Home Art/Culture Nehru, Gandhi in the spotlight at South African Republic Day celebrations

Nehru, Gandhi in the spotlight at South African Republic Day celebrations

By Fakir Hassen, IANS

Johannesburg : Gandhi, Nehru, and India’s role in South Africa’s independence came under the spotlight at the Republic Day celebrations here Saturday evening.

Nkele Ntingane, speaker of the Johannesburg City Council, who was the keynote speaker at the gathering of Indian expatriates and South Africans of all communities, at the residence of the Indian Consul-General, read an extract from Nehru’s famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’: “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance… We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”

“These words strike a resonance with any person who has fought for their own nation’s independence,” Ntingane said.

“I do not know of any other words that express so well how I and my fellow citizens felt when we found our own freedom. The words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru could well have been spoken about our own long struggle against colonialism.”

Ntingane said the influence that the leaders of India’s struggle to create a democratic republic had on South Africa’s own struggle to create a democratic state could not be overstated.

“And as important to that struggle were those members of our communities whose family’s origins are located within India; many of whom gave their lives, liberty, or very often both to ensure that we can join together today within the democratic state.

“The celebration of diversity and difference that is Johannesburg, and South Africa, will ensure that the historical bond of struggle, liberation and democracy can only become stronger as we grow together in the common interest of our citizens.”

Indian Consul-General Navdeep Suri highlighted the ever-growing relations between India and South Africa in a diverse range of areas, including the huge bilateral exchanges in the past year that had included a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“We are also in discussion with the Gandhi Centenary Committee to mark the historic burning of the passes on 16 Aug, 1908, which all persons who were not white had to carry.

“This was led by Mahatma Gandhi at the Hamidia Mosque in Newton in Johannesburg and marked the start of his Passive Resistance Campaign.”

Suri also announced that the local University of the Witwatersrand would be establishing a Centre for Indian Studies, the first of its kind in the country, later this year.

The Republic Day celebration included renditions of the anthems of the two countries and Indian dance performances by an all-Black South African ensemble trained by Vinod Hassel, formerly from India, who has pioneered Indian dance among African communities here.