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)

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.

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by Rt Hon Vince Cable MP. photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by
Rt Hon Vince Cable MP
photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills delivered the Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture in October 2013. The title of his lecture was What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like? You can read the full speech by clicking here.

You can read a review by Robert Fisher and analysis by Antony Copley below.

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?
By Robert Fisher

At the recent Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture, The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP spoke of Mahatma Gandhi as one of the three great 20th century political activists who along with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King brought to the consciousness of humanity some of the injustices that human kind has heaped upon his fellow man/woman.

At the same time reminding us of three 20th Century tyrants who had brought humanity to the depths of evil and despair, Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong who collectively killed millions in their attempts to control the destinies of many with their ill conceived ideological objectives.

And of the legacies of these six individuals, exemplified by the election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States of America, the emergence of India and China as two of the great economic powers in the world and of the recent joint American and Russian intervention in Syria in bringing about the destruction of its chemical weapons.

The legacies of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong are not forgotten, there are still many within global society who would kill with impunity anyone questioning their authority or ideological beliefs.

Whilst Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela have undoubtedly helped to reduce the incidents of institutional racism and colonialism, sexism, ageism, classism etc. still exist and as was stated by Dr Cable, nonviolent direct action by all, wherever these incidents occur, will eventually bring these prejudices and injustices to an end.

It is noted that Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were all individuals who fought against their political systems at the time to achieve their moral objectives.

The world of commerce and industry, based on mutual self interest has steadily moved on, perhaps providing some insight as to the way in which finding ways of working together can be more important than seeking to impose one ideological view over another. Politicians around the world will be aware of the impact the Internet has had on the political landscape.

Dr Cable spoke of globalisation, of economics and of ethics and of cultural and subsequent ethical conflicts between those who are the wealth creators in society and some who retain it to create even more money and of the differences between great wealth and deep poverty, inequalities and injustices in society.

Within the bandwidth of ethics that allows for freedom of thought and deed, I believe different and deeper truths and cultural values will emerge as nations converge and collective society moves forward in what I imagine Gandhi’s definition of Sarvodaya to be.

Globalisation, in this digital age, brings with it the hopes and aspirations of many and the potential for all cultures and nation states to collaborate in trying to address the many challenges that face humanity and earth’s subsystems, and the many opportunities in so doing.

Just under 40 years ago the combined intellectual capacity of only a few motivated individuals addressed the challenge of taking humanity to the moon and back.

It is entirely plausible that the combined intellectual capacity of humanity, connected, motivated and focused on addressing the many challenges we undoubtedly will face as we all move forward in eliminating extremes of poverty and injustice in society and the degradation of the natural world will be achieved. Gandhi and those like him have shown the many what only a few can achieve.

True economics, articulated by Vince Cable as social justice, equality and the good of all is not only aspirational it is logical and demonstrable through the concept of mutual self interest.

Whatever our views of capitalism are, laissez-faire or some other form of capitalism, we are part of global economic community and what we do in one part of the world has an impact in another. Dr Cable in his Ministerial capacity in relation to business, innovation and skills will I’m sure be aware of the need of a fine balance between government (regulation, innovation), and economic (stimulation and equilibrium).

Dr Cable spoke of the liberalisation of the Indian economy and of the dismantling of state control of its planning processes and what would have been Gandhi’s opposition in the protection of rural industries. I can see both sides to this argument, in the semi rural community within which I live I am aware of a balance that needs to kept in the development of any economy, local, national or international and of the need to support those whose aspirations are to the husbandry of natural / rural environments (you cannot eat software), and there is much more to true economics than generating GDP through irresponsible planning processes and ill thought through economic stimuli. I believe aesthetics and analysis both to be part of this liberalisation and planning process, soul with pragmatism.

The balance between materialism / consumerism / waste in a world of finite resources and the subsequent impact on global ecology I feel sure concerns the majority of people in society today and as set out in Vince Cable’s view of true economics it will be the innovators, scientists, engineers, businesses, social entrepreneurs who will address these challenges, but perhaps equally as important the spiritual / moral dimension to be included in this equation will determine the society in which we all will eventually live.

