In the backdrop of a string of gun violence in the US, three American mayors visited India to study the philosophy of non-violence championed by Mahatma Gandhi and learn as to how it could be implemented back in their country.
“The three civic heads, two from the state of New York and one from Georgia, had arrived in Delhi on September 30 and during the five-day trip visited Jama Masjid, Akshardham, Sisganj Gurudwara and a Ramlila celebration in Delhi.
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“On October 1 and 2, they visited Sabaramati Ashram in Ahmedabad and a neighbouring village where they met its sarpanch too,” said Mandar Apte, a US-based engineer and a peace activist.
Mumbai-born Apte, 41, who raised funds for their trip, says the recurring violence in the US weighed on his mind and he approached several mayors for a trip to the “land of Mahatma” on the trail of legendary Martin Luther King.
“King had called his India visit in 1959 a pilgrimage to the land of Gandhi. But nearly six decades later, senseless violence still continues in the US –- Sandy Hook, Dallas, Charlotte, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oakland, Baton Rouge, Milwaukee, the list goes on.
“During the trip, the mayors had a series of meetings with many civic leaders and studied how the principles of non-violence could be adapted for solving today’s challenges. They flew back to the US last night,” he told PTI.
Mayor of Cobleskill Linda Holmes (New York), Mayor of Bluffton Freddie Odom (Georgia) and Mayor of Middleburgh Matthew Avitabile (New York) also met Union minister Nitin Gadkari, Lok Sabha member Maheish Girri and on Tuesday attended an East Delhi Municipal Corporation event.
“All three of them have indirectly seen violence in one form or the other in their regions. So after the India sojourn, they took back the lessons of peace and harmony and dealing with social tensions in an amicable manner, besides the ideas they exchanged with civic leaders on various municipal issues,” he said.
King’s historic visit had helped him deepen his understanding of Gandhi’s teachings of non-violence. After over a month-long trip, he had returned to the US with new insights, inspiration and a deeper commitment to apply non-violent methods for the civil rights movement.
“Freddie (34), who heads a municipal region of 3,500 people, is incidentally the first person with autism to be elected in the US. Matthew (28) earns his living teaching history at the State University of New York. And Linda (61), a passionate educator for over 30 years, has worked with children of all ages,” Apte added.
Linda on her experience in India said, “We are hoping to bring back new insights that will reinvigorate my personal energy and commitment to the principles of non-violence.”
“Violence can take place anywhere today, in a school, residential complex, shopping mall, movie theatre or even at a coffee shop. We need a global vigil on non-violence,” Apte said.