Tag Archives: South Africa

13 Racist Quotes Gandhi Said About Black People


Not All Peaceful: 13 Racist Quotes Gandhi Said About Black People

All quotes are direct quotations from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. They are taken from his writings and statements during the years he spent working as an attorney in South Africa, before he went back to India in 1915 to fight for independence. Note: “Kaffir” is an offensive term in South Africa considered on par with “n*gger” in the U.S., though in Gandhi’s time some historians claim it was considered more neutral.

Gandhi in his 20s
Gandhi at 19

Indians Dragged Down to the Kaffirs

Before Dec. 19, 1894: “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.”

Gandhi in South Africa
Gandhi in South Africa

Kaffirs Pass Their Lives in ‘Indolence and Nakedness’

Sept. 26, 1896: “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

Young Gandhi (1)

Kaffirs Would Not Work

Oct. 26, 1896: “There is a bye-law in Durban which requires registration of coloured servants. This rule may be, and perhaps is, necessary for the Kaffirs who would not work, but absolutely useless with regard to the Indians. But the policy is to class the Indian with the Kaffir whenever possible.”

gandhi lawyer

Indians ‘Infinitely Superior’ to the Kaffirs

Before May 27, 1899: “Your Petitioner has seen the Location intended to be used by the Indians. It would place them, who are undoubtedly infinitely superior to the Kaffirs, in close proximity to the latter.”

Boer War, Indian Ambulance Corps (Gandhi is in middle row, fifth from left)
Boer War, Indian Ambulance Corps (Gandhi is in middle row, fifth from left)

Indians Shouldn’t Be Taxed Like Kaffirs

May 24, 1903: “The £3 tax is merely a penalty for wearing the brown skin and it would appear that, whereas Kaffirs are taxed because they do not work at all or sufficiently, we are to be taxed evidently because we work too much, the only thing in common between the two being the absence of the white skin.”

gandhi with friend

Indians Forced to Live with Too Many Kaffirs

Feb. 11, 1904: “I venture to write you regarding the shocking state of the Indian Location. The rooms appear to be overcrowded beyond description. The sanitary service is very irregular, and many of the residents of the Location have been to my office to complain that the sanitary condition is far worse than before. There is, too, a very large Kaffir population in the Location for which really there is no warrant.”

Gandhi with friends
Gandhi with friends

Calamity Coming for Johannesburg

Feb. 15, 1904: “I feel convinced that every minute wasted over the matter merely hastens a calamity for Johannesburg and that through absolutely no fault of the British Indians. Why, of all places in Johannesburg, the Indian Location should be chosen for dumping down all the kaffirs of the town passes my comprehension.”

Gandhi in UK
Gandhi in UK

No Mixing Kaffirs With Indians

Feb. 15, 1904: “Of course, under my suggestion, the Town Council must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly. I think it is very unfair to the Indian population and it is an undue tax on even the proverbial patience of my countrymen.”

gandhi smile

Kaffirs Less Advanced

Sept. 9, 1906: “Even the half-castes and Kaffirs, who are less advanced than we, have resisted the Government. The pass law applies to them as well, but they do not take out passes.”

Gandhi (right) with brother
Gandhi (right) with brother

Even a Kaffir Policeman Can Accost Indians?

June 4, 1907: “Are we supposed to be thieves or free-booters that even a Kaffir policeman can accost and detain us wherever we happen to be going?”

Mahatma+Gandhi+

Kaffirs Can Be Pleased With Toys and Pins

Feb. 2, 1908: “The British rulers take us to be so lowly and ignorant that they assume that, like the Kaffirs who can be pleased with toys and pins, we can also be fobbed off with trinkets.”

Gandhi+spinning

Kaffirs Are Uncivilized Animals

July 3, 1907: “Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised – the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals. Each ward contains nearly 50 to 60 of them. They often started rows and fought among themselves. The reader can easily imagine the plight of the poor Indian thrown into such company!”

