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Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's 150th Birth Anniversary

Dinesh Patel and Anil Saigal

To celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary, Dr. Dinesh Patel presented Gandhi's history, influence on his times, and how we look to peaceful protest to enact change now. The event was held at the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, MA which coincidentally is also celebrating its 150 years in existence.

Mahatma Gandhi was born in Porbander, Gujarat. His father was a Vaishnav Hindu but his mother belonged to the Pranami faith, which is a combination of Hinduism and Islam faiths. After a few rough years during his school days, the seeds of truth, righteousness and forgiveness were planted in him at an early age.

After completing his law degree in England, he returned to India in 1891 but was not very happy. A person who had read a lot about different cultures, he hopped on the opportunity to go to South Africa as a legal counsel to a Muslim business firm. The famous incident where he was thrown out of the train happened in 1893. When all the complaints went nowhere, Gandhi decided “I should try if possible to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process.” This was the IDEOLOGY of true Satyagraha movement.

During his stay there, he and Indian community continuously faced hate, crime, violence, injustice and racial discrimination. He was often saved by Police Superintendent’s wife. He believed that the white were innocent, it was just that they were misguided by the Government and the people in power. This only strengthened his determination to fight them and in 1884 he formed the Natal Indian Congress.  In 1908 he started non- violent movements by defying unjust laws and campaigning for support from anyone who was willing to listen.

His efforts finally paid off and in 1914 the voting rights bill was passed, free movement in Transvaal province was allowed, immigration act was revised, and customary Indian marriages were recognized.

Satyagraha - insistence on truth in the form of non-violent and resistance movement, personal responsibility and struggle for civil and equal rights became his hallmark. Fasting, prayers, and celibacy were part of the non-cooperation movements.

In 1917, he successfully started the Satyagraha movement in Bihar, India in support of the farmers.  Over the years he worked in Constructive Programs such as women’s education, sanitary reforms, health-care for villagers, education and elimination of untouchability. In 1918 and 1919, he worked with Sardar Patel on the Nadiad Kheda movement and the repressive Rowlatt Act. Later in 1930 he organized the Salt march and in 1942 the Quit India Movement to end British rule in India.

His Satyagraha principle was adopted by many specially Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King for racial injustice and freedom. His famous words, “Be the change you want to be” and the non-violence movement has been the guiding principle for a number of leaders around the world.

This was followed by good questions and positive thoughts at the meeting. Hope we can apply those same principles to what is going around in our lives here today:

Black Lives Matter
Immigration issues
Hate, Violence, Gun violence/Gun control
Climate, Health, Alternate energy
Diversity and Racism/Religion
Human Rights -Women’s rights
LGBTQ Rights
Plan Parenthood, Pro-Life
Anti-Establishment Protests
Wall Street ---What Next?

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