South Africa commemorates 125th year of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha

PIETERMARITZBURG: The screening of the biopic Making of a Mahatma here on Wednesday marked the opening of a three-day series of events to commemorate the historic incident 125 years ago when Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from a train because the compartment he was in was reserved for whites only.

On the night of June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer then, was thrown off the train's first class compartment at Pietermaritzburg station for refusing to give up his seat.

The incident led him to develop his Satyagraha principles of peaceful resistance and mobilise people in South Africa and in India against the discriminatory rules of the British.

The film, a co-production between India and South Africa, was made in 1996, soon after Nelson Mandela ascended to the position of South Africa's first democratically-elected President.

Directed by Shyam Benegal and based on the book Apprenticeship of a Mahatma by the late freedom activist Prof. Fatima Meer, the film recalls the incident and developments thereafter as Gandhiji decided to forego worldly life and started up the Phoenix Settlement commune in Phoenix near Durban and also Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg.

A.B. Moosa, CEO of the Avalon Group, at whose Cine Centre cinema the film was shown, told PTI it was a moving moment as he recalled the relationship of his forefathers with the Mahatma.

"It was a special privilege for my Dad Moosa Moosa and myself to kick off this 125th commemoration at our cinema, as it were also our forebears who unwittingly started off young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi's path to becoming the Mahatma through his Satyagraha plans in both South Africa and India," Mr. Moosa said.

"If he did not have to take that train to submit legal papers for our forebears to Pretoria, the fateful incident where he was thrown off the train might never have happened and the world might never have benefited from Gandhiji's guidance and leadership," he added.

Mr. Moosa was referring to the fact that British-trained lawyer Gandhi had been brought to South Africa from his Gujarat home to fight a legal battle between two Indian merchant cousins.

The commemoration continues over the next two days with events spearheaded by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

These include a youth workshop on Gandhiji, a special train ride with an engine and coaches bedecked with 400 metres of khadi cloth brought in from India, and a banquet at which top politicians will speak at the local City Hall, which will be lit up in the colours of the Indian flag.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

 

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PTI