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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'Give Till it Hurts': Durban's Indians and the First World War
Author:Vahed, Goolam H.
Periodical:Journal of Natal and Zulu History
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:social conflicts
World War I
Urbanization and Migration
History and Exploration
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:In October 1913, approximately 20,000 Indian workers joined Mahatma Gandhi's campaign of resistance against the South African government. This was a spontaneous outburst against terrible working conditions and a realization that the three pounds poll tax on free Indians meant perpetual indenture. The findings of the Solomon Commission of Enquiry resulted in the Indian Relief Act of 1914, which abolished the tax but left the status of Indians essentially unchanged. World War I broke out shortly after Gandhi's departure to India. This paper examines the reaction of the Indians to the war and its impact on them in the context of ongoing racial oppression and exceedingly arduous economic conditions. The war forms the backdrop for a narrative about the deep divides among Indians, and about social and political mobilization in the vacuum left by Gandhi. The paper deconstructs the notion of Indians as a homogenous racial group by examining the class, religious, ethnic, language and other cleavages among Durban's Indians in the years immediately following Gandhi's departure from South Africa, differences that surfaced during debates over, and involvement in, the war. Notes, ref.