The road to justice began in Maritzburg

2018-06-08 16:27
Local actor Nirvikar Bundhoo plays a 24-year-old Mahatma Gandhi getting thrown oout of a first-class train compartment at Pietermaritzburg railway station yesterday, to mark the 125th anniversary of the pivotal event in the freedom campaigner’s life.

Local actor Nirvikar Bundhoo plays a 24-year-old Mahatma Gandhi getting thrown oout of a first-class train compartment at Pietermaritzburg railway station yesterday, to mark the 125th anniversary of the pivotal event in the freedom campaigner’s life. (Ian Carbutt)

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The moment that began a century-long global movement toward equality and justice was right here in Pietermaritzburg.

That was the message on Thursday during the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the moment Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg railway station for being a person of colour in a first-class train compartment.

The day began with a train journey where about 300 people, including prominent politicians from both South Africa and India, rode from Pentridge station to Pietermaritzburg station, as Gandhi did.

This was followed by a short re-enactment of the 24-year-old Gandhi being thrown off the train.

A bronze two-sided bust of Gandhi, which shows him during his time as a lawyer on one side and his time as an activist on the other, was unveiled and an interactive digital museum showing the history of Gandhi was officially opened, both funded by the Indian government. The proceedings were broadcast live in India.

India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj (left), and high commissioner to South Africa and Lesotho Ruchira Kamboj at the 125-year commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi being thrown off a first-class train at Pietermaritzburg railway station on Thursday.

David Gengan, chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee, said an event of this scale was a dream come true.

“As Gandhi said, it all began on that day and it all started here. All the activism started here. Imagine if this incident didn’t happen — his activism may not have started. It’s unimaginable.”

Gengan said the new installations made the railway station into a landmark for the city.

A video clip of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, was broadcast where he said Pietermaritzburg was the start of millions of people under colonial rule getting justice and equality.

“This led to the transformation of an ordinary man into a mahatma. It sowed seeds of liberty and equality and justice.”

The high commissioner of India to South Africa and Lesotho, Ruchira Kamboj, said Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) was fostered after the incident at the railway station.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  mahatma gandhi

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