Just like actor Sanjay Dutt’s character in the film Lage Raho Munna Bhai, some 50-odd children in Haryana’s Nainangla village often get to learn about Mahatma Gandhi’s principles. These values are instilled in them by Shivani Rathee, a Delhi University alumnus, who visits the village in Mewat district every week as part of a project to mark the International Year of Volunteers.
“My visits are solely motivated by Gandhian values and are aimed at promoting active citizenship among children and training them to contribute to community building work,” says Rathee, who spearheaded the Shishu Panchayat Programme in the village three months ago.
At 21, Rathee is part of a new breed of Gandhians who have embraced, reclaimed and redefined Bapu’s principles. “Gandhiji’s thoughts have influenced me since childhood. After working with these children, I realised that they are relevant even today,” says this history graduate from Ramjas College. “We conduct workshops for the children so that they can contribute to peace, environment protection and disaster management,” adds Rathee, who plans to do a course in Gandhian studies.
Like Rathee, Raunak Ahmad believes in being the change she wants to see. A few years ago, when Ahmad had to choose a master’s programme, she didn’t think much before taking up social work. While studying for a master’s at Aligarh, Ahmad read books on Gandhi and was deeply influenced by them. “That is when I started relating social work with Bapu. I decided to be a professional social worker. I worked as a project officer with several NGOs to build a jobs programme for refugees from Myanmar, Palestine and Afghanistan. I also tried to involve as many youngsters as possible in my work as Gandhiji identified youth as agents of change,” says Ahmad, a PhD research and teaching assistant in Gandhian and peace studies at Indira Gandhi National Open University in Delhi. The 29-year-old uses only khadi products, be it clothes or cosmetics.
As October 2 approaches, Ahmad urges youngsters to take up Gandhian studies not just to keep the Mahatma’s ideologies alive, but also as a career option. “I get a monthly fellowship of Rs 23,000, an annual contingency grant of Rs 20,000 plus benefits.”
Both Rathee and Ahmad are fine examples of proud GenY Gandhians.
Indira Gandhi National Open University: Modular programme leading to MA (Gandhi and peace studies) and PG diploma in Gandhi and peace studies and PG certificate in Gandhi and peace studies
Panjab University: MA (Gandhian and peace studies); MPhil (Gandhian studies)
Bangalore University: Certificate and PGD in Gandhian studies
Annamalai University: MA philosophy and MA Gandhian studies