Gandhiji returns to Pietermaritzburg

Nirvikar Bhundoo plays the part of a young Mahatma Gandhi during a re-enactment at the Pietermaritzburg Station.

Those who travelled from Pentrich Station to the Pietermarizburg Station on a replica train Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was thrown out of 125 years ago because of the colour of his skin, felt an inward awakening and their consciousness infused with a dose of introspection, reflection, peace and humility.

A golden thread linking the two countries, India and South Africa, have been strengthened after the unveiling of a two-sided bronze bust of Gandhi depicting his transformation from a barrister to the ‘Mahatma’ and celebrating the impact he had on the struggles for freedom and democracy in both South Africa and India.

A digital museum was also unveiled.

Hundreds of guests including Indian Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Sewraj, Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, community and religious leaders, dignitaries and members of the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Memorial Committee travelled on Thursday along the same railway line.

CEO of the Rising Sun , Vijay Maharaj, Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, Dr Iqbal Surve, executive chairman of Independent Newspapers, and group editor of the Rising Sun , Vivaga Thambiran.

They then gathered at the historic train station for a re-enactment of Gandhi being thrown off the train.

The two day event kicked-off with a mini film festival and the Mandela Gandhi Youth Symposium, followed by a colourful gala dinner at City Hall and concluded with the highlight event, the re-enactment of Gandhi being thrown out of the train at the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station.

The throwing out of a young British barrister out of a first class compartment was the turning point in his life. This incident is said to have been among those which ultimately sparked ‘Satyagraha”, a non-violent, passive form of resistance against non-democratic rule and ideals.

It was exactly 125 years ago today, when Gandhi, then a 23-year-old, was kicked off his first-class cabin at the local station, