Gandhi’s Legacy: To Strive for Peace

January 30 marks the 63rd anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu himself, by a Hindu extremist in 1948.  At the conclusion of a month when we recall the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.—who was deeply influenced by Gandhi and visited India in 1959—let us also honor Mahatma Gandhi. 

Gandhi and King are two of President Barack Obama’s heroes.  When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009, President Obama remarked, “As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.  I know there’s nothing weak—nothing passive—nothing naïve—in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.”

Last November, when the President traveled to India, he saw a Gandhi museum in Mumbai as well as the Rajghat memorial (where Gandhi’s body was cremated) in New Delhi. 

In December 2009, my wife and I visited another Gandhi museum in New Delhi: the Gandhi Smriti (remembrance) at the site of his assassination. 
J. Brown PhotosThere, visitors can walk from the room where he spent his final months, along the path of his final steps. 

Signs on that path show Gandhi’s own words, including this call for a universal nationalism: 
“My patriotism is not exclusive, it is calculated not only not to hurt any other nation but to benefit all in the true sense of the word.  India’s freedom as conceived by me can never be [a] menace to the world.”

The museum has a serenity and a solemnity akin to a place of worship.  Where a horrific murder occurred, a sanctuary now prevails amid India’s capital city.

India is typically in the American consciousness for global economic reasons, or regarding national security in relation to China and Pakistan, or because of the many contributions of the growing Indian American population.  We should also remember the power of Gandhi’s example—how he helped bring about a nation’s independence and inspired other leaders and citizens of the world to dream. 

Gandhi’s vision of peace too often remains unrealized, in his own country and beyond.  But that vision’s moral appeal endures as an ideal to inform the everyday strivings of people and of nations. 

Josiah H. Brown lives in New Haven with his wife—a citizen of India—and their children.

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posted by: newnewhaven on January 31, 2011  9:21am

Thanks Josiah, let’s not forget another hero of history who was also assassinated 50 years ago this January.  We can not use history to predict the future, it is not a science, but had he lived, Patrice Lumumba’s Congo would most certainly turned out better than the one Mobutu raped and left us with. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/opinion/17hochschild.html?scp=1&sq=lumumba&st=cse

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 31, 2011  9:56am

Did you know that Gandhi was racist towards black people.

On Blacks and Race Relations

“Ours is one continued struggle against degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the European, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” ~ CWMG, Vol. II, p. 74

“A Kaffir is to be taxed because he does not work enough: an Indian is to be taxed because he works too much.” ~ CWMG, Vol. III, p. 337

“A general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than the savages or natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.” ~ CWMG, Vol. I, p. 150

Regarding forcible registration with the state of blacks: “One can understand the necessity for registration of Kaffirs who will not work.” ~ CWMG, Vol. I, p. 105

“Why, of all places in Johannesburg, the Indian location should be chosen for dumping down all kaffirs of the town, passes my comprehension. Of course, under my suggestion, the Town Council must withdraw the Kaffirs from the Location. About this mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians I must confess I feel most strongly. I think it is very unfair to the Indian population, and it is an undue tax on even the proverbial patience of my countrymen.” ~ CWMG, Vol. I, pp. 244-245

Regarding the Hindu Theological Seminary: “I only wish that such institutions will crop up all over India and be the means of preserving the Aryan religion in its purity.” ~ CWMG, Vol. IV, p. 93

His description of black inmates: “Only a degree removed from the animal.” He also said, “Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized - the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.” ~ CWMG, Vol. VIII, pp. 135-136

Concerning South Africa’s White League fears of mass Asiatic immigration: “We believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve these interests, which are as dear to us as to them, by advocating the purity of all races, and not one alone. We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race.” ~ CWMG, Vol. I, p. 105

“The petition dwells upon ‘the co-mingling of the coloured and white races’. May we inform the members of the conference that, so far as the British Indians are concerned, such a thing is practically unknown? If there is one thing, which the Indian cherishes, more than any other, it is the purity of type. Why bring such a question into the controversy at all?” ~ The Indian Opinion, December 24, 1903
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posted by: newnewhaven on January 31, 2011  11:03am

While most of these racist comments came when he was a young man in South Africa, before he was known as the Mahmatma…all that you say is true, how do Gandhi-lovers come to grips with this?  He was the product of his times?  Racism allowed to be to be apart of “the club” of those with power.  Also, if you look closely he was very careful not upset the Indian capitalists either.  Meaning - not a worker friendly as MLK or Nehru

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 31, 2011  11:57am

“I hate racial discrimination most intensely and all its manifestations. I have fought all my life; I fight now, and will do so until the end of my days. Even although I now happen to be tried by one, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I detest most violently the set-up that surrounds me here. It makes me feel that I am a Black man in a White man’s court. This should not be I should feel perfectly at ease and at home with the assurance that I am being tried by a fellow South African, who does not regard me as an inferior, entitled to a special type of justice.”

