The Work in England
The reader has seen in the previous chapters how the Indians tried to ameliorate their condition and enhanced their prestige. Side by side with the effort to develop, strength from within they sought such assistance as they could from India and England. I have dealt to some extent with the activities in India. It now remains to note what steps were taken to enlist support from England. It was essential, in the first place, to establish relations with the British Committee of the Indian National Congress; weekly letters with full particulars were thereforewritten to Dadabhai, the Grand Old Man of India, and to Sir William Wedderburn, the Chairman of the committee and whenever there was an occasion to send copies of representations, a sum of at least 10 pounds was remitted as a contribution towards postal charges and the general expenditure of the Committee.
I shall here place on record a sacred reminiscence of Dadabhai Naoroji. He was not the Chairman of the committee. It seemed to us, however, that the proper course for us was to send money to him in the first instance which he might then forward to the Chairman on our behalf. But Dadabhai returned the very first installment sent to him and suggested that we should remit money, and address communications, intended for the Committee directly to Sir Willam Wedderburn. He himself would certainly render all possible assistance. But the prestige of the Committee would increase only if we approached the Committee through Sir Willam. I also observed that Dadabhai, though far advanced in age, was very regular in his correspondence. Even when he had nothing particular to write about he would acknowledge receipt of letters by return of post with a word of encouragement thrown in. Even such letters he used to write personally and kept copies of them in his tissue paper book.
I have shown in a previous chapter that although we had called our organization the ‘Congress’, we never intended to make our grievance a party question. We therefore corresponded with gentlemen belonging to other parties as well, with the full knowledge of Dadabhai. The most prominent among them were Sir Muncherjee Bhownuggree and Sir W. W Hunter. Sir Muncherjee was then a Member of Parliament. His assistance was valuable, and he always used to favour us with important suggestions. But if there was any one who had realized the importance of the Indian question in South Africa before the Indians themselves and accorded them valuable support, it was Sir WIlliam Wilson Hunter. He was editor of the Indian section of The Times, wherein he discussed our question in its true perspective, ever since we first addressed him in connection with it. He wrote personal letters to several gentlemen in support of our cause. He used to write to us almost every week when some important question was on the anvil. This is the purport of his very first letter: “I am sorry to read the situation there. You have been conducting your struggle courteously, peacefully and without exaggeration. My sympathies are entirely with you on this question. I will do my best publicly as well as in private to see that justice is done to you. I am certain that we cannot yield even an inch of ground in this matter. Your demand being so reasonable, no impartial person would even suggest that you should moderate it.” He reproduced the letter almost word for word in the first article he wrote for The Times on the question. His attitude remained the same throughout, and Lady Hunter wrote in the course of a letter that shortly before his death he had prepared an outline of a series of articles which he had planned on the Indian question. I have mentioned the name of Shri Mansukhlal Nazar in the last chapter. This gentleman was deputed to England on behalf of the Indian Community to explain the situation in detail. He was instructed to work with members of all parties, and during his stay in England he kept in touch with Sir W. W. Hunter, Sir Muncherjee Bhownuggree and the British Committee of the Indian National Congress. He was likewise in touch with several retired officers of the Indian Civil Service, with the India Office and with the Colonial office. Thus our endeavours were directed in all possible quarters. The result of all this evidently was that the condition of Indian overseas became a question of first-rate importance in the eyes of the Imperial Government. This fact reacted for good as well as for evil on the other colonies. That is to say, in all the colonies where Indians had settled, they awoke to the importance of their own position and the Europeans awoke to the danger which they thought the Indians were to their predominance.