Wellington, January 30,2024
Martyrs’ Day was observed in Wellington today with Indian High Commission officials and Pujya Mahatma Gandhi Commemoration Committee of New Zealand (PMGBCC) members placing flowers at the foot of the bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi, to mark his assassination on January 30, 1948.
Gandhi’s 76th death anniversary was commemorated with a brief ceremony before his iconic statue outside the Wellington train station under a clear sky on a typically gusty morning in New Zealand’s capital city.
High Commissioner of India to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan laid a bouquet at the foot of the statue as Second Secretaries Mukesh Ghiya and Durga Dass, as well as PMGBCC Chairman Naginbhai Neil G. Patel, Co-chair Kantibhai Patel and yoga maestro David Jenkins, looked on.
“The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, are very relevant today because the world is facing a number of challenges and conflicts,” High Commissioner Bhushan noted on the occasion.
“We know that his teaching of non-violence and universal love is one of the only ways to resolve conflicts, and to live and work with each other in this world,” she added.
High Commissioner Bhushan spotlighted Gandhi’s core philosophy that “the means is as important as the end.”
“If our end is to achieve something, we should follow the proper means to achieve that end,” she observed. That meant shunning violence and adopting the “right path.”
High Commissioner Bhushan urged everyone to “reaffirm our pledge to follow his [Gandhi’s) teachings in our daily lives and in all our activities.”
This was followed by the collective chanting of Gandhi’s favourite hymn, “Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram.”
PMGBCC Chairman Naginbhai Patel then addressed the gathering.
He echoed High Commissioner Bhushan in hailing Gandhi as an apostle of non-violence and truth. Acknowledging the Wellington City Council’s role in allocating space for Gandhi’s statue, Patel urged the council to also “build a shelter for 200 people to sit [at the location of the Gandhi statue] so that we can celebrate October 2 [Gandhi Jayanti] during bad weather in Wellington.”
Patel had another request on behalf of the Indian community.
“We would also like Bunny St in Wellington to be renamed Mahatma Gandhi Marg.”
Patel confirmed an application to this effect was pending before the council. But Wellington Station’s heritage status could present a snag for the construction of the shelter, he noted.
Guests were treated to ginger ale and coconut water.
The low-key outdoor event drew little public attention. But David Jenkins, of the Yoga in Daily Life yoga centre in Wellington, noted that the simplicity and humility of the event were consistent with Gandhian values.
The bronze statue of Gandhi was installed outside the train station in Wellington City in 2007.
The Government of India declared January 30 as Martyrs’ Day in the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington