Auckland, October 10, 2018
A 19th Century Maori Leader could have inspired Mahatma Gandhi to choose the path of non-violence and lead his people to obtain political freedom from the British, former Governor General of New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand has said.
“Several accounts confirm that Mahatma Gandhi read reports of the actions of Te Whiti o Rongomai, the Maori leader of Parihaka, in the Taranaki on the North Island West Coast. About 15 years before Gandhi’s first steps in active non-violence were taken in South Africa, Te Whiti and his close relation, Tohu Kakahi, mobilised people against confiscation of Maori land by the Government. They employed passive resistance, for example by ploughing the land to prevent the building of roads, and removing survey pegs, and things of that kind. Eventually, legislation was used to arrest and detain Te Whiti and others without trial, but reports of the Maori ploughing tactics in 1880 and 1881, and mass submission to arrest, reached and influenced the thinking, a decade or so later, of a young lawyer considering non-violent action against practices of the government in South Africa,” he said.
Sir Anand was delivering the keynote address at the 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi organised by the Indian High Commission and the Wellington Indian Association at Bharat Bhavan in Wellington on Friday, October 5, 2018.
Gandhi’s legacy involves demonstrating how three elements, namely Engagement, Education and Equality, can be used to great effect which has inspired people to adopt them in other seemingly intransigent settings. up elsewhere and later by other people in other settings. Years later, Reverend Dr Martin Luther King in the United States and Madiba Nelson Mandela in South Africa effected leadership, emphasising non-violent non-cooperation as a positive force,” he said.
Gandhi and Engagement
Speaking about Gandhi’s Engagement, Sir Anand said that he never ceased his close involvement with those about him when a life devoted to prayer and asceticism could easily have pushed him into the margins.
Although opposed to warfare, he mobilised people of Indian origin in Natal during the Boer War in 1906 to form an Ambulance Corps for use by the British as stretcher bearers with expenses to be met by the local Indian community, he said.
Education for all
The modern world should emulate Gandhi’s lifelong espousal of the advantages of seeking out opportunities for improvement and learning.
“He himself had gone from India at the end of the 19th Century to study and gain qualification as a lawyer in England. I love the anecdote of Gandhiji meeting a young Englishman, who had said that he wanted to go to India as a Christian missionary and help people by teaching. The guidance he received from Gandhi was that he should ‘Go out, not just to teach but to learn.’ Every one should pursue the opportunity to learn,” Sir Anand said.
The Equality principle
“The third principle for which Gandhi modeled us for is Equality – which reflects that his influence reached much further than achieving Indian independence in which, incidentally, he played no official part. More broadly than that, he saw many things in the Indian way of life that needed change. He was tireless in his advocacy for civil rights for women, for the abolition of the caste system, and for fair treatment of all people regardless of their religion or background. He championed positive changes in attitudes towards people practising the Muslim faith and towards untouchables that make him stand out as a human being in the fullest sense,” he said.
Among those who attended the sesquicentennial celebrations were Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Members of Parliament Paul Eagle, Chris Bishop, Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Brett Hudson, diplomats and members of various communities.
A set of commemorative postage stamps was released in Wellington.
On October 2, 2018, the actual Birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, people of Indian Origin and other communities assembled at the Mahatma Gandhi Statue at the Wellington Central Railway Station to pay homage to the Leader.
As reported earlier, a Peace March was held in Auckland’s Central Business District on September 30, 2018.
(Pictures supplied by Indian High Commission)