Mahatma Gandhi is still an inspiration figure in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

“In the vicinity of this plaque, M.K. Gandhi was evicted from a first class compartment on the night of June 7, 1893. This incident changed the course of his life. He took up the fight against racial oppression. His active non-violence started from that date”.

The plaque, found on Platform No. 1 of the Pietermaritzburg railway station near Durban, South Africa, is a reminder of an event, important from a historical and an international perspective.

This is rightly acknowledged in another plaque at the waiting hall of the same station which proclaims: “The incident on this platform launched Gandhi on his political career, and he became one of the greatest men of the 20th Century.”

As another Gandhi Jayanthi passes by, it is evident how the Gandhian philosophy has withstood the test of time. It still inspires millions of people across the world.

A cross section of the South African society whom the members of the Indian media met in Durban , recalled the grit and determination with which Gandhiji laid the foundation for a fight for personal dignity and liberty, with focus on equality above colour, caste or creed.

Plenty of pride

The Pietermaritzburg Railway Station remains a seat of the birth of the Mahatma's philosophy. “Every South African is proud that Gandhiji lived here for well over two decades. His principles are still relevant in every part of the world and we hold him in very high esteem,” said some of the South Africans.

The magnificent statue honouring Gandhiji on Church Street, Pietermaritzburg city, is yet another proof of the Mahatma's influence on the South African people. To commemorate the Dandi March, an annual march is held from the Gandhi Museum at Phoenix Settlement near Durban to the Durban Beach. More than 5,000 men, women and children participate in this march.

The Pietermaritzburg Tourism office has been organising programmes to propagate Gandhian philosophy among the younger generation. Special rallies are organised in connection with the Satyagraha Movement, says Melanie Veness, director, Pietermaritzburg Tourism. The highlight of the celebrations is a train ride that covers the route where Gandhiji was evicted from the train in Pietermaritzburg.

The Tourism Department has also identified ‘Freedom Routes' between Durban and Pietermaritzburg cities in memory of Nelson Mandela, Luthuli and Gandhiji, Ms. Veness added.

The services rendered by the Gandhi Memorial Committees functioning in various parts of South Africa is noteworthy. According to David D. Gengan, public relations officer, the committee's Pietermaritzburg branch, plans are afoot to sensitise the youth and school students about the importance of leaders such as Gandhiji and Mandela.

As Gengan sums up, non-violence is a strong weapon to fight crises and the committee hopes to propagate Gandhian philosophy in every way possible.

Keywords: Mahatma Gandhi