‘India committed to preserving Gandhi’s South African legacy’
On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, high commissioner Prabhat Kumar paid floral homage to the bust of Gandhi at the Constitutional Court premises
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi throws flowers on a sculpture in tribute to Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, during his visit to the Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on July 8, 2016 (Photo credit: MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP via Getty Images)
INDIA will help maintain sites related to Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, the Indian envoy said in Johannesburg on Monday (2) as the world marked the 154th birth anniversary of the peace icon.
On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, high commissioner Prabhat Kumar paid floral homage to the bust of Gandhi at the Constitutional Court premises, which was once a prison where Gandhi and his followers served sentences during their resistance to discriminatory laws.
Gandhi served four terms of imprisonment between 1908 and 1913 in Johannesburg, including his first sentence in South Africa.
The bust was unveiled in 2012 by then Indian president Pratibha Patil when she paid a visit to South Africa.
“In all my postings abroad, I have always garlanded the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and now in South Africa, where I am doing so for the first time, it is very special, because Gandhiji was here for 21 years,” Kumar said.
Kumar visited permanent exhibitions at the venue dedicated to the lives of both Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years as a political prisoner of the apartheid government before becoming South Africa’s first democraticallyelected president in May 1994.
The diplomat said he looked forward to attending the installation of a seven-foot statue of Gandhi at Tolstoy Farm, the oncethriving commune established by Gandhi about 30 km south of Johannesburg during his tenure as a lawyer in the city.
After falling into complete disrepair due to vandalism, only the foundation of Gandhi’s original zinc and wood home was left, surrounded by tall grass, until interventions by Gandhian activist Mohan Hira and the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation (MGRO).
With support largely from the Indian government, Tolstoy Farm has now been restored to some extent with a fruit orchard, a peace garden with flowers and shrubs, and a library.
Hira arranged for an artisan from India to sculpt the latest statue of Gandhi before moving it to Tolstoy Farm.
Kumar pledged further support for Tolstoy Farm.
“The support from India will continue…all the places connected with Mahatma Gandhi (in South Africa) will receive attention from the government of India,” the diplomat said.
Standing next to a wall-sized image of the two leaders together, prepared for the exhibition although they had never met, Kumar reflected on the special relationship between Gandhi and the African National Congress (ANC) led by Mandela. “Gandhiji was here and the ANC got a lot of inspiration from Gandhiji and thereafter Nelson Mandela also always admired Gandhi and said a lot about him, so this exhibition is an inspiration for all of us, Indians and South Africans,” he said.