Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ghandi's South African Experience Determines What India Stands For

As reported by the Malaysian National News Service at

DURBAN, Sept 13 (Bernama) -- Mahatma Gandhi's experiences in South Africa and his philosophy of Satyagraha were seminal in shaping not only India's freedom movement but also in determining what the country stands for today, said the new Indian Consul General in Durban (South Africa) as saying.

"The essence of Gandhiji's philosophy of co-existence, tolerance, peace and equality are all enshrined in independent India's political ethos and its emergence as a modern secular democracy", Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who took over from Ajay Swarup a week ago, said while addressing a two-day centennial conference on the Satyagraha movement here.

(MW note: Satyagraha is the philosophy of nonviolent resistance most famously employed by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi both in forcing an end to the British Raj in India and against apartheid in South Africa. "Satya" is Sanskrit for Truth, and Agraha is used to describe an effort, endeavor. The term itself may be construed to mean any effort to discover, discern, obtain or apply Truth.)

According to the news agency, the conference has been organised by Gandhi Development Trust of South Africa, headed by Gandhi's grand daughter Ela Gandhi.

"It could not have been any other way given the heterogeneous nature of Indian society. No other political or social credo could have kept a billion people, representing a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious and economically diverse entity, together.

"It could not have been coercion or dictatorial leadership, although this could easily have happened as it did with many other newly independent countries."

"Only the message of peaceful co-existence and mutual self-respect as embodied in the freedom movement has held together a billion people speaking 18 official languages and hundreds of different dialects, living in 25 States or provinces and believing in every religion possible from Hinduism to Islam, Jainism to Buddhism, Zorastrianism to Judaism and Sikhism to Christianity,"Shringla said.

He also said that (Indian) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be visiting South Africa for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha movement in the country at the end of the month.

"The visit will mark his first to the African continent in his current capacity, and I am personally proud of the fact that on his first visit to South Africa, the Prime Minister will make Durban his first port of call."

He said the philosophy and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago, adding one can only regret that it is not being emulated to advantage in many conflict situations worldwide.