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The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi - Volume III
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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI
1

1. LETTER TO THE BRITISH AGENT

     The Law 3 of 1885, as amended in 1886, denied "the coolies, Arabs, Malays and Mahomedan subjects of the Turkish Empire" citizenship rights, including the rights of owning immovable property. The Imperial and the Transvaal Govern-ments differed as to the applicability of the law to Indians. The issue was referred for arbitration to the Chief Justice of the Orange Free State, who decided that the Transvaal Government was bound and entitled, in its treatment of Indian and other Asiatic traders, to enforce the law, subject to interpretation by the law courts if an objection was raised on behalf of such persons that the treatment was against its provisions. The following letter relates to the subsequent development.
PRETORIA,
February 28, 1898
TO
HER MAJESTY'S AGENT
PRETORIA

SIR,
     We the undersigned British Indian subjects resident at Pretoria and at Johannesburg, as representing the British Indian community in the Transvaal, beg respectfully to bring to the notice of Her Majesty's Government, that, as suggested by her Majesty's Government, we are about to take steps in the High Court of the South African Republic1 to obtain an interpretation of Law No. 3 of 1885, as amended in 1886, according to the terms of the Award of Chief Justice de Villiers at Bloemfontein,2 for the purpose of having a decision as to whether or not British Indian subjects are entitled to carry on business in the towns and
villages of this State.

     We cannot refrain, however, from expressing our regret that Her Majesty's Government has decided not to act on our behalf in this matter to its conclusion, for we had hoped that, inasmuch as Her Majesty's

     1 The Test Case, Tayob Hajee Khan Mahomed vs. Dr. Willem Johannes Leyds, Secreatary of
State, South African Republic, was filed on the same day. It was ultimately, on August 8,
1898, decided against the Indians.
     2 Vide Vol. I, pp. 175, 189.

3-1

(continued)


 
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