Narayan Desai stayed in Sabarmati and Sevagram ashrams
If one section of the society develops and large sections are left out that is not development and the gap between the poor and the rich like elsewhere in India has widened much in Gujarat, said Narayan Desai, Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith.
Talking to The Hindu in Madurai on Monday, the óctogenarian Gandhian who lived almost for 22 years with the Mahatma shared and reminisced about his days in Tamil Nadu, the ‘Gujarat development discourse’ and contemporary politics.
Desai is the son of Gandhi’s principal secretary, Mahadev Desai. Narayan Desai stayed in Sabarmati and Sevagram ashrams and has seen the Mahatma in action in his everyday life. Mr. Desai has walked 12,000 kilometres in Gujarat and acquired 3,000 acres of land, which was distributed to the landless poor.
Reminiscing about his days in Tamil Nadu, he recalled his visit along with Vinoba Bhave as part of ‘Bhoodan Movement’ walking on the dusty tracks of the rural hinterlands of Palani and Dharmapuri.
He fondly recalled the one week he spent at the 10th Triennial Conference of War Resisters’ International (WRI), ‘Peace Making’, that was held in Gandhigram, Dindigul during December 1960 where socialist Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan had delivered the inaugural address.
Desai attended the triennial conference which brought together peace lovers from around the globe who were keen to learn from the Indian experience of Gandhian nonviolence. The conference was significant as it was the first conference of WRI to be held outside, the United States of America and Europe, he recalled with great pride.
Later, Mr. Desai was elected as the chairman of the WRI and had the privilege of organising the 28 Triennial at Vedchi in Gujarat in 1986. Mr. Desai was also involved in the setting up Peace Brigades International
He also recalled about the 10 hour marathon meeting he along with Jayaprakash Narayan had with Sheikh Abdullah in August 1965 when the latter was kept under house arrest on the Kashmir issue. “It was our report that saw the release of Sheikh Abdullah,” he recalled.
Talking about the contemporary political situation, Mr. Desai opined that at present, the common man in India has lost the spirit of being in a democratic nation.
“People are the sovereign rulers in our democracy and I want them to have self-consciousness on that,” he said.
Mr. Desai was in Madurai at the Gandhi Museum for the 105 Gandhi Katha programme and his first in Tamil Nadu which will be held at Gandhi Museum for 5 days from Tuesday at 5 p.m. to 8.p.m.