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Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Remembering Mahatma Gandhi Event in Lausanne, Nov 21, 2019

Posted on: February 21, 2019 | Back | Print

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the Remembering Mahatma Gandhi Event in Lausanne, Nov 21, 2019

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this major event today in Lausanne. I bring to you greetings from Government of India and 1.3 billion people of India. I know it is a lot of greetings, greetings from 1/6th of the total population of the world.

I feel honoured to stand here and address this august gathering, in a hall where, Mahatma Gandhi addressed our Swiss friends almost ninety years ago, in 1931. 

Those were different times, Mahatma Gandhi was then leading a freedom struggle to liberate his home land of India from two hundred years of colonial rule. In 1947, he won freedom for India through peaceful nonviolent mass movement.

And this year, 2019, we celebrated his 150th birth anniversary in India and all over the world. We organised several commemorative events in Switzerland spanning over a year. One of the most memorable events in Switzerland, was in Villeneuve, not far from here. On September 14 this year, Hon’ble President of India Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at a major event on the bank of Lake Geneva.

I am told that there has been a sizeable increase in the number of Indian and other tourists pouring in to Villeneuve to see the Gandhi statue, and some to take a selfie with Mahatma. I invite you all also to visit the bust.

For us Indians, Mahatma Gandhi is Father of our Nation. He is the leader who led a mass movement which won us freedom. In fact, he is much more than that. He is an embodiment of everything that India as an ancient civilisation and as a modern vibrant democracy stands for.

India is a relatively young country with a continuous civilization of over 5000 years. As an ancient civilisation it gave rise to three ancient and living religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Almost 500 years ago it gave birth to a new religion of Sikhism. In fact, India is home to almost all major religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Over past millennia, many a conqueror coveted the riches of India but none could conquer Indian culture, traditions or philosophy. Even those that came with a sword were soon assimilated into India’s composite and inclusive culture. History is also replete with examples of India giving refuge to those fleeing persecution in their own lands. The Jewish population came to India in large numbers from Israel in the year 70 CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish community found home in India for nearly two thousand years till the creation of modern Israel. Today, Parsees, who came from Iran, are one of the most vibrant communities in India.

In India, today, we speak several hundred languages, we worship different Gods, we eat different foods, we wear different clothes, but there is a feeling of oneness and common consciousness, a civilizational bond, that keeps us together, make us proud as India. Every diverse culture in India flourishes, every region and religion in India flourishes. We have a constitution which guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity. For us, I repeat, Mahatma Gandhi is an embodiment all that India represents, its tradition, its spirituality, its diversity, its mantra of Vasudev Kudumbakam, world is one family. A message of understanding and compassion. And also Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas, A message of togetherness with all, development of all, and trust of all.

Now from India and Europe, let me take you to another continent, where Mahatma Gandhi spend considerable time of his life. In eighteen hundred and ninety three, almost hundred and thirty years ago, standing in front of thousands of Indian laborers in South Africa, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer from India said, “There are several causes for which I am ready to die for, but there are no causes for which I am ready to kill for.” This was a vow of non-violence in body, spirit and mind. It is with this weapon of non- violence Mahatma Gandhi, defeated the mightiest nation of the world.             

Non-violence is a philosophy evolved over several centuries in India. It is part of the conscience of Indian life and society. Non-violence is not a weapon for the weak. It is the weapon for the strong. It requires greater heroism than of the bravest soldiers. It is the expression of the deepest love for all humans including one’s enemies. It is not only the lack of the physical harm towards others. It also lacks hatred and ill will towards them.

Challenging his oppressors Gandhi said, “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body, not my obedience.” Non-violence is not running away from the challenges that we face. It is not running away from our responsibilities. It is facing these challenges with courage and discipline.

In a world dominated by violence and hatred, Mahatma Gandhi reincarnated the Indian concept of non-violence. His example influenced and inspired many later freedom struggles. He continues to inspire millions across the world. His catchwords, now or never, do or die continue to evoke fear in the minds of oppressors. His famous words, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” remains a guiding principle for humanity. It is in recognition of this contribution that, in 2007 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously, I repeat, unanimously adopted a resolution to observe October 2nd every year as the International Day of Non-violence.

I would like to conclude by quoting a Talisman that Mahatma Gandhi gave us. He said, I quote: “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following. Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man or woman whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him/her. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.”

Once again thank you for inviting me.

Thank you very much.