Dr Cable then commented on the benefits of the “green revolution” and of the efficiencies gained in multiple cropping, fertilizers etc.

Those cultures who have tilled the land responsibly for centuries will already be aware of nature’s natural and sustainable cycles, the green revolution will be nothing new to them. However irrigation and mobile telephony, in ways as yet to be imagined, will transform their lives forever.

Jevon’s paradox however puts forward the view that efficiencies gained through technological progress in accessing resources, tend to increase the rate of consumption and if this is the case I believe humanity must define and find ways of living within a sustainable global budget.

Vince Cable then went on to elaborate on the meaning of Swadeshi, as self-reliant village communities, independent from their neighbours for vital wants.

All modern communities of which I am aware are reliant on some of their vital resources from others. Within my own village community I can see many benefits in the reduction of waste by providing within its borders a balanced local economy and employment for its residents, whatever their aspirations are. In all transactions going forward there should be benefits, financial, social or environmental, but no transaction should be at the expense of the other, the metrics and algorithm developed to measure impact, an important factor in creating a sustainable and equitable society, wherever it exists.

Community cohesion and social mobility, mentioned by Dr Cable, should mean something different to the emergence of ghettoes in the city of London for highly paid bankers, or traveling miles to get to work because a person in his or her chosen occupation cannot afford to live close to their employment. These are complexities any economic system will have to deal with, but not, I feel, insurmountable.

Personally I can see some merits in Gandhi’s Swadeshi that should be nurtured, valued and protected, however this should be in a local / national /international / mutual self-interest context.

We have seen both positive and negative impacts of outsourcing our industrial and other capabilities since the 1970s to places such as the far-east and the impact of this short term bottom line thinking has had on the manufacturing skills base of the United Kingdom. There are now not enough engineers to rebuild our own critical infrastructures.

There is a comfort in the idea of British critical infrastructure being held in trust on behalf of its population by a British institution, built and managed by British engineers and if the money needed to build it comes from abroad I feel sure, within the concept of mutual self interest, this can be achieved.

Protectionism is not a viable option in modern day society, whichever industry people are in, but perhaps as is the current focus of Dr Cable’s attention in the development of government economic policy it will include joined up thinking in areas such as education, infrastructure, employment and planning.

Dr Cable then went on to state that he saw little merit in British Swadeshi, and in terms of international trade I would agree that the sum of the whole, in an international context, is much greater than its individual parts. However I imagine in line with government policy, localism, the decentralization /devolution of government and the organic development of clusters of various activities at a local level will inevitably provide the international community with significantly more parts to the whole, which perhaps will propel all nations, including the United Kingdom, who adopt the same model, into an age of socioeconomic and environmental equilibrium.

Finally Dr Cable went on to state that he wanted to see businesses in the United Kingdom that were socially responsible to customers, supply chains, workers and to the exchequer, by self regulation, by naming and shaming. I would add, naming and shaming, if it is to be effective in the world of classic capitalism, transparency and accountability must be part of this Process.

It was a good lecture and a shared vision for the future.

Where is the Gandhian Business Model?
by Antony Copley

No Gandhian could disagree with Vince Cable’s interpretation of Gandhi’s approach to economics as far as his lecture went. He stopped short of Gandhi’s late visionary hopes for the Indian economy, one that was to be taken forward by the left Gandhians, J P Narayan and Vinobe Bhave. No doubt, however, it would be naïve to expect a Secretary of State for Business to move beyond the conventional paradigms of the market economy and the overriding importance of economic growth.

Cable led us through a perfectly plausible account of the way Gandhi had to work within the constraints of a colonial economy, rejecting laissez-faire, the imperial policy which of course advantaged British exports, and a nationalist demand for protectionism, the wish of Indian business interests to play a significant role in shaping Congress policy. This would shelter emergent indigenous capitalist growth, a protectionism most strikingly expressed in the doctrine of swadeshi, the clarion cry of the nationalist movement in its outraged rejection of the partition of Bengal in 1905. I’m not sure if Gandhi ever actually endorsed swadeshi, his concern being to protect artisan industry against both foreign and Indian factory production. I think Cable’s may be special pleading in speculating that Gandhi would have gone along with a globalisation that saw Indian handloom products being sold as luxury items abroad. It would be interesting to read his exposition of this in a jointly authored book with Gandhian L C Jain. But one can agree that Gandhi would have rejected the economic nationalism of the Hindutva movement and the BJP, despite their claims that he was one of their own.

