Lecture and Symposium on Gandhi at Cambridge University

The fifth Balzan-Skinner Lecture and Symposium:
Gandhi’s Realism: Means and Ends in Politics

A lecture and symposium by Balzan Skinner Fellow 2013-14
Dr Karuna Mantena

Friday 16th May 2014 11am – 6pmGandhi Poster FINAL

at Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Alison Richard Building, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

For further details and to register: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/25060

Gandhian nonviolence is often misconstrued as a static moral injunction against violence or simply a condemnation of violent resistance. Gandhi himself is portrayed as a saintly idealist, pacifist, or purveyor of conviction politics – a moral critic of politics, speaking from standpoint of conscience and truth. I aim to show why this view of Gandhi and Gandhian politics is misleading. Against the saint-as-politician, or the moral man of conscience, I pursue Gandhi’s political thinking from the vantage point of Gandhi the political actor and innovator who vividly understood that politics is closely bound to the possibility of violence. This was the core of Gandhi’s realism – a view of politics as shaped by endemic tendencies towards conflict, domination, and violence coupled with an account of how nonviolent political action can constrain and mitigate these same tendencies to effect progressive change. - Dr Karuna Mantena

The London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group

londonpacificsts

The London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group met recently to discuss Personal Motivations for Pacifism. Future meetings include:

Tuesday 13th  May 2014, asking “What Would You Do About (A) Hitler?”.

And on Tuesday 10th  June 2014, the topic is Nonviolence and the European Union.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome, in advance and (especially) on the day.

The group meets on the second Tuesday each month, at 7pm (until around 9pm)
at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1.
Nearest tube: Kings Cross

Please try to arrive promptly by 7pm.

Everyone with an interest in pacifism and nonviolence is welcome.

For more information about the meetings: http://londonpacifismnonviolence.wordpress.com

William (Bill) Peters, co founder of Jubilee 2000 and joint recipient of the Gandhi Foundation Peace Award in 2000

It is with sadness that the Gandhi Foundation has heard of the death of Bill Peters recently. He received the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award in 2000 along with Martin Dent, co-founder of Jubilee 2000. He received the Cross of St Michael and St George (awarded for non military service in a foreign country) and the Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (awarded for service to the Queen and is a personal award by her). He was a former diplomat who devoted his life to public service and was the co-founder of the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign.

Bill Peters

Bill Peters

Bill Peters who died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday March 29th was born at Morpeth, Northumberland, on September 28th 1923. The son of a cabinet maker and a light opera singer, he followed a distinguished career in the Foreign Office with a very active retirement devoted to public service. The highlight of his career after retirement was his co-founding, with Martin Dent of Keele University, of the hugely influential Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt coalition, which went on to become the Make Poverty History movement with Jubilee 2000 itself then becoming the Jubilee Debt campaign.

Bill proved himself a formidable scholar in his time at King Edward IV Grammar School and secured a place at Oxford to study Greats at the age of 17, but as with so many young men at the time, his studies were interrupted by World War II. At this time of uncertainty, he married his first wife, Catherine Bailey, known as Kit, in 1944 before deployment to Burma where he saw active service with the 9th Ghurkha rifles. His time with his regiment, which on his arrival in Burma turned out to include a number of Tibetans, made a deep impression on Bill and saw the beginning of a lifelong association both with the Ghurkhas and with the Tibet Foundation, to which he was passionately committed for the rest of his life, meeting with the Dalai Lama several times on the latter’s visits to London.

After the war, Bill returned to the UK to take up his place at Balliol College Oxford, completing his studies in 1948, and going on to do an M.Lit. at the LSE and languages at SOAS. Bill then joined the Colonial Service with a posting in 1950 to what was then the Gold Coast where he worked to prepare for the transition to independence and was asked by the head of state for the new Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, to remain in an advisory capacity. After some thought, Bill decided his career must continue to lie with the Diplomatic service and the Foreign Office and went on to postings in Cyprus, Bangladesh, Australia, India, Zambia and Malawi as well as other appointments further detailed in Who’s Who. During his time in Ghana, Bill was invited to speak to local school children and gave a speech stressing that they could achieve anything they set out to do. In the audience was a young Kofi Annan, who went on to become Secretary General of the United Nations. When they met many years later, Annan told Bill that he still remembered Bill’s inspiring speech.

