Understanding the impact of Hindu Muslim shared bondage in South Africa

South Africa: 1947 Doctors Pact to form alliance between African Indian Congress and African National Congress

by Murali Balaji (guest writer)

While an upcoming film on Nelson Mandela’s life will undoubtedly shed light on his impact on South African freedom, an overlooked story in the struggle against Apartheid is the unity between Hindus and Muslims in the country during the period of oppression.

Due to laws in the country that made it illegal for non-Christian marriages to be recognized as Christian ones, and special restrictions on the religious worship rights of Hindus and Muslims, both groups often joined forces in representing the interests of the greater South African Indian community.

That’s why the experiences of Hindus and Muslims against discriminatory laws, as noted by Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography, and later, the struggle against anti-Black Apartheid, are significant in shaping the contemporary history and politics of South Africa. Perhaps the greatest example of this cooperation was reflected in the alliance between GM “Monty” Naicker, a Hindu and president of the Natal Indian Congress, and Yusuf Dadoo, a Muslim and president of the Transvaal Indian Congress. Both men also believed their struggle for greater religious rights went hand-in-hand with the native Africans’ struggles against racial oppression.

Similarly, the experiences of Hindu and Muslim prisoners at South Africa’s Robben Island, bonded both groups as they fought against their mistreatment at the hands of white South African prison officers.

While this legacy might not be well understood in the United States or in India, the shared struggle remains firmly etched in the social, cultural and political fabric of South Africa.

Further reading: In the Shadow of Chief Albert Luthuli by Logan Naidoo
Source: WEB DuBouis archives, Harvard University

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