no way consulted our people before agreeing to such terms.

Instead of our people considering whether the colonies that India had found for her surplus population would suit us, it was now sought by the terms of reference to ascertain to what extent we would participate in a colonisation scheme.

The Congress has refused to consider the voice of the people in persisting in participating in an enquiry at which the Agent himself has now declared that India has no money, owing to the world's economic situation, to finance any scheme of colonisation, and yet the world's financial position was worse at the time the delegation was in Cape Town!

This admission of the Agent simply confirms the Indian Government’s communiqué of 15th June last that the reference to colonisation from India was merely a reproduction of the language of the Agreement. It would appear, therefore, that the Indian Government never at any time were seriously concerned with the idea of exploration to find outlets for her own surplus population.

FACE THE POSITION FAIRLY AND SQUARELY

The time has now come for us who are born in this country and represent the fourth and fifth generations of them that came to this country in frail sailing vessels which were storm-tossed for months on the high seas before they could make for Durban, and those of us who have adopted this country as our homes, must face our position in this country fairly and squarely.

We are the nationals of South Africa, and we have to work and live as befits citizens of this country. We have to work not only for economic equality in the country but also for equality within the community.

Our ideal is to work for a common brotherhood in South Africa, the members of which will help one another in all undertakings regardless religious, language and other considerations.

Then only can we see a happy, contented, Indian community in South Africa, which by its character and its life will contribute not only to the prosperity of South Africa but to its culture”¦

A Documentary History of South african Indians

References:
• A Documentary History of Indian South Africans edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

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