In 1977, Bill was offered the post of British Ambassador to Uruguay, an exciting role but a dangerous posting, as a recent former incumbent had been kidnapped and held to ransom for several months. After some deliberation, Bill accepted and his time in Uruguay passed without serious incident. Notably Bill made a point of asking to visit political prisoners, a request which was surprisingly granted. During a prison visit Bill met a concert pianist desperate to practice in the hope of eventual release and was subsequently allowed to deliver a silent keyboard to enable him to do so. Afterwards, Bill was informed that his life might be in danger as a result of his actions and took the step of making it clear to anyone who might be interested that he carried a pistol with him at all times.

Bill went on to work as High Commissioner in Malawi before retiring from the Foreign Office in 1983. On retirement, Bill and Kit moved to Deal in Kent. There they took an active part in community life, with Bill spending 18 years as a Governor of Walmer school as well as twice becoming president of the local Rotary Club and being an active member of the Royal British Legion as well as numerous national organisations and charities including U.S.P.G., the Churches Refugee Network and the Tibet Foundation.

A few years after retirement Bill met Martin Dent of Keele University and realised that Martin shared Bill’s long-held concern at what they both considered to be unsustainable levels of third world debt. This shared concern crystallised into a campaign, which Bill and Martin co-founded, to write off third-world debt in time for the Millennium. They called the campaign Jubilee 2000 in reference to the Old Testament Jubilee requirement to cancel debts every seven years. Bill’s diplomatic skills were invaluable in launching Jubilee 2000 and helping steer it through early hurdles as it gathered momentum. It was supported by the Anglican Church, with Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, addressing a rally in Trafalgar Square with Bill and Martin and making Jubilee 2000 the subject of his New Year’s Day Millennium address on BBC 1. Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, also spoke at a rally in St Paul’s Cathedral, strongly supporting the campaign and confirming the cancellation of debts to the UK.

During this time, Bill’s wife Kit, who was several years older than Bill, passed away in 1998 after a brief illness. Bill continued to play an active role in the Drop the Debt campaign in the lead up to the Millennium, seeing it grow into a series of large- scale demonstrations and twice enter the Guinness book of records, once for the largest petition and once for the most international petition. The campaign launched major demonstrations at every G8 summit from 1998 in Birmingham to Cologne and Genoa with a few people even travelling to Okinawa in Japan, where Bill was able to speak with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Bill received the Gandhi International Peace Award from the Gandhi Foundation in recognition of his efforts and of the success of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which ‘made possible the provision of basic education and health-care to thousands of people.’

In his later years, Bill retained his keen interest in politics and continued to be an active supporter of the now Jubilee Debt Campaign and of other charities. In 2004 he married his second wife, Gillian Casebourne, whom he met through his charity work. Bill is survived by Gill and her two daughters, as well as by his nieces and nephews.

William Peters, born September 28 1923, died March 29 2014

The Gandhi Foundation Annual General Meeting and Illustrated Talk 2014

You are invited to

The Gandhi Foundation Annual General Meeting
and Illustrated Talk
on
Saturday 24th May 2014

at Kingsley Hall, Powis Road, Bromley-By-Bow, London E3 3HJ

GF AGM pebbles

The Illustrated talk, From Breakdown to Breakthrough; Gandhi and Mental Health will be given by Mirabai Swingler who is a Mental Health Chaplain and teacher, psychotherapist and spiritual director.

Mirabai’s life passion is raising awareness of and bringing healing to the sacred space where spirituality and ‘mental illness’ meet. She is a life member of the Gandhi Foundation.

