Invoking the Mahatma in an age where his relevance is necessary

The Environmental and Resource Institute along with the Bangalore International Centre, hosted the former Ambassador of India, Pascal Alan Nazareth, and the former chief justice of the supreme court of India, Santhosh Hegde, in an engaging reflection of the significance of the father of our nation, in the 21st century, on the 28th of April, 2017.

After the death of Mahatma Gandhi, there have constant attempts to understand and interpret his ideologies, not just in India, but throughout the world. It seems today that some are using his teachings according to their own convenience, and there are many more who simply deny his relevance in the new world order.

To break this assumption, the former ambassador of India to Japan, Myanmar, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, Pascal Alan Nazareth, spoke about the relevance and significance of Gandhi’s principles even in today’s seemingly apocalyptic order. The talk was chaired and moderated by Justice N Santhosh Hegde, former chief justice of the supreme court of India.

The ambassador spoke with regards to his latest published book, “Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership”, which is now being printed in 15 different languages across the world. Nazareth gave many examples throughout his talk about different events that have taken place around the world since the time of Mahatma Gandhi, and how most of these events have been inspired by him.

The presentation focused primarily on Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and Satyagraha, and the impact of these practices around the world. Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly inspired by these teachings and used them to gain an equal status for black Americans in the United States. Lech Walesa of Poland and Evo Morales of Bolivia led similar struggles in their countries that created such revolutions, all inspired by Gandhi.

The ambassador touched upon many topics in his two-hour long talk, such as the relevance of the United Nations, the importance of rethinking capitalism in today’s world, the unnecessary struggle created between Israel and Palestine by western powers, and the negativity surrounding Islam and its association with terrorism.

The talk was then followed by a question session with Justice Hegde and Ambassador Nazareth. Among the many questions that were asked, some of them inspired a deeper thinking of the subject being discussed. When asked about strategies to politically motivate the youth of India, Nazareth said, “it is important to make the youth understand Gandhi in their own fashion. To make Gandhi enjoyable again, we must change his perception, in that it should be understood by all that to be a Gandhian it is not necessary to be a vegetarian and abstain from alcohol. We must give young people the chance to learn from what he experienced.” Justice Hegde also added that his inclusion in the Lokayukta changed him. “We have become a part of a world where respect is given only to power and money. Our children are growing up actively in such an environment, so in this case we must teach them to create small changes,” he said. Hegde also reminisced about times when he would travel to remote villages and meet school children, as a promise made by him. In his words, “if we do not take up the responsibility, it becomes easier for our children to say that we did not teach them anything.”

Both of the chairs answered many thought-provoking questions without their own biases. Nazareth also answered a question about Gandhi’s teachings of trusteeship and giving back to society in today’s world, by reminding audiences about the biggest philanthropists of this country, JRD Tata, Narayanan Murthy and Azim Premji.

Justice Hegde provided anecdotes of the significance of Gandhi from his childhood, and praised the non violent struggles of the Mahatma which have proved to be successful during the General Emergency and the struggle of Anna Hazare.

The talk emphasised on the visibly good and beneficial attempts at peace and harmony being made around the world, and the direct correlation that these events have with Gandhi to this day.