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Universal relevance

Universal relevance
Highlights

May the headline chasers call him a British agent. Let the Indian political discourse stoop down to a level of glorifying his killer. But the world remembers Mahatma. It’s a pleasant irony of history that the erstwhile colonial power now installs a giant statue of him right across the seat of government that too alongside a statue of Winston Churchill who once derided him as ‘half- naked fakir’.

Gandhiji has never hidden his religious beliefs. But as Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu Universalist, Gandhiji was a Universalist Hindu. He will remain forever as a shining example of not just religious tolerance but an everlasting source of inspiration to all those who cherish cultural diversity

May the headline chasers call him a British agent. Let the Indian political discourse stoop down to a level of glorifying his killer. But the world remembers Mahatma. It’s a pleasant irony of history that the erstwhile colonial power now installs a giant statue of him right across the seat of government that too alongside a statue of Winston Churchill who once derided him as ‘half- naked fakir’. Mahatma Gandhi is the first Indian and the only person never to have been in public office to be honoured with a statue in the square.

Celebrating this honour to Gandhiji is not to absolve the colonialism of its brutality. This honour is not an accident of history. It’s incidental upon the world increasingly realising the relevance of Gandhiji’s thoughts. It’s true that Gandhiji can never be confined to India. His influence continues to be felt across the globe. The legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela many a time attributed his political legacy to Gandhian influence.

The President of United States Barack Obama told Indian parliament: "I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world, ... As just as he summoned Indians to seek their destiny, he influenced champions of equality in my own country, including a young Martin Luther King. After making his pilgrimage to India half a century ago, King called Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence resistance 'the only logical and moral approach in the struggle for justice and progress'."

Gandhiji has never hidden his religious beliefs. But as Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu Universalist, Gandhiji was a Universalist Hindu. He will remain forever as a shining example of not just religious tolerance but an everlasting source of inspiration to all those who cherish cultural diversity. The growing religious intolerance in India in the recent past is nothing but an insult to Gandhian legacy. The fringe elements who promote religious bigotry are precisely those who are glorifying the assassin of Mahatma.

Nations experience ethnic strife, political tensions of different kinds that fuel violence. The imperial thrust for appropriating global resources through myriad forms of colonial and neo-colonial exploitation are resulting in violent confrontations. The weakening of international peace architecture has let loose a reign of violence in Middle East and elsewhere.

Societies across the world are mired in myriad forms of violence, domestic, social, economic and political. Thus his message of non-violence is a profound lesson of the change we seek in the world today than ever before. At a time when ostentatious culture and conspicuous consumption pervade, Gandhiji’s life of austerity and a self-less sacrifice is a beacon of hope in a world of despair. In an economy where yachts and ocean liners are raising up to the new opportunities and rafts and rowboats are sinking and some are even taking on water, Gandhiji’s economic ideas remind us the significance of social safety nets in an age of rapacious socio-economics.

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