Statement To The Indian People On The Eve Of His Trial, January 30, 1941

On the eve of my court trial under the Emergency Regulations, I deem it my duty, as the leader of the Nationalist Group of the Transvaal Indian Congress, to make the following statement to my Indian brethren.

You elected me as your leader at the mass meeting held at the Patidar Hall on the 7th May, 1939, under the chairmanship of our respected champion of Passive Resistance, Mr. E. I. Aswat , to lead a Passive Resistance campaign against what is now known as the Asiatic (Transvaal Land & Trading) Act of 1939. Mahatma Gandhi sent us this message: "You have to suffer, not I; therefore let God alone be your guide."

As you will no doubt recall, a definite decision to launch the Passive Resistance struggle on August 1st was taken at that historic gathering of 6,000 Indians held at the Indian Sports Ground on the 9th of July 1939. We had to postpone the struggle at the eleventh hour on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi. His message stated:

"I have no hesitation in asking the Passive Resistance Committee to postpone for a time the proposed launching of the struggle on August 1st.

"I do so because I have some hope of an honourable settlement. I know that the Government of India as well as the British Government are trying to obtain relief. I have put myself in touch with Ministers.

"In the circumstances I think a brief postponement of the struggle is necessary. I am fully aware of the enthusiasm of the resisters. They have proved their mettle before. They will do so again if it becomes necessary. But it is the code of passive resisters to seize every opportunity of avoiding resistance if it can be done honourably.

"Every cessation in search of peace adds to the strength of the real fighters. Let them remember that the settlement of 1914 was the outcome of the cessation of the struggle for the sake of peace.

"I hope that the proposed cessation will lead to a similar result. Should it unfortunately prove to be otherwise, and should the struggle begin, let Dr. Dadoo and his fellow-resisters know that the whole of India will be at their back."

In subsequent correspondence Mahatmaji revealed that there was not much hope of a satisfactory outcome from his efforts and that we should be the best judges of the course we may have to adopt.

As far as the operation of the provisions of the Interim Act of 1939 is concerned, our worst fears have been realised. The Act has proved disastrous. Our suffering has been made acute and unemployment has increased considerably, despite the assurance of the opponents of Passive Resistance.

The Act is due to expire in May and the Government proposes to bring before the present session another such to take its place. It is designed to maintain the existing restrictive measures affecting our rights of trade and movement. It has been reported that the Government supporters maintain that an extension of the Act is necessary as there has been no time to prepare new legislation incorporating the findings of the Penetration Commission.

Any extension of the existing Act would spell utter ruination. It is the duty of our community to resist it effectively. Besides, passive resisters are bound by their sacred pledge to their people to fulfil their duty by suffering sacrifice.

The time for action has come. There is only one alternative before us, that of Passive Resistance. In view of the fact that due to an enforced absence from your midst, I may not be able to participate in the struggle that lies ahead of us and therefore, I make this earnest appeal to you to actively cooperate and help the Passive Resistance Council to carry on our struggle. In my place I nominate Ismail Ahmed Cachalia to lead the movement. I hope that you will repose your trust and confidence in him and render him every assistance in the same loyal manner as you rendered me in the past. And, in that way demonstrate your solidarity.

I wish to outline a scheme in the hope that it may act as a guiding line in the programme of action that you will be called upon to formulate in the prosecution of the Passive Resistance struggle.

A communication must be addressed to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior stating the injustice that is meted out and showing plainly the intention and determination of the people to resist the proposed measure by means of Passive Resistance as the only course left open to us to safeguard our national honour and existence.

If, in its wisdom, the Government ignores the justice of our cause then we should tighten our belts and prepare ourselves for suffering as true and faithful Passive Resisters.

The Passive Resistance Council should undertake the task of enrolling and organising volunteers. The people must be kept informed of the day-to-day happenings by means of regular Bulletins. A fresh mandate must be obtained from the public and then the struggle launched at the zero hour with all the dignity and calm resignation demanded from all true passive resisters.

The path before passive resisters is one of suffering. They must be armed with the weapon of truth and so steeled in the school of self-discipline that they will be able to endure the trials of the struggle with calm dignity, unflagging determination, uncomplaining stoicism, ungrudging sacrifice and unswerving loyalty to the cause. Such an attitude of mind and such a behaviour will disarm all opposition and open the road to the vindication of justice.

Signed by me this day the 30th of January 1941 at 47 End Street, Johannesburg in the presence of the following witnesses.

(Signed) Y. M. Dadoo

(Signed) S. M. Desai; M. L. Patel; M. D. Bharoachi; E. S. Dangor; S. V. Patel; I. A. Cachalia.

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo South Africa's Freedom Struggle: Statements, Speeches and Articles including Correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi

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