Was Gandhi Racist?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Was Gandhi Racist?

Gandhi racist? Love quote for South Africa

Selective research and reporting have sometimes distorted the image of Gandhiji.  As a result, Ela Gandhi (Arun Gandhi’s sister and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi) felt compelled to compile a message included below.  Satish Dhupelia, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and who lives in Durban South Africa, was interviewed on the South African Radio on the matter of Gandhi being racist and his comments are also contained below.  

I personally traveled to South Africa twice on the Satyagraha Tour of South Africa wherein we visited the Phoenix Settlement.  Ela Gandhi gently walked us through Gandhiji’s history, “Seeds of Democracy” displayed through images and timelines, showing his evolution as a man, a thinker, a non-violent community leader, and a health and spiritual practitioner.  She shows Gandhiji’s controversial statements balanced with his constant evolving quotes and actions demonstrating her grandfather’s vast capacity for empathy and compassion for all.  Here is a video clip from our last visit with Ela at the Phoenix Settlement.

Satish first and then Ela share their heart-felt spontaneous response to comments to the question, was Mahatma Gandhi racist?

This is a comment I made that was on radio and in the papers here.”  Satish Dhupelia 

Gandhi’s great grandson, Satish Dhupelia, said that there was a period during which the young Gandhi had made racist comments.
“However, we must take it in the context of a man, who was on a journey to find himself and these comments were made in the early parts of his life when he had insufficient knowledge of life and of people.
“He later changed these views of his and went on to embrace all South Africans, not just Indians.
“This is evident in his friendship with John Langalibalele Dube, the first president of the ANC, and other people of colour. John Langaibalele Dube had a farm diagonally across from Gandhi’s farm in Inanda and when Dube wanted to print the first edition of Ilanga lase Natal, Gandhi printed it for him at his International Printing Press. If he were a racist, he would not have done this.”
Dhupelia added: “When we examine Gandhi, we should not look at isolated instances in his life but rather his life in whole and see the changed person Gandhi had become, which differs vastly from his young days.” Before Gandhi left South Africa he said the following:

“It seems to me that both the Africans and the Asiatics have advanced the Empire as a whole; we can hardly think of South Africa without the African races … South Africa would probably be a howling wilderness without the African races … They (the African races) are still in the history of the world’s learners. Able-bodied and intelligent men as they are, they cannot but be an asset to the Empire. 

“If we look into the future, is it not a heritage we have to leave to posterity, that all the different races commingle and produce a civilization that perhaps the world has not yet seen?”

Satish Dhupelia questioned: “Who among us has not made mistakes and not done wrong in their lives? Gandhi was one of those people who in his journey of life, discovered his faults and rectified them.”  —end—


ela and arun gandhi at phoenix settlement birth home discuss the question of Gandhi racist

Right to left:  Arun Gandhi, Satish Dhupelia and Ela Gandhi at Phoenix Settlement.  Arun and Ela’s birth home in background.  

By Ela Gandhi

During Gandhiji’s stay in South Africa the following extracts from the Indian Opinion are also part of my grandfather’s legacy and reveal a completely different person from the one painted by these so called academics with a biased view.

Herewith we present a brief summary of the articles carried in the Indian Opinion, printed by Mahatma Gandhi.

When an African named Magato was ejected from the first-class coach and a case was held, Indian Opinion dated 23.3.1912, devoted one and a half columns to the incident.

The Indian Opinion in an article condemned the maltreatment of Chinese miners.
In an article in the Indian Opinion attention was drawn to the discrimination against Japanese in British Colonies.

The Indian Opinion gave publicity to a landmark judicial decision in the Transvaal recognizing the right of Africans to purchase land there. An editorial comment on the case was also made.

An article was re published in the Indian Opinion from Imvo Zabantzundu when white teachers in the Cape tried to exclude African and Coloured teachers from their teachers’ association.

Walter Rubusana’s election to the Cape Provincial Council in 1910, shortly after the four colonies became the Union of South Africa, received attention in the Indian Opinion and the newspaper commented that it was a great anomaly that blacks like Rubusana could not sit in the South African parliament.

The inaugural meeting of Dr Abdurahman’s African Political Organisation (APO) (founded in 1902) and its newspaper APO (founded in 1909) received front page coverage in Indian Opinion.

Indian Opinion supported the resolution by Dr Abdurahman and the Cape Coloured people in February 1910 to observe the day of the visit of the Prince of Wales to South Africa as a day of mourning.

Dr Abdurahman’s deputation to the office of the Minister protesting against the harassment of coloured residents on the North Burghers Rights Settlement received wide publicity.

His re-election as an independent candidate for Woodstock on the Cape Legislature on April 8th 1914 also received coverage.

When Archdeacon Wergrian of Port Elizabeth wrote in the London Guardian that “The Zulus of Natal have a bitter hatred of the Indians and this hatred is shared by the Natives of other provinces in S.A. If it were not for the Pax Britannica the Natives would drive out the Indian population …An increase of Indian immigration from Natal would ruin our scanty white population and possibly (I do not say probably) bring about a terrible conflict between our own Native people and the Indians whom they detest so cordially and whom they leave alone at present because of British law and order.” Editor’s notes were “We question the writers knowledge of the “bitter hatred of the Zulus for Indians.

There was also an article on the Brotherhood of the White Man. He wrote, “To the socialist of South Africa the brotherhood of man means brotherhood of the white man. In Pretoria the Baker’s Union positively demanded that no black labour shall be employed in making bread.” The article went on to ridicule this whole concept of job reservation.

