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In another few hours, we will be observing the 73rd anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas KaramChand Gandhi, the renowned and respected Mahatma.
On the early morning of 30th January 1948, on his way to daily prayers, an extremist Nathuran Vinayak Godse, 36 years old, Hindu extremist shot and killed Ghandi.
The world was shocked as we tried to come to terms with the irony of Ghandi’s killing.
The irony is that he lived his life proposing non-violence but violence was used against him.
But as we ponder on the irony, there are significant lessons that each and every one of us, particularly Guyanese need to benefit from.
First, beware of and be able to identify the extremists in our midst. They have always and continue to be a danger and we saw this manifest itself in the US in Washington on January 6, 2021 and we have them in Guyana.
I remain hopeful that we learn lessons, notwithstanding mankind’s inability to learn from our experiences.
It is hoped that as a Nation, we can overcome this serious weakness.
Second lesson: We must learn as a people to help ourselves out of all difficulties.
Ghandi, after obtaining his law degrees spent twenty-one years in South Africa, where he encountered injustice, and arrogance of the apartheid regime in South Africa supported by the super power in Western Europe.
Information available suggests that the Mahatma concentrated on improving the conditions under which the Indians and the coloured people lived in South Africa.
As Immigrants, their horrible and unaccepted conditions were similar to those experienced by Immigrants who came to Guyana beginning after1834.
Some students have criticized Ghandi for ignoring the plight of the black Africans in Southern Africa.
I don’t necessarily share this criticism, for here comes the lesson.
Ghandi was a Hindu and therefore empathized with his kith and kin in South Africa and the mixed group, described as coloured.
The lesson is people must not expect outsiders to deal with their suffering and discrimination.
It is the duty and the responsibility for those suffering to throw up from among themselves men and women to provide leadership by articulating their cause and being prepared to make sacrifices.
If those suffering are unable, unwilling or just too lazy to stand up and fight, they deserve a place of inferiority in the scheme of things in the state in which they live.
This is the law of human nature.
Third lesson: Ghandi like Mandela, Martin Luther King (Jnr), Forbes Burnham, Cheddi Jagan, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Fidel Castro, Mao-Tse-tung, Emmeline Pankhurst, etc., were all relatively young people when they inveighed against the injustice of imperial-like domination.
Lesson for our young people.
In all our political and social institutions, the young must shed this philosophy of entitlement noticeable in a few instances.
We need young people urgently at this stage of our development.
However, it must be young people who are willing to make personal and other sacrifices in pursuit of their desire to play a leading role in national affairs.
They must be saturated with traditions and take advantage of past experiences to advance education, in and out of the classroom to agitate where there is wrong doing, irrespective of who the perpetrators are.
Confident that only this process can earn them the prize of liberation and leadership
Lesson Four: as a people we must practice and come to really believe the value of tolerance and to respect the culture and beliefs of other people, and beyond that take heed of this profound statement by Ghandi G “ I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism, so we can only pray if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu but our innermost prayer should be a Hindu, should be a better Hindu, a Muslim, a better Muslim, a Christian, a better Christian.” End of quote.
This is an important lesson as we celebrate the life and death of the Mahatma.
We must be passionate and proud to be who we are, whether it be black, brown or white, but that should not allow us to demean or feel that the other man’s religion and cultural practices are inferior to ours.
The extremist who killed Ghandi was upset because Ghandi attempted to place Hinduism, Christianity and Islam on the same footing.
Recall once, when posed with an aggressive question, Ghandi said “Yes I am, I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist and a Jew, and so are we.”
The lesson here, only tolerance and knowledge of all of your environment will allow us a peaceful path to progress.
Lesson Five: we must never become frustrated and give up the struggle for what is right.
Today, many Indians in South Africa do not know a lot about Ghandi because the educational system kept Ghandi’s work hidden.
This generation is taking corrective measures.
Happily, after 1994, when Nelson Mandela became Prime Minister of South Africa, the apartheid laws were dismantled and gave equality to blacks, coloured, Indians and whites.
At all times, while observing people of a different complexion, texture of hair or orientation, we must judge and deal with people, not based on any of those divisive conditions but only by their diligence, hard work, study and good character.
These are some of the lessons we must learn as we recollect Ghandi’s assassination.
To the young people I listen to on television, I am happy that many of them are forward thinking and can be considered genuine patriots.
Let them keep up their good work.