International Day of Non-Violence celebrates Gandhi’s Birth, Oct 2

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As we celebrate around the globe this day, International Day of Non-Violence, we also Celebrate the Life of its namesake. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, a coastal town on the Kathiawar Peninsula and then part of the small princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the British Indian Empire. His father, Karamchand Gandhi (1822–1885), served as the diwan (chief minister) of Porbander state. His mother, Putlibai, who was from a Pranami Vaishnava family, was Karamchand’s fourth wife, the first three wives having apparently died in childbirth.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (pronounced [ˈmoːɦənd̪aːs ˈkərəmtʃənd̪ ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi]; 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit: “high-souled,” “venerable”)—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa, — is now used worldwide.

He is also called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for “father,” “papa.”) in India.

Born and raised in a Hindu, merchant caste, family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organizing peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practise non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.

independence-day-india (1)Gandhi’s vision of a free India based on religious pluralism, however, was challenged in the early 1940s by a new Muslim nationalism which was demanding a separate Muslim homeland carved out of India. Eventually, in August 1947, Britain granted independence, but the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a smaller Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan.

As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal. Eschewing the official celebration of independence in Delhi, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to provide solace. In the months following, he undertook several fasts unto death to promote religious harmony. The last of these, undertaken on 12 January 1948 at age 78, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan. Some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating.

Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest at point-blank range.

Gandhi is commonly, though not officially, considered the Father of the Nation in India. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Although Gandhi was not the originator of the principle of non-violence, he was the first to apply it in the political field on a large scale. The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Christian contexts.

Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Some of his other remarks were widely quoted, such as “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

“There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.”

Gandhi realized later that this level of nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which he believed everyone did not possess.

He therefore advised that everyone need not keep to nonviolence, especially if it were used as a cover for cowardice, saying, “where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”

Gandhi thus came under some political fire for his criticism of those who attempted to achieve independence through more violent means. His refusal to protest against the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Udham Singh and Rajguru were sources of condemnation among some parties.

Of this criticism, Gandhi stated, “There was a time when people listened to me because I showed them how to give fight to the British without arms when they had no arms […] but today I am told that my non-violence can be of no avail against the [Hindu–Moslem riots] and, therefore, people should arm themselves for self-defense.”

The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: “It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number.”

Gandhi’s early self-identification with truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.

KasturbaIn May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji (her first name was usually shortened to “Kasturba“, and affectionately to “Ba”) in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region. In the process, he lost a year at school. Recalling the day of their marriage, he once said, “As we didn’t know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives.” However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents’ house, and away from her husband.

In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple’s first child was born, but survived only a few days. Gandhi’s father, Karamchand Gandhi, had also died earlier that year. The religious background was eclectic. Gandhi’s father was Hindu Modh Baniya and his mother was from Pranami Vaishnava family. Religious figures were frequent visitors to the home.

Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900. At his middle school in Porbandar and high school in Rajkot, Gandhi remained a mediocre student. He shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing field. One of the terminal reports rated him as “good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting.”

He passed the matriculation exam at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, with some difficulty. Gandhi’s family wanted him to be a barrister, as it would increase the prospects of succeeding to his father’s post.

Tolstoy(1828-1910), Russian author, essayist and philosopher wrote the epic novel War and Peace (1865-69), Author of WAR and PEACE

Mohandas K. Gandhi and other residents of Tolstoy Farm, South Africa, 1910

leotolstoyalettertoahinduIn 1908 Leo Tolstoy wrote A Letter to a Hindu, which said that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the Indian people overthrow colonial rule. In 1909, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice and permission to republish A Letter to a Hindu in Gujarati. Tolstoy responded and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy’s death in 1910. The letters concern practical and theological applications of non-violence.

Gandhi saw himself a disciple of Tolstoy, for they agreed regarding opposition to state authority and colonialism; both hated violence and preached non-resistance. However, they differed sharply on political strategy. Gandhi called for political involvement; he was a nationalist and was prepared to use nonviolent force. He was also willing to compromise. It was at Tolstoy Farm where Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach systematically trained their disciples in the philosophy of nonviolence.

Gandhi was a prolific writer. One of Gandhi’s earliest publications, Hind Swaraj, published in Gujarati in 1909, is recognized[by whom?] as the intellectual blueprint of India’s freedom movement. The book was translated into English the next year, with a copyright legend that read “No Rights Reserved“.

For decades he edited several newspapers including Harijan in Gujarati, in Hindi and in the English language; Indian Opinion while in South Africa and, Young India, in English, and Navajivan, a Gujarati monthly, on his return to India. Later, Navajivan was also published in Hindi. In addition, he wrote letters almost every day to individuals and newspapers.

gandhiji LETTERS AUTOBIOGandhi also wrote several books including his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Gujarātī “સત્યના પ્રયોગો અથવા આત્મકથા”), of which he bought the entire first edition to make sure it was reprinted.

His other autobiographies included: Satyagraha in South Africa about his struggle there, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a political pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John Ruskin’s Unto This Last. This last essay can be considered his programme on economics. He also wrote extensively on vegetarianism, diet and health, religion, social reforms, etc. Gandhi usually wrote in Gujarati, though he also revised the Hindi and English translations of his books.

Gandhi’s complete works were published by the Indian government under the name The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1960s. The writings comprise about 50,000 pages published in about a hundred volumes. In 2000, a revised edition of the complete works sparked a controversy, as it constituted large number of errors and omissions. The Indian government later withdrew the revised edition.

MKGandhi_assassination_spotMohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated in garden of the former Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) at 5:17 PM on 30 January 1948.

