‘Unimaginable’: Indian president retraces Gandhi’s historic journey

2012-05-08 00:00

INDIAN President Pratibha Patil commemorated Mahatma Gandhi’s first act of resistance by tracing his footsteps and embarking on a journey from the Pentrich train station to Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

It was the last day of her state visit to South Africa, which began with a meeting with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria last week.

Gandhi was ordered to leave a train at Pietermaritzburg station after refusing to vacate a first-class carriage, which had been reserved for whites only, in June 1893. It was that incident that awakened him to social injustice.

Patil laid a floral tribute and signed the visitor’s book at the station. In a brief address later, she said she could not imagine what Gandhi must have felt after being expelled from the train.

The soft-spoken president also visited Parliament in Cape Town, and the Phoenix settlement in Durban established by Gandhi, accompanied by a large contingent of media and officials.

On her trip to the Pietermaritzburg train station, she was accompanied by Premier Zweli Mkhize and Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela.

The speaker of the Msunduzi Municipality, Babu Baijoo, and Deputy Mayor Thobani Zuma met them at the station.

Mkhize said the province was crafting “political routes” that mapped places, people and events that were pillars of the liberation struggle. “Pietermaritzburg station is one of the important political sites,” said Mkhize.

“We remain indebted to the Indian indentured labourers for their contribution, especially in terms of establishing the agricultural potential of KZN, making it a world renowned region of the sugar industry,” he said.

David Gengan, of the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee, said Pietermaritzburg was an important city for Indians all over the world.

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