BY RAVI R PONANGI
The Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA) celebrated the 142nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi with a series of events including the screening of Sir Attenborough’s award-winning film Gandhi at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau Center Theater at Underground Atlanta. The main celebration marking 142nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was held in front of the Gandhi statue located in Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site on Sunday, October 2. The event was organized by GFUSA in cooperation with the King Center, National park Service and other partner organizations.
The celebration was attended by a diverse cross-section of communities in Georgia, leading community activists and representatives of Georgia organizations, and graced by the presence of Honorable Ajit Kumar, Consul General of India in Atlanta designate. The day’s program at the statue started with soul stirring singing of Raghupati Raghava Rajaram and Vaishnava Janato.
In his keynote address, the Consul General designate paid rich tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke of the inspiration derived by international leaders’ world wide from Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and philosophy.
“We have completed the first decade of the 21st century, and are confronted with increasing violence, religious fundamentalism, terrorism and for a civilization to progress the premise of Gandhi has immediate relevance, he said. He stressed that Gandhi philosophy may be the key to human survival in the 21st century as once said by Nelson Mandela. It is not the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi, but whether we have the courage to emulate his teachings, he added.
Ajit Kumar, who was earlier Consul General of India in Durban, recalled the days of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. He said Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and inherent spirituality has a profound influence not only on Indian people but also on freedom loving people world wide. The fact that we are at the King Center is testimony to the fact, he said.
Talking about Gandhi’s personal experiments, Kumar said during Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in South Africa, he founded the Phoenix Ashram in Durban where he experimented what he preached. He said Gandhi had a multi faceted personality including a sense of humor. Once answering a criticism that he wearing his usual linen cloth, sandals and shawl when he was invited to tea by King George and queen of England Mary, he said the king had enough on for both of us.
Consul General Kumar reminded audiences that Mahatma Gandhi has equipped us with three guiding principles of Ahimsa or non violence, Satyagraha and Sarvodaya or upliftment of all. It is the value of these principles that we have to rediscover if we want to deal effectively to meet today’s challenges, he said.
While introducing honorable Ajit Kumar, Subash Razdan, founding Chairman of GFUSA said it was a great day for two reasons. The first was that Hon. Ajit Kumar is going to be the first Consul General of India in Atlanta and second- October 2nd is a day of peace, non violence, tolerance and a day of partnership. with the King center, National Park Service, Georgia Humanities Council, national organizations and the Indian community at large.
Razdan assured the incoming consul general all support to him from the community. He also gave a brief history of the dedication of the Gandhi Statue and the endeavor to make the dream come true, adding, the installation and dedication of the Gandhi Statue in the M.L. King. Jr., National Historic Site is significant and important because it is the first time that the U S Department of the Interior, which administers the National Park Service and historic sites, has permitted such a memorial on Federal lands. The National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) - the largest grassroots national umbrella organization in the USA, with the support of the Embassy of India, the Government of India, the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, the King Center, and the Georgia Human Relations Commission, along with a number of Indian-American, Asian-American, African-American and other mainstream community organizations all came together in harmony and enthusiasm for this memorial to fructify. The dream became a reality with the installation and dedication of the statue of the Mahatma on the cold and windy morning of January 24, 1998 by the Honorable Andrew Young. Adding, The Statue is proving to be a big magnet as more than million visitors come to the King Historic site annually to marvel and pay homage to the invaluable bond between MLK Jr. and the Mahatma.
Syam Yellamraju announced that a mega play Gandhi is scheduled to be presented by GFUSA on January 15, 2012 during the birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. Giving the details, of the drama Yellamraju said the play is not about the biography of Gandhi but about the message of Gandhi including the civil disobedience movement, non violence, satyagraha, Civil Rights movement etc., and how it is seen through the eyes of people like Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. He also said that they have plans to go around various cities of USA.
Earlier, The Executive Director, GFUSA, Antony Thaliath welcomed Hon. Kumar and other dignitaries who included, besides the representatives of Georgia Organizations, social and community activists, university students and visitors from outside Georgia, and officers of GFUSA.
An Honor to attend Gandhi Jayanti
celebrations in Atlanta: Consul General Ajit Kumar
Speaking to this reporter, Hon. Ajit kumar, designate for
Consul General of India in Atlanta said his appointment is yet to be announced officially by the protocol officer. He said it is indeed an honor and privilege to attend Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in the city. It is the first official function of the CG designate in Atlanta. On his posting to Atlanta, honorable Ajit kumar said, “It is a great honor to represent India in Atlanta. The desire of eight southern states is being fulfilled in having their own Indian consulate here. The community is also forward to the opening of the consulate in Atlanta, so as to have better services, better engagement and also to have better relationships of India with these eight southern states. That is being my main job here, he said.
Hon Kumar added that the Atlanta consulate has not yet been opened, because certain formalities have to be taken care of. He said they are looking for a suitable building, and are recruiting staff. He hoped that within a few months they will be able to open, until which the Houston consulate will be looking after Atlanta consular work.