And of course he is surely right to argue that Gandhi engaged in this debate not so much as an economist, for he was no expert in this field, but as a moralist. His concerns were ethical. Cable overlooks the profound influence of John Ruskin’s ideas on Gandhi, above all on the sacred nature of work. Here was one reason for Gandhi’s championing of khadi, his high evaluation of the skills of artisan workers through his constructive programme. The relevant concept here is sarvodaya. It was a policy that did indeed look to the self-sufficiency of the village community. This was nothing to do with the highly regressive programme of autarchy pursued by the Axis powers and such latterday totalitarian states as North Korea. Cable, at the end, advocates forms of decentralisation and here he is seemingly on Gandhi’s wavelength. But something much more far reaching than local autonomy is encompassed in Gandhi’s vision.

Maybe this late Gandhian outlook was never coherently expressed, with his life so tragically cut short. The left Gandhians teased out the quasi-socialist implications of Gandhi’s vision of a new social structure which would radiate outwards from the village, inspired by an oceanic, quasi-mystical sense. So Bhave took up a national crusade of land redistribution, the bhoodan movement, though this was to be on a voluntary basis, appealing to landlords to hand over land to the poor. Narayan of course moved into left-wing politics and was a critical figure in challenging Mrs Gandhi’s increasingly autocratic rule that led to the Emergency regime of 1975-77. Sadly, Bhave and Narayan stood on different sides in that crisis. This possibly reflected the ambiguities in Gandhi’s own outlook.

Arguably Gandhi’s late vision represented a new paradigm on how the economy was to based. All along he had opposed the liberal capitalist insistence on growth above all. His was an economic vision of reaching out to abject levels of poverty but seeking no more than the meeting of basic human needs, a view that rejected a merely materialist approach and was inherently ascetic. This was the way of life in his ashrams. Really and truly here lay Gandhi’s new business model and Cable was way off target. Are Gandhi’s panchayats [small elected body governing a village] indeed so irrelevant?

When the banking crisis struck in 2010 many believed this exposed the inherently flawed nature of capitalism and the opportunity to move from its endlessly preached mantra of growth to an entirely new paradigm of a sustainable economy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote eloquently of the need to respect our environment and not to exploit and abuse its resources. Of course all this was to tap into a long lament on such abuse from Rachel Carson to James Lovelock and many others. All this has taken on a horrible urgency with the recognition of the threat from climate change. A recent article in the New Statesman by Naomi Klein, ‘Science says: Revolt!’ (25-31 October 2013) describes how leading scientists reinforce this search for a new paradigm, the way government see the revolutionary implications of this new paradigm and are trying to suppress the scientists, and the need for direct action. In this context the ideas of Gandhi, far from seeming utopian, have an all too urgent relevance.

The way the Gandhian ashram and panchayat have been brought up to date and prove that they are not pie in the sky is demonstrated in an astonishing experiment in Gandhian-style communitarian living in Andalucia. In 1979 one Sanchez Gordillo was the first elected mayor of the pueblo of Marinaleda, today with but 2,700 citizens. In 1980 he led a hunger strike ‘against hunger’. In 1991 the 1,200 hectare El Humoso farm was taken over by the Marinaleda co-operative. It chose to develop an agriculture which maximised the use of labour and provide much needed employment. It was a rejection of a wheat based economy that used little labour and pursued mere economic efficiency. Profits of the co-operative are used to create ever newer employment. It is an anti-capitalist example which is catching on. Neighbouring Somante has set up its own co-operative on government owned land. Admittedly the Andalucian Workers Union were initially evicted in March 2012 but returned the next day and never left. Here, argues Dan Hancox, is just the kind of new economy that the indignados are seeking. (See his essay ‘Since the Financial Crisis, the Spanish Economy has been on its Knees. But one Village Stood and Fought’, The Observer 20/10/13 and his book The Village Against the World, Verso). Gandhi is certainly one source for Sanchez Gordillo’s visionary new economy. (Others are Jesus Christ, Marx, Lenin, and Che Guevara.) Gandhi’s attitude to labour, the need for both full employment and a shared labour within the community, is brilliantly realised in these two pueblos. It is of course equally a fulfilment of the ideals of Spanish anarchism.

Quite obviously Vince Cable could not have advocated such a radical new paradigm. He has no option but to stick with the mantra of growth. But here is in fact where a truly Gandhian business model lies.

Antony Copley is an honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation
 
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.

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award for 2013 was awarded to Jeremy Corbyn, MP Islington North on 26th November 2013 at Portcullis House.

Thank you to all who attended

You can read Jeremy Corbyn’s speech by clicking here
You can also view photographs of the event by scrolling down the right hand column of our homepage to reach the Photo Gallery

The Trustees of The Gandhi Foundation agreed to offer him our International Peace Award in recognition of his consistent efforts over a 30 year Parliamentary career to uphold the Gandhian values of social justice and non‐violence. Besides being a popular and hard‐working constituency MP he has made time to speak and write extensively in support of human rights at home and world‐wide. His committed opposition to neocolonial wars and to nuclear weapons has repeatedly shown the lack of truth in the arguments of those who have opposed him.

http://www.jeremycorbyn.org.uk/

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

When Chaplin Met Gandhi School Resource Pack

When Chaplin Met Gandhi School Resource Pack

Chaplin and Gandhi in London 1931

Chaplin and Gandhi in London 1931

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

The Pack consists of material to be used in six Workshops and has already been successfully used in some London schools.

The six workshops are:

1. An Introduction to the characters
2. The East End in 1931
3. Gandhi’s Philosophy of Nonviolence
4. Chaplin and Gandhi meet and debate – Materialism Vs Spirituality
5. Territory/ Post Code wars, gangs
6. Hopes and Dreams of the Future for East London

You can explore more details about the Educational Resource pack here: When Chaplin Met Gandhi Resource Pack

For further details: www.jimkenworth.co.uk

Kingsley Hall 2012 – 2013

Kingsley Hall
Photograph courtesy of Gordon Joly

Kingsley Hall continues to be a community hub in East London’s Bromley-by-Bow. A range of activities for women, children and young people are run by different groups regularly. Since its inception the Gandhi Foundation has had it’s base on the top floor of Kingsley Hall, next to the historic Gandhi cell.

The highlight of 2012 has been the events linked to the Olympics. In the summer the building was opened up for visitors. There were various exhibitions on the life and philosophy of Gandhiji and the Lester sisters, Muriel and Doris. The Photographer Brijesh Patel displayed his works on Gandhiji’s Salt March. Sculptures by artist May Ayres on the theme of war were displayed in the Peace Garden and the garden on the roof.

Jim Kenworth a theatre director presented a play titled When Chaplin Met Gandhi, based on the Mahatma’s stay at Kingsley Hall in 1931. The local school children participated with professional actors and the play was highly commended. The Gandhi Foundation was one of the supporters of the project. The play has generated much interest among the local teachers and Jim Kenworth has been running workshops on Gandhi in various schools.

Due to the austerity measures of the local authorities and various funders, Kingsley Hall has been struggling financially. The centre is able to operate simply due to the goodwill of the staff and volunteers. The female community worker is away on maternity leave and it has not been possible to replace her. A major fundraising exercise is needed to restore the building and keep this historic centre running.

The Three Bees Cafe providing healthy food at a very reasonable price continues to operate every Tuesday. It is run by volunteers and is very popular. The Bangladeshi women’s group entered a competition on healthy cooking and won an award. Kingsley Hall aspires to develop the Peace Garden and have an eco garden to grow vegetables that can be used in the cafe. The garden would be used by local school children for educational projects. This requires resources which will have to be sought. Any help from the well wishers of Kingsley Hall to raise funds for the much loved historic building, promote the heritage of the Lester sisters and run the centre would be welcome.

