An ideology which changed the world
THE most lethal weapon Gandhiji created was born in the mind.
Satyagraha was an ideology of compassion and forgiveness, unique to anything felt or seen.
One hundred-and-twentyfive years ago, the notion of changing a country and breaking a crippling system of oppression was enough to discourage most. The very idea of reshaping an entire country was so immensely revolutionary that to imagine doing so without ferocity or bloodshed would be an impossibility for most at the time.
However, it was Mahatma Gandhi’s conviction in his enlightenment which allowed him to liberate a country and its people.
In 1893, when Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from his first-class cabin, two choices remained to him: to solely criticise a system of brutality and oppression, or to rise. To create Satyagraha. And, of course, he chose the latter. It is his commitment to Satyagraha which brought India its freedom in 1947.
One hundred-and-twentyfive years later, we commemorate that incident in the presence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, paying respect in the very country which ignited a revolution which changed history.
Seventy-one years of independence has accelerated our country with rare ambition and success. Today we are not only one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We have eradicated critical epidemics, dramatically increased life expectancy, launched some of the most powerful and daring rockets and satellites into space, competing with leading aeronautics companies around the globe, were the first country in the world to give every adult voting rights since our independence, have had women being our presidents and prime ministers, leading our country, and stand as a nation of secularism and diversity, with 29 languages spoken with 700 dialects.
This event, unlike anything ever undertaken, will serve as a unique symbol of solidarity and pride for both Indians and South Africans. While Gandhi was born in India, Satyagraha was born in
This function will include a re-enactment of the historic train journey undertaken by Gandhiji 125 years ago on the morning of June 7, with the support of a local cast of actors. That frigid night on a steam train will be recreated, as Gandhiji is thrown off and begins his journey towards Satyagraha.
And, of course, what embellishes the event is that the train will be draped in Khadi, especially imported from the Khadi and Village Industries Commission in India. This stands as a mark of respect to Mahatma Gandhi who started a nationalist movement for homespun cotton cloth in reaction to foreign imposed fabric, sold at exorbitant rates.
Furthermore, Minister Swaraj will be inaugurating a digital museum on Gandhi. This will provide viewers with a contemporary and accessible manner to learn about the idiosyncratic nature of Gandhiji’s journey and mind. A bust of Gandhiji will also be unveiled. The bust is a two-sided piece – one side depicts a young Gandhi in South Africa, and the other an older Gandhi in India.
But even beyond India’s own liberation, Gandhiji stood for more than a symbol for his own country. His name travels around the world every day, so much so that the name Gandhi is now a cliché.
However, for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, his name inspired the same compassion and allowed Madiba to become the father of his nation. And even beyond South Africa, Gandhi has been responsible for inspiring some of the most powerful leaders in the world, including the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Will Durant, Martin Luther King jr and Steve Jobs.
All of the aforementioned events, coupled with speeches by ministers and influential figures, allow for a function in celebration of an ideology which changed the world. What Gandhi stood for transcends the barriers of time or circumstance. Satyagraha bleeds into our daily lives, and this function serves to honour a philosophy which changed generations. It is one so many have put their hearts into, and we look forward now to witnessing a beautiful
■ Ruchira Kamboj is the High Commissioner of India in South Africa.