'The idea of non-violence as an alternative to armed uprising which formed the core of Mahatma Gandhi’s movement had a China connection as hundreds of Chinese took part in his first peaceful protest in Zanzibar in 1906, a noted Indian historian said.
Highlighting this much-forgotten Chinese link to the birth of Gandhi’s non-violent movement, veteran Indian historian Ramachandra Guha told a meeting here that 1,100 Chinese along with 8,000 Indians took part in the agitation against Asiatic ordinance of the then Zanzibar racist government in East Africa in 1906.
This was Gandhi’s first movement after the idea of non-violence as an alternative to armed violence to bring about political change was formulated on September 11, 1906 at Johannesburg in South Africa, which Guha described as the world’s first 9/11.
The Asiatic ordinance barred Asians from owning property, made it mandatory to carry identity cards and imposed restrictions on their trade bringing about system of exclusion.
Subsequently the first non-violent movement was launched by Gandhi in Zanzibar when the racist government in which Chinese took part shoulder-to-shoulder along with Indians, Mr. Guha said at a literary festival.
Significantly, the first truce agreement with Zanzibar government was signed by Gandhi, Thambi Naidoo, on behalf of Tamils and Leon Qin who represented the Chinese.
Piqued by Indian-Chinese solidarity in 1906-1909 the Zanzibar government brought about more stringent ordinance resulting in the deportation of both Indians and Chinese to Madras, now Chennai, he said.
After the deportation Qin talked about how their movement in Zanzibar was given birth to Asian solidarity movement, Mr. Guha said referring to a newspaper clipping of that time'.
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History has many accounts of significant cooperation between the two great civilisations - Indian and Chinese and also documents much Indian influence on Chinese civilisation. I predict history is going to repeat itself.