2pm –  Annual General Meeting. All Welcome.
2.30 –  Lecture.
3.30 – Reception and the opportunity to visit where Gandhi stayed in 1931 and the rooms used by R.D. Laing.

RSVP: william@gandhifoundation.org (for catering purposes)

Time to book a meaningful summer holiday

The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014

30th Anniversary Year
Gandhian Approaches to Learning and Skills

The Abbey at Sutton Courtenay

The Abbey at Sutton Courtenay

Saturday 26th July to Saturday 2nd August 2014

at The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 4AF

The special 30th anniversary Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2014 will take as it’s focus Gandhian Approaches to Learning and Skills in a week of exploring community, nonviolence and creativity through sharing.

The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2011

The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2011

There will also be various activities such as yoga, meditation, creative activities and music. There will be opportunities to visit Oxford, go for walks or just relax in the beautiful surroundings. The Summer Gathering is open to people of any faith or none.

Come for the week, a few days or just a day. We look forward to seeing you.

For further information about the Summer Gathering 2014 and bookings contact: gandhisummergathering@gmail.com

For information about The Abbey at Sutton Courtenay click here

For a review of the 2013 Summer Gathering click here

Tony Benn – the Vegetarian

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square. It is being presented by late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square from the late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony Benn passed away on 14th March 2014 aged 86. Tony had been a vegetarian for many years and was present at the Vegetarian rally held on 22nd July 1990 in Hyde Park. The event had massive media coverage. Many newspapers reported the event titled,’Veggie Benn’. Tony became a vegetarian after his son told him about the colossal use of crops used in feeding animals to produce meat. At the rally Tony said that he felt very healthy as a vegetarian and he opposed animal exploitation as much as he opposes human exploitation. Tony often mentioned that he had met Mahatma Gandhi when he was a child. Gandhi had made a great impact on young Tony which shaped his concern for social justice and inequality. He was also a passionate campaigner for stopping all wars and advocated pacifism. The following quote from Tony shows his concern for animals:

‘The case for animal testing is now being directly challenged by scientists and doctors and their judgement must be taken seriously.’

By Nitin Mehta, who is the founder of the Indian Cultural Centre in Croydon and of the Indian Vegetarian Society.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence – a view of the last discussion by Robert Fisher

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence

The London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence met recently to discuss The Current condition of Women, Feminism and Gandhi. This is a forum to discuss Gandhi and the relevance of his ideals, especially nonviolence, in the contemporary world. Anyone who has an opinion on the subject or has read about Gandhi and wants to share their thoughts is welcome to join. Details of the next discussion forum will be posted on the Gandhi Foundation website, Facebook and Twitter.

GF London Discussion Forum

I came away from this meeting with a number of thoughts on the subject of violence against women which I have set out below in context with some other factors I see at play in this rather complex area and the environment in which we live. That is not to say violence in any form against women is acceptable.

In order for me to put things into perspective I would prefer to adopt a gender-neutral approach to the subject and consider violence against the person rather than against a man or a woman, albeit in the subject of the rape of women, this is a particularly disturbing crime.

The thing that became very apparent to me, were the economic factors in the equation and in particular the commodification of both men and women in an economic system that places a monitory value on all things, dependent on the various attributes that are assigned to it (him or her). “Conflict minerals” and the rape of women to secure control over mined resources and images of very attractive women being used by corporate institutions to enhance & market their particular brand of electronic device, derived from these same Conflict minerals.

I hope & believe these electronic devices will eventually help protect vulnerable communities and individuals everywhere from all types of harm and particularly the types atrocities we see happening in the Congo now & in other places around the world, which will I hope eventually pass.

I also recall the comment made by the (academic) whose name I do not recall, who sat next to me at meetup and who stated that corruption was endemic throughout Indian society.

Corruption being the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In a competitive open market economy the incentive for those in power to maintain unfair advantage over those under their control can only exist for a limited period of time, especially in a world where all are connected by a computer device of one sort or another.

The empowerment of all strata of humanity being achieved through online learning and education is just one factor to consider in this connected global society.

