Remembering Gandhiji on his 69th death anniversary (Recollections of a Communicator)

| Updated: Jan 30, 2017 22:40 IST

By I. Ramamohan Rao New Delhi [India], Jan.30 (ANI): The nation today is observing the 69th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and is recalling the contribution made by him during our freedom struggle, reminding us that his teachings are relevant even today. Former U.S. President Barack Obama told us during his speech at the Siri Fort Auditorium when he visited India how the life of Gandhiji was and still is an inspiration for people the world over, from Martin Luther King to Obama himself. When he took over as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who comes from Gujarat, reminded us of the importance of his teachings, by starting a nation-wide campaign for cleanliness on his birth anniversary. I recall that as a young officer, when I arrived in Delhi, my uncle, the late U.S. Mohan Rao, who headed the Publications Division, presented me a copy of Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography. He told me that I should read the book and observe how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an average young man, made mistakes in his life, but decided never to repeat them, and grew step-by-step to become a Mahatma. As stated by him, it was a slow and uphill climb all the way, the vision widening at every step, till at the end, he seemed a superman. When I joined the government as a young officer involved with news dessemination, I was told how a correspondent of the Press Trust of India, Sailen Chatterjee, broke down when Gandhi was shot by Nathuram Godse at Birla House. The rival news agency broke the news first, a fact which has remained a part of history. Sailen had covered Gandhi's visit to Noakhali. Sailen became a close friend of mine and together we covered the strengthening of defences along the India-China border in Ladakh by the Indian Army. When I joined the Indian & Foreign Review as Chief Editor, Sailen also contributed articles relating his experiences in Noakali during my editorship of the fortnightly journal printed on rice paper for circulation abroad. On January 30, every year, I used to approach Professor Swaminathan, the Chief Editor of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, who brought it out in 100 volumes. They are still available, also in a digital format. On October 2 and on January 30, I also read the small booklet authored by Mohan Rao on the "Message of Mahatma Gandhi", which tells us how Gandhi, the icon of truth and non-violence, became a statesman saint during his life. To quote extracts from the booklet: "From his entry into politics of the public domain; from his South African days to his magical re-christening of India's freedom struggle; this simple man with a loin cloth, steel-rimmed glasses, rough sandals, a toothless smile and a walking stick, evoked an unprecedented mass following among the rich and the poor, and the mighty and the meek alike, both in India and outside". There have been great saints, philosophers, thinkers, scientists, statesman and political leaders whose contributions in their own fields have been outstanding, but Gandhiji was unique, because while he was actively leading a mass struggle for freeing his country from foreign rule. He also conceived Swaraj (Independence) at once in individual and political terms, and tried through reflection and experiment, to evolve a philosophy of life which would have permanent validity. "This half-naked fakir shaped much of the civil society philosophy of the last century as done before by the Buddha and Christ." Gandhiji's views on conception of God and religion, truth and non-violence, his concern for the poor and down trodden and the unity of India are still relevant. Gandhiji said, "The world outside did not know us as Gujaratis, Maharashtrians and Tamilians etc., but only as Indians....Everything that the provinces do, must be for the glory of the nation." Gandhiji respected women and regarded them as the embodiment of sacrifice and suffering. As national leaders assembled at the Rajghat today, citizens of India should remember the value of truth and non-violence. Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail (ANI)