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Since 1893, Indian settlers in South Africa had pursued a programme of civil disobedience, or ‘passive resistance’, in opposition to the racist measures imposed by the governments of South Africa. Led by the practising lawyer, Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869-1948), the protesters secured the Indian Relief Act in 1914, which Gandhi hailed in this ‘farewell letter’ as ‘the Magna Charta of our liberty in this land’. Written just before his departure for India, the letter was published in the South African newspaper, Indian Opinion, founded by Gandhi in 1903. For Gandhi, the settlement was ‘our Magna Charta because it marks a change in the policy of the Government towards us … it moreover confirms the theory of the British Constitution that there should be no legal racial inequality between different subjects of the Crown … it has vindicated Passive Resistance as a lawful clean weapon’.

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