Oct 192020
 

11 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD

11 George Square today
11 George Square today

The Edinburgh Indian Association (EIA), founded in 1883, was one of the first Indian Associations in Britain. Between 1911 and the 1950s, the EIA rented rooms at 11 George Square, which “contained a debating hall for 100 people, a dining-hall serving Indian dishes, a library, a billiard room with two full-size tables and one ping pong table.” Containing members from across India and its diaspora, it radicalized students who later became key leaders in the British Guiana East Indian Association, the Non-European Unity Movement in South Africa, and the Indian National Congress itself. Edinburgh alum Kesaveloo Goonam Naidoo recounts that the EIA: “had the unique privilege of listening to the Nobel Laureate, Sir CV Rama. His speech went over my head, but heck, it felt good just being there. Another illustrious visitor was the Right Honourable Srinivasa Sastri, who […] was very unpopular among the Indian students [for his pro-British oratory] and became even more so when he came to Edinburgh to receive the freedom of the city at a time when thousands of Indian freedom fighters languished in British jails.” As the Home Rule movement grew in India, the EIA “became active in this field” and was monitored by Scotland Yard for revolutionary discussions.

Emblem of the Edinburgh Indian Association in January 1920.
Emblem of the Edinburgh Indian Association in January 1920.
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Oct 082020
 

7 Grange Road, Edinburgh EH9 1UH

7 Grange Road
7 Grange Road

South African Kesaveloo Goonam Naidoo lived with the Dewar family at 7 Grange Road in the early 1930s. In her autobiography, Goonam fondly remembered “the cold wintry evenings spent cuddled up with Aunt Mary near the glowing fire, listening to her tales of Scotland.” When Goonam graduated from Edinburgh’s Medical School, she became the first Indian female doctor in South Africa. Reflecting on her time at the University, Goonam remembered Edinburgh’s Indian students as “intensely patriotic, highly critical of the British, and passionately supportive of Gandhi.” When she returned to South Africa in 1936, Goonam galvanized women’s involvement in Indian nationalist activities. She was the first woman to attain the vice-presidency of the Natal Indian Congress, and became a leading political force in the Passive Resistance Campaign, launched in 1946 by fellow Edinburgh alum Dr. Monty Naicker against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Representation Bill. This Bill, enacted by the South African Parliament, “declared war on (South African) Indians” by segregating them into ghettos, and thereby earning the nickname “the Ghetto Act.” When Goonam passed away at 92, Nelson Mandela offered his condolences, saying that South Africa had lost a great freedom fighter and an outstanding champion of democracy.

Kesaveloo Goonam graduated from Edinburgh in 1936.
Kesaveloo Goonam graduated from Edinburgh in 1936.
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