Significance of Gandhi Jayanti

By RV Warjri

About other religions, Gandhiji had said, “I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are.” Gandhiji’s favourite passage from the Bible was the Sermon on the Mount which he corresponded extensively with renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy had also written the master piece War and Peace .

October 2 which is the 153rd Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi falls on a Sunday this year. Customarily, celebrations would take place in India and the world over . The most visible form being the garlanding of his bust or statue . Within India , the scale of celebration depends largely on the Central and respective State Governments and civil societies. Abroad, it lies on the initiative taken by the respective Indian diplomatic missions in those countries .
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had launched the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ by reliving the ‘Dandi March’ of Gandhiji from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad on 12th March, 2021. Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav commemorates 75 years of India’s Independence. Among the activities include that of “bringing alive stories of unsung heroes whose sacrifices have made freedom a reality for us.” These are stories of unsung heroes. Indeed, it’s a great idea and long overdue .
The dispute however is about the list of unsung heroes. Instead of the Constitution of India being the basis and guide , ideology has taken precedence. It includes theocratic figures who were also implicated in the assassination of Gandhiji, including persons who wrote 13 mercy petitions to the British and signed as ‘Most Obedient Servant.’ This shows that the reliving of the Dandi March was a farce and a tokenism . Besides , embracing Gandhiji officially is one thing while allowing unofficially the leading members of the ruling party to deride Gandhiji is another. Some among them have even called for installing a statue of Gandhiji’s assassin Nathuram Godse . Further, in the name of correcting the wrongs of the past all kinds of anti- Gandhian acts and statements are being spouted out. From functionaries in authority to the larger supposedly educated majoritarian population. Earlier, Gandhiji’s favourite Christian hymn ‘Abide with Me’ was deleted at the Beating of the Retreat celebration of the Republic Day 2022.
Internationally, there are no quirks or qualms to preach to the world about Vasudaivam Kuttumbakkam ( the world is one family) and telling other world leaders that the present is not an “era of war.” More bizarre is the pontification at the UN that India acts as a polarizing factor internationally when there is so much polarization internally. The hate crimes ,hate speeches calls for genocide , governmental bulldozer aggression , etc within India . Then the Shakespearian comedy of errors drama was staged . When bigoted factotum spoke persons of the ruling party were penalized for sacrilegious utterance about the Prophet. Resulting in acts of appeasement to Islamic countries who had protested . Otherwise the fate of 8 million Indians working in the Gulf and their billions of dollars remittance to their mother land was at stake. Now, the communal virus is spreading to the diaspora in the UK, US , Canada etc . Adding fuel to the other right wing religious fanaticism because fascism feeds on each other . Radicalization then became a popular culture .
About other religions, Gandhiji had said, “I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are.” Gandhiji’s favourite passage from the Bible was the Sermon on the Mount which he corresponded extensively with renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy had also written the master piece War and Peace .
Nonetheless , the biggest non-material export or soft power from India to the world is Mahatma Gandhi. The proliferation of Godmen from India notwithstanding none of them are anywhere near Gandhiji. The presence of statues or busts of Mahatma Gandhi stand tall in cities and countries around the world .
Mahatma Gandhi fills the pages of literature that cuts across continents and is written in several languages. From stories for school children , to folklore, to textbooks in Colleges and Universities, Gandhiji’s most resonating line is “my life is my message.” It packs all that Gandhiji stood for which is the apostle of peace and non- violence in him. The non-violent Satyagraha in achieving the Independence of India prompted even Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who disagreed with Gandhiji’s method to name one of his brigades as Gandhi brigade . Another example is the charkha spinning the khadi yarn as an economic strategy to beat the textile import from Britain. The minimalist iconic dhoti and shawl attire to identify with the poor and the downtrodden
Gandhiji influenced other Civil Right leaders, the most prominent among them was Martin Luther King Jr . who was assassinated fighting for the Civil Rights of the African American community in United States. Among its by-products was that 40 years later an African American was installed as President in the White House. Albert Einstein was voted as the Man of the century in 2000 tying in with Gandhiji. Ironically , it was Einstein who had stated when Gandhiji was assassinated, “that generations to come will scarce believe that such a man ever walked on this earth” .
Among my assignments abroad was as Ambassador of India to Colombia and accredited to other countries . Since the early 1960s Colombia has been afflicted with left wing insurgency groups. In the 1970s drug trafficking became widely rampant that by the 1980s it gave birth to the term narco terrorism. It means that drug traffickers were influencing Government policies and life in society through violence, intimidation and kidnapping. The growth of drug cartels foremost among whom was the Medellin cartel was controlled by the most notorious and ruthless drug king Pablo Escobar, at the time rated as the 6th richest man in the world. His action- packed biopic is serialized in the Netflix film Narcos . Escobar’s overlord influence enabled him to even get elected as a member of the Congress(Parliament) with the ambition to become the President . It was the might of the US, since its population had suffered the most from the drug trade that forced it to finally get Escobar eliminated . Progressive changes in Colombia also led to the signing of a UN brokered peace treaty in 2017 between the leading insurgent group FARC and the Government. The then President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The current President Gustavo Petro is an ex militant .
Back to Gandhiji, my last historic act as Ambassador to Colombia was that together with the Mayor of Medellin we installed the bust of Gandhiji. It happened because of the relentless work of the Gandhi Foundation in Medellin started by a Gujarati Indian migrant chemical engineer Harivadan Shah. Other events had also taken place days before the installation of the bust. I was taken on a bus tour and in the bus victims of the years of insurgencies , narco- terrorism , drug violence etc., were sitting to tell me their sordid stories. Each of them had lost one or more members of their families that included husbands , wives , sons , daughters , siblings , etc. The Mayor himself was a victim . Finally, their poignant message to me was the message of Gandhiji . “Peace is not the Way; Peace is the ONLY Way.” Today, Medellin is a metaphor for the most transformed city in the world. It received the Wall Street Journal award for being the, “most innovative city” beating 200 other cities globally. The Bajaj group of industries leads the presence of Indian companies in Medellin. Those interested in finding out more about Medellin and Google for more details. Shillong and other cities in India can learn a lot from it.
(The writer is a retired diplomat).

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