Penitence, the moral for our past. Hopefully our present and future too.
I left Durban. A first class seat was booked for me. It was usual there to pay five shillings extra, if one needed a bedding. Abdulla Sheth insisted that I should book one bedding but, out of obstinacy and pride and with a view to saving five shillings, I declined. Abdulla Sheth warned me. ‘Look, now,’ said he, ‘this is a different country from India. Thank God, we have enough and to spare. Please do not stint yourself in anything that you may need.’ I thanked him and asked him not to be anxious. The train reached Maritzburg, the capital of Natal, at about 9 p.m. Beddings used to be provided at this station. A railway servant came and asked me if I wanted one. ‘No,’ said I, ‘I have one with me.’ He went away. But a passenger came next, and looked me up and down. He saw that I was a ‘coloured’ man. This disturbed him. Out he went and came in again with one or two officials. They all kept quiet, when another official came to me and said, ‘Come along, you must go to the van compartment.’ ‘But I have a first class ticket,’ said I. ‘That doesn’t matter,’ rejoined the other. ‘I tell you, you must go to the van compartment.’ ‘I tell you, I was permitted to travel in this compartment at Durban, and I insist on going on in it.’ ‘No, you won’t,’ said the official. ‘You must leave this compartment, or else I shall have to call a police constable to push you out.’ ‘Yes, you may. I refuse to get out voluntarily.’ The constable came. He took me by the hand and pushed me out. My luggage was also taken out. I refused to go to the other compartment and the train steamed away. I went and sat in the waiting room, keeping my hand-bag with me, and leaving the other luggage where it was. The railway authorities had taken charge of it. It was winter, and winter in the higher regions of South Africa is severely cold. Maritzburg being at a high altitude, the cold was extremely bitter. My over-coat was in my luggage, but I did not dare to ask for it lest I should be insulted again, so I sat and shivered. There was no light in the room. A passenger came in at about midnight and possibly wanted to talk to me. But I was in no mood to talk. I began to think of my duty. Should I fight for my rights or go back to India, or should I go on to Pretoria without minding the insults, and return to India after finishing the case? It would be cowardice to run back to India without fulfilling my obligation. The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice. I should try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process. Redress for wrongs I should seek only to the extent that would be necessary for the removal of the colour prejudice. So I decided to take the next available train to Pretoria. The following morning I sent a long telegram to the General Manager of the Railway and also informed Abdulla Sheth, who immediately met the General Manager. The Manager justified the conduct of the railway authorities, but informed him that he had already instructed the Station Master to see that I reached my destination safely. Abdulla Sheth wired to the Indian merchants in Maritzburg and to friends in other places to meet me and look after me. The merchants came to see me at the station and tried to comfort me by narrating their own hardships and explaining that what had happened to me was nothing unusual. They also said that Indians traveling first or second class had to expect trouble from railway officials and white passengers. The day was thus spent in listening to these tales of woe. The evening train arrived. There was a reserved berth for me. I now purchased at Maritzburg the bedding ticket I had refused to book at Durban. The train took me to Charlestown. Episode from South Africa’s MK Gandhi’s autobiography, “My Experiments with Truth.”
Proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, imprisonment, torture, no human values are all sustaining foundations of slavery, our Rome. A communist dictatorship is one which completely ignores the freedom of religion, routinely imprisons monks and artists for their views, and has been criticized by countless human rights organizations for its widespread use of torture and routine abuse of detainees. (In the photo above, policemen prevent a photojournalist from taking pictures outside a courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City.) “Vietnam is fast turning into one of Southeast Asia’s largest prisons for human rights defenders and other activists,” Robert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Vietnam researcher, noted. But these violations are equal, in Shaheed’s eyes, to the ghastly use of cultural artifacts in the tourism industry. The other, more serious violations merit just a one-paragraph rebuke in her report; apparently, they don’t fall within the ill-defined spectrum of “cultural rights.” Now, Vietnam can ignore most of what Shaheed had to say, and brush off her criticisms as a side effect of tourism. Over the years, critics have ridiculed the U.N. Human Rights Council’s willingness to heed the perverse opinions of the world’s worst dictators, who figure prominently among its members. (These members even tried to ban the word “authoritarian” from council proceedings.) But the farce of “cultural rights” is merely a symptom of a much deeper malaise that some call human rights inflation.” Increasingly, groups have called everything they feel entitled to — from spare bedrooms to foreign aid — a “right.” One special interest group is even clamoring to grant “access to the Internet” official “rights” status, as if freedom of expression weren’t enough. Meanwhile, various parties have asserted their “rights” to employment counseling, paid vacation leave, free education through college, and a global financial tax to combat the economic crisis. Today, we have a surplus of human rights — and they’re all claimed to be equally important and indivisible. Human rights are going nowhere. They’ve lost their value.”