Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rosa Parks and Gandhi

Today Rosa Parks, became the first woman to lie in honor in the Rotunda, sharing an honor bestowed upon Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and other national leaders of the USA. Her simple refusal to give up her seat on a city bus for a white individual half a century ago sparked the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. This reminds me of another incident that happened more than half a century prior to this one, where a colored man was thrown out of the first class compartment in a train at Pietermaritzburg station in South Africa. In those days only white people where allowed in the first class and even thought this individual had bought the first class ticket, he was thrown out on his refusal to move to the general compartments. This person was known as Mohandas K. Gandhi in those days, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi (Mahatma means great soul) now. Events/movements that followed these incidents are elimination of segregation policy from USA and independence of India from England.

I am compelled to write this as every now and then some ‘scholar’ would denounce Gandhi’s contribution to our freedom struggle by non-sense arguments. It didn’t matter if Rosa hadn’t heard about Gandhi doing something similar before her doing so, it didn’t matter if Martin Luther King hadn’t learn the concept of ‘non-violent protest’ from Gandhi and it didn’t matter if Nelson Mandela was not directly influenced by Gandhian thinking during his struggle to bring freedom and democracy to South Africa, what matters is that these individuals had courage, commitment and wisdom that most people lack. Their love and sacrifice for their country is unquestionable. Go wrap yourself in just one piece of cloth for 35 years of your life, spend 20 years or more of your life in jails (not for your own cause) and then talk about Gandhi’s contribution to our freedom struggle.

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