Sunday 18 April 2021
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Mahatma Gandhi: The great soul of the down-trodden

Mahandas Karamachand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi ,was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, India.
This year the world is celebrating his 150th birthday. Here in Namibia a Special Event was held in Windhoek under the theme: “…150 Years: Celebration of the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi”.
The Event was graced by the eminent presence of H.E Dr. Sam Nujoma, Founding President of The Republic and Father of the Namibia Nation.
The Indian Nation was represented at a high level.
At the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, India was part of the British Empire.
Mahatma Gandhi led the successful campaign against the British.
India achieved its independence on 15 August 1947. The independence campaign was rooted in Gandhi’s vision of “Satyagraha” or truth and the cry for freedom.
Gandhi believed that the anti-colonial struggle required truth and firmness as the indispensible qualities of a leader.
He once told his followers  that  ”… strength does not come from physical capacity.
It comes from an indomitable soul”.
Mahatma Gandhi articulated this vision as a central tenet in the struggle for the independence of India.
He believed in a sustainable human development based on self-reliance and a self- contented society.
In this regard he promoted activities related to community service and social welfare.
He inculcated in the Indian people and the world at large a culture of non-violence and truthfulness.
He further valued the culture of simple living.
He translated this vision into a concrete plan of action known as “Constructive Programme”.
The strategy was based on the notion of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience.
He believed that the campaign for human dignity should be carried out through community work and self- improvement. He  articulated the concept of “sarvodaya”- the welfare of all.
His dream was for the various communities of India to live together in peace, harmony and amity. He was truly a vision- driven leader.
He once said: “… It’s not the man that makes the vision, it’s the vision that makes the man”.
His Constructive Programme emphasized the importance of community unity, provision of Basic Education, the promotion of education in health and hygiene, assistance to students, respect for labour and many more. This is the heritage he left for India and the humanity at large.
He was one of 20th Century “… most famous apostle of non-violence”.
His vision inspired many African nationalists to wage non-violent struggles against colonialism.
Unfortunately, unlike in India, the colonialists in Africa responded with brute force against those who demanded freedom and independence.
From Kenya to Algeria, from Guinea Bissau to Mozambique, and from Zimbabwe to Namibia, colonial violence was the order of the day.
The independence of India was a blessing especially for Southern Africa.
India took active interest in the struggle for freedom in Southern Africa.
As far as the struggle for Namibian independence was concerned, as far back as 1946 India was on the forefront of the campaign to prevent the incorporation of the Territory of South West Africa as a fifth province of South Africa.
India assisted the likes of Reverend Michael Scot to petition the Fourth Committee of the United Nations on behalf of Chief Hosea Kutako’s Herero Chiefs Council.
When the struggle for Namibia’s independence intensified, the Government of India recognized SWAPO as the authentic representative of the Namibia people and offered the organization a diplomatic status. This gesture was important.
It strengthened the voice of the liberation forces.
It gave legitimacy to the cause of the Namibian people. This was the spirit of Gandhi.
This was the spirit of giving the dignity to the oppressed people. Many fine sons of India served in different capacities in favour of Namibia’s independence.
Among them was Ambassador Brajesh Mishra who served as the United Commission for Namibia from 1982 to 1987.
Lieutenant General Dawan Prem Chand served as the commander of the military component of the United Nations Transition Group which supervised independence elections in Namibia in 1989.
The vision of Gandhi is today as relevant as it was during the struggle for India’s independence.
Our contemporary world is faced with many conflicts which need to be addressed through non-violent means. As we celebrate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi we should draw inspiration from his timeless vision: a vision of a world at peace with itself!

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