Today in 1893, Mohandas Gandhi committed his his first act of civil disobedience.
Settling in to his first-class seat as the train to Johannesburg, a white European affronted at a ‘coolie’ sitting in first-class summoned the guard who warned Gandhi that he would be forcibly removed unless he voluntarily left the carriage. Gandhi refused and was pushed off the train and his luggage flung on the platform of the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station in Natal. After a cold night spent in the station’s non-European waiting room he decided to remain in Natal to assist the Indian community of sugar plantation workers.
‘The Mahatma put our city on the world map. When he was kicked off that train at Pietermaritzburg Station, out of that humiliation, a freedom fighter was born, and he became one of the most profound and gallant leaders in the world.’
Deputy Mayor Zanele Hlatswayo at the unveiling of a bust of Gandhi outside Pietermaritzburg Station in June 2005
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