You can contact Kingsley Hall on: 0208 981 5017

Kingsley Hall took part in the Open House London 2013 which attracted many visitors.

Shaheen Westcombe is a member of the GF Executive and a Kingsley Hall Trustee. She was awarded the MBE in 2001 for contributions to community relations.

Listen to a lecture on Gandhi by our President, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Creative Connections: Gandhi in London

© Mahatma Gandhi by Elliott & Fry 1931 NPG x82218

Mahatma Gandhi
by Elliott & Fry 1931
© NPG x82218

Listen to the lecture given by Lord Bhikhu Parekh at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 20th June 2013

Lord Bhikhu Parekh, President of the Gandhi Foundation, focuses on Gandhi’s time spent in London, both as a student and again in 1931, as a delegate of the Round Table conference at Kingsley Hall.

To listen to the lecture click below:


Publications available from The Gandhi Foundation

Books:

‘The Happiness Manual’ Gandhian Ways of Living
by Prof. Narinder Kapur, £5 + £1 p+p

click on the link for further information about this publication:
http://gandhifoundation.org/2012/08/15/new-happiness-manual-by-professor-narinder-kapur/

Simply Gandhi by Mark Hoda, 17pp £1.50

Muriel Lester, Gandhi and Kingsley Hall by David Maxwell, 16pp £3.50

Frontier Gandhi: Abdul Ghaffar Khan by Shireen Shah, 28pp £3

The Life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, 49pp £2

The Conquest of Violence by Bart de Ligt, £5

All Men Are Brothers by M K Gandhi, 251pp £4

The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi ed. by Prabhu & Rao, 589 pp HB £7

Quotes of Gandhi ed. by S Bhalla, 224pp HB £7

My Religion by M K Gandhi, 166pp £3

Truth is God by M K Gandhi, 159pp £3

My Nonviolence by M K Gandhi, 373pp £5

Gandhi in Anecdotes by Ravindra Varma, 188pp HB £5

Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography by B R Nanda, 542pp £12

Gandhi the Man by Eknath Easwaran (illustrated), 184pp £10

Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power by Gene Sharp, 316pp £5

Sonja Schlesin: Gandhi’s South African Secretary by G Paxton, 101pp £7.50

Meditations on Gandhi: A Ravindra Varma Festschrift, 227pp HB £15

The United Nations and its Future edited by Vijay Mehta, 274pp £10

Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership by P A Nazareth £12

Gandhi and the Contemporary World (Collection of essays), 421pp PB £5, HB £7 – special offer

Please add 25% for postage within UK.

For postage overseas, please contact George Paxton at the e-mail address below.

If you would like to order any of the above, please contact:

George Paxton at (books@gandhifoundation.org)

87 Barrington Drive, Glasgow G4 9ES, Scotland

Cheques should be made payable to The Gandhi Foundation or payment can be made through paypal via the Donate button.

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2011

India in Chronic Famine, Funded From London

By John Rowley

Presentation of The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award for 2011 jointly to Dr Binayak Sen (left) and Bulu Imam (right) and presented by Lord Bhikhu Parekh (centre).

 

The Gandhi International Peace Award was established by Lord Richard Attenborough, Surur Hoda, Diana Schumacher and Martin Polden in 1998 “to honour unsung heroes and heroines for their advocacy and practise of Non-Violence”. The Gandhi Foundation’s Vice-President, Lord Bhikhu Parekh presented the much delayed 2011 Award jointly to Dr Binayak Sen and Bulu Imam, the cultural activist, ‘for their humanitarian work’ amongst the tribal peoples of India, the Adivasis, on 12th June in The House of Lords.

