Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated a photo exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi on Saturday, setting the stage for an international conference organised on January 29-30 to mark the centenary celebrations of the satyagraha movement that was launched in South Africa in 1906.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi was present on the occasion along with several party leaders as well as the Mahatma’s two granddaughters.
Sonia will inaugurate the conference on Monday and the Prime Minister will address the concluding session, said Devendra Nath Dwivedi, spokesman of the meet on 'Peace, non-violence and empowerment: Gandhian philosophy in 21st century.'
Delegates from across the world, including heads of states and governments, ministers, Nobel laureates and Gandhian thinkers, will attend the conference.
They include Desmond Tutu, Mohammad Yunus, Ahmed Kathrade, Hermando de Sota, CK Prahlad, Gene Sharp, AT Ariyaratna, Bhikhu Parekh and Ela Gandhi, the Mahatma’s granddaughter.
The conference---which will also adopt the Satyagraha Centenary Declaration--- will discuss four themes: Conflict resolution and peace-building; Gandhian philosophy for poverty eradication, education and people’s empowerment; Dialogue among peoples and cultures; and Towards a nuclear weapons-free and non-violent world order.
"The subjects represent the vital areas of concern and of practical relevance for India and the entire world alike …They address the ideological and moral questions that are agitating the contemporary world and which, at the same time, relate to the core beliefs and prime concerns which have gone in the making of the world view of Mahatma Gandhi…They also reflect the priority items on the Congress party’s national and international agenda," Dwivedi said.
He said the decision to hold the conference was an "act of faith" on the Congress’ part and aimed at renewal of the nations’ faith in Gandhian ideals and precepts which are of enduring value.
Dwivedi described the birth of satyagraha as a defining moment in the history of democratic protest against injustice, discrimination and denial of justice and said the conference would seek to give practical content to the concepts of ``freedom, equality, justice, peace and essential unity of humankind as well as of diverse cultures and religious beliefs.’’
The last time the Congress had hosted a conference of this magnitude was in 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister. The central theme of the meeting then was apartheid.
Email Saroj Nagi: snagi @hindustantimes.com