It is the responsibility of the strong & powerful to help protect the weak and vulnerable in society and in this respect I see the all-pervasive concept of mutual self-interest being of fundamental importance.

Further to the subject of the rape of women, it is important that our criminal justice system is fit for purpose in dealing with these matters and from what I heard at meetup, it is not. As I have already mentioned I am working with others to develop a number of legal and financial services, which will help address some of the issues raised above but for the time being I must bide my time.

You work in compliance and you will know the incidents of bribery and corruption within banking and other corporate sectors around the globe. Others who sat at the table at meetup had many of the skills and knowledge necessary to help develop some of the systems needed to address these challenges.

 By Robert Fisher

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Indian Elections and Non-Resident Indian Nationals – What would Gandhi do?

Absentee Ballot campaign march in London, conducted by Pravas Bharat in January 2013

Absentee ballot campaign march in London conducted by Pravas Bharat in October 2012

What would Gandhi do?

If Mahatma Gandhi were alive today and happened to be living abroad he would have fallen foul of the Indian election rule which requires non-resident Indians (NRIs) to be physically present in the constituencies where they are registered to be able to exercise their franchise.

NRIs are allowed to vote in Indian elections, but only if they are present at a polling booth. This is unreasonable and impractical. (Other democracies like the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Philippines have successfully implemented an absentee ballot system). In today’s globalised world, people move across the globe for higher education, work advancement, knowledge and research, among other things. That should not become a drawback. That shouldn’t be a reason for anyone to be refused his or her voting rights.

Pravasi Bharat, a UK-based activist group that campaigns for an absentee ballot system for NRIs, believes that this is a denial of a fundamental right of NRIs who are temporarily out of India. The group has been protesting this denial through non-violent demonstrations, protests, petitions and most recently, a hunger strike.

Pravasi Bharat believes in the principles and ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi, and expresses its dissent in Gandhian ways. A citizen’s right to exercise his or her vote is one of the keystones of democracy, and what better way to fight for a democratic right than follow the father of the world’s biggest democracy. Each time this group encounters a roadblock, they ask – What would Gandhi do?

“This is our genuine democratic struggle and we will continue our battle in all democratic ways, following the methods shown by Mahatma Gandhi,” says the group’s co-founder Nagendar Chindam.

Pravasi Bharat was founded in 2012, with the group organising an online petition, writing letters and having peaceful demonstrations. One of the group’s demonstrations was held at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens, London. Since then the statue has continued to be a part of Pravasi Bharat’s initiatives, with the groups of people assembling in front of it growing with each event.

Pravasi Bharat first held a demonstration in August 2012, urging the government of India to provide an absentee voting option for NRIs. The group then submitted a petition to the High Commission of India in London. Neither initiative garnered a response from the Indian government.

In October 2012, taking inspiration from Gandhiji’s Salt March, the group organised a London March as a form of protest against the Indian government’s apathy to their request. The march began at the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens and ended with a non-violent demonstration outside the High Commission of India.

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

After another period of silence from the Indian government, the group filed a public interest litigation with the Supreme Court of India in February 2013. Pravasi Bharat’s first victory came when the Supreme Court of India presided by the Chief Justice ordered the Government of India and the Election Commission of India to respond to the matter. As the legal battle continues, the need for an absentee ballot becomes more urgent with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Having all their attempts to get the Indian government’s attention fail only made Pravasi Bharat seek more inspiration from Gandhi’s life. The group’s chairman went on a three-day hunger strike that ended on January 26, 2014, India’s Republic Day. Nagendar Chindam broke his fast in front of the Gandhi statue at Tavistock Square. A group of NRIs stood with him on the rainy, freezing day, pledging their support to Pravasi Bharat’s cause. This time, the High Commission of India in London noticed, and a meeting was set up with the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner heard the group out and promised to forward their request to the government of India.