Marche_sel

Indians Must Stay Away From Kaffir Women

Dec. 2, 1910: “Some Indians do have contacts with Kaffir women. I think such contacts are fraught with grave danger. Indians would do well to avoid them altogether.”


Advertisements

When India Proposed a Casteist Solution to South Africa’s Racist Problem


When India Proposed a Casteist Solution to South Africa’s Racist Problem

BY  ON 04/04/2016 • DIPLOMACY


‘Private and secret’ memo in the South African diplomatic archives reveals an astonishing proposal that India made in 1949.

Indian settlers in South Africa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On October 24, 1949, South Africa’s representative at the UN, G.P. Jooste, sent a ‘private and secret’ memorandum to his headquarters in Pretoria. The opening paragraph of the memo read:

“I have to inform you that shortly after my minute of September 23rd, Sir Benegal [Narising Rau] saw us and explained that his government had authorised this [meeting], at his own request, to discuss the matter with us on a non-committal informal basis. He therefore suggested exploratory conversations.”

My eyes lit up as I scanned through this document at the National Archives in Pretoria. Until then, most books on India-South Africa relations (there aren’t too many) that detail these early years of independence had given me, page after page, a story of massive confrontation – almost mythical in proportion – between India and South Africa in the late-1940s at the UN. So quite naturally, an informal dinner meeting between two top UN diplomats of countries that were at each other’s throats excited me. But as I read on, the excitement turned into bewilderment for Rau had proposed a casteist solution to a racist problem, alerting me to an issue that has been almost singularly stripped from any narratives of Indian foreign policy – caste.

One of the reasons B.R. Ambedkar had cited in his resignation from Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet in October 1951 was his exclusion from decision making on foreign policy. In the first couple of decades of India’s independence, the Indian foreign service (IFS) was the most elite of all civil services (which, as a joke went, suffered from Menon-gitis). But beyond the (Brahmin) men (in the first 10 years of recruitment into the IFS, only three out of 62 selections were women), how did casteist ideas filter into foreign policy discourse? In general, what role do caste dynamics play in the formulation of foreign policy? We have never known, because foreign policy as a matter of ‘national interest’ is deemed above domestic squabbles, such as caste. Yet, the fact is, diplomacy is carried out by diplomats, and their social milieu influences not only their views about what constitutes ‘national interest’, but also who constitutes the ‘nation’. No study has ever been done on this, but perhaps this document will prove a valuable entry point.

Let us return to our tale then.

Arrival of the first Indians in Natal. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A proposal for caste-based segregation

Less than three years earlier, from October to December 1946, the Indian delegation to the UN, led by Vijayalakshmi Pandit, had carried out a diplomatic David vs Goliath with perhaps the most respected statesman of the world then – Jan Smuts. The man who had “inserted human rights” into the preamble of the UN Charter left New York with “the honour, the power and the glory, all vanished,” wrote a sympathetic biographer, due to an “avalanche of condemnation” heaped on him by the Indian delegation on the question of human rights. Most prominent of these was Pandit herself, who called Smuts out for his hypocrisy on the treatment of Indians in South Africa.

On December 8, soon after an impassioned speech from Pandit, who, with a tear rolling down her eye, had appealed to “the conscience of the World Assembly,” India secured a two-thirds majority on its resolution against South Africa. India’s diplomatic assault had left Smuts to rue: “I am suspected of being a hypocrite because I can be quoted on both sides”. By sheer force of conviction, India had placed the issue of racism on the UN agenda.

B.N. Rau. Credit: Photo Division, Government of India

By late-1949, through a continued strategy of shaming South Africa at the UN, India had been able to secure a preliminary roundtable for talks with Pretoria. Perhaps to create a positive environment for talks, in September 1949 Rau deliberately used a milder tone in his opening statement on South Africa’s treatment of Indians, and let his counterpart, Jooste, know that his statement “may be regarded as a compromise”. A former Indian civil servant who also played a key role in drafting India’s constitution, Rau was India’s permanent representative to the UN. Known as ‘the saint of the United Nations’, he along with Nasrollah Entezam of Iran and Lester Pearson of Canada, formed the ‘Three Wise Men’ group at the UN in those early years. Under Rau, the Indian delegation was once described by Alastair Cooke as “messengers of peace casting sweetness and light around” in The Times.

