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Updated: May 4, 2012 01:46 IST

India indebted to South Africa for shaping Gandhi: President

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
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President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the unveiling of Mahatma Gandhi's bust at Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg on Thursday.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the unveiling of Mahatma Gandhi's bust at Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Visits exhibition on the life and times of the Mahatma

A bust of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled by President Pratibha Patil at the prestigious Constitutional Court Complex of South Africa, where Gandhi had served four prison terms between 1908 and 1913, including his very first sentence in South Africa in the Number Four Cell.

Recalling that many of the prisoners incarcerated in the complex were guilty of non-political crimes while some including Mahatma Gandhi were charged with resisting the unjust race laws, Ms. Patil hoped that the bust would symbolise the values enshrined in the histories of India and South Africa and strengthen the resolve of the two countries to fight injustice and inequality in the world.

The bust was brought by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and sculpted by Gautam Pal.

Ms. Patil, who also visited an exhibition on the life and times of Gandhi in the complex, said the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, too had been imprisoned in this old fort for some time.

Ms. Patil said Mr. Mandela had in 1994 — Gandhi's 125th birth anniversary — described his affinity with him thus: “Though separated in time, there remains a bond between us, in our shared prison experiences, our defiance of unjust laws and in the fact that violence threatens our aspirations for peace and reconciliation.”

‘Deep-rooted links'

The President's visit to the complex assumed significance as South Africa was the place where the world witnessed for the first time Gandhi's methods of political transformation through non-violence and peaceful dialogue.

“This [South Africa] is a country with which India and the people of India have very deep-rooted links — links that have changed the course of India's history. The people of India owe a deep sense of gratitude to South Africa for giving us the Mahatma,” Ms. Patil said.

Noting that “our countries uphold the fundamental principles of peace, non-violence and dialogue to maintain the global order of equality and justice based on Gandhian values,” Ms. Patil said: “The decision by the United Nations to observe October 2 — Gandhi's birthday — as the International Day of Non-Violence points to the recognition of his philosophy as an instrument for promoting peace in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi's great-granddaughter, Kirti Menon, who is the chairperson of the Gandhi Centenary Committee said the unveiling of the bust and the inauguration of the exhibition would promote the message of peace and non-violence promoted by Gandhi.

Ms. Menon, who is a Registrar at a Johannesburg university, said the bust represents Gandhi as the world knows him while at Johannesburg Square his bust shows him as a young barrister. She said the events of the day were very significant as the prison complex was where Gandhi was imprisoned for the first time and where his resolve to fight apartheid was strengthened.


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I am grateful to the despicable Apartheid regime. They brought out from within me the element of morality that was resident there. The fight against this 'crime against humanity' was simply a question of morality. Together with that prompt, a host of other qualities surfaced that I hopefully still retain and practice to this day. Gandhiji experienced the same jolt that produced one of the men of the century.

from:  Darra Pillay
Posted on: May 7, 2012 at 14:47 IST

Our politicians are repaying the gratitude by maintaining the same sub-sahara poverty levels in poor people in India.

from:  Marudah
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 18:47 IST

@ Krishnan C.
Mr.M.K.Gandhi gone to SA to work as a lawyer to a businessman.He was humiliated on the first day of arrival and he was also experienced same sufferings undergone by the fellow indian labourers gone there to work in cane fields.Whites control the blacks and indians and both suffered beastly.Gandhi took their cause and fought for their rights till 1914.His sufferings shaped him for greater role when he returned to India. For more details he can search for those details in the Net.
Indian labourers who were bulk of indian labour popopulation called him as PUNIYAVAN GANDHI (Blessed Soul) in 1894 and Tagore called him as Mahathma in 1921.President Prathiba referred to this occurrences in South Africa to Gandhi ji.He experimented his weapon of Non Violence,Truth there and exployed first time the method of Satyagraha there.

from:  Sundaram
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 17:57 IST

congress men /women have always plunder nation whelth so expect such thing. my reqvest we don"t want politicion president next time

from:  sulemancharania
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 17:34 IST

And how much does Patil emulate gandhian values? How much is this trip costing the tax
payer? Gandhi was driven by his own sense of worth and moral compass.

The president of India has confirmed she does not represent the people of India and
certainly has no idea what she is talking about. She remains a petty crook.

from:  Capt Biswas
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 17:21 IST

There is no point in opening the bust of Gandhiji by Indian President in South Africa.This ought to have been done by local VIP.The meeting was organised by indians,gathered by indians and admired by indians and south african officials gracing the occassion.Many Statues for Gandhiji are in South Africa. But there is no statue or a big place or prominent locality named after any South African leaders like Mandela,Luthuli,Sisulu any where in India,except a road is named after Mandela in New Delhi. Indian Council for Cultural Relations should be blamed for organising this one side show.Pratibha should organise similar functions in India to honour those african leaders on reciprocal basis.It is penny wise and pound foolish.South Africa`s Truth and Reconciliation is a monumental achieevment based on Christian concept of mercy,compassion repentanace and forgiveness.India should cite this achievement to Sri lanka to effect similar reconciliation there among Singalese and the Tamils.

from:  sundaram
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 14:46 IST

Ms Pratibha Patil, our President, is good at 'mouthing' scripts
written by her team. She has had a wonderful innings in politics
ensuring winning every franchise which assisted in enriching herself.
The nation is yet to know of her contribution for the welfare of the
Society. The academic institutes she and her family manage are
'moneyspinners' and there is no known act of her doing anything
philanthropically without an eye on returns. In her twilight years she
ensured that every member of her family, friends and relations were
State Guests at the sprawling Rastrapathi Bhavan. She has indulged in
much leisure traversing the world in great style and comfort whilst
her citizens do not even today are able to live a life of dignity !
Instead of returning to her constituency upon retirement she has
sought to distance herself from her electorate for a regal repast in
the salubrious climate of Pune at the State's expense. She was
fortunate not to take an executive stand on any political issue

from:  vr vedula
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 14:27 IST

I am with the Indian President on this. M.K. Gandhi went to South
Africa a London-trained barrister and his experiences compounded by
the plight of the South African Indian led to the sprouting of
Satyagraha. The first three Satyagraha campaigns were peopled by
South African Indians. Post 1913 Gandhiji helped bring together
numerous freedom movements in India to usher us to a independence in
1947. Yes South Africa is the "bodhi tree of enlightenment' for
Gandhiji. Yes I am delighted the Honorable President of India
expressed the following, "The people of India owe a deep sense of
gratitude to South Africa for giving us the Mahatma.”

from:  Vidya Bhandarker
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 13:00 IST

Well, in that case, i can only wish India hadn't shaped someone who can make such
braindead statements.

from:  Srikanth V
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 13:00 IST

The speech by the President sounds very impressive. Can some one explain to me what she meant by, "The people of India owe a deep sense of gratitude to South Africa for giving us the Mahatma". Mdm Patil, the South African humiliated Gandhi and put him in their jails. I understand the President is too busy looking after her grand children to go thru the speech before reading at the Complex. Please consider a new speech writer.

from:  Krishan C
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 10:01 IST

Really? Gandhiji was a bright young man who went to SA not to be shaped by being racially insulted, but to prosper as a professional. He chose to take up a great issue of importance and a sense of destiny definitely prevails over this story, but to thank SA for "shaping" him is definitely obtuse. Can we blame any nation for shaping others into opposites of the Mahatma then? After all, Indians are caught for fraud and crimes too, fairly regularly. How much credit and blame can India the nation take for playing this sort of role in a person's life? Surely, individual choice plays a much bigger role.

from:  B S Kumar
Posted on: May 4, 2012 at 09:29 IST
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