Gandhi was accused frequently of racism
The Anglo/Boer War was not the only conflict in which an Indian ambulance corps was raised. In 1906, a ânative rebellion’ erupted in the Natal Colony as a consequence of long and simmering discontent among the Zulu people.
The Zulu are one of the major ethnic groups of South Africa, and they enjoy a long and proud history as a military people. With the advent of European rule in South Africa, however, they had to go. A large, heavily armed and conspicuously violent culture, loyal to a central monarch, could hardly exist alongside the institutions of an ostensibly modern and democratic state. War was inevitable. In 1979, the Zulu were crushed in a war provoked by the British for that purpose. Thereafter, they were confined to the ever-narrowing boundaries of a ânative reserve’, taxed without representation, and their land steadily sequestered.
In 1906, the Zulu rose in rebellion, and brief war was fought as a desperate people, at the end of their tether, tried to reassert their place in their own country. In a decision that has divided historians ever since, Gandhi reformed the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps for service with the British on the front line. The rebellion of 1906 was brutally suppressed, causing even the British imperial government to plea for restraint, and that Gandhi chose to ally himself with that brutality has always been very confusing. He also tended to echo the colonial position in natal that backs did not belong around the table with the civilized races, among which he obviously counted the British and the Indians. One of his most often quoted comments in this regard was this:
âOurs is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir [black African] whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.’
In later years he certainly regretted such utterances, but he made enough of them to justify just a little bit the accusations made against him.