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Two Indian-origin women freedom activists awarded South Africa’s highest National Order awards

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South African President Jacob Zuma, Wikimedia
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Pretoria, 01 May, 2017: In a proud moment for India, two Indian-origin women freedom activists (Fatima Meer and Shantie Naidoo) were awarded South Africa’s highest National Order awards by the South-African President Jacob Zuma on 28 April, 2017 (Friday).

The Order of Luthuli in silver was posthumously received by Fatima Meer while Shantie Naidoo received the same award at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

Naidoo is a descendant of Thambi Naidoo, one of Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenants during his tenure in South Africa at the turn of the last century.

Shantie Naidoo joined 21 other people who were part of a group which suffered at the hands of the apartheid-era security police. The police tortured them and held them in solitary confinement. It is the same confinement from where Meer, a lifelong friend of the late Nelson Mandela together with her husband Ismail Meer, started her activist career as a high school student aged 17 in 1945.

At the time of Presidency Meer quoted, “The Indian community suffered the enactment of the first Segregation Act which restricted their economic and residential rights to specific areas in the country.”

Meer assembled high school students and established the ‘Students Passive Resistance Committee’ in order to canvass and raise funds for the Passive Resistance Campaign.

“The Indian community resisted by organising Satyagraha, the first since Gandhi’s Satyagraha at the close of the century,” Meer further continued.

Outshining as a historian and sociologist, Meer was a stimulating writer. Her writing masterpieces include Mandela’s biography and the script for Akbar Khan’s film ‘Taj Mahal’.

Her book ‘Portrait of Indian South Africans’ was published in 1969. Being a socially committed human, she donated the total proceeds of her book to the ‘Gandhi Settlement’ towards the building of the Gandhi Museum and Clinic at the ‘Phoenix Settlement’. Phoenix Settlement, an initiative by Gandhi is now managed and supervised by his granddaughter Ela Gandhi.

Meer passed away in 2010. Before her death, she served as a member of the parliament under the Presidentship of Mandela since 1994.

prepared by Himanshi Goyal of Newsgram

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean