Remembering the Mahatma: Modi visits Phoenix Settlement

Durban, July 9: Continuing his visits to places associated with the life of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday visited the Phoenix Settlement near here, a community settlement established by the leader of India's freedom struggle in the early 20th century.

"From Pietermaritzburg to Phoenix. PM visits the farm where Gandhiji spent formative years of his political work," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Africa: Modi visits Phoenix Settlement

Modi was guided around the place by Gandhi's granddaughter Ela Gandhi.

Gandhi established the community settlement called Phoenix at Inanda, some 20 km north of Durban, in 1904.

"The settlement, devoted to Gandhi's principles of satyagraha (passive resistance) has played an important spiritual and political role throughout its long history, promoting justice, peace and equality," the Ulwazi Programme, a digital library on indigenous knowledge promoted by the Durban Public Library, states.

"Gandhi established the settlement as an communal experimental farm with the view of giving each family two acres of land which they could develop," it states.

"He believed that communities like Phoenix which advocated communal living would form a sound basis for the struggle against social injustice."

It cites Ela Gandhi as saying that Gandhi used the Settlement "to train political activists called satyagrahis as well as house their families, while they were engaged in the campaigns against unjust laws".

Indian Opinion, later renamed Opinion, the newspaper Gandhi founded in 1903 to create awareness about inequality, racism and other human rights issues, was published from Phoenix Settlement from 1904.

Gandhi's son Manilal was its longest serving editor and the newspaper ran till August 1961.

During his visit, Modi inaugurated an exhibition and also signed the visitor's book after lighting a lamp.

To mark his visit to the settlement, he planted the sapling of a pepper and bark tree.

The Prime Minister also visited Sarvodaya, which served as Gandhi's residence till his return to India in 1914.

The house was razed to the ground during the apartheid violence at Inanda in August 1985.

The South African government reconstructed it and it was reopened by then South African President Thabo Mbeki on February 27, 2000.

Phoenix was the third place Modi visited during his South African tour that is associated with the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

Earlier on Saturday, he visited the Pietermaritzburg railway station, the same station where Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from a train compartment on a wintry night in 1893 on account of his skin colour.

Modi told the media that his South African trip was turning out like a pilgrimage as he was getting to visit three places that were very significant for Indian history and Mahatma Gandhi's life.

On Friday, the Prime Minister visited Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where Gandhi was incarcerated in 1906 for resisting racism and apartheid.

Later on Saturday, Modi will have an interaction with the Alumni Network and attend a reception to be hosted by the Indian High Commissioner and the Mayor of Durban before leaving for Tanzania on the third leg of his four-nation African tour.

Modi arrived in South Africa from Mozambique on Thursday night on the second leg of his African sojourn.

On Friday, India and South Africa signed four agreements after bilateral discussions led by Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria.

The Prime Minister also addressed an Indian diaspora rally in Johannesburg that was attended by over 11,000 people before leaving for Durban.

This is Modi's first visit to mainland Africa and is also the first prime ministerial visit from India to South Africa since then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in 2013 for the G20 summit in Durban.

Apart from Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania, Modi will also visit Kenya.


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