In 1912, at the first meeting of the South African Native National Congress, Indian-born lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi, who had been persuaded to attend by a South African friend, delivers a powerful speech in support of what he calls "satyagraha", or passive resistance, as a weapon against racial oppression.Satyagraha
Gandhi's speech angers some of his hearers, who favor a more militant approach. However, it appeals to many, especially since armed resistance is certain to be met with unrestrained violence. Over the next several years, Gandhi's growing number of followers stage peaceful demonstrations throughout South Africa.
In 1915, Pretoria ordered Gandhi deported to his native country. "It was a foolish mistake," he would later say. "Had the authorities not acted as they did, I might have left for India on my own. Being ejected by force from the country, however, made me determined to continue the struggle there. In 1919, through the intercession of white South African citizens who opposed their government's high-handed actions, I was permitted to return".
And the rest, of course, is history: the long years of quiet struggle, the clashes with the pro-Nazi Afrikaner Nationalist Party, and at last, in 1949, the rise to power of the SANNC's electoral arm, the South African People's Party.
Tragically, Gandhi's birth country fared less well. There, the nationalist movement was tainted by association with violent elements including, after 1939, with the pro-Japanese 'Indian National Army.' Even weakened as it was at the close of World War II, Britain refused to yield to the Indian zealots, and years of bloody guerrilla war followed. Not until 1963 did India finally achieve its independence under Jawaharlal Nehru, who would die a year later, plunging his infant country into bloody communal strife in which an estimated three million would perish by the time peace was restored in 1967 with the partition of the country into Muslim, Hindu and Sikh homelands.