Nelson Mandela.

posted by: Josiah Brown on February 1, 2011  1:25am

My aim in posting the brief reflections and the photos above was to encourage thinking about Gandhi and about history’s relation to the present.  The comments of neighbors here are appreciated.  They add to the modest scope of my original post and may help to generate further consideration—in the spirit of historical inquiry—into the complex, often contradictory and dynamic nature of humanity and of heroism.

Racial or ethnic prejudice is, unfortunately, a nearly universal problem.  Though fitfully easing, it remains pernicious.

We should be wary of absolutes, good or bad.  Ambiguity is sometimes as close as we come to truth.

Was Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, a slave-holding hypocrite? 

Was Abraham Lincoln bigoted, despite evolution in his views and all he did to preserve the U.S. and counter slavery?

Did John F. Kennedy display reckless judgment in certain instances, as effectively as he managed the Cuban missile crisis?

Did Lyndon Johnson’s racial attitudes progress, and was he eventually pushed by Selma marchers and other civil rights activists to declare, in calling for the Voting Rights Act, that “we shall overcome”?  (Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War is another matter.)

Did Malcolm X return from Mecca with changed views and come to regret some of his earlier loyalties and statements? 

Many observers would say yes.  These men were figures of great historical significance.  We should study them, their accomplishments, their flaws, and the contexts in which they lived.

My personal opinions about all of these historical figures are mixed.  But the assassination of Gandhi—like that of King, of (Robert as well as John) Kennedy, of Lincoln and of Malcolm X (not to mention Lumumba et al.)—merits remembering. 

Martin Luther King and Barack Obama have regarded Gandhi as a hero.  W.E.B. Du Bois made this forecast: “It may well be that real human equality and brotherhood in the United States will come only under the leadership of another Gandhi.”  Nelson Mandela wrote that Gandhi’s “strategy of noncooperation…and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally.”  According to Mandela, “Though separated in time, there remains a bond between us, in our shared prison experiences, our defiance of unjust laws.”

Gandhi himself invoked these ancient prayers from the Upanishads:

“Lead me from untruth to truth, From the darkness to the light, From death to immortality.”

Where Gandhi was killed was of interest to me, and perhaps to others who are reading this.

Peace,

JHB

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 1, 2011  1:28pm

posted by: Josiah Brown on February 1, 2011 1:25am

Racial or ethnic prejudice is, unfortunately, a nearly universal problem.  Though fitfully easing, it remains pernicious.

And as a person of color,I must point this out to my people.

Was Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, a slave-holding hypocrite? 

Yes he was.They is not good thing as a good slave master.

Was Abraham Lincoln bigoted, despite evolution in his views and all he did to preserve the U.S. and counter slavery?

You need to read the true history on Abraham Lincoln.You may think he cared,But he did Not.

Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream
Lerone Bennett, Jr. (1999, 2007)

http://deuceofclubs.com/books/266lerone.htm

Many observers would say yes.  These men were figures of great historical significance.  We should study them, their accomplishments, their flaws, and the contexts in which they lived

Many other observers would say Hell no.


Martin Luther King and Barack Obama have regarded Gandhi as a hero.  W.E.B. Du Bois made this forecast: “It may well be that real human equality and brotherhood in the United States will come only under the leadership of another Gandhi.”  Nelson Mandela wrote that Gandhi’s “strategy of noncooperation…and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally.”  According to Mandela, “Though separated in time, there remains a bond between us, in our shared prison experiences, our defiance of unjust laws.”

And Dr king right now would march on President Barack Obama for these two wars.Also President Barack Obama Has also regarded the Union Buster Ronald Reagan a hero.


The first need of a free people is to define their own terms.
Stokely Carmichael