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Victory through Suffering

AIER LITTLE MORE than two weeks in


jail, Gandhi, and friends
arrested with him, agreed to the "voluntary
registration" of the entire
Indian community of Transvaal, if General
Smuts would agree
to withdraw the Asiatic Registration Act,
with its element of "compulsion."
1 To Gandhi's way of thinking the
dishonor in the act lay in its enforcement
by the government, not in the issuing of
permits, nor even in taking
fingerprints, a point that many members of
the community would
continue, however, to consider obnoxious.
"The substance of the proposed
settlement was that the Indians should
register voluntarily, and not under any
law," Gandhi explained. On January
30,1908, the superintendent of police took
him to meet General Smuts.
They had a good talk, Smuts
congratulating him on the Indian
community's
having "remained firm" even after

1
Gandhi's imprisonment.2
Gandhi then caught the next train back to
Johannesburg and went directly
to inform his friends of the agreement,
suggesting that a meeting should be
called. It was held on the grounds of the
mosque that very night and despite
the short notice nearly a thousand Indians
turned up.
Not everyone attending that meeting,
however, was pleased with what
Gandhi reported. Though all were
surprised to find him a free man again
and hear that he had spoken with General
Smuts, skeptics doubted if they
could take the general at his word. Some
posed even harsher questions,
asking if Gandhi had been "paid" anything
by Smuts to "change" his
mind. "We have heard that you have
betrayed the community and sold it to
General Smuts for 15,000 pounds," one
giant Pathan in his audience
shouted. "I swear with Allah as my
witness, that I will kill the man who
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2
Gandhi's Passion
takes the lead in applying for registration,"
another charged.3 It was the
first but would not be the last time that
some of Gandhi's followers
doubted his integrity.
Gandhi never hesitated to reverse his
position, particularly if he
learned that his followers used violent
tactics or sensed that his opponent
underwent an honest change of heart, as
he now believed true of Smuts. To
those who feared treachery, Gandhi
argued "A Satyagrahi bids good-bye to
fear. He is therefore never afraid of
trusting the opponent . . . for an implicit
trust in human nature is the very essence
of his creed."4 Nor did he
pay heed to threats.
"It is God in whom I placed my trust while
launching on this struggle,"
he softly explained; "it is He who has
given us this unexpected victory, and
it is Him therefore that we must give our
thanks."5 Undeterred, he left for
the Permit Office the next morning,

3
resolved to be the first to register
voluntarily,
as he had promised Smuts. Gandhi found
a tall powerful Pathan
waiting at his own Satyagraha office to
follow him toward the Permit Office
that morning. Before they reached the
registration office, the man
knocked Gandhi to the ground with a
series of heavy blows, the "words
He Rama (O God!)" on Gandhi's lips.6
Forty years, less one day, later he
would utter that same cry again, after
three bullets pierced his heart. This
time he sustained only scalp wounds and
bruised ribs. He pressed no
charges against the arrested Pathan but
reiterated his faith in Smuts, insisting
that "it is the sacred duty of every good
Indian to help the Government
and the Colony to the uttermost."7

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