Relevance of Gandhi in today’s world

By Neena Badhwar

Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary was celebrated by the Indian Consulate General of India, Sydney and Soka Gakkai International at SGI Cultural Centre at Sydney Olympic Park on August 23. The function was attended by about hundred members of the Indian community as well as Soka Gakkai members along with Chief Guest Stuart Rees, Emeritus Professor AM, an Australian academic, human rights activist, author and Founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

Mr. Manish Gupta, Consul General of India, Sydney paid his tribute to the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, also thanked Gambhir Watts for the valuable work being done on Gandhi and Peace by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan in Sydney, when he addressed the present, “Gandhian values connect us not just to the past but India got its independence from the colonial rule through a very unique instrument. We obtained our independence through non-violence and ”˜Satyagrah’- which means ”˜active resistance’, yet completely non-violent, in our struggle for freedom. Gandhi captured the imagination of entire India at the grass root level because he realized the problems of the Indian society. He knew it was not just the political freedom India needed but it was more about the social emancipation and upliftment of the masses. Gandhi’s thought resonated with other people in the other parts of the the world as well who were inspired by him such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, for example. Gandhi saw the problems at the Indian village level as the world was moving towards industrialization when he said to every home to use Charkha ”“ the spinning wheel.

“Gandhi spent a sizeable part of his life in South Africa, as long as twenty one years, he believed in living a very simple life,” said Mr. Gupta, “All my South African friends used to say ”“ ”˜You gave us Gandhi but we gave you back the Mahatma’.”

Stuart Rees in his address talked about the importance of Non-violence, of Gandhian philosophy and praised the dress, the poetry, the architecture and music, the multidimensional life expression of India and Indians. He went on to talk about violence that plagues the world today and that non-violence can act as aspirin, as a way of cure, “The appalling violence to women, an epidemic in this country is more endemic than flu even, rape of women in India  is taken for granted taken as a sort of rights of passage for men growing up allegedly, and women in the Middle East where the notion of women as second class citizens is taken for granted.”

“I am not taking it as a moral stand. This violence must be reversed. Our indigenous people knew the relation of the people, their identity and their respect for the land. One of the astronaut looking back on the earth from space said ”“ all we’ve got is this fragile life support system. Our fascination with the violence is a way to solve problem ”“ that is gradually trying to extinguish this life support system.”

He mentioned the recent conference in the Pacific Islands, the PM of Tuvalu and other leaders, in which the brave, large rich courageous Australia was asked to come clean about the coal industry because it emits gases that ensures the destruction of the planet, our brave PM said he was only accountable for the people of Australia, and also the coal industry. The PM of Tuvalu, in his Gandhian inspired values, almost in tears, said to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ”˜I want to save my people whereas you want to save your economy’.”

Rees went on to talk about the nuclear weapons and the nations that adamantly refuse to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. He mentioned the SGI President Daisaku Ikeda who has pleaded for years and years, the peace message he has given, for nuclear disarmament for the notion that ”˜Mine is bigger than yours ”“ that I can bomb you out of existence’ ”“ displays the massive illiteracy about non-violence, particularly men who use violence to solve the problems.”

He talked about the English American poetess Denise Lavertov who protested about the appalling bombing that went on during the Vietnam war. And the Gadigal people of the Eora nation who we pay respect to here and the aboriginal people around the world, they wanted this terrible power ”“ that is Uranium be left asleep inside the earth.”

Stuart also talked about the extremist violence of the world that is occurring in the world today, “Electing Trump, letting Brexit to happen, something that is based on racism, Gandhi said ”˜I am a Christian, a Jew, A Hindu, I am imperfect, the interdependence of all people.”

He concluded, “At the deathbed would you say how many nonviolent actions you would attribute yourself to or how many people you bombed.”

After the speeches Sharmila Maitra’s Geetanjali School of Performing Arts’ students presented three dance items that portrayed peace and harmony among human beings resonating with Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. A prayer dance by Tanisha Varmani, Ziya Awadia and Pia Goradia was beautifully performed followed by a bhajan ”“ favourite of Mahatma Gandhi ”˜Vaishnav Janato’ sung by Siya Parikh. There was a Tandav dance by sisters Medha and Shuchi Gupta portraying the power of mind and how to overcome the emotion of anger. Last item was the Shiva dance where girls prayed to the Lord to restore what is broken. It was performed by Scarlett Gage and Tanisha Varmani.

Sydney celebrated 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on August 23

People were treated to a cup of tea and snacks afterwards. It was truly an inspiring evening which gave message of the great Mahatma to today’s world full of violence.

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