The world marks the Mahatma’s Birthday today as International Day of Non-Violence
Auckland, October 2, 2021
The values and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the peaceful revolution that he organised and led to bring political independence to India were recalled at a meeting held in Wellington marking the 152nd Birthday of the world leader.
Among those who attended the event near the Mahatma Gandhi Statue located outside the Wellington Railway Station were Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand (and Samoa) Muktesh Pardeshi, Wellington Mayor Andy Foster, Samoa’s High Commissioner to New Zealand and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Leasi Papali’i T Scanlan, former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, New Zealand Indian Central Association President and General Secretary respectively Paul Patel and Manisha Morar and Poojya Mahatma Gandhi Birthday Celebration Committee of New Zealand Chairman Naginbhai Neil G Patel.
Symbol of tolerance and equality
Mr Pardeshi said that Mahatma Gandhi symbolised tolerance, equality and sanctity of non-violence and led a life of simplicity.
“It is an irony that he was not bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize during his lifetime. The United Nations, finally, in 2007, declared that October 2 will be commemorated as the International Day of Non-Violence in recognition of the enduring relevance of Gandhian values,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize between 1937 and 1948 but the Nobel Committee continuously ignored the nomination. Years later, the Committee issued a public statement of regret.
Inclusion and Peace
Mr Robertson praised Gandhi’s standing of Inclusion and Peace.
“That is what we will take forward as we approach the time he has been gone longer than he was with us. The legacy of his work will always be with us,” he said.
Mr Foster said that Non-Violence is the greatest asset of humankind.
“There was a time when leadership meant muscles. Today, it means getting along with others. Peace is in the service of others,” he said.
Sir Anand said that Mahatma Gandhi shaped many important things that were relevant to the entire world.
Naginbhai Patel said that ‘Ahinsa Parmo Dharmo’ or ‘Non-Violence is the Greatest Religion’ were the theme of the celebrations.
Later Bhajans that were Gandhi’s favourites (‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram’ and ‘Vaishnava Janato’)
Auckland is under Alert Level 3 and hence gatherings are not permitted. A small event was held at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland, where the statue of the Mahatma (donated by the Global Indian International School when this Reporter was the Chairman in 2007-2008) was garlanded.
The Statue Story
Sir Anand Satyanand, the then Governor-General, unveiled the Statue on October 2, 2007 at the said venue. Indian Newslink reported the event in its October 15, 2007 issue. The report, titled, ‘Wellingtonians receive the gift of mankind’ (Mahatma Gandhi adorns the Capital) is reproduced hereunder:
Sculpted by India’s renowned sculptor Gautam Pai, the bronze statue can be seen on the front lawn of the Wellington City railway station on Bunny Street.
Mr Satyanand said that Rotorua based surgeon Dr Munir Kadri, who was in India at the time of Independence told Gandhi that it was celebration time.
“What is there to celebrate? I shall weep tears of blood that day (August 15, 1947),” he said.
Mr Satyanand said despite the bloodshed that followed the partition, Gandhi continued to work for peace between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs until his death.
“But when the light had gone out and his counsel could no longer be sought, the spirit of his teachings and his legacy have lived on,” he said.
He said a number of leaders including Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the US, Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were inspired by Gandhi.
“Gandhi promoted the search for truth (Satya) and the use of non-violence, non-resistance and non-co-operation to achieve self-determination and an end to injustice. He also promoted simplicity in life, spiritual and physical purity, and a respect and tolerance for other religions,” he said.
Gift to Wellington
Mr Satyanand said the statue was a gift to Wellington City by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of the Indian government.
“The gift symbolises the lasting friendship between India and New Zealand and pays homage to a modern-day apostle of peace. That it will join a number of others throughout the world is a testament to the truth of Gandhi’s teachings and the inspiration he continues to give to oppressed people everywhere. His teachings of peace have a particular resonance in this country as they were similar to those followed by Te Whiti o Rongomai at Parihaka in the 1870s. The statue symbolises the relevance and validity of the message of Gandhi to the present and future generations. This is also an expression of the solidarity of the people of the two countries.
It is not uncommon for a majority of senior Indians to feel that the younger generation, especially those born, raised and educated outside India do not know enough about Mahatma Gandhi.
It is not uncommon for them to urge Indian associations, teachers and others to make our young men and women understand how a successful barrister-at-law gave up his profession to lead a country towards political freedom through non-violence.
It is not uncommon for some of our youngsters to evince interest in the Leader, who was the first-runner up in Time magazine’s search for the ‘Man of the Century’ in late 1999 and the man who inspired Martin Luther King in the US to lead a peaceful equal rights movement and Nelson Mandela to keep his faith and sanity as he languished in a South African prison for 27 long years.
And it is not uncommon for many of the elders to urge the modern generation, which can recite the chronology of Bollywood stars backwards, to remember October 2 is Gandhi Jayanti, commemorating his birthday.
He is known as the ‘Mahatma,’ ‘Bapuji’ and by many other respectful references. He taught the world non-violence and how it could be used to achieve goals.
He inspired many, never held a political or gubernatorial office and yet has a national holiday marking his birthday (Gandhi Jayanti, October 2) and a single minute silence around 11 am on January 30, observing the time of his death.
In naming Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as a Runner-Up to the title, Person of the Century, ‘Time’ said: “Gandhi is that rare great man held in universal esteem, a figure lifted from history to moral icon. The fundamental message of his transcendent personality persists. He stamped his ideas on history, igniting three of the century’s great revolutions-against colonialism, racism and violence.”
It is this icon-this ‘Mahatma,’ this Great Soul-that ignited the passion of men-the likes of Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and many others who believe that the teachings of Gandhi are far more relevant in today’s troubled world than they were then.
Father of the Nation?
He is widely revered as ‘Father of the Nation,’ although the Government of India, in response to an RTI application in 2012, said that the Constitution of India did not permit any titles except ones acquired through education or military service.
Indian Newslink had the pleasure of hosting Gopal Krishna Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, the first and last Governor-General of Independent India) at the Fifth Annual Indian Newslink Business Awards held on November 19, 2012 at SkyCity Convention Center, Auckland.
India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi with (from left) Leasi Papali’i T Scanlan, Grant Robertson, Sir Anand Satyanand, Andy Foster, Naginbhai Patel and Kantilal Patel near the Mahatma Gandhi Statue at the Wellington Railway Station (Photo Supplied)
Clockwise from top: The Mahatma Gandhi Statue, Sir Anand Satyanand, Muktesh Pardeshi and Naginbhai Patel speaking at the Gandhi Jayanti Celebrations in Wellington on October 2, 2021 (Photo Supplied)
Grant Robertson, Muktesh Pardeshi, Sir Anand Satyanand and other guests at the Gandhi Jayanti Celebrations in Wellington on October 2, 2021 (Photo Supplied)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi near the Gandhi Memorial in Rajghat, New Delhi on October 2, 2021 (Photo by Pallav Paliwal)
Mahatma Gandhi: Values and Teachings relevant today