Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Indian PM follows in Gandhi's South Africa footsteps


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commemorated Mahatma Gandhi's work in South Africa on Saturday, retracing the train journey that politicized the Indian independence movement icon.

Singh, who began a four-day state visit to South Africa on Saturday, rode an old train for 30 minutes before disembarking in Pietermaritzburg, the town where Gandhi was thrown off a train for riding in a whites-only compartment.

Gandhi's experience led to the 1906 launch of his Satyagraha movement, which advocated passive resistance against the apartheid system in place in South Africa at the time and the colonial rule that existed in India and elsewhere.

"It's a soul-stirring experience," Singh said on the platform of the train station in Pietermaritzburg, some 70km north of Durban, the country's main port and home to much of its large Indian community.

"I came to breathe some of the air that transformed Gandhi," said Singh before touring the train station.

He later visited a statue of Gandhi in the center of town.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Satyagraha movement launched by Gandhi. He joined fellow Indians to protest a proposed law that would force Indians to carry identity documents and be fingerprinted, calling on them to use nonviolent means to disobey the law.

"The philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi of resisting injustice and oppression by pursuing the path of truth and nonviolence was born in South Africa and is a powerful legacy shared by the people of India and South Africa," Singh told reporters before leaving India.

Singh was met by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cabinet Minister Essop Pahad.

He was scheduled to meet leaders of the Indian community yesterday and then travel to Pretoria for talks with officials and President Thabo Mbeki.

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