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viernes, septiembre 08, 2006

Yet Another 9/11. This One In 1906.

Mahatma Gandhi
On September 11, 1906, Mahatma Gandhi and 3,000 other Indians took a pledge of nonviolence against the discriminatory laws of the South African government. It was the birth of "satyagraha", holding fast to truth, a movement of civil disobedience.

At the time Gandhi was a lawyer in South Africa. Gandhi had launched a campaign to rescue the rights and dignity of 100,000 "free" and indentured Indians in South Africa. He had started the Natal Indian Congress, organized a petition to parliament and founded "Indian Opinion," a newspaper for his movement. But in September, 1906, the Transvaal Assembly introduced the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, which was intended to reduce Indians and Chinese to a semi-criminal status. On September 11, 1906, 3,000 Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, "free" and indentured, gathered at the Empire Theater in Johannesberg to voice their outrage.

Gandhi called on all to pledge non-cooperation with the proposed law, regardless of what penalties they might face, a call for civil disobedience. Then a Muslim merchant, Seth Haji Habib rose and declared that the resolution must be pased "with God as a witness" that Indians would never yield in cowardly submission to such a law. Gandhi realized that invoking God in a politcal struggle would demand steadfast struggle until the end. He was personally willing to take on such a duty.

Twenty years later, Gandhi recalled the moment:

"The meeting heard me word by word in perfect quiet. Other leaders too spoke. All dwelt upon their own responsibility and the responsibility of the audience... and at last all present, standing with upraised hands, took an oath with God as witness not to submit to the Ordinance if it became law. I can never forget the scene, which is present before my mind's eye as I write. The community's enthusiasm knew no bounds."

And so, in addition to everything else, Monday is the 100th Anniversary of 9/11/06, the birth of the Satyagraha movement. Isn't it interesting that the start of this movement was an attempt by the government to crimi nalize minority immigrants?

Credit to Derek Mitchell, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peacepower, and Michael Nagler for the above information.