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Gandhi hastened to implement Ruskin's burning ideals by acquiring his

hundred-acre "Phoenix" farm within a month of reaching Durban, the first


of several rural communes, ashrams, he would found during his life.
Another English vegetarian friend, Albert West, came to work with him on
the Indian Opinion, joining Henry Polak and Chhaganlal, now in South
Africa with his family. As did all the press workers, they agreed to limit
themselves to subsistence salaries of £3 a month while living and working
on the new "settlement," which had "a nice little spring and a few orange
and mango trees." Before year's end the Phoenix had become a vital and
healthy community, and a model of the social transformation Gandhi
would devote his life to propagating.
"The plan was ... a piece of ground sufficiently large and far away
from the hustle of the town .. . each one of the workers could have his plot
of land . . . healthy conditions, without heavy expenses. . . . workers could
receive per month an advance to cover necessary expenses.... Living under
such conditions and amid the beautiful surroundings which have given Natal
the name of the Garden Colony, the workers could live a more . . . natural
life, and the ideas of Ruskin and Tolstoy [would be] combined with
strict business principles."17
Eight years earlier Gandhi had been "overwhelmed" by Tolstoy's The
Kingdom of God Is Within You when he first read it during his initial visit
to the Transvaal. "It left an abiding impression on me," he recalled, admiring
Tolstoy's "independent thinking, profound morality, and . . . truthfulness."
18 His second ashram, founded half a decade later, would be called
Tolstoy Farm. To remain closer to his work, Gandhi continued for more
than a year to live in Johannesburg, leaving his nephew in charge of affairs
in Phoenix and West to edit the newspaper there.
For South Africa's Indian community, as for India, 1905 and 1906
proved to be years of great historic significance. The first partition of Bengal,
that "cruel wrong" as Congress President Gokhale called it in his Benares
Congress address, awakened India's nationalist movement, initiating
mass boycotts of British imports in Calcutta and Bombay, raising cries of
"Sva-raj" ("Self-rule") or "Freedom!" from millions of Indians furious
over British imperial paternalism and its "divide and rule" policy.19 In the
name of administrative efficiency British bureaucrats partitioned India's
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Gandhi's Passion
oldest and largest province, dividing the heartland of its Bengali-speaking
core and creating the new province called Eastern Bengal and Assam with a
Bengali-speaking Muslim majority and a new capital of Dhaka. The outspoken
Calcutta-centered Hindu Bengali-speaking leaders of India's National
Congress were left a minority in their own province of West Bengal,
which included millions of Bihari- and Oriya-speakers in regions only later
to be carved away into the separate provinces (now states) of Bihar and
Orissa. Surendranath ("Surrender Not") Banerjea led the boycott opposition,
and Gurudev ("Divine Guru") Rabindranath Tagore wrote the music
for what would become India's first national anthem, Bande Mataram, or
"Hail to Thee, Mother!"
"Bengal seems to have truly woken up at this time," Gandhi wrote in
his Gujarati edition, hailing the "mammoth meeting" of Bengalis in Calcutta
to protest partition, and noting how the boycott of British cloth had
"rapidly" increased sales of Indian-made goods (swadeshi).20 The Muslim
majority of Eastern Bengal, however, rallied less than a month later in
Dhaka to welcome the birth of their suddenly booming provincial capital,
which after 1971 would emerge as independent Bangladesh's capital. Since
most of Gandhi's supporters were Muslim merchants, he was constrained

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yet surprised to report mass Bengali Muslim support for the "cruel" partition.
"We cannot . . . believe that the movement could possibly be spontaneous.
It is absurd on the face of it. Assuming that there was any oppression
on the part of the Hindus, relief could be obtained without partition,
because the might of the British power was there to protect one community
against another."21 It appears paradoxical that a nationalist as ardent as
Gandhi would argue in favor of even-handed British "protection" as the
best way of avoiding communal conflict or unfair Hindu-majority discrimination
against the weaker Muslim-minority, as in Calcutta. It was also
prophetic. Four decades later, of course, rivers of blood would flow when
provincial Bengal's partition was reincarnated as partition of the subcontinent.
The startling defeat suffered by Russia's Baltic Fleet in the Sea of Japan
in 1905 fueled Gandhi's hope that India, too, might similarly surprise the
world by overcoming imperial tyranny. "The power of the Viceroy is no
way less than that of the Czar. Just as the people of Russia pay taxes, so
also do we ... as in Russia, so in India, the military is all-powerful,"
Gandhi wrote. "The movement in Bengal for the use of swadeshi goods is
much like the Russian movement. Our shackles will break this very day, if
the people of India become united and patient, love their country, and think
of the well-being of their motherland. . . . The governance of India is possible
only because there exist people who serve."22