Natal Indian Congress

By Matt Provost


The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) was a coalition of South African Indians that was founded in 1894 as a response to the mistreatment of Indians in the Natal region. Mahatma Gandhi, from India, was traveling to South Africa to practice law. During his time there, he saw the many injustices and decided to object to them by creating this committee. He drafted petitions that would make the government protect the rights of the Indian peoples in South Africa. Over time, it became a diverse group with many religions and races all fighting for the same freedoms. Into the 1920s, it began to operate as a branch under the larger South African Indian Congress (SAIC), and it used more militant tactics to get the attention of those in charge. It lasted up until the 1980s, long after the death of Gandhi.
Protestors for the NIC, early 1900s

Significane and Impact

The impact they had was not always in their name because, as mentioned previously, they were often a branch of a larger group. It was one of the first groups to emerge, giving many Indians (and other races) in South Africa the feeling of solidarity through the hardships placed on them by the government. Many of the decisions to become militant were made by the NIC itself. As Gandhi lost some control, more radical decision makers entered as leaders. They participated in everything from the Defiance Campaign to some of the armed struggles. They had as much to do with the anti-Apartheid movement as any other group, as they ended up joining forces with the ANC in the 1990s.
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Gandhi's Autobiography

Speaking on the Natal Indian Congress