Why and how is Mahatma Gandhi's legacy of non-violence and ahimsa still relevant in the 21st-century world?
This year 2nd October, Wednesday marked the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. An iconic leader of the 20th century, he was perhaps most celebrated across the world for his fight against slavery, apartheid and injustice. This year leaders from across the world, Japan to America, emphasised that Gandhi's principles of non-violence, ahimsa and satyagraha were the only way forward to resolving cross-border conflicts as opposed to violent measures.
“We are here today to remind ourselves and remind the world about the message of [Gandhi] this great man, who was small in stature but immense in his impact.
“If your message is right then it will be heard by everyone. You don't need to throw stones or resort to violence to fight for your cause,” said High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam at Tavistock Square.
The message was particularly directed to the protestors who had participated in recent attacks outside the Indian High Commission in London on two different occasions. Whilst the Mayor of London has condemned the attacks on Outside India House on 15th August in the strongest terms, tensions have exacerbated between diaspora groups after the Government of India abrogated Article 370 in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The High Commission of India cancelled talks with Labour Friends of India following the party's controversial resolution at its Brighton Conference. Lauding the High Commission for their prompt action, CB Patel, Chairman of India League said,
“Gandhi's struggle for independence was based on peaceful and non-violent protests including non cooperation and boycott schemes. I congratulate Her Excellency, Mrs. Ghanashyam on taking such a decisive measure and cancelling the dinner with Labour Friends of India.
“We have been running a campaign ourselves where we are voicing the concerns of the Indian community. I now urge all others to stand up to the injustice of Jeremy Corbyn towards both the Indian community, as well as the Labour Party,” he said.
The event was organised by the Indian High Commission alongside India League and was attended by Camden councillor Maryam Eslamdoust among others. The short ceremony was followed by bhajjans performed by individuals of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Parliament Square and Nehru Centre
Other floral tributes included an early morning ceremony hosted by Lord Meghnad Desai and Lady Kishwar Desai at the Parliament Square. The sculpture of Gandhi which now stands close to anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was first instated in 2015 by the Scottish sculptor Philip Jackson."Gandhi showed that you could win your argument and impose your will by peaceful means and in this troubled world that is an example to be followed," said Phillip Jackson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's brother and former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson MP.
Later, a new exhibition titled ‘Relive the Ideals of the Mahatma through Art’ at the Nehru Centre was also unveiled by the Indian High Commissioner.
Wales Millenium Centre and
Hindu Council of Wales also hosted celebrations at the Wales Millennium Centre which was followed by a procession to Gandhi's statue to Cardiff Bay.
“We need to build our modern society on mutual respect, religious tolerance and principles of non-violence following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi,” said Dr. Sakti Guha, Chair of Hindu Council of Wales. In the meantime, Shailesh Vara MP for North West Cambridgeshire also celebrated and praised Gandhi's legacy in Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence, religious tolerance and greater rights for women were as relevant today as they were in his lifetime,” he said.
The session was being taken by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who agreed with Mr Vara and emphasised that the UK today had the most diverse Cabinet ever.
A legacy in the New York Times
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in his column in the New York Times invited scholars, academics and professionals from all quarters to spread the Gandhian idea of life.
“In Gandhi, we have the best teacher to guide us. From uniting those who believe in humanity to furthering sustainable development and ensuring economic self-reliance, Gandhi offers solutions to every problem,” he wrote.