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Swaraj pays tribute to Gandhiji in Pietermaritzburg, where philosophy of non-violence was born

By Deepika

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday unveiled a 2-sided bust of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa to mark the 125th anniversary of Satyagraha movement.

Sushma Swaraj unveils bust of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa

Named "Birth of Satyagraha", it acts as a constant reminder, to all of mankind, of the momentous moral journey that young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi undertook.

Swaraj undertook a train journey from Pentrich to Pietermaritzburg, a railway station where a young Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a "whites-only" compartment, an incident that acted as a catalyst for him to practice Satyagraha.

Swaraj also inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum consisting of interactive screens, videos, audio commentary on infamous incident at Pietermaritzburg Station.

On the night of June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer then, was thrown off the train's first class compartment at Pietermaritzburg station for refusing to give up his seat.

Gandhi was travelling from Durban to Pretoria on a first class ticket for official purposes. While he was seated in the first class compartment, a European man called the railway authorities and asked for the man looking like a 'coolie' to be removed from the coach.

When the Indian man refused to move out of the coach, he was thrown out by the railways authorities at the Pietermaritzburg railway station.

The incident led him to develop his Satyagraha principles of peaceful resistance and mobilise people in South Africa and in India against the discriminatory rules of the British.

He remained in South Africa and launched various campaigns against the white regime. He founded the Natal Indian Congress to fight against the discrimination of Indians in South Africa and was soon regarded as their leader.

It was in South Africa that Gandhi honed his skills in satyagraha.

While he left South Africa in 1914, Pietermaritzburg honoured him by renaming the railway station after Gandhi on his 142nd birth anniversary in 2011.

The film, a co-production between India and South Africa, was made in 1996, soon after Nelson Mandela ascended to the position of South Africa's first democratically-elected President.

Directed by Shyam Benegal and based on the book Apprenticeship of a Mahatma by the late freedom activist Prof. Fatima Meer, the film recalls the incident and developments thereafter as Gandhiji decided to forego worldly life and started up the Phoenix Settlement commune in Phoenix near Durban and also Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg.

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