On 12 August 1922, the readers of The Victoria Daily Times in Canada awoke to a stolid Indian face on the paper’s front page. A sharply dressed man with a receding crop of white hair, a tie knotted around the neck and upper body clad in a coat stared at them with earnest and disarming eyes. Valangaiman Sankaranarayana Srinivasa Sastri, the man in the picture, was ‘one of the most interesting and important personages to reach these shores for some time past’. This ‘distinguished visitor’ had arrived in Canada to plead for the rights of racial equality for Indians. The Canadian Prime Minister had sent his Deputy Foreign Minister, Joseph Pope, who had travelled over four days from Ottawa to receive Sastri in Victoria. Sastri’s face radiated the ‘magnetism of his eyes’ and the ‘supreme sincerity’ of his intentions, the anonymous correspondent writing for the Daily Times gushed.1
‘Sastri is a Brahmin’, who were ‘the intellectual leaders of India’, the paper emphasized. His caste status was ‘the complete answer’ to those who questioned his credentials. Added to this, ‘his eloquent singleness of mind’ made him a ‘rare jewel’ in a setting ‘corroded and discoloured by the baser elements’. Rather than opposing the ‘colourless’ British, Sastri’s preferred term for the whites, his whole life had been dedicated to the upliftment of the ‘coloured of India, the poor lethargic untouchable caste’. This made him different from the ‘fanatical types’ like Gandhi and his associates, whose motivations were ostensibly driven by the hatred of the empire and the white man. Moderate in both temperament and political views, Sastri was ‘an exact type to whom the British government thinks India must look for its ultimate liberty’.
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