Rau sought Jooste out for an informal dinner meeting, at the behest of the Indian government, and Jooste was told by Pretoria “to be most careful literally to say more or less what is proposed”.

In the meeting, Jooste, accompanied by his deputy J. Jordaan, kept to his brief, detailing South Africa’s position on the issue. Rau, however, let his tongue fly. Showing a rather “unexpected measure of frankness,” Rau began with confessing, Jooste noted, that ‘the feverish attempts in his country to destroy all caste inequalities were resulting in what in actual practice amounted to discrimination against the erstwhile ruling castes such as the Brahmins, to which he belongs’. Interestingly, this confession came just over a month before the pro-caste equality draft of the Indian constitution was introduced in the constituent assembly. In introducing the draft constitution, ironically, Ambedkar went on to specially credit Rau for his sterling work in preparing the draft.
Going further, Rau stated that “Indians who went to South Africa did not belong to the best type  and that, as in Burma, they may have exploited the local population and given India a bad name”. He added that the way the South African government treated them “might be fully justified and that in fact India would not mind discrimination against our local Indian community if only it was not based on racial lines”.

In his earlier discussions with Canadian authorities, Rau stated, he had proposed that Canada should allow “a small group of select nationals, say 20, to migrate to Canada where after a period of time they would be granted full rights of citizenship”. (Indian diplomats had indeed made such a suggestion to the Canadians, but the figure was 200) Based on this precedent, Rau enquired whether a similar proposal of citizenship to “a small number, say 10, of the cultured and best type of Indians” could work for South Africa “as a token to the world that the racial equality of Indians was recognised” by that country.

The Jooste Memorandum

It is clear from the contextual reference to Rau’s lament about “discrimination against erstwhile ruling castes like Brahmins” that his euphemistic reference to Indians of the  “best type” was really a proxy for the upper castes.

Effectively, what Rau had proposed was that if a small number of upper caste Indians were admitted as equal citizens in South Africa, this would in principle mean that there was no racial discrimination against Indians and give South Africa a way out in rechristening racism as a form of minority protection. Rau’s argument was based on the premise that upper caste Indians constituted the Indian nation in its best form, and thus only they were its true representatives. Lower caste Indians were, in short, not Indian enough, and hence how they were treated did not matter.

Rau assured Jooste that as soon as South Africa did anything to “remove discrimination based on racial considerations,” India would end its opposition to the country. He further added that India was acting as a “bulwark … against Communism in the East” and had taken a leadership position, and hence, “could not accept the position of being the inferior race,” and the South African application of the racial criteria was “playing into the hands of the communists who, today, were representing themselves as the liberators of the oppressed and the champions of freedom and liberty”.

The reaction from Pretoria to this memo was cautious. They refused to entertain the idea of making caste-based, and not race-based, distinctions. Ironically, year after year, it was apartheid South Africa that highlighted, at the UN, India’s hypocrisy on racial issues by deeming casteism as a form of racism.

Casteism in foreign policy

So, how does a historian of India’s foreign policy read this particular memo written by Jooste?

Indians in South Africa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One standard requirement would be to find out what Rau had to say about this conversation in his missives to Nehru or the Ministry of External Affairs. Such a letter doesn’t exist in Rau’s papers at the Nehru Memorial Museum Library, neither can one find anything in the National Archives. Short of conclusive proof, we are forced to ask the next best question: how much does one trust the authenticity of another person’s account? If it is a ‘private and secret’ memo of an external affairs department that is crucial in formulating foreign policy, there is a strong case for believing that this conversation actually happened in this form.

