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Gandhi led his corps of some twenty Indian

stretcher-bearers in pledging
"true allegiance to His Majesty King Edward
the Seventh, His Heirs
and Successors," promising "faithfully" to
"serve in ... the Active Militia
Force of the Colony of Natal."29 He wrote a
few weeks later in Gujarati
that "this has produced a very favourable
impression on ... prominent
whites," encouraging more Indians to
volunteer, adding "It can be looked
upon as a kind of ... picnic. The person joining
. . . gets enough exercise
and thus keeps his body in good trim and
improves his health. . . . People
love him and praise him."
At this very time, when actively engaged in
removing wounded bodies
from fields of battle, Gandhi's thoughts turned
"furiously in the direction
of self-control. ... It became my conviction that
procreation and the consequent
care of children were inconsistent with public
service. I had to
break up my household at Johannesburg. ... I
took my wife and children
to Phoenix and . . . the idea flashed upon me t
h a t . . . I must relinquish the

desire for children and wealth and live the life
of ... one retired from
household cares."30 The vow of celibacy
which he took now he viewed as
one that "opened" the "door to real freedom....
I vow to flee from the serpent
which I know will bite me."31 He had feared
serpents as a child,
hardly surprising in rural India, yet in this
context the use of serpent seems
more an echo of Christianity's symbol of
temptation. He would attempt a
much deeper analysis near the end of his life,
some forty years later, involving
more dangerous experiments with the
Brahmacharya celibacy vow.
Now he had no difficulty in abstaining from
further physical contact with
Kasturba, noting "where . . . desire is gone, a
vow of renunciation is the
natural . . . fruit." Kasturba silently accepted
his avowed wish, apparently
relieved at his decision to abstain from sex
with her.
Sergeant-Maj or Gandhi worked bravely with
his corps for six weeks in
the summer of 1906, but by the end of July
each of the Indian stretcherbearers
was presented a silver medal by the Natal

Indian Congress when
the corps disbanded. Gandhi advised the
Congress to try to organize a permanent
corps, and "in the process white prejudice
against Indians might altogether
disappear."32 But instead of disappearing, the
prejudice intensified
so the community voted to send a deputation,
consisting of Gandhi and
one of its leading merchants, to London to
lobby on behalf of South African
Indians. Winston Churchill, colonial under
secretary of state at this
time, arrogantly tried to "justify" the
"deprivation of the franchise from
British Indians," Gandhi reported, arguing that
all "non-European Natives"
were "coloured people," and therefore
unsuited to representative or
[58 ]
Satyagraha in South Africa
responsible rule.33 Thus began the bitter feud
between Gandhi and Churchill,
which was to intensify over the next four
decades, much to the misfortune
of Great Britain as well as India.
The Legislative Council of the Transvaal now
introduced an Asiatic
Ordinance Bill that would require registration

of all Indians, including
women and children, who would then be
fingerprinted and forced always
to carry identification cards. Gandhi's first
editorial reaction was to call it
"abominable!" A week later he termed it
"criminal."34 All Indians would
be subject to "indignities" at the hands of
"arbitrary" officials, who would
be empowered even to banish those whom
they disliked.
On September 9, 1906, Gandhi addressed
Johannesburg's Hamidiya
Islamic Society, speaking against the
ordinance he labeled a "Black Act"
and urging his audience to prepare "cheerfully"
to "suffer imprisonment.
There is nothing wrong in that. The distinctive
virtue of the British is bravery.
If therefore we also unite and offer resistance
with courage and firmness,
I am sure there is nothing that the Government
can do."35 Two days
later he organized a mass meeting, at which
he proposed that all of them
take a solemn oath against "The Government,"
which "has taken leave of
all sense of decency." Not to oppose such an
evil government would be

"cowardice," Gandhi argued, but everyone
must "search his own heart,
and if the inner voice assures him that he has
the requisite strength to carry
him through, then only should he pledge
himself."36 This was the birth of
Gandhi's revolutionary method of Satyagraha,
or "Hold Fast to the
Truth," which would be replicated in India
many times, beginning with a
sacred vow, taken only by those who had
considered the full implications
of their solemn oath. This was his first public
reference to his "inner voice,"
the voice he later defined as God that was
Truth. If a majority of the Transvaal's
Indian community took the oath, he told them,
the ordinance might
not be enacted, but he warned against
excessive optimism.
"We might have to go to Gaol, where we might
be insulted. We might
have to go hungry. . . . We might be flogged by
rude wardens. We might be
fined heavily and our property might be
attached. . . . We might be deported.
.. . some of us might fall ill and even die." The
risk of death did not
deter him, however, and he argued that "even

if every one else flinched
leaving me alone to face the music, I am
confident that I would never violate
my pledge. Please do not misunderstand me. I
am not saying this out of

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