Indians

Margaret Bourke-White, Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India (New York, 1949),

Margaret Bourke-White, Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India (New York, 1949)

Bourke-White travelled several times to India between 1946 and 1948. There she befriended Gandhi, Nehru, and other anti-colonial activists, including Communist Party members Freda and Baba Pyare Lal Bedi, and Gandhi’s close associate, N.G. Ranga. While there she witnessed the communal riots that broke out on the eve of
Indian independence, the population transfers occasioned by Partition in 1947,
and Gandhi’s final fast for peace.She was one of the last people to meet with Gandhi shortly before his assassination in January 1948, and she photographed his funeral. Her book on the struggle for Indian independence and its aftermath appeared in 1949, shortly before her South African assignment.

Between 1860 and 1911, 150,000 Indians came to the South Africa as indentured laborers, most of them to cut sugar cane in Natal. They were joined by a small group of Indian merchants and professionals, including a lawyer named Mohandas K. Gandhi, who lived in South Africa between 1893 and 1914.

Concentrated in and around the city of Durban, in Natal, Indians faced restrictions on where they could live and travel.  Gandhi pioneered his theory of nonviolent resistance, satyagraha, in leading a protest movement in favor of Indian rights in South Africa.  Nevertheless, these restrictions tightened under the Afrikaner nationalist government elected in 1948, and many Indians began to join with Africans to protest apartheid.

Youssef Mohamed Dadoo

Yusuf Dadoo, a leading member of both the South African Communist Party and the South African Indian Congress, was instrumental in forging an anti-apartheid alliance amongst Africans, Indians, Coloureds, and sympathetic whites. With Nelson Mandela he helped build the Congress Alliance, an umbrella of protest groups.
On the May 1st Freedom Day announced in the poster visible in front of Dadoo, police opened fire on protestors, killing 18 and wounding 30.

In Durban, Bourke-White sought out Gandhi’s son, Manilal, and granddaughter, Sita. They are pictured here at Gandhi’s Phoenix settlement, setting type for Indian Opinion, the newspaper he founded in 1903.

In Durban, Bourke-White sought out Gandhi’s son, Manilal, and granddaughter, Sita. They are pictured here at Gandhi’s Phoenix settlement, setting type for Indian Opinion, the newspaper he founded in 1903.

The Indian community played a significant role in resistance to apartheid, drawing on the legacy of Gandhian non-violence. Although she did not photograph Indian daily life, Bourke-White made portraits of some important Indian figures in the “non-racial” anti-apartheid movement.

Ind_opinion_april21

“The Africans are starved and bled in order to sustain white South Africa….the Africans too for their own freedom will have to learn to use the same weapon that the people of India successfully used for their salvation. They must learn to hate not the oppressor but oppression.”
Indian Opinion, April 21, 1950

Indian Opinion approached the question of African rights with some ambiguity. On the one hand, the newspaper detested apartheid and counseled Africans to use the weapon of non-violence to overturn it. Yet, as this editorial from April 1950 suggests, the newspaper also paternalistically urged Africans to “first concentrate not on criticisng the Government or the oppressors but on changing their way of life.”

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