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Visit of King’s son puts spotlight on Mahatma’s legacy

The forthcoming visit to Sabarmati Ashram by Martin Luther King’s son and 21 other members of a US Congressional delegation on February 20 has created great interest in the city.

Written by Syed Khalique Ahmed | Ahmedabad | Published: February 18, 2009 2:23 am

US delegation’s Sabarmati sojourn has backing of President Obama

The forthcoming visit to Sabarmati Ashram by Martin Luther King’s son and 21 other members of a US Congressional delegation on February 20 has created great interest in the city.

Academicians and human rights activists have described the visit as an evidence of the relevance of non-violence even today. They have said the visit reflects the respect US President Barack Obama holds for Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals.

The US delegation,which will visit the Sabarmati Ashram to mark the 50th anniversary of the visit by legendary civil rights champion Dr Martin Luther King and his wife Corsetta Scott King,will be led by Martin Luther King III,the son of the great leader. The delegation’s visit has been sponsored by Obama.

Commenting on the significance of the visit,the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth,Sudarshan Iyengar,said the visit reflected a continuity of the struggle for civil rights and justice as exhibited in the historic visit of Dr King who was greatly impressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s method of non-violent resistance in bringing social and political change.

‘‘With President Obama taking interest in the fight for justice and civil rights at a global level,the visit by the delegation will create a feeling of oneness among the people of the world and foster a feeling of love and affection among the people of the two biggest democracies,” he said.

Tridib Suhrud of the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT) said King III’s visit shows continued relevance of the Gandhian message of non-violence especially in the changed economic and political scenario of the United States. “By paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi,King has shown that non-violence is as relevant and needed today as it was half-a-century ago,” he said.

During his visit in 1959 at the invitation of the Gandhi National Memorial Foundation,Dr King had said,“I am visiting India as a tourist but going to Gujarat as a pilgrim,” indicating the amount of respect he had for Mahatma. “They are trying to identify themselves with Gandhi,whose non-violence movement inspired leaders all over the world,” said former MSU professor J S Bandukwala. He now works as president of the Gujarat unit of People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He added: “For us,the visit is a matter of pride. Let us hope that we Gujaratis live up to that expectation.”

Jitendra Desai,a Gandhian and trustee of Navjivan Publications,said: “The visit by King III will strengthen the moral force of non-violent resistance and its ability to bring about social change. At a time when violence is being used to settle problems,the visit signifies the importance of non-violence as a method to bring change. He added that “non-violent resistance holds a lot of hope for humanity fighting for justice and civil rights the world over.”

Veteran Gandhian and social activist Chinubhai Vaidya said that though the visit highlights the importance of non-violent resistance in the contemporary period to solve disputes between nations,it is important that the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi are taught to children in schools to inculcate a feeling of non-violence among them. He said he plans to hand over a letter to King III asking him to use his influence to include non-violence in school curriculum all over the world.

Amrutbhai Modi,the secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram said it was the non-violent struggle that resulted in the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa and now Barack Obama as the President of the United States. It was a good thing that President Obama chose King III to lead the delegation to India and Sabarmati Ashram on the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s visit to this ashram.

“It will give strength to the faith and devotion of the people in the ideals of non-violence and send a message to the world that this is a better way to achieve social and political change rather than settle matters by use of arms,” said Modi.

He said the visit would inspire people the world over to seek reconciliatory methods to fight for their rights and justice. Modi said that King III and other delegates will meet prominent citizens,academicians,intellectuals,businessmen and industrialists as Dr King did in 1959.

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