Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr lives on in India: Expats

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr lives on in India’s inclusiveness, cultural plurality, ethnicities and in the spirit of freedom, members of DilliNet, an online bridge connecting the expatriate community of the capital, said while sharing their India experience.

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The members of Dillinet met over the weekend to pay a musical tribute to Martin Luther King, an avowed Gandhian, on his 82nd birth anniversary. King’s birthday, however, is being officially celebrated by the US government Jan 17. Born on Jan 15 in 1929, King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Inspired by Gandhi’s ethos of non-violence, King, who led the movement for civil rights, liberties and racial bias in US, visited Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in 1959. It deepened his understanding of non-violent resistance. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King said: “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice.”

King became the youngest recipient to get the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work to end racial segregation. At the time of his death in 1968, he was battling to and poverty and trying to stop the Vietnam war.

“I have a dream – to see India welcome people of all shades with open arms. It is one of the few inclusive nations in the world where there is space for almost everyone,” founder of Dillinet, Jacek Rataczak, a Polish professional, told IANS quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

“Delhi on its own is a melting pot of cultures. On Dillinet, there is even more complexity. There are communities within a community – Asians, Africans, Australians, Americans and Europeans. We want to give them a chance to celebrate their traditions in their own way and present them to the people here,” he said.

Dillinet manages bring global cultures on a common ground with Indian culture without any “racial or geographical barriers” with its frequent food walks, culture modules and familiarisation tours. The forum has 800 members. “Being in India is a strange experience,” Rataczak, who has been in the capital for three years, said.

“After the first two weeks you want to write a book, it is so intense. But after two years, you cannot say a single valid sentence. India is so many things,” the avid traveller and part-time DJ explained.

In all this, he sees the “greater philosophy of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi”. “Amid the chaos, there is peace in India,” he said.

For Hyderabad-based Alexandre, a social worker and economic analyst from Brazil, “India though characterised by constant demographic shifts and myriad mini-cultural nations manages to hold itself as a cohesive entity”. It is at the root of the King’s political and cultural philosophy, the Brazilian said.

“I am working on a paper on internal migration in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The incidence of migration is high in the Indian society, but it is funny that when Indians migrate to a different state, they move to a new country because the language and culture are different. In Brazil, we have a lot of migration but everyone speaks Portuguese. Chances of segregration are minumum,” Alexandre said, substantiating his claim with an example from his work.

For Diana Cobaleda, an intern from Colombia, “the spirit of Martin Luther King resides in India’s religious freedom”. “The country has so many religions and they all co-exist. I love the Sikh religion, I will carry memories of the religion and cultural symbols like Punjabi wedding bangles and ‘bindis’ with me when I return.”

But she laments the country’s colonial hangover. “When I was in Colombia, I thought of India in terms of the Taj Mahal, Maharajas and yoga, but later I realised how differently Indians perceived the white skinned people. It’s crazy. At parties, we (the whites) are invited so that they come to see us as if we are extraordinary people,” Diana told IANS.

“I think Indians must get over the colour complex and learn to reconcile that white people are no different than the coloured races. Martin Luther King taught equality of colours,” she said.

Yasmin, a business developer from France and a part-time Bollywood dancer, feels the heart and soul of India live among the marginalized in the villages. “Every time, I visit a village to perform, the love of the people touch me.” It reminds of the great American-African visionary’s dream- “to liberate all”.