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IMPERIAL THEATER. INTERIOR. NIGHT.
The theater is packed. The front rows near the stage are held by rich Muslim merchants, the back of the stalls with small traders, peddlers, artisans Muslim, Hindu, Parsee, Sikh. The gallery is bulging with indentured laborers – largely Hindu. The mood is restless, belligerent.
On the stage. Gandhi moves forward and he holds up his hand for silence. Seated on the stage are Khan, Singh, three more leaders of the Indian community. Charlie Andrews and Herman Kallenbach sit at the very end of the line of chairs. Gandhi looks around the audience and we see the packed house from his point of view, ending with two plainclothes European policemen conspicuous in seats at the end of the front row. A uniformed policeman stands near them.
GANDHI (to the house): I want to welcome you all!
A buzz, then applause loud and defiant. When is subsides Gandhi looks down at the plainclothes policemen, fixing his gaze on them.
GANDHI: Every one of you. (Then, still at them) We have no secrets.
And again the audience bursts into applause. The policemen just sit like stone confident, sure, immune to rhetoric.
GANDHI: Let us begin by being clear about General Smuts's new law. All Indians must now be fingerprinted like criminals. Men and women. (A rising, angry response; Gandhi just waits.) No marriage other than a Christian marriage is considered valid. Under this Act our wives and mothers are whores . . . And every man here a bastard.
In the gallery a rhythmic pounding signals the anger and protest and is taken up around the hall. The police stare imperturbably. Khan leans towards Singh, nodding to Gandhi.
KHAN: He's become quite good at this.
Singh smiles at the understatement. Gandhi holds up his hand, silencing the hall.
GANDHI: And a policeman passing an Indian dwelling I will not call them homes may enter and demand the card or any Indian woman whose dwelling it is.
A VOICE: God damn them!
Gandhi just waits.
GANDHI: Understand! He does not have to stand at the door – he may enter. Now a violent response a large, powerful merchant rises in the third row.
MERCHANT: I swear to Allah I will kill the man who offers that insult to my home and my wife! (A guttural cheer; he glares at the police.) And let them hang me!
Another cheer. When it subsides, Tyeb Mohammed rises near the back, where he is seated with a number of other young men.
TYEB MOHAMMED: I say talk means nothing. Kill a few officials before they disgrace one Indian woman then they might think twice about such laws!
The police half rise to look back at him, but there is a smattering of applause and several stand to look back.
TYEB MOHAMMED'S FRIEND: In that cause, I would be willing to die!
And now there is general applause. Gandhi waits, then
GANDHI: I praise such courage. I need such courage because in this cause, I too am prepared to die . . . (A response; he looks at Tyeb Mohammed) But, my friend, there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.
He looks at the audience. This is the more sober Gandhi they have come to know.
GANDHI: I have asked you here tonight because despite all their troops and police, I think there is a way to defeat this law. Whatever they do to us we will attack no one, kill no one . . . But we will not (the climatic point) give our fingerprints not one of us.
He looks down at the police, making the point stick. There is a tentative reaction from the audience, but uncertain.
GANDHI: They will imprison us, they will fine us. They will seize our possessions. But they cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.
A VOICE FROM THE GALLERY: Have you been to prison? They'll beat us and torture us! I say
GANDHI: I am asking you to fight ! (It catches the audience a little, holds them.) To fight against their anger not to provoke it!
He has their attention now.
GANDHI: We will not strike a blow but we will receive them. And through our pain we will make them see their injustice (quickly) and it will hurt, as all fighting hurts! (Utter silence.) . . . But we cannot lose. We cannot. (He looks down at the police.) Because they may torture my body, may break my bones, even kill me . . . (Up to the house) They will then have my dead body not my obedience.
And now he gets the response he has wanted. Firm, mature, determined. Gandhi holds up his hand.
GANDHI: We are Hindu and Muslim children of God, each of us. Let us take a solemn oath in His name that come what may we will not submit to this law.
He looks at the audience. A second, then a merchant stands, signifying his pledge. And then another. Then Tyeb Mohammed and the youths about him. Then all over the theater they begin to stand and on the stage until everyone is standing. It is all done is silence. Gandhi looks at the full theater all standing. He takes a step forward.
GANDHI (a coarse singing): God save our gracious King . . . Long live our (the audience takes it up) . . . noble King. (And their voices fill the auditorium) God save the King!!
A prison door slams: we are close on one face, another slam, another face, and again and again in the rhythm of marching feet . . .