As a group that promotes equality and democracy, Pravasi Bharat also campaigns against human right violations. The October 2012 death of NRI Savita Halappanavar in Ireland after being denied a necessary abortion was protested at Tavistock Square gardens in London. Pravasi Bharat wrote to the Irish embassy asking for an amendment in Ireland’s Abortion law. Pravasi Bharat protested the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, India and wrote to the Indian government asking for stricter anti-rape laws. The laws in both countries were eventually amended after similar pressure from various other groups.

As it waits, yet again, for a response from the Indian Government, the group continues its campaign among NRI communities across the globe, asking them to fight for their votes. It believes that most NRIs will vote if an absentee ballot system is made available to them.

“Be the change you want to see” said Gandhiji. Pravasi Bharat takes that very seriously.

Article by Preethi Dumpala

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown

Susan Denton-Brown who was Chairperson of the Gandhi Foundation in 2009 sadly died on 28 January 2014.
Her career was teaching Religious Studies in schools. From 2010 she was Chair of the British Friends of Neve Shalom Wahatal Salam (http:/www.oasisofpeaceuk.org), a village where Arabs and Jews live together peacefully and the children are educated in both languages.

Current Chair of the Gandhi Foundation, Mark Hoda, recalls her work preparing a pack on Gandhi for use in schools:

Susan was rightly very proud of this piece of work, which she researched and wrote at Oxford University, through a Farmington Fellowship. Susan also worked with my father and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country.

My personal memories of Susan will be that she worked tirelessly and passionately to teach children about nonviolent conflict resolution through both her career and her voluntary work. She was a selfless person with a huge, warm heart, and her hospitality was unrivalled!

Trudy Lewis, friend of Susan, Gandhi Foundation member and one of the organisers of the Summer Gathering said:

There are many adjectives I could use to describe Susan – capable, fiercely intelligent, loving, spiritually deep, a force to be reckoned with and, in essence, an immensely gifted human being.

For information about the teaching resources that Susan created:

A free educational resource pack on Gandhi, designed for school teachers (UK KS3&4), is available in the form of an Adobe PDF file by emailing farmington@hmc.ox.ac.uk and quoting ref. TT186 or click here. Written by Susan, previous Chair of The Gandhi Foundation executive committee, and previously Head of Religious Studies at Tanbridge House School in West Sussex, the resource pack includes six modules which focus on the following aspects of Gandhi’s life and work:

1. Identity
2. Non-violent protest
3. Conflict transformation and mediation
4. Equity in community
5. Environmental issues
6. Exploring spirituality

Each module suggests relevant clips from the movie Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, and then presents a series of exercises for groups and the whole class.

Susan also worked with Mark Hoda’s father, Surur Hoda and Father Joe Collela to roll out “Dealing With Conflict” teaching packs based on her work with the Neve Shalon project to all schools in this country – www.history.org.uk/resources/secondary_news_168.html

 

When Chaplin Met Gandhi educational workshop at Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry School for Girls invited Jim Kenworth to run a When Chaplin Met Gandhi drama workshop at their prestigious Mulberry Youth Conference recently.

Over a decade ago, a group of students concerned about growing tensions around the world and in Britain following September 11th, launched our Youth Conference. The conference has gained a reputation for its challenging discussion and powerful speakers through which students consider the means of becoming active in their communities. We have received the Philip Lawrence Award for excellence in citizenship and a prize in the highly commended category in the Anne Frank Awards. This year’s topic was ‘The Power of Voice’. Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, and Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, were confirmed as speakers.

For more information visit: http://www.mulyouth.org/

The play When Gandhi Met Chaplin by Jim Kenworth was performed in Kingsley Hall (where Gandhi stayed in 1931) and other venues in East London in 2012. The participants were both professional actors and young people from schools in the East End of London. An Education Resource Pack inspired by the meeting of the two famous figures has been produced by Jim Kenworth and the Royal Docks Trust, with some help from the Gandhi Foundation.

You can read more details and access further resources by clicking: http://gandhifoundation.org/2013/11/04/when-chaplin-met-gandhi-school-resource-pack/

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