By Shashi Tavares.
Service to humanity is service to God
KD Travadi's voice, loud and clear, thundered across the Kenya Legislative Council chamber as he debated the White Paper on the Civil Service with Tom Mboya, on 16 December 1960. He said: ‘... and I myself, am in my 44th year in this country - I have had my children and children's children born here in this country and I call myself an African and particularly a Kenyan first and Kenyan last. If I go to India they never say, “Mr Travadi the Indian has come, but here is an African”; they always take me as an African.’
India should see the removal of Gandhi’s statue in Ghana as the decision of a sovereign people
‘It will be waste of good money to spend Pounds25,000 on erecting a clay or metallic statue of the figure of a man who is himself made of clay …’ Gandhi, Harijan on February 11, 1939.
His view ignored, Gandhi statues were proposed, in his lifetime, across India and in Europe, and clay busts of him came up, without any reference to him, in several places on the subcontinent. They continued to do so, in prodigal numbers, after he was no more, right to our present times. London raised a stunning one in bronze in Parliament square in 2017, beside two of his two jailors – white South Africa’s Jan Smuts and the Raj’s Winston Churchill.
Every time I read about protests in Africa against the installation of a Gandhi statue I feel troubled. I am still not sure why especially since I was brought up in a home where Nehru and his vision of India were held up as an ideal rather than Gandhi’s trusteeship ideas. I myself was more inspired by the stories of the revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Surya Sen.
I will confess that Gandhi did not matter much in my life; it was only when I saw Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi, that I was inspired to read a little more about the man. But by then I was practicing in the Supreme Court and I had discovered Ambedkar and started reading his debates with the Mahatma under the influence of Bhagwan Das, an advocate and an ardent disciple of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
The saintly legacy of Gandhi is being questioned.
In 2016, the University of Ghana owing to widespread protests from students and faculty members who accused Gandhi of racism towards black Africans pulled down his statue at the University. The protesters railed against the statue terming it as ‘homage to a racist who thought of Africans as naked savages who were beneath both Britons and Indians’, using Gandhi’s early writings from his two decades in South Africa to bolster their arguments.
In 2018, the High Court in Malawi suspended the erection of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Blantyre, Malawi's commercial capital, after a petition by over 3,000 Malawians saying he had done nothing for their country. The petitioners claim that Gandhi, who early in his career practiced in South Africa and fought against apartheid-era segregation laws, was a racist. Earlier on, in 2015, the statue of Gandhi in Johannesburg, South Africa was vandalized by a man who painted it white. The man was part of a group who had demonstrated near the statue with placards exclaiming: ‘Racist Gandhi must fall’.
‘We could fly you into Upper Volta and drive you down across the border to Northern Ghana.’ The USAID official tapped a pen against his teeth and stared at the map on the wall behind him. I didn’t want to do that and so they flew me into Accra to be driven North up to Tamale. I had recently stopped working for the World Bank, unhappy with the way housing projects were now all about the private sector, ignoring local needs and corruption. It was the Reagan era and the early days of the neo-liberalism world-wide. But I had to earn some cash. This project was about local government, housing and community development, and needed an evaluation report. I had never worked for USAID before.
The Christian right in the US has been a bulwark of reaction for decades. John Newsinger discusses its integration in the New Conservative agenda championed by former president Ronald Reagan.
In the late 1940s and the 1950s, the Christian right in the US had been content to act as cheerleaders for US capitalism against atheistic Communism abroad. This began to change in the 1960s and 1970s when social and political change threatened all they held dear.
The first great challenge was the Civil Rights Movement. It is ironic that the Christian right condemned the involvement of the likes of Martin Luther King in political campaigning on the grounds that the clergy should keep out of politics.
Date: 11 January 2019
Venue: Soma Mkawahi, Mikocheni, Dar-es-Salaam
Organised by: Wanazuoni, an informal association of the Tanzania’s scholars
By Khalifa Said
It was clear to anyone at the event that by choosing to honour Prof Karim Hirji’s intellectual acumen and his outstanding legacy in academia, the country’s young and emerging literati were determined to break with tradition where one’s contribution to humanity tend to be recognised only after death.
Finding both their personal lives and their intellectual journey shaped as well as nurtured in one way or the other by Prof Hirji’s dedication and unwavering commitment to truth and justice, the young scholars, who are spread across the country’s universities, media houses and human rights organisations, refused to have their homage to the intellectual giant described as posthumous.