in Estcourt had claimed the right to vote at municipal elections, and the
claim has been
rejected by the Magistrate on the ground that, under the new Municipal ACT, an Indian who does not
enjoy the right to vote at political elections cannot have the municipal franchise either, that is, the
rights of citizenship. This judgement is altogether wrong. The Municipal Act has not yet been passed,
and our fight against it is still going on. It is obvious that the Magistrate at Estcourt does not read this
journal, although he gets it free. Otherwise he would not have given such a wrong judgement under
an act which has not yet received the approval of the Imperial Government. It is now essential that
Estcourt Indians make an appeal.
Having considered the matter carefully, we want to say that Estcourt Indians ought not to have
taken this step without the approval of the Natal Indian Congress. This is not the time when any
one section of the Indian community can act independently of the others. There are many grievances
[Indians have] in Natal. It is imperative to put up a fight. If in the course of this struggle, a mistake
is made even in one town, it may prove detrimental to the interests of the whole community. We
believe that there was no need of such precipitate action in the matter of the municipal franchise.
Efforts are being made to have the Bill--now being discussed in Britain--disallowed. The Estcourt case
is likely to have an adverse effect [on our efforts]. We are now in a dilemma. If the case is dropped,
we shall be disgraced; if on the other hand we go on with it and the final judgement is adverse, the act
may receive [Imperial] assent. What difference does it make whether a few Indians get the vote or
not? The right [to municipal franchise] must not be lost, because the loss of that right will degrade us.
On the other hand, there is no indignity in desisting from the exercise of a right which we have. We
hope that the Indian community, at all places in Natal, will profit from this incident and not take any
steps without consulting the Congress. At the same time, we repeat that the appeal in the Estcourt
case should be proceeded with. Natal Indians should remember that, if they wish toassert their claim
to the municipal franchise, they should pay up the rates before the month is .
Indian Opinion, 25-5-1907
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. VI