Speeches/Statements Ambassador's remarks at the commemoration of 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi

Ambassador's remarks at the commemoration of 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi

Remarks by the Ambassador

at the commemoration to mark the 151th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 14th International day of Non-Violence

(UNESCAP - 2 October 2020)

H.E Mr Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, Privy Councillor, Kingdom of Thailand & Madame

Ibu Armida Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP,

Ambassadorial Colleagues, Permanent Reps to UNESCAP,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Representatives of the Indian diaspora community

Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Namaskar, Good Morning, Sawasdee Kha,

Today happens to be the 14th International Day of Non-Violence. It also marks the conclusion of the two-year long celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi a man who throughout his life demonstrated the effectiveness of the philosophy of non-violence. For us in India, we are deeply grateful to Gandhiji for having led a remarkable independence movement which gave us freedom from colonial rule. He is the father of the Indian nation. But Gandhiji is much more than that. He belongs to the whole world. He influenced many great world leaders – for instance, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Martin Luther King of US.

2. Mahatma Gandhi was a multifaceted personality. His outward simplicity and his focused devotion to non-violence enveloped layers of ideas, disciplines and aspirations. He was at once saint and revolutionary, politician and social reformer, economist, educationist and satyagrahi; devotee alike of faith and reason, a devout Hindu and an admirer of other faiths, nationalist and internationalist, man of ideas but, above, a man of action. He was an ordinary man who rose to extraordinary heights. He was always self-deprecating – thus, he called his biography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”― experimentation was one of the deepest passions of his life.

3. Gandhiji took an ancient Indian idea, that of ahimsa or non – violence but he refashioned it to suit the specific context of his times. Non-violence means more than the mere absence of violence. It is positive and dynamic and Gandhiji combined it with a sense of responsibility for the welfare of people. His great achievement was to demonstrate through his own example that non – violence can be implemented effectively not only in the political arena, but also in our daily life. The other value dear to him and by which he mobilized the entire Indian sub-continent was of Satyagraha - of truth – the power of truth or the soul force. Thirdly, he believed in the philosophy of Sarvodaya – the upliftment of all.

4. At the core of Gandhiji’s philosophy of non-violence was his belief that strength comes from righteousness, not force. Power comes from truth, not might. Victory comes from moral courage, not by imposed submission. He held that means and ends were inseparable, and that, in fact, the means themselves shape the ends.

5. From time to time questions have been raised on the relevance of his methods in today’s fast-paced and globally interlinked world, where threats to peace, security and social harmony abound. But the essential validity of Mahatma Gandhi’s truth has not changed, because human nature itself has not changed.

6. Much of what Gandhiji believed in was a harbinger of what became the underlying philosophy of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the UN. An end to poverty and hunger. Sustainable consumption and production to prevent the degradation of the planet. Respect for human rights and human dignity. Decent work for all. Gender equality and women’s empowerment. Mahatma Gandhi was an environmentalist at a time when that term was relatively unknown. He famously said that there is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Without being dogmatic about it, he advocated vegetarianism. He promoted cottage industries and the use of Khadi, the homespun cotton fabric. This was not just symbolic of national pride; it helped in the revival of the Indian textile industry. Gandhiji believed in the dignity of labour.

7Sanitation and public health also interested Gandhiji greatly. He said that cleanliness is next only to Godliness. In 2014, Government of India launched the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ – ‘Clean India Campaign’ to ensure hygiene, waste management and sanitation. One of the main objectives was to render India Open Defecation Free. That was achieved as more than 110 million toilets have been constructed by the national and state governments in implementation of SDG 6.2 which relates to hygiene, open defecation and sanitation. In the post-Covid 19 pandemic world, we can all see clearly how sanitation and health are closely interlinked. Speaking of the pandemic, during an outbreak of plague in India in 1896 he volunteered to be part of the municipal sanitation committee in Gujarat. Gandhiji was a great advocate of volunteerism.

8. The last two years have been marked by commemorative activities in India and abroad. In Thailand itself, we have organized lectures at schools and universities, conducted a hugely successful drawing competition for school children, inaugurated a new school building for the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial school for needy children in Sukhothai province, planted trees at Nakhon Ratchasima province, held a cycling event in Bangkok and a wonderful photo exhibition on the life of Gandhi at the Chulalongkorn University.

9. Before I close, I would like to thank H.E the Privy Councillor and Madame for accepting our invitation to grace this function. I look forward to his remarks. I would like to thank UNESCAP, its Executive Secretary and her excellent team for having co-hosted this event. And, of course, our guest speaker from India, Dr Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, an eminent Gandhian, for having agreed to share her valuable thoughts with us. I convey my gratitude to Mr Glen Chevalier for reading out his inspiring poem. And to the diplomatic corps and representatives of the Indian community present here today – we greatly appreciate. Lest I forget, I must add that Mahatma Gandhi had a musical ear and his tastes were eclectic: from devotional songs to classical music, Indian or Western, he appreciated anything melodious, particularly if it was accompanied by meaningful lyrics. So, I would like to thank the talented Aruni Bagga for agreeing to render the bhajans (or the devotional songs) so dear to Mahatma. And last, but not the least my own team led by First Secretary Sandeep Kumar who have planned everything meticulously for the last couple of weeks.

Khob Khun Ka

Thank you