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My Article in Indian Express on Mandela Nehru and Gandhi, July 18, 2013

My Article in Indian Express on Mandela Nehru and Gandhi, July 18, 2013

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Published by Enuga S. Reddy
The influence of Gandhi. Nehru and India on Mandela
The influence of Gandhi. Nehru and India on Mandela

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Published by: Enuga S. Reddy on Dec 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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(An article in the
 Indian Express
 newspaper chain in India on Mandela, Nehru and Gandhi, July 18, 2013)
Two men and an idea
 It was in prison that Mandela began to seriously consider the need for reconciliation and appreciate Gandhi's ideas
  Nelson Mandela was born in Eastern Cape exactly four years after M.K. Gandhi left South Africa from Cape Town
 July 18, 1918, the date proclaimed by the United Nations as Nelson Mandela International Day. For 44 years of his life, before 28 years of imprisonment, he showed little interest in the  philosophy of Gandhi. He was known in the African National Congress as somewhat hot-headed, and people joked about his middle name, Rolihlahla ("troublemaker" in slang). But soon after he was released from prison and began negotiations with the apartheid regime, he was hailed as a leader of peace and reconciliation in the 20th century, along with Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. How did this transformation take place? When he enrolled in the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law, he developed close friendships with Indian students, especially Ismail Meer and J.N. Singh. He shared a room for some time with Meer at Kholvad House in Market Street. They had many discussions on the situation in South Africa. Mandela was interested in the Indian national movement. He became an admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru when he read his book,
The Unity of  India
. He wrote: "It made an indelible impression on my mind and ever since then I procured, read and treasured any one of his works that became available." His presidential address to the ANC (Transvaal) Conference in September 1953 was titled "No Easy Walk to Freedom", after an article by Nehru. The address ended with a quotation from that article, slightly revised to adapt it to Africa: "...there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires. Dangers and difficulties have not deterred us in the  past, they will not frighten us now..." His letter to the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, smuggled from Robben Island prison when he learnt of India's decision to bestow on him the 1979 Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, contains several quotes from Nehru and shows a profound understanding of  Nehru and the Indian national movement. When I met him in 1991, he recited a long passage from Nehru's autobiography. He was, of course, aware of Gandhi. In 1946-48, nearly 2,000 Indians went to prison in a passive resistance movement against the "Ghetto Act", with guidance from Gandhi. Meer and Singh left their studies to organise the resistance. Zainab Asvat, daughter of Ebrahim Asvat, Gandhi's associate, left her medical studies to join the first batch of resisters from the Transvaal. Yusuf
Dadoo, president of the Transvaal Indian Congress, and G.M. Naicker, president of the Natal Indian Congress, signed an agreement for cooperation with A.B. Xuma, president of the ANC, in March 1947. They then proceeded to India and met Gandhi, who blessed cooperation if it was  based on non-violence. Mandela and the ANC Youth League succeeded in 1949 in getting the ANC national conference to approve a programme of action inspired by Gandhi and the Indian national movement. However, Mandela remained an African nationalist, opposed to a united front with Indians until June 1950, when he became the head of the coordination office for the national day of protest against the so-called Suppression of Communism Act designed to silence opponents of apartheid. His study of Nehru and Gandhi helped him to abandon narrow nationalism. Dadoo told me, "Nelson used to visit Indian families but he would not touch the food they offered. But after 1950, he became fond of curry." He began to visit the home of Naran Naidoo, an adopted son of Gandhi, and Ama. Ama told me he liked crab curry. He was a frequent visitor to the home of Yusuf Cachalia and Amina
 the children of two close associates of Gandhi. In 1952, the ANC and the South African Indian Congress jointly launched a passive resistance campaign of all South Africans
 the Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws. The plan of the campaign was formulated mainly by Molvi Ismail Cachalia, brother of Yusuf. Mandela was appointed volunteer-in-chief, with Ismail Cachalia as his deputy. Mandela, like Dadoo, was not converted to Gandhi's philosophy of satyagraha, but embraced non-violence as the most appropriate form of struggle for that time. In 1961, Mandela decided that strict non-violence was no longer feasible. He went underground and formed the Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation") for armed resistance. It engaged in numerous acts of sabotage while taking great care to avoid the loss of human lives. But it failed in its primary purpose of persuading the whites to abandon apartheid, and the West to disengage from apartheid South Africa. Mandela was arrested in August 1962, sentenced to five years in  November, and to life imprisonment in June 1964. It was in prison that Mandela began to give serious attention to the need for reconciliation so that all the people of South Africa could live together as equals. He recognised that the way to reach the Afrikaners was through their language, to which they were greatly attached, and learnt Afrikaans. From his own experience and contemplation in prison, he began to appreciate Gandhi's ideas. After his release, Mandela repeatedly referred to the need to allay the fears of the whites and encourage them to join in the building of a new South Africa. After the first talks between the government and the ANC, he said that the ANC went into the discussions in the spirit that there should neither be victors nor losers, "...we are all victors. South Africa is a victor". When he was presented my article in 1995, titled "Mahatma Gandhi
 South Africa's Gift to India", he exclaimed that was what he intended to say. He wrote in an article on Gandhi in
 in 2000: "India is Gandhi's country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both

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