"In the vicinity of this plaque, M. K. Gandhi was evicted from a first class compartment on the night of June 7, 1893. This incident changed the course of his life. He took up the fight against racial oppression. His active non-violence started from that date".
Thus reads the plaque on the Platform No. 1 of the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station near Durban in South Africa.
Already 116 years have elapsed since Gandhiji arrived in Durban, South Africa. But the plaque is a reminder of an event, important from both international and historical perspective. This is rightly acknowledged in another plaque at the waiting hall of the same Railway Station which proclaims ‘The incident on this platform launched Gandhi on his political career, and he became one of the greatest man of the 20 th century".
A philosophy that withstands time
The Gandhian philosophy will withstand time. This is quite evident from the inspiration it has still been creating in the hearts and minds of millions of people cutting across geographical or national barriers. A cross section of the people of South Africa whom the members of the Indian media team which toured Durban and Pietermaritzburg cities recently met, recalled the grit and determination with which Gandhiji laid the foundation on this soil for dignity of individuals and personal liberty, with a focus on equality above colour, caste or creed based differences.
The Pietermaritzburg Railway Station remains a seat of the birth of an eye opening philosophy which has left an indelible mark in the missionary of democracy world over even today.
Gandhiji’s enduring legacy
"Every South African is proud that Gandhiji lived here for well over two decades. Even the present generation thankfully recall his yeoman services for the whole society. Gandhiji’s principles are still relevant for every nation and we hold him in high esteem", a cross section of the South African’s said.
"We are proud that this station stood witness to this great historical event, but for which we wonder whether the world would have missed the evolution of democracy and values in a new dimension", they pointed out.
The reverence the South Africans in general and the people of Indian origin in particular, still owe to Gandhiji, can be gauged from the words of Neel Ramdaw, employed as a driver in a private cab in Durban.
Dandi Salt March anniversaries
To commemorate the world famous Dandi Salt March, which shook the entire British Empire, an annual march is being taken from Gandhi Museum at Phoenix Settlement near Durban to Durban Beach. The highlight of the event is the wholehearted participation of people of all races irrespective of colour, in this march to express their solidarity with Gandhian philosophy. More than 5,000 men, women and children participate in this march on their own and pay respects to Gandhiji, Mr. Ramdaw said.
The Pietermaritzburg Tourism itself has been organising programmes for propagating the Gandhian philosophy among the younger generation. The Tourism organised special rallies in 2006 in connection with Gandhi’s Satyagraha celebrations, says says Melanie Veness, Director, Pietermaritzburg Tourism. The highlight of the Satyagraha Celebrations was a train drive covering the route where Ghandiji was evicted from the train in Pietermaritzburg and which become the moment where he embarked upon the passive resistance movement. Top leaders of both India and South Africa participated in this illustrious occasion.
The Pietermaritzburg Tourism also identified ‘Freedom Routes’ between Durban and Pietermaritzburg cities in memory of Nelson Mandela, Luthuli and Gandhiji, Ms. Veness added.
The services being rendered by the Gandhi Memorial Committees functioning in various parts of South Africa in propagating Gandhian philosophy has been a heart-rending movement. Maintaining the tempo and vigour of Satyagraha, the Committees make it a point to catch the young so as to benefit posterity in the long run.
According to David D. Gengan, public relations officer of the Committee’s Pietermaritzburg branch, a wide range of plans have been chalked out to sensitize the youths and the school students of South Africa to the significance of outstanding contribution made by great leaders including the Mahatma and Nelson Mandela. Special sessions would be organised at schools to explain the importance of Gandhian principles and how they still hold good.
Non violence is the strongest weapon to resolve the crisis of any order, and the Committee has a profound faith in it, Mr. Gengan adds.