Saturday, March 2, 2024

India pays tribute to ‘icon of peace’


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Five-day state mourning declared

New Delhi: India on Friday paid rich tributes to anti-apartheid hero and former South African president Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday after a prolonged illness.Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day after paying homage to the Nobel laureate, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing him as a “giant among men” and “a true Gandhian”.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari also condoled the death of the iconic fighter for justice whose 27 years in prison turned the anti-apartheid fight into a global campaign.
India announced a five-day national mourning. The Congress leadership too condoled the death.
The government said a “very high level delegation from India” would attend the funeral, likely Dec 14.
Condoling the demise of the great leader who devoted his life to fight against apartheid, Manmohan Singh said his passing away is as much a loss to India and the world as it is to South Africa.  “I am deeply saddened at the passing away of President Nelson Mandela,” he said in his condolence message.
Quoting an unknown poet, Singh said, “Here and there, and now and then, God makes a giant among men. President Mandela was one such giant amongst men.”
The Prime Minister noted that Mandela not only represented the conscience of the world, he also remained a beacon of hope for those struggling against oppression and injustice long after he had led his own people to victory over such ills.
“Nelson Mandela endured great personal hardship so that others could be provided with dignity, equality and opportunity. He fought discrimination and inhuman exclusion, but rose above bitter divisions to heal and reconcile a fractured nation. His life and work made him a citizen of the world,” he said.
“India, in particular, had great affection and regard for him. His mission was a great inspiration and moral bulwark for our principled struggle against apartheid. It also mirrored our own hope for a better world and we were greatly honoured when he accepted the highest Indian civilian award of Bharat Ratna,” the Prime Minister said.
“But we know that his life and ideals will inspire generations to come. May God bless his soul,” Singh said.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “His death is a loss for South Africa and India.” Mandela, who died in Johannesburg Friday after a prolonged illness, was recipient of Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
In the Lok Sabha, members across the spectrum remembered the South African leader as an inspiring figure.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it was “as though we have lost a beloved father”. “He redefined the meaning of courage and sacrifice,” she said, adding that his courage was “superhuman”.
Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj said Mandela struggled against apartheid and served long years in jail and “still he did not have a frown on his face”.
Speaker Meira Kumar recalled her visit to the prison cell where Mandela was confined for 27 years.
“The visit was like a pilgrimage,” she said.
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said his lifelong struggle and sacrifice will be the source of inspiration for generations.”His passing away is a huge loss to humanity,” said Banerjee.
In Dharamsala, Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay said Mandela’s struggle for justice gave all people hope that justice does prevail in the end.
In Mumbai, the Indian film fraternity saluted Mandela for being “a man of will, belief and perseverance” and “torch bearer of peace and harmony”. (Agencies)

Gandhian Mandela had strong Indian connections

Johannesburg: Nelson Mandela, who was often dubbed as the ‘Gandhi of South Africa’, had strong Indian connections and striking similarities with India’s ‘Father of Nation’.
The anti-apartheid icon shared a special bond for India and this was there for the world to see when he chose the land of Gandhi, whom he called his ‘political guru” and a “role model”, as his first destination abroad in 1990 after spending 27 years behind bars.
In fact when he was released from prison in 1990, India conferred him with the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honour. This even before he got the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. Mandela was the first non-Indian recipient of Bharat Ratna.
An avowed Gandhian, Madiba, as Mandela was affectionately known around the world, always praised Gandhi for his principles of ‘Satya and Ahimsa’ and followed his philosophy.
“The Mahatma is an integral part of our history because it is here that he first experimented with truth; here that he demonstrated his characteristic firmness in pursuit of justice; here that he developed Satyagraha as a philosophy and a method of struggle,” Mandela said at an unveiling of Gandhi Memorial in South Africa in 1993. “Gandhi is most revered for his commitment to non-violence and the Congress Movement was strongly influenced by this Gandhian philosophy, it was a philosophy that achieved the mobilisation of millions of South Africans during the 1952 defiance campaign, which established the ANC as a mass-based organisation,” Mandela had said in his address. After his release in prison, where he spent years for his anti-apartheid efforts, Mandela often visited India and invited Indian dignitaries to South Africa. He will be remembered as much as an Indian leader and an inspirational figure in India. As a strong follower of Gandhi’s teachings, he was awarded the International Gandhi Peace Price in 2001 for his peacemaking efforts by the Indian government.
Whenever Mandela visited India he considered it a pilgrimage to the land of his political guru. He said that India had great leaders and great people, a place that he will always admire.
In one of his India trips, Mandela visited a rural settlement near Ahmedabad in 1995 where Gandhi developed many of his ideas on self-help and non-violence after returning from 20 years living in South Africa.
“I could never reach the standard of morality, simplicity and love for the poor set by the Mahatma,” Mandela said.
“While Gandhi was a human without weaknesses, I am a man of many weaknesses.” A man who led his people to freedom in much the way Gandhi did, wrote in his early diaries from Robin Island about his inspiration for resistance that came from the Indian community that Gandhi had led in South Africa, a country often called the cradle of Satyagraha.
“The Indians influenced our struggle here and especially a man like Mahatma Gandhi. So we respect them, honour them,” Mandela had said. Through much of that protest movement, India supported Mandela and the African National Congress(ANC). In 1946, the then Prime Minister-in-waiting Jawaharlal Nehru announced that India would boycott South Africa until it abolished apartheid. It was a promise India kept, backing the ANC’s demand at the UN and at all international forums. As South Africa’s first black President from 1994 to 1999, Mandela drove close relations with India and the two countries forged bonds over groupings like IBSA and BRICS as a result of that closeness described by Mandela himself some years ago. His work on apartheid closely parallels the freedom movement of Gandhi. Mandela admitted being inspired by Gandhi as he called Gandhi a ‘role model’ in his life. Mandela said that Gandhi’s ideals had played a significant role in the transformation of South Africa. They could overcome apartheid following Gandhi’s teachings, he said. (PTI)


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