Mahatma Gandhi’s methods still relevant: Sonia


United Nations : Mahatma Gandhi’s methods of non-violent action are as relevant in today’s fast-paced and globally interlinked world as they were in his times, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said Tuesday.

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“Today individuals and movements all over the world, continue to develop innovative, non-violent ways to overcome oppression, combat discrimination and build democracy,” she told the UN General Assembly as it observed, for the first time, the Mahatma’s birth anniversary as the International Day of Non-Violence.

“These are the successes which keep the flame of hope burning bright,” Sonia Gandhi said, addressing a special informal session to pay “collective homage of the world community to one of the greatest men of all time, an homage that rises above politics and speaks to all humankind.”

Sonia Gandhi conveyed to the General Assembly “the gratitude of over a billion people of my country for this tribute”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, and South African Foreign Minister Dlamini Zuma also attended the ceremony.

“It is often said that Mahatma Gandhi’s times, were radically removed from those we live in today. Some question the relevance of his methods in today’s fast-paced and globally interlinked world, where threats to peace, security and social harmony abound.

“But the essential validity of Mahatma Gandhi’s truth has not changed, because human nature itself has not changed.

“If the 20th century was the most bloody in human history, it was also the century where non-violence saw its greatest triumphs, cutting across the boundaries of continents and faiths,” Sonia Gandhi said.

Noting that among the myriad civil disobedience movements, the only army of non-violence was the one led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known to history as the Frontier Gandhi, she observed, “Mahatma Gandhi himself was, first and foremost, a man of action.

“While he was indeed a man of deep contemplation, he was also a man of galvanic energy. It is this energy that enabled him to overcome resistance arising from hostility, indifference and cynicism.

“It is this energy that gave him the resilience to press ahead, in spite of tremendous obstacles and tribulations,” she said recalling the Mahatma’s oft quoted observation, “we must ourselves become the change we seek”.

As one looks around today, one sees violence everywhere, Sonia Gandhi said. “Violence against each other reflected in the spread of terrorism, the disturbing emergence of non-state players and our collective failure to move towards comprehensive, universal nuclear disarmament.”

There was also violence against the poor and the vulnerable, against women and children, caused by social strife and inequities spawned by economic globalisation. And violence against Planet Earth reflected in man-made, climate- changing activities and unsustainable lifestyles.

“Even as we are inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s life, let us today affirm our commitment to the Gandhian way, a commitment that is reflected in demonstrable actions and results,” she said hoping that this Day does not get reduced to an annual ritual.

“Let us strive to adopt his methods to our present day challenges, with earnestness and perseverance,” Sonia Gandhi said observing: “It is not the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi that is in question today.

“What is in question today is whether we have the courage to emulate, what he preached and practiced, what he lived and died for,” she said, noting that Mahatma Gandhi, “the remarkable personality we honour today, a man who achieves complete non-violence, ‘is not a saint’. He is ‘truly a man.'”

“Let us then strive to follow this path of non-violence and in so doing become ‘truly human,'” Sonia Gandhi said.