This sounds quite bizarre to narrate and surprising to read that the Mahatma faced such violent treatment within a few days of landing in South Africa, though, he still persisted, not just physically but spiritually too.
When Gandhi experienced the dark, cold and lonely night at Maritzburg, he hardly expected worse. He was determined to fight against the odds, though, he could have not imagined what was coming up next.
He took the train next evening to Charlestown. This leg of his journey was peaceful to his delight, he had worked to ensure that by writing to the authorities over the day. The reward was more than good. He travelled as he desired and reached Charlestown next morning.
Gandhi had to travel by a stagecoach from Charlestown to Johannesburg, with a night halt at Standerton en route. There was no connecting train. It was during this part of his journey, between Charlestown to Standerton, that Gandhi was beaten up, dragged, and abused by the stagecoach leader, a white man.
In spite of holding a valid ticket to be accommodated inside the stagecoach, he was first forced to sit outside next to the driver, and later as the stagecaoch leader desired to have a smoke and fresh air, he called Gandhi as sami and demanded him to vacate his seat shifting to the footboard. When opposed, this man did all that he could to suppress the voice of Gandhi, but he failed.
Gandhi did not give way, though he was severly boxed on the ears, abused, dragged, and pulled. The situation was saved due to the interference by the passengers inside the stage coach as they asked the stagecoach leader to let go.
Gandhi completed rest of the journey on his seat, with fear deep within and praying, while the stagecoach leader kept threatening him with dire consequences.
This story of Mahatma Gandhi’s initial days in South Africa has some important lessons for us in our fight to bring true democracy in India.
A system that is visibly flawed would lead to an unfair treatment of its common citizen.
The influential and the powerful, the compromising and the manipulative, would know how to handle the system to their favour while many others would be keeping silent when so required and would pursue careers while escaping the system or by simply being invisible to the system to the extent possible by being part of a large middle class.
However, the common citizen would still see the unfair, violent and exploitative face of the system in adverse or not so lucky situations. Such people would be exploited, beaten up by the police, thrown out of legitimate places, would be paid lower wages, would be denied entry, would not have basic facilities, would not have supply of electricity and water and would not get a diginfied treatment when they approach the authorities with grievances.
Gandhi had overwhelming odds against him being a stranger and by being an inferior person by law in South Africa. He still chose to stand against the system. His success was not in his use of his might, his success was in the use of the might of the large number of people standing up against the injustice on his call. He contacted many, without bothering about whether they would respond or not. And, it is a history now, that the people did respond.
I have an immoveable faith in the collective will of the people. I am sure they would respond to this call for true democracy in India. I am sure the people of India will stand up against the forces that are causing misery to the crores of our masses by poor governance, corruption, and manipulation of the system for the good of the power hungry. I am sure the nation would rise to the call!