Dr Binayak Sen is a highly respected expert on children’s health and has become a very effective human rights campaigner. He was made an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience in 2007 and is still on bail despite being released twice by the Indian Supreme Court. He is currently under charge for Sedition. One reason for his oppression by the Chhattisgarh State is his criticism of their health care system. In his speech, he argued from his Government’s own statistics that India has been, and remains, in a state of chronic famine and that the hardest hit are, yet again, the impoverished and the dispossessed. He showed how the Indian Government has enacted increasingly draconian laws designed to eliminate dissent and implemented them through the Courts, the police and the Army. He said that all of this is being done in collusion with multi-national corporations under the banner of neo-liberal capitalism and so they are jointly responsible for both the famine and the widespread abuses of human rights.  Dr Felix Padel told us that global mining strategy and much of the funding for its implementation is decided in the City of London and that, therefore, the Coalition must demand the same transparency in the mining and construction industries as they are now demanding of the banks.  Bulu Imam, joint Recipient of the Award, said that only a ‘New Consciousness’ would allow humankind to survive. This meant greater understanding and insight into what is really happening around us, learning from peoples like the Adivasis, who are directly in touch with the elements of life, and for us to behave less selfishly and more for the benefit of others.

                                                                    —————

Dr Sen’s speech was entitled “Hunger, Dispossession and the Legitimacy of Dissent”. He produced figures from The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau whose latest survey show that between 45% to 47% of children under 5,  37% of the whole adult population and an astonishing 60% of Minorities and Scheduled Castes are malnourished by weight-for-age criteria, that is, Body Mass Index. The World Health Organisation declares a famine when more than 40% of a nation’s peoples have a BMI less than 18.5.

The Adivasis, with whom he has worked for 30 years, have been able to survive the famine only because their traditions dictate that all have equal access to their common property – land, water, shelter and crops. Since Rajiv Gandhi opened India to foreign investment, the State has increasingly “acted as the Guarantor to the expropriation of common property resources, handing them over to corporate interests under the doctrine of Eminent Domain, through which the State is the ultimate owner of all the resources in the country”.  And so, for decades, the vast resources of minerals, from bauxite to coal, under Adivasi land – never paid for at anything like the true ‘capitalist market rate’ – has been mined at an increasing rate, their valleys dammed for power, factories built and top flight transport systems to serve them. PM Manmohan Singh is celebrated as a key figure in India’s spectacular economic development but he and his Government brook no opposition.  He called the Naxalite insurgency in the so-called Red Corridor [from Jharkand to Andra Pradesh] ‘the greatest threat to India’s security’ and in 2009 launched Operation Greenhunt deploying a huge array of the armed service to target the so-called Naxalites – actually The Communist Party of India [Maoist]. As usual, this is having its most devastating impact on the people caught in between – the Adivasis.

As more and more mines, factories, dams and roads are built on their land, 70 million Adivasis and many other Minorities have been purposively starved, dispossessed, impoverished, physically violated with impunity, falsely imprisoned and barred from fair judicial process or suffered all six.  Dr Sen pointed out that, quite obviously, resistance had to be organised if they were to survive these onslaughts. “But they and others right across India are now faced with a panoply of laws, old and new, that severely restrict free speech and any form of protest. However peaceful and non-violent these protests are, they are branded as ‘sedition’, ‘rebelliousness’ or  ‘insurgency’. Too often protests are met with violence by police, army and corporate goondas. There are thousands of people in jail right now, just like me, who have been convicted under false charges. I am one of the very few lucky ones. I have been granted bail twice by The Supreme Court who stated ‘that no evidence had been produced by the Chhattisgarh Government’, but I still await a final judgement.”

How can peace be achieved when both sides resort to violence? Dr Felix Padel suggested that India needs its own model of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The UK Coalition and The City would have to appear. The Foreign Office and the Departments for Business and International Development all share a current duty of care to show us the effects of their actions with our money and also to demand that all corporate communications and financial transactions in the UK are made transparent. For here in The City, Dr Padel pointed out, is: “The global centre for coordinating corporate investment in mining and now hosts the vast majority of the corporate headquarters, their Banks and their financiers.  It is imperative that we can all see the link between  decisions made here and the actual impact they have on real people and environments.  There should be an Independent Commission into the Mining Industry, stronger even than the Vickers Commission on Banking, as equivalent scandals wait to be revealed there too”.

