In South Africa, the screening of the biopic ‘Making of a Mahatma’ in Pietermaritzburg today marked the opening of a three-day series of events to commemorate the historic incident 125 years ago when Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from a train because the compartment he was in was reserved for whites only.
On the night of June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer then, was thrown off the train’s first class compartment at Pietermaritzburg station for refusing to give up his seat.
The incident led him to develop his Satyagraha principles of peaceful resistance and mobilise people in South Africa and in India against the discriminatory rules of the British.
The film, a co-production between India and South Africa, was made in 1996, soon after Nelson Mandela ascended to the position of South Africa’s first democratically-elected President.
The film was directed by Shyam Benegal based on the book ‘Apprenticeship of a Mahatma’ by late freedom activist Prof Fatima Meer. It recalls the incident and developments thereafter as Gandhi decided to forego worldly life and started up the Phoenix Settlement commune in Phoenix near Durban and also Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg.
The commemoration continues over the next two days with events spearheaded by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. These include a youth workshop on Gandhi, a special train ride with an engine and coaches bedecked with 400 metres of khadi cloth brought in from India.