Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday gave a call to use Gandhian philosophy to get like-minded forces to build a “coalition of conscience” and a “global compact” to address contemporary concerns of violence, poverty and globalisation and pave the way for non-violence, peace and harmony. If she set the mood at the Satyagraha Centenary Conference attended by 400-odd delegates from 90 countries, former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda gave a political tone to it.
Kaunda appealed to the US, UK and their allies to stop the war in Iraq, urged terrorists to shed violence and sought a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The relaunching of satyagraha provides an opportunity to tell warmongers enough is enough. Stop the wars; start talking,” said Kaunda. If there has to be a war, it should be against poverty, hunger, ignorance, AIDS, he told the two-day conference on ‘Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment: Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st century’.
Others like Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh, Nasser al Kidwa of Palestine, Mahatma’s grand-daughter Ela Gandhi, former Polish president Lech Walesa and Pranab Mukherjee expressed similar sentiments. Walesa said Gandhi belonged not just to India and South Africa but to the world.
Conference spokesman Devendra Dwivedi was asked if Kaunda’s outpourings had embarrassed the Congress, which is building ties with Israel and the US. “Because of some comments, our relations will not be affected,” he said.
Sonia’s speech was no less political than Kaunda’s. She did not mention the Congress’s aam aadmi slogan but said the Mahatma had ushered in the age of the common man and everything he had done was open to scrutiny. “No freedom of information Act was needed to shed light on his motives.”
She outlined the four issues being debated in their Gandhian context — conflict resolution and peace building; poverty eradication and people’s empowerment, dialogue among peoples and cultures and towards a nuclear weapons-free word order. “The task before us is to launch an organised mass movement... Let the world know there are men and women...who are determined to propagate Gandhian values.” She added: “He (Mahatma) did not provide us with final answers. He wanted us to make our own experiments with truth.”
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