Dr Padel said that there is colossal ignorance here in the UK about what many call India’s Civil or Hidden War.  Too often this can be labelled ‘wilful ignorance’, that is, not knowing what you should know.  One professor in statistics at the prestigious Indian Institute of Statistics in Kolkata estimated that the professionals involved in designing, building and managing an Aluminium factory or dam were aware of only 2% of the effects their projects have on local communities and ecosystems.  But there is what could be called ‘purposeful ignorance’ – hiding facts intentionally, not telling the Whole Truth, lying by omission. There has also been a noticeable lack of press coverage in the UK of the War and its causes.  This has ensured that few people have any understanding of the violence and corruption which we, as a people, are indirectly causing – ‘innocent ignorance’? “Many, including Arundhati Roy, have unpicked and exposed the links between the elites of corporate elites, politicians, armed services, bankers, big philanthropists and media owners and are not surprised at our collective ignorance. She and many others contradicting the image of India as a model of democracy and economic success have been vilified, spied upon, attacked and falsely accused. ”

Joint Recipient Bulu Imam called for “A New Consciousness”. We need Satyagrahas for the 21st Century, in other words, Citizens who take responsibility for understanding their society, act solely for the welfare of others and who are prepared to offer their lives in the pursuit of justice. He said that “industrial civilization is an aberrant civilization. It has strayed from the path of Nature. It has made war, brutality and profit a path without compassion or hope. It heralds planetary catastrophe from causing global warming. India with its older order of ancient spiritual values, non-violence toward man and nature, tolerance and psychological fulfillment still stands ready, even now, to show the way. The culture of the Adivasis, developed centuries before we arrived, offers us that very model. From them we can all learn, we can each learn how to become non-violent within, towards each other and to the planet.  All of us here must act now to stop all these self-centred forces destroying these fragile and exemplary communities and their priceless eco-systems. Once you see the links between your life and theirs, you will understand that their struggle is our struggle and you will foresee that only profound mutual aid between all the planet’s communities can save some of us from the apocalypse rushing towards us.”

An hour’s lively debate ensued. From the 90 distinguished guests packed into Committee Room 4a, the Panel could respond to only a few of the comments and questions clamouring to be heard. Those chosen were Martin Horwood MP [LibDem & Chair, The All Party Parliamentary Group on Tribal Peoples], Bianca Jagger, Aruna Roy, Professors John Gilbert and Narinder Kapur, C B Patel, Colin Bex, Antony Copley, Martin Polden and Jennifer Wallace. Whilst all admired our two Recipients, there was little consensus on the way forward. The Gandhi Foundation would like to facilitate discussion and so will shortly publish here on our website, an edited transcription of the key points raised.

The question now facing The Gandhi Foundation is “What are we going to do about this?”

If you are still unconvinced that Non-violent Direct Action against the violence being perpetrated by the Indian Government is required urgently, read Cathy Scott-Clark’s article about Kashmir. She heads it with a quote “We Need Protection” [www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/09/mass-graves-of-kashmir]. She reveals the atrocities – extra-judicial murder, torture and other illegal human rights abuses – that the Indian Army has committed in Kashmir. We now know that they behave no differently under “Operation Greenhunt”.

If you would like to see one example of how The Gandhi Foundation can be effective, albeit indirectly and in a very small way, then read Decca Aitkenhead’s article on Clive Stafford Smith which she also heads with a quote: “The jury system in this country is utter insanity” [www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jul/08/clive-stafford-smith-jury-system-insanity].  You will notice that Clive has included “The Gandhi International Peace Award 2005” as the only other point worth mentioning in his CV.

Finally, why don’t you compare the laws against Terrorism and other forms of Dissent in India with our own?

John Rowley is a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation and Project Manager for The Gandhi International Peace Award 2011.

To view Bulu Imam’s speech: The Need For A New Consciousness by Bulu Imam

To view Dr Binayak Sen’s speech: Click Here

To view the photographs from the event click on the photo gallery in the right hand column of the homepage

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