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Honouring India’s Greatest NRI

Centennial celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa 

1/30/2015 4:55:32 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

This January, India celebrated the ‘ghar wapsi’ of its most famous non-resident Indian (NRI) – Mahatma Gandhi.

On January 9, 1915,  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India and showed its people the path to freedom through Satyagraha and non-violence. Speaking at New York’s Madison Garden last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had roused the large gathering of NRIs by stating “Gandhi went abroad, became a barrister, had opportunities, but he came back to serve the nation. I appeal to you to try and find a way to repay your debt to your motherland.” And to honour his contribution, Modi inaugurated the 13th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at Gandhinagar’s swank Mahatma Mandir.

There is a popular sentiment amongst South Africans who often say, “You gave us a Gandhi, we returned you a Mahatma.”  According to eminent historian Mridula Mukherjee, Gandhi returned to India after “a banwas of 22 years during which he founded and led the struggle of Indians, the vast majority of whom were poor indentured labourers, against racial discrimination and oppression in South Africa.”

In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed at all coloured people. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class. He protested and was allowed on first class the next day. Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from several hotels. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do. 

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