Or perhaps Rau was bluffing the South Africans to get a desired deal. We would never know for sure, although such a proposal of entry of just 10 Indians would almost certainly not work, given the strong struggle South African Indians were then waging within that country. Rau, though, had either misquoted or purposely brought down the numbers in the Canadian case from 200 to 20, possibly to make it more acceptable to South Africans.

The ‘small number’ argument had, in fact, also been used by Gandhi in his struggles in South Africa where he had asked for six Indians to be allowed to enter the Transvaal district, as an in principle acceptance of Indians as racially equals to Europeans. But Rau’s emphasis on ‘select nationals’ chosen from the ‘best type’ clearly referred to allowing only upper caste Indians, in order to sideline the racial argument. Although India’s argument on racial discrimination at the UN was only limited to discrimination faced by Indians – not Africans –  in South Arica until 1952, it was broadly justified by arguing that including Africans would step on South Africa’s sovereignty and thus strategically weaken India’s anti-racial struggle. But Rau’s suggestions, clearly, don’t help in using that explanation either, since he believed that racial discrimination in general could continue as long as it didn’t ‘look’ racial towards Indians.

This, of course, gives credence to the argument that India’s anti-racism has always had limited sympathy with Africans, and thus is often hypocritical. But Rau’s diplomacy reveals something more: that Indian diplomacy has also, in ways subtler than stark, used casteist framings. And accordingly, while caste has, justifiably, been scaled up as an issue of national importance, recently its remnants need to be exposed even in the most sacred of our institutions. Foreign policy is certainly one.


Vineet Thakur is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg.

Is Durban the Answer?

durban1photo credit: http://www.wildolive.co.uk/IMAGES/Durban.jpg

Is Durban the answer?

The Hindu
Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Sunday, September 02, 2001

#UnFair #UN #DurbanConference


Dalit activists hope that raising the issue of caste at the Durban conference will pressure the Government to implement protection and affirmative action laws more effectively in favour of the underprivileged. VIR SINGH writes.

WHEN Madhuri Devi complained about the wife beating going on next door, people in her north Delhi neighbourhood dismissed it as an internal family matter. When she went to the local police station, the officer on duty angrily asked: Why is it your concern? Who are they to you?

These key questions will come up before the international community when scores of activists highlight the suffering of Dalits at a major U.N. conference on racism and other discrimination which started on August 31 in the South African port city of Durban.

The Indian government has marshalled mighty arguments as to why caste discrimination should not be discussed at the event, which is titled the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Chief among these is the contention that this problem is an internal matter.

Dalit activists ridicule this position, saying this is akin to the case made by the former rulers of South Africa just a decade ago to shield apartheid from outside scrutiny. India rightly rejected this argument, loudly declaring that the mistreatment of black Africans is a global concern. So how can New Delhi use the selfsame strategy to block wider discussion of a problem that affects tens of millions of Indian citizens every single day?

Well, the short answer is that it can and it will. India has more than enough diplomatic clout to ensure that references to discrimination based on “descent” – the compromise term for caste that human rights activists have injected into U.N. documents – are kept to a bare minimum in the Durban conference declaration and action plan. Most Dalit activists know this. The more compelling story, however, is about what they have already achieved.

The beginnings of a global Dalit movement have been traced back to the mid-1970s (see Gail Omvedt’s article, The Hindu, April 2001). The last five-odd years have seen this process gathering momentum. In 1996, the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination accepted the contention of human rights lawyers that its responsibilities include monitoring discrimination based on descent. (This makes it mandatory for all governments to file progress reports on actions taken to halt such discrimination). Two years later, activists from across India came together under the banner of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. Last year, New York-based Human Rights Watch presented its highest award to Martin Macwan, a lawyer and Dalit activist from Ahmedabad.

racisma
photo credit: http://www.smom-za.org/images/racisma.jpg

The Durban conference “is a sort of organising event,” says Maja Daruwala, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Intiative. “There’s been a lot of solidarity, and a lot of churning, a lot of movement. (Dalit groups) are coming together and their demands are being amplified.”