Accompanied by his grandnieces, Gandhi was on his way to address a prayer meeting, when his assassin, Nathuram Godse, fired three bullets from a Beretta 9 mm pistol into his chest at point-blank range. Godse was a Hindu nationalist with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi guilty of favouring Pakistan and strongly opposed the doctrine of nonviolence. Godse and his co-conspirator were tried and executed in 1949.

Gandhi’s memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph “Hē Ram”, (Devanagari: हे ! राम or, He Rām), which may be translated as “Oh God“. These are widely believed to be Gandhi’s last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation through radio:

“Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”—Jawaharlal Nehru’s address to Gandhi.

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Funeral procession of Gandhi at New Delhi on 6 February 1948

Gandhi’s death was mourned nationwide. Over two million people joined the five-mile long funeral procession that took over five hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla house, where he was assassinated. Gandhi’s body was transported on a weapons carrier, whose chassis was dismantled overnight to allow a high-floor to be installed so that people could catch a glimpse of his body. The engine of the vehicle was not used, instead four drag-ropes manned by 50 people each pulled the vehicle.

All Indian-owned establishments in London remained closed in mourning as thousands of people from all faiths and denominations and Indians from all over Britain converged at India House in London.

Funeral_Procession_of_Mahatma_GandhiWhile India mourned and communal (inter-religious) violence escalated, there were calls for retaliation, and even an invasion of Pakistan by the Indian army. Nehru and Patel, the two strongest figures in the government and in Congress, had been pulling in opposite directions; the assassination pushed them together. They agreed the first objective must be to calm the hysteria. They called on Indians to honour Gandhi’s memory and even more his ideals. They used the assassination to consolidate the authority of the new Indian state.

The government made sure everyone knew the guilty party was not a Muslim. Congress tightly controlled the epic public displays of grief over a two-week period—the funeral, mortuary rituals and distribution of the martyr’s ashes—as millions participated and hundreds of millions watched. The goal was to assert the power of the government and legitimise the Congress Party’s control. This move built upon the massive outpouring of Hindu expressions of grief.

The government suppressed the RSS, the Muslim National Guards, and the Khaksars, with some 200,000 arrests. Gandhi’s death and funeral linked the distant state with the Indian people and made more understood the need to suppress religious parties during the transition to independence for the Indian people.

Ashes

By Hindu tradition the ashes were to be spread on a river.

Gandhi’s ashes were poured into urns which were sent across India for memorial services. Most were immersed at the Sangam at Allahabad on 12 February 1948, but some were secretly taken away. In 1997, Tushar Gandhi immersed the contents of one urn, found in a bank vault and reclaimed through the courts, at the Sangam at Allahabad.

Some of Gandhi’s ashes were scattered at the source of the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, and a memorial plaque marks the event. On 30 January 2008, the contents of another urn were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty. Another urn is at the palace of the Aga Khan in Pune (where Gandhi had been imprisoned from 1942 to 1944) and another in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles.

Global holidays

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared Gandhi’s birthday 2 October as “the International Day of Non-Violence.”

First proposed by UNESCO in 1948, as the School Day of Non-violence and Peace (DENIP in Spanish), 30 January is observed the School Day of Non-violence and Peace in schools of many countries In countries with a Southern Hemisphere school calendar, it is observed on 30 March.

AWARDS

Monument to M.K. Gandhi in New Belgrade, Serbia.

On the monument is written “Non-violence is the essence of all religions”.

Time magazine named Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930. Gandhi was also the runner-up to Albert Einstein as “Person of the Century” at the end of 1999. The Government of India awards the annual Gandhi Peace Prize to distinguished social workers, world leaders and citizens. Nelson Mandela, the leader of South Africa’s struggle to eradicate racial discrimination and segregation, is a prominent non-Indian recipient. In 2011, Time magazine named Gandhi as one of the top 25 political icons of all time.

Gandhi did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948, including the first-ever nomination by the American Friends Service Committee, though he made the short list only twice, in 1937 and 1947. Decades later, the Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission, and admitted to deeply divided nationalistic opinion denying the award.

Gandhi was nominated in 1948 but was assassinated before nominations closed. That year, the committee chose not to award the peace prize stating that “there was no suitable living candidate” and later research shows that the possibility of awarding the prize posthumously to Gandhi was discussed and that the reference to no suitable living candidate was to Gandhi. When the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”
 
May you Rest in Peace, Mahatma Gandhi as the world celebrates Your Life!
 

UN CHIEF 2013

 
bi moonUNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called on people across the world to be inspired by the courage of Mahatma Gandhi and his resonant legacy of non-violence to peacefully oppose oppression, injustice and hatred.

In his message for the International Day of Non-Violence, which is also the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, Ban said, on this day “I call on global citizens everywhere to be inspired by the courage of people like Mahatma Gandhi.”

“Gandhi showed the power of peacefully opposing oppression, injustice and hatred. His example has inspired many other history-makers such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Vaclav Havel,Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Nelson Mandela.”

“Today we celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and his resonant legacy of non-violence,” the UN Secretary General said in a statement.

He said one needs courage to stand up to those who use violence to enforce their will or beliefs.

“It requires resolve to stand against injustice, discrimination and brutality and to demand respect for diversity and fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that non-violence needs leaders backed by an army of brave people prepared to demand peace, freedom and fairness.

“The United Nations stands for the peaceful resolution of disputes and the end to all forms of violence, whether State-sponsored or embedded in culture and practice, such as the violence and intimidation women and girls endure in all regions.

“Ending such violence can start with each of us ? in homes, schools and workplaces. Violence can be contagious, but so can peaceful dialogue,” he said and asked people to “turn your back to division and hatred; stand up for what is right and just.”

“Work with your fellow women and men for a world of lasting justice, peace and prosperity for all,” he said.

 
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