There is also an article criticizing the Labour Party of S.A. which was asking for political rights but said nothing about the issues of industrial equality for black people.

Under the Kruger regime, after the 1913 Land Act a systematic allocation of land to European farmers took place. The Indian Opinion covered the stories of the African families that were evicted from their land having to demolish their churches and their homes and not knowing where they could move to. The Indian Opinion was unable to establish whether the land was sold to the farmers by the government or whether it was given to them free.

In 1911 an outbreak of Tuberculosis in Durban got attention in the Indian Opinion and the community was urged to help in the campaign against it.

In the same year famine broke out in India, and an appeal was made to contribute towards this calamity.

In 1912 an outbreak of smallpox also received attention and the community was urged to report cases and not conceal them.

Another edition also had a particularly distressing story of the harsh and cruel treatment meted out to an indentured woman by her employer and a call was made to scrap the system.

An extract from Rev. John Dube’s speech at the inaugural conference of the South African Native National Congress later known as the African National Congress (founded in 1912) was also printed in the newspaper.

The resistance of the African women in the Orange Free State against the pass laws in 1913 received front-page coverage, with admiration for their bravery.

The passage of the Land Act of 1913, which relegated only 7.1 percent of South Africa’s land to Africans, was regarded as a serious “act of confiscation”

African accomplishments were also commented on in Indian Opinion.

When an indentured worker Soorzai was flogged by his employer Todd, the Indian Opinion covered the entire story and court case in it’s consecutive editions until the case was finalized.

The Indian Opinion also covered the story of intimidation and plan to assault Mr. West who was editing the paper at the time.

The story of five Indians who were killed at the Hillhead and Blackburn Estates were also fully covered.

The story of a priest Mahomed Seepye who visited the estate to perform a marriage ceremony and was caught walking on the Estate with Mahomed Yusuf and Mukdoon Khan and was severely whip lashed by William Gillespie Armstrong was also fully covered.

The 25th anniversary of Father Maingot’s appointment as priest at the St. Anthony’s Church was also reported.

An application for an interdict by two Coloured men, Williams and Adendorff against conductors in Tramways restraining Coloured passengers from boarding the Tramways received extensive coverage in several editions of the Indian Opinion.

A meeting held by Coloured Women’s Guild on the Passive Resistance in Jaggersfontein against pass laws received coverage.

An article on missionary activities at Mariannhill (a Roman Catholic Monastery run by the Trappist order) near Pinetown was published in Indian Opinion. Here Africans were trained to become printers, blacksmiths, carpenters, saddlers and shoemakers. Mr Herman Kallenbach, a close friend and colleague of Gandhiji was sent to train in leather work at the Mariannhill Monastery in order to return and teach the trade to others at the Tolstoy and Phoenix farms.

Indian Opinion praised the ideals of Booker T.Washigton and John Dube, who was described as “our friend and neighbour” and was commended for his work at Ohlange. Later in India Gandhiji started the Rashtriya Shala- or national education institutions where a system of basic education was introduced based on similar lines called the Nai Talim.

An article from Ilanga Lase Natal that sermonized about the value of manual labour, in particular cultivation of the land, was reprinted.

The various Bills which impacted on the lives of the Indian community were published in full and explained.

So make an informed view. Gandhiji has also been recorded to have made the following remarks,

When a group of youngsters wrote articles in a journal entitled Scandal Times, and asked Gandhiji for his opinion, having taken the articles on sheets of pages pinned together with a clip, Gandhiji returned the pages to the group after taking out the clip. When the group sought his opinion he said, “I have taken the only precious thing from your work.”

Ela Gandhi at the Phoenix Settlement Durban raises the question of Gandhi racist.

Yesterday (above) I posted information on Gandhiji. I tried to be non judgmental and forgiving to those who have written very malicious things about Gandhiji who remains my mentor. Today I found this beautiful words of inspiration from Dadi Janki who is also my mentor and I feel at peace now.

“Om shanti. Through self realization and connection with God, we develop deep purity, which doesn’t allow negativity to touch us. After purity, comes truth – the truth of the soul and the truth of God. Experiencing this truth, patience comes to the soul, which dissolves our anger. Then humility comes: we become egoless. And from that state, a natural sweetness emerges.

Purity, truth, patience, humility and sweetness. When you listen to these things, it is as if a blind person receives light on their path. We have an inner eye that shows us the right path. This spiritual path is there to give us the practical proof of who we are. Be a sample in the world of being simple. Then whoever sees you will become inspired to transform their lives as you have transformed yours. This is service. ”  Ela Gandhi


lynnea bylund discusses Gandhi racistLynnea Bylund is managing director of Gandhi Legacy Tours, Director of Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, founder of Catalyst House and has nearly three decades of experience in administration, marketing and business development. She was a nationally recognized spokeswoman for the emerging alternative video and information delivery industries. She has a degree in holistic health-nutrition from the legendary and controversial health educator and activist Dr. Kurt Donsbach, she is the founder of two not-for-profit small business-based wireless trade associations and has lobbied on Capitol Hill and at the FCC where she has spoken out strongly against the cable TV monopoly, illegal spectrum warehousing and ill-conceived congressional schemes to auction our nation’s precious airwaves to the highest bidder.

Ms. Bylund is a founder and former CEO of a Washington DC telecommunications consulting and management company with holdings in several operating and developmental wireless communications systems and companies. In 1995 Lynnea became the first female in the world to be awarded a Broadband PCS operating permit – she was one of only 18 winners, along with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the biggest cash auction in world history, raising a whopping $7.7 billion. Lynnea also spear-headed the successful effort to launch the first cable TV network in the South Pacific islands.

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