Wellingtonians to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi

Event to mark 148th Birthday of a Great Leader, Wellington, October 2, 2017

Venkat Raman

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester will lead the 148th Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi in the Capital on October 2.

Organised by the Mahatma Gandhi Birthday Committee led by Naginbhai (Neil) Patel, the meeting will be held at 10 am near the Mahatma Gandhi Statue at the Wellington Railway Station. The event is being supported by the Indian High Commission and the Wellington City Council.

Mr Patel said that ‘Ahinsa Parmo Dharmo’ or ‘Non-Violence is the Greatest Religion’ will be the theme of the celebrations.

“If the weather condition is not conducive, the Meeting will be held at Level 1, 23 Jessie Street,” he added.

The Statue Story

Sir Anand Satyanand, the then Governor General, unveiled the Statue on October 2, 2007 at the said venue. Indian Newslink reported the event in its October 15, 2007 issue. The Report, titled, ‘Wellingtonians receive the gift of mankind’ (Mahatma Gandhi adorns the Capital) is reproduced hereunder:

The spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, revered as the greatest gift to mankind and an apostle of truth, non-violence and integrity, would live on forever in Wellington, as a Statue of the Great Leader was unveiled on his Birthday on October 2 by Governor General Anand Satyanand.

Sculpted by India’s renowned sculptor Gautam Pai, the bronze statue can be seen on the front lawn of the Wellington City railway station on Bunny Street.

International Day of Non-Violence

Under a UN declaration, it was International Day of Non-Violence, epitomising the Mahatma’s quest for resolution of issues through peace and not blood.

And that was a belief reflected by Mr Satyanand and others at the Ceremony.

“Through his philosophy of non-violent protest oppression and injustice formed during his early years as a lawyer in South Africa, and brought to full force in India, Gandhi saw the Indian sub-continent freed of British colonial rule,” he said.

Mr Satyanand said that Gandhi was opposed to partitioning India to create Pakistan (on August 14, 1947, a day prior to India’s independence) and grieved over it.

“He was alone in Calcutta (now Kolkata) mourning the split, which resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions more.”

Celebration Time

He said Rotorua based surgeon Dr Munir Kadri, who was in India at the time told Gandhi that it was celebration time.

“What is there to celebrate? I shall weep tears of blood that day (August 15, 1947),” Gandhi said.

Mr Satyanand said despite the bloodshed that followed the partition, Gandhi continued to work for peace between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs until his death.

“But when the light had gone out and his counsel could no longer be sought, the spirit of his teachings and his legacy have lived on,” he said.

Inspired Leaders

He said a number of leaders including Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the US, Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and South African anti-apartheid leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were inspired by Gandhi.

“Gandhi promoted the search for truth (Satya) and the use of non-violence, non-resistance and non-co-operation to achieve self-determination and an end to injustice.

“He also promoted simplicity in life, spiritual and physical purity, and a respect and tolerance for other religions.”

Gift to Wellington

Mr Satyanand said the statue was a gift to Wellington City by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of the Indian government

“The gift symbolises the lasting friendship between India and New Zealand and pays homage to a modern-day apostle of peace.

“That it will join a number of others throughout the world is a testament to the truth of

Gandhi’s teachings and the inspiration he continues to give to oppressed people everywhere.

“His teachings of peace have a particular resonance in this country as they were similar to those followed by Te Whiti o Rongomai at Parihaka in the 1870s,” he said.

Wellington City mayor Kerry Prendergast said the statue was a tribute to the memory of a great man from whom the present-day world could draw much inspiration.

“With so much ongoing violence and intolerance in the world, the fundamental human values that Mahatma Gandhi espoused and lived for, continue to be as relevant today as they were during his time,” she said

Indian High Commissioner Kadakath Pathrose Ernest said that the people of India were honoured to join the people of New Zealand in paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi.

“The statue symbolises the relevance and validity of the message of Gandhi to the present and future generations. This is also an expression of the solidarity of the people of the two countries,” he said.

Among the other guests at the ceremony were Susan Satyanand, Catherine Ernest, Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter, Labour MP Charles Chauvel, diplomats, government officials and community leaders.

Ignorant Generation

It is not uncommon for a majority of senior Indians to feel that the younger generation, especially those born, raised and educated outside India do not know enough about Mahatma Gandhi.

It is not uncommon for them to urge Indian associations, teachers and others to make our young men and women understand how a successful barrister-at-law gave up his profession to lead a country towards political freedom through non-violence.

It is not uncommon for some of our youngsters to evince interest in the Leader, who was the first-runner up in Time magazine’s search for the ‘Man of the Century’ in late 1999 and the man who inspired Martin Luther King in the US to lead a peaceful equal rights movement and Nelson Mandela to keep his faith and sanity as he languished in a South African prison for 27 long years.

And it is not uncommon for many of the elders to urge the modern generation, which can recite the chronology of Bollywood stars backwards, remember October 2 as Gandhi Jayanti, commemorating his birthday.

Respectful References

He is known as the ‘Mahatma,’ ‘Bapuji’ and by many other respectful references. He taught the world non-violence and how it could be used to achieve goals.

He inspired many, never held a political or gubernatorial office and yet has a national holiday marking his birthday (Gandhi Jayanti, October 2) and a single minute silence around 11 am on January 30, observing the time of his death.

In naming Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as a Runner-Up to the title, Person of the Century, ‘Time’ said: “Gandhi is that rare great man held in universal esteem, a figure lifted from history to moral icon. The fundamental message of his transcendent personality persists. He stamped his ideas on history, igniting three of the century’s great revolutions-against colonialism, racism and violence.”

It is this icon-this ‘Mahatma,’ this Great Soul-that ignited the passion of men-the likes of Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and many others who believe that the teachings of Gandhi are far more relevant in today’s troubled world than they were then.

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Photo Caption

  1. Sir Anand Satyanand, the then Governor General with Kerry Prendergast near the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2007
  2. Chris Carter (then Ethnic Affairs Minister), Lady Susan Satyanand, Sir Anand Satyanand, Kerry Prendergast, Kadakath Pathrose Ernest and Catherine Ernest at the unveiling of Mahatma Gandhi Statue in Wellington on October 2, 20017.

(Pictures from Indian Newslink Archives)

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