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Politicos using Gandhian principles to gain personal growth: Gandhi Peace Foundation

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By Gaurav Sharma

In a world torn apart by religious intolerance, ethnic strife and gender discrimination, the Gandhian principles of Truth, Justice, Peace and Non-violence hold much lessons.

While most corporate and social organizations have distanced themselves considerably from the ideals espoused by the Mahatma, Gandhi Peace Foundation, a pioneer organization established in the late 1950’s, has been actively working on a long quest towards propagating the Gandhian ideals.

Surinder Kumar, secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation caught up with NewsGram in an exclusive interview and vocalized the significance Gandhi holds in the post-modern world.

Gaurav Sharma: Your organization has been lauded for peace initiatives during the turbulent times of war. What is its relevance in the present day?

Surinder Kumar: After the onset of globalization, the world has become smaller by virtue of being well-connected. People belonging to different castes, religions, race and colour, inevitably meet and interact with each other. A lot of times, they harbour misconceptions against people from other backgrounds. The problem of social inequality is deeply ingrained and our organization, through the use of Gandhi ideals, seeks to make a change in the mental outlook of people.

GS: What is the scope of activities that the Gandhi Peace foundation is engaged in?

SK: Apart from intervening in situations of conflict, the foundation goes about its mission in four ways; study, research, communication and action. By organizing major programmes connected to education, social harmony, religious tolerance, environment awareness and sustainable development at the national level, we try to fulfil the aim of a peaceful and inclusive society.

GS: A lot of problems have arisen in India due to religious intolerance. How do you deal with such a complicated issue?

SK: Our job includes both preventive as well as remedial measures. To foster better understanding among people belonging to different faiths, we hold inter-faith prayers, dialogues and other social exchanges such as celebrating different religious festivities– Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Baisakhi, Bodhi day– with the same gusto and elan.

As part of our remedial activities, we hold Shanti Sena camps in areas engulfed by communal violence. For example, we have made significant contributions in the Kokrajhar district of Assam and the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh.

GS: A lot of politicians are resorting to Dharna as a means of political agitation. Do you see such tactics as working on the Gandhian principle of Satyagraha or peaceful non-cooperation?

SK: Today, all parties are utilizing Gandhian principles as a token to gain personal growth. The concept of rightful means to a rightful end has lost its form and has now become diluted. The present day Satyagraha appropriated by politicians, is devoid of any substance.

GS: How do you visualize the present society with its one-pointed focus on “materialistic consumerism”?

SK: As our society thoughtlessly embraces a consumerist model, we unconsciously march towards self-annihilation. The gap in social inequality is widening, disparity is on the rise and corporates are gaining hegemony.

GS: Gandhiji used to talk about “spiritualizing politics” and harmonization of politics and religion. The current scenario of politics in India is completely antithetical to such an ideal. How do you stem the rot in Indian politics?

SK: Gandhi’s vision of politics was that of Seva or service. Currently, it has become Meva or a money generating instrument. There is need for purification. Power should be handed down to the masses, rather than being usurped by dictatorial politicians.

As part of our drive to root out corruption and religious overtones from politics, we hold regular conferences with political organizations and give our valuable inputs to promote comprehensive thinking and introspection. We continually stress the importance of avoiding discrimination on the basis of one’s faith.

Respecting personal freedom is of paramount importance in building an inclusive and peaceful society.

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Astronaut Floats in Space on Mural Sporting a Gandhi Patch on Shoulder

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Wikimedia

The high-tech future of green jobs and the Gandhian virtue of the dignity of work meld their messages on a six-storey high mural commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN that was inaugurated on Tuesday.

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions.

The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at the inauguration that the mural addresses global concerns of decent jobs and the environment.

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Pixabay

He said the mural effort goes beyond the diplomatic work at the UN of dealing with resolutions to a new diplomatic area of reaching out to people to create broader awareness of issues.

Victor Ash, the artist who painted it while perched high on a cherry-picker, told IANS: “I mixed different ideas and came up with this ‘green astronaut’ that is also worker – the worker from the future who would be working in space.”

And to commemorate the anniversary of Gandhi’ birth, he said he added Gandhi’s image as a logo on the arm of the astronaut.

Ash said that one of his inspirations was India’s record in 2017 of planting 66 million trees on a single day.

The mission building with a red-stone facade was designed by the internationally acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa, but one of its sides was bared to the bricks after the neighbouring building was torn down and a hotel was built on the site with a deep setback.

The mural now decorates that side without impinging on the building’s Correa design.

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The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees. Wikimedia

The mural was one of several sponsored across the city by ILO to commemorate its centenary with a project called Street Art for Mankind that aims to spread the message of decent work for all with sustainable development and social justice.

Portugal-born Ash said that he had painted a mural at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai during its Summerfest.

He said that he had started as a street-artist in Paris, where he had studied, and later went into doing paintings for galleries.

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“But it was only the studio work and exhibiting in galleries was not reaching such a broad public,” he said.

“So I went back to the street and did murals because it has a much bigger impact and you can actually transmit messages much better than just exhibiting in galleries for a few specific people.” (IANS)