Gandhi had led agitation against registration of Indians who were required to be finger printed. Many were arrested including Gandhi for reentering Transval without registration. Gandhi had talks with General Smuts, Transval’s colonial secretary. After negotiations Gandhi, in exchange of release of all Indians agreed to the “condition” of finger printing to which earlier Gandhi had called “Block Act” that led to agitation by all Indians. This made many Indians furious for Gandhi’s surrender before General Smuts. Here is the violent reaction of some Indians to Gandhi’s surrender as detailed in book ‘Gandhi and Churchill’ by Arthur Herman (page 157)
“On Feb 10, 1908, Gandhi took a walk to the Johannesburg registration office in order to be the first to be voluntarily finger printed and registered as a resident Asian.” A man named Mir Alam stopped Gandhi as he had been active in Satyagraha Campaign that was led by Gandhi himself. “Where are you going?” he asked Gandhi in a cold tone, “I am going to take out a registration certificate” Gandhi replied and offered to take Alam with him. Instead Alam struck him across the face. Gandhi went sprawling, Sheing open his face on the sharp rock on the ground. Alam started kicking him and was joined by three or four others, cursing and shouting. Finally Gandhi’s friends managed to push them away, carried him to nearby shop and called for a doctor. “On March 5 he was again assaulted in a mass meeting in Durban….” The police had to escort Gandhi to safety” and much booing and hissing.
Young Gandhi who had studied Law in England was not able to defend his first case in an Indian court in fact he could not utter a word and walked out of court in agony. Then he left for South Africa when he helped many Indian businessmen in local courts. But finally where he led an agitation against what came to be called ‘Block Act’ he miserably failed, was beaten and humiliated. But young Gandhi did not loose heart, he stuck to his mission of getting justice for India from arrogant British imperialists. He had seen in England how the common British citizen was cared by law and justice but in contrast how, in India and to perpetuate their imperial rule the very Britishers became arrogant rulers without a bit of Western culture and justice that he had witnessed in England.
Before leaving for India, after the failure of Gandhi inspired and led agitation, he did not regret, as many Indians in South Africa expected. Gandhi was firm in his principles and philosophy of Ahimsa. All Gandhi could cling to was the most cherished faith as he put it “that all activity pursued with a pure heart is bound to bear fruit, whether or not such fruit is visible to us. Because of this philosophy of being of pure heart in whatever one does, Gandhi in due course, after leading Indian independence movement, through Ahimsa i.e. non violence, became to be known as Mahatma Gandhi.