MANDELA, GANDHI, AND KING: ASSOCIATION

In his 1994 Remarks Mandela said:  ‘’All  During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. We understand the differences; still, there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.”

The first country   Mandela visited after his release from prison was India.

India was the first and strongest supporter of a non-apartheid South Africa. Mandela is remembered as a Gandhian: It was  Gandhi who was abused in South Africa in the early 1900’s, being thrown from a train, then  India became the strongest supporter of a Democratic South Africa. But Mandela often said it was not Gandhi who was his hero, but Nehru. (Mishu Sharma, Rediff news, 7/12/2013).

Many persons have opined that Mandela shared much of Nehru’s characteristics, charm, pragmatism, confidence, and eloquence; and perhaps like Nehru he had a sense of superiority. Neither man was a saint. Mandela said of himself, he wasn’t a saint, unless a saint was  “ but a sinner that kept trying.”  In a letter written from prison, Mandela wrote when he heard that he received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, in 1979.

“Our people cannot help but feel humble, that one in their number had been selected to join the distinguished men and women who have been similarly honoured in the past… Our people admired the solidarity of the All India Congress displayed with the people of Ethiopia, whose country was being ravaged by Fascist Italy, sympathy for the Republicans of Spain,  and the medical mission to China. Within the Non-aligned Movement, Asian’s People Conferences, Pundit Nehru and the Congress have espoused our cause consistently.”

Gandhi’s refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust, formulated the solution of civil disobedience. Practitioners of civil disobedience usual base their actions on moral right and employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the injustice. Risking punishment, such as violent retaliatory acts or imprisonment, they attempt to bring about changes in the law. In the modern era, civil disobedience has been used in such events as street demonstrations, marches, the occupying of buildings, and strikes and other forms of economic resistance.

The philosophy behind civil disobedience goes back to classical and biblical sources. Perhaps its most influential exposition can be found in Henry David Thoreau‘s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849), in which he claims that the individual, who grants the state its power in the first place, must follow the dictates of conscience in opposing unjust laws. Thoreau’s work had an enormous impact on Mohandas Gandhi and the techniques that he employed first to gain Indian rights in South Africa and later to win independence for India. Gandhi developed the notion of satyagraha  [Sanskrit: holding to the truth], acts of civil disobedience marked by Indian tradition and his own high moral standards and sense of self-discipline.  His was one of the few relatively unqualified successes in the history of civil disobedience.

King wrote in 1959  during his visit to India “We were looked upon as brothers with the colour of our skins as something of an asset. But the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa and Asia struggling to throw off racialism and imperialism.

We had the opportunity to share our views with thousands of Indian people through endless conversations and numerous discussion sessions. I spoke before university groups and public meetings all over India. Because of the keen inter- est that the Indian people have in the race problem these meetings were usually packed. Occasionally interpreters were used, but on the whole I spoke to aud- iences that understood English.

The trip had a great impact upon me personally. It was wonderful to be in Gandhi’s land, to talk with his son, his grandsons, his cousin and other relatives;  I  left India more convinced than ever before that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.  It was a marvellous thing to see the amazing results of a non-violent campaign. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India. Today a mutual friendship based on complete   equality exists between the Indian and British people within the Commonwealth.

It would be a boon to democracy if one of the great nations of the world, with more than 900,000,000 people, proves that it is possible to provide a good living for everyone without surrendering to a dictatorship of either the “right” or ‘‘left.’’ To- day India is a tremendous force for peace and non-violence, at home and abroad. It is a land where the idealist and the intellectual are yet respected, very similar to the developing regions of Africa.  We should want to help India preserve her soul and thus help to save our own”.

{Ebony July 1959)

 

(861 words)

03/01/2014

 

 

 

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