Nation salutes Gandhi on 138th birth anniversary


New Delhi : An inter-religious prayer meeting was attended by President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flagged off a host of events Tuesday to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on his 138th birth anniversary, which the UN has declared as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Support TwoCircles

Several dignitaries descended on Raj Ghat, the memorial for the Father of the Nation, which was decorated with flowers, with favourite hymns of Gandhi playing in the backdrop.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and former prime minister I.K. Gujral were among those who paid floral tributes and participated at the prayer meeting.

Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams, along with her father Deepak Pandya and other family members, also visited the memorial, which was swarming with people — both young and old, as also visitors from abroad.

“I respect Gandhiji. He stood for entire humanity and is eternally relevant,” Williams told reporters as she came out of Raj Ghat along with veteran Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande, after paying floral tributes.

During her visit to Gujarat last week, she had spent time at Gandhi’s hermitage, Sabarmati Ashram.

Besides paying tributes at Raj Ghat, President Patil hosted three events on the occasion at Rashtrapati Bhavan, during which she launched a campaign to save the girl child and released special commemorative medallions on 60 years of India’s independence.

She also inaugurated the 58th Tuberculosis Seal Campaign and was informed that some 15 million lives had been saved by it, thereby, earning the recognition of the World Health Organisation as the largest global public health programme.

At an event in Vigyan Bhavan later, the prime minister released a set of four commemorative postage stamps to mark the first International Day of Non-Violence declared by the United Nations.

He had earlier flagged off a peace march from the Congress party headquarters to Raj Ghat to mark the occasion.

Manmohan Singh said party president Sonia Gandhi was representing India at the UN General Assembly to celebrate the first International Day of Non-Violence.