To the charge from some quarters that highlighting abuses against Dalits gives India a bad name in the eyes of the world and is therefore an anti-national activity, Daruwala responds: “It is anti-national to continue with caste discrimination in this country… It is like saying to a woman that she is against family life because she is beaten at home, but she musn’t speak about it outside. You don’t blame the victim for making a noise.”

It is a powerful analogy and, for some Dalit activists, one that offers hope. Years of campaigning for women’s rights, especially at the international level, finally got governments to start doing something to prevent abuses such as wife beating. Similarly, Ashok Bharti of the Centre for Alternative Dalit Media hopes that a frank discussion of caste discrimination at Durban will “bring the issue in focus” once again and pressure the Indian government to implement protection and affirmative action laws.

“Those issues have been purposely kept away from the international forum,” he says. “And this time when it is going to be discussed, the government of India and the nation as a whole is responsible to the whole world community.”

“Our faith has been broken,” adds P.L. Mimroth, a lawyer working with Dalit victims. “That’s why we’re going to the conference.” He says that despite special laws guaranteeing compensation to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who face atrocities, the government has fulfilled its responsibilities in only a handful of cases.

The caste debate is just one of the controversies dogging the Durban conference. After two years of preparatory meetings, governments are still deeply divided over the wording of a political statement and a comprehensive action plan to address racism and related problems.

The United States has repeatedly threatened to pull out if references against Israel are not removed. A group of mostly Islamic nations wants the conference documents to equate Zionism with racism, saying this accurately describes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Washington boycotted two earlier U.N. racism meetings, in 1978 and 1983, because of similar disputes involving Israel, a staunch U.S. ally.

The issue of compensation to countries, mostly in Africa, that still suffer from the effects of slavery, presents an even greater challenge for governments trying to hammer out a common agenda at Durban. The European Union led by Great Britain has joined the United States in opposing any mention of “compensation” for the formerly enslaved countries.

“This is a world conference that quite a number of governments would have preferred didn’t happen,” says Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and chief organiser of the Durban conference. “That’s why as far as I am concerned this is a victims’ conference,” she said in an interview to the Ford Foundation Report. “It has to speak for and listen to the voices of those who are marginalised, excluded, discriminated against and put down because of their color or their background.”

The politically charged atmosphere of the conference has even seasoned U.N. monitors worried. “I have great concerns about what’s going to come out of it,” says Michael Colson, director of Geneva-based U.N. Watch. One problem is that governments have, according to Colson, failed to “de-politicise the debate on human rights.” The other is that the U.N. meeting has become less focussed over time, so that “it’s an open question now as to how wide the conference agenda is.” 

The author is an independent journalist.


 

durbaniii

image credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-mT6l_e4zvCg/TofX4f3TuoI/AAAAAAAAABo/oq1QSYGVZgc/s1600/durban+iii.jpg

 

 

UN Racism Conference Fails on Caste-Based Discrimination

UN Racism Conference Fails on Caste-Based Discrimination

Document Ignores Abuses Against 260 Million People


#UnFair #UN #DurbanConference


(Geneva) – The international community should take action on caste-based discrimination, which violates the rights of 260 million people globally, a group of nongovernmental organizations including Human Rights Watch, Lutheran World Federation, Pax Romana, IMADR, IDSN, NCDHR, and FORUM-ASIA said at a news conference on caste-based discrimination and the Durban Review Conference.

The Durban Review Conference was organized to evaluate progress towards the goals set by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Millions of victims of caste-based discrimination, hoping that the conference would serve as a platform to highlight their problems, were left deeply disappointed.

“Caste discrimination is one of the most important issues being left out of this conference and because of the predominant attention to one specific issue, all other concerns within the field of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and racial intolerance are being excluded,” said Peter Prove of the Lutheran World Federation, who has worked for many years toward eliminating caste discrimination.

