Gandhi and Identity Formation
Rakesh Batabyal
THE MAKING OF A POLITICAL REFORMER: GANDHI IN SOUTH AFRICA, 1893-1914 by Surendra Bhana Manohar Publication, 2007, 181 pp., 495
January 2006, volume 30, No 1

It was probably in 1990 that as an impressionable student embarking on a specialized study of history, I heard Fatima Meer, a close associate of Nelson Mandela in the African National Congress speaking about the hopes and aspirations of the Africans, Indians and others in a society emerging out of the shadow of the apartheid system. In reply to one of my questions about the future of the people of Indian origin and their relations with the Africans, her answer was optimistic, characteristic of those who have waged a struggle. She talked about the united destiny of not only the two but of the Whites as well in a republican and non-racist South Africa. In response to a question of assimilation of the Indians with the local African populations, she argued that the Indians and their role, in the past and the future, should not be evaluated merely in terms of the level of social and cultural assimilation as Indians quite often do not even intermingle with their own people if they are not of the same caste. It should rather be viewed in terms of aspirations and dreams and a political system attentive of such aspiration.

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