To revive the message of inclusive and sustainable living of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the Gandhi-Mandela Peace Initiative was launched by Kartikeya Sharma, Founder, Sunday Guardian Foundation; Dr Anurag Batra, Founder, Believe Foundation, and Chairman, Businessworld; and Tarina Patel, Founder, Dr Ramanbhai Patel Foundation (RBP), at Hotel Imperial in New Delhi
The event, which was attended by a number of political dignitaries and social activists, among others, was aimed to look back at the philosophy of Gandhi and Mandela accepting change for a better future.
In his keynote address, Justice A.K. Sikri, Chairman of National Broadcasting Authority and former Supreme Court judge, drew parallels between the lives of the two leaders, how both were lawyers and both took to the streets to protest against the injustice done to them and their people.
This was followed by a panel discussion on environment and sustainability, the panelists for which were Kartikeya Sharma, Founder, Sunday Guardian Foundation; Walter Lindner, German Ambassador to India; Ricky Kej, Grammy Award winner and environmentalist; Dr Devendra Kumar Agrawal, expert member of National Green Tribunal, and Mahendra Modi, DGP, advisor to the government on the issue. The panel was moderated by Sudhir Mishra, environmental lawyer and committee member of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.
Talking of Mahatma Gandhi’s compassion and his commitment to principles of non-violence, Kartikeya Sharma gave the example of an incident from Gandhiji’s life where Jamnalal Bajaj gave him a piece of land and Gandhi said: “I have two conditions, one, that you will spend more than Rs 100 building the ashram and, second, that there should be no harm to any animal or any other living being.” Sharma also spoke about the media’s role in creating consciousness about environment protection and sustainable living, citing the example of how Sunday Guardian Foundation and iTV Network contributed crores and gave airtime and space to issues of environmental concerns.
Tarina Patel, Founder of Dr Ramanbhai Patel Foundation (RBP), who was born in South Africa and has lived in both countries, said that she never faced an identity crisis in either of the countries. “As a South African living in India and as an Indian living in South Africa, brought many challenges, but I chose to embrace them,” she said.
Talking about gender equality, Patel said that it is actually women who are fighting for men’s equality and women are much stronger and powerful. “Gandhi and Mandela fought for what they thought was right for humanity and that made all the difference and if people are ready to commit to right things, there won’t be a need to punish people or have laws,” Patel said.
Ramanbhai Patel was a respected doctor in South Africa who dedicated five decades to the service of underprivileged and disadvantaged communities. The Dr Ramanbhai Patel Foundation provides innovative medical technology for early diagnosis and preventative healthcare for communities without medical infrastructure and resources, including medical training programmes to educate local health care practitioners. The Foundation is doing ground breaking work for the underprivileged and operates between India and South Africa.
“The way Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela approached social problems was impressive and revolutionary,” Kartikeya Sharma said in his keynote speech.
Further he announced the iTV Network’s initiative for the formation of AskGandhi.in to spread the teachings and ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi.
He added: “It’s a great opportunity to profess the teachings of both the iconic leaders. AskGandhi.in is an interactive platform for the current and future generations to engage with the ideals and principles on every facet of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. Both Gandhi and Mandela showed the way of change, peace and social fabric to the world.”
Ricky Kej talked about how children are affected by pollution even before being born as mothers breathe polluted air and it is of utmost important to do something now rather than to wait for later.
In the panel on inclusion, gender equality and women’s rights, Shazia Ilmi, BJP spokesperson, emphasised on how Gandhi and Mandela were open to change because of which they redefined the meaning of freedom for humans.
In his special address, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, spoke about the need for representation of youth in politics, economy and other leadership positions. Tharoor emphasised on statistics that there are still around 4 million child labourers and the rate of children dropping out of government schools is 40%.
Footballer-turned-politician Baichung Bhutia, yoga teacher Ira Trivedi and BJP MP from Bengaluru, Tejasvi Surya, talked about how today’s youths seek independence. Surya said, “They want to be idealistic, they want to question the status quo and want to maintain a sense of idealism.” Bhutia said that youths are moving beyond the old belief that government jobs are the only thing they should run after.
Anurag Batra said today’s youths believe that if “you can dream it, you can achieve it”.
Ira Trivedi said that the minimum age of marriage of girls should be increased to 26 years as then it would give them more opportunity to become professionally and personally independent.
This was followed by awarding Dr Achyuta Samanta, the founder of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), with the Gandhi Mandela Peace Award 2019 for Impact in Philanthropy Space.
Dr Samanta, who is also a Lok Sabha member from Kandhamal, in his acceptance speech highlighted how the philosophy of Gandhi and Mandela has been practised at KIIT and KISS in Odisha. Samanta, the founder of KIIT and KISS, also recalled his childhood and humble background.
In another session on Gandhi’s concept of education, Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Group, highlighted the challenges faced in the sector in India. The panelists in the last session on the education system in India included Kartikeya Sharma, Adi Godrej, Ghanshyam Tiwari of the Samajwadi Party who is also the co-founder of Harvard India Conference; T. Krishna Prasad, IPS Telangana cadre, Dr Aseem Chauhan, Chancellor, Amity University, Dr Madhu Chitkara, Vice Chancellor, Chitkara University, Kunwar Shekhar Virendra, Chancellor, Shobhit University. During the session, Kartikeya Sharma said: “Education and the teaching process are changing fast along with technology and new ways to educate children are needed.” Adi Godrej said, “Gandhi and Mandela fought hard for the education of all.”
Dr Chitakara talked about how her university has started a community radio system to help locals in the vicinity so that their problems can be brought out in the open. Kunwar Shekhar Virendra of Shobhit University emphasised on how the education process was changing as a result of which educational institutions needed to imbibe new technologies so that education became affordable.
Tiwari said that the education system needed to change while giving an example of how the concept of “fail and pass” was first experienced by children in schools. He said this needed to change as it judged the children’s intellectual ability to learn.
Krishna Prasad said: “The basic thing that education needs to inculcate is the concept of human dignity.” Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, and the daughter of the youngest son of Gandhi, Devadas and daughter-in-law, Lakshmi Gandhi, recalled the days she spent with the Father of the Nation. “Both Gandhi and Mandela were self-made men. Today’s education needs to teach love and compassion to the world, that’s what these two men wanted,” she said.
Senior Congress leader Karan Singh who gave a keynote address recalled his interactions with both Gandhi and Mandela and called for building an “alliance of peace to take on the increasing violence in society”.