Dalits have long claimed that caste- and descent-based discrimination falls under the remit of this conference. Despite this, the final outcome document makes no reference to caste-based discrimination.

“Caste discrimination is a major global human rights issue that needs to be effectively dealt with at the international level,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “As the UN racial discrimination committee has made perfectly clear, caste discrimination falls under the Race Convention, and thereby within the scope of this review conference.”

Even as the issue is ignored at the conference, caste discrimination remains a massive problem in countries like India, where ongoing elections have once again exposed the challenges faced by Dalits. NCDHR, which has been monitoring the elections, has found that many Dalits are not being allowed to freely exercise their democratic rights, and are being beaten, threatened, and obstructed from voting at local polling stations.

“This Durban Review Conference has totally eliminated any mention of caste or discrimination based on work and descent,” said Paul Divakar of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) in India, where more than 167 million from the Dalit communities suffer from caste discrimination.

Representatives from the Dalit communities present at the news conference also included Fatima Burnad and Dibakar Poricha, who explained how Dalits were subjected to violence, rape, inhumane untouchability practices, and suffered routine discrimination, socially, culturally and politically. They also explained that due to the high level of impunity in cases involving Dalit victims, they have no way of asserting their rights through the judicial system.

Pointing out that victims of caste-based discrimination suffer a hidden apartheid of segregation, modern-day slavery, and other forms of discrimination as a result of having been born into a marginalized group or caste, Rikke Nöhrlind, coordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), stated: “This issue has been skilfully hidden by certain governments, and Dalits are simply being treated as lesser human beings and denied justice.”

Determined to keep fighting for their rights and to try and get the international community to listen, a sizeable delegation of Dalit representatives has travelled to Geneva to stage a number of side events and raise their voices against the wall of silence they are met with at the Durban Review Conference.

Background

  • Caste discrimination is any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on inherited status such as work and descent, commonly originating from a division of society into castes or social categories. This chronic human rights condition, which is associated with the notion of impurity, pollution, and practices of “untouchability,” involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. It is estimated that 260 million people are affected by caste discrimination worldwide.
  • The Durban Review Conference is being held in Geneva from April 20 to 24, 2009, with thepurpose of reviewing the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA).
  • The Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA)includes several provisions relevant in the fight against this form of discrimination, andseveral UN bodies – in particular the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – have repeatedly reaffirmed that caste falls underthe Race Convention.
  • Several UN bodies have furthermore reaffirmed that discrimination based on work and descent – the UN terminology for caste discrimination – is prohibited by international human rights law, and that it is a global human rights phenomenonwhich should be addressed comprehensively through existing human rights mechanisms.
  • Human Rights Watch has also previously highlighted the need for tackling the causes and consequences of this kind of discriminationby, among other things, encouraging delegations to welcome the work carried out by CERD on discrimination based on descent, to review CERD’s General Comment No. 29 on Descent, and to include reference to it as a guiding opinion in defining and combating descent-based discrimination.

To read a joint position paper prepared by IDSN, Human Rights Watch, NCDHR and other organizations, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/fileadmin/user_folder/pdf/New_files/UN/Durban_and_caste_-_joint_position_paper.pdf

For more information on the Durban Review Conference, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/international-advocacy/un/durban-review-conf/dalit-solidarity-events/

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on India, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/en/asia/india

For more of IDSN’s work, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/

  • The IDSN website – provides a wide range of resources and material on the topic of caste-discrimination including case studies, video materials, and research materials.

dry-bones
image credit: http://a404.idata.over-blog.com/1/19/32/69/Photos/Dry-Bones.gif
dry_bones_like_white_on_rice
image credit: http://bokertov.typepad.com/btb/images/2007/12/13/dry_bones_like_white_on_rice.gif

stories from: Skin | Colour | Race | Caste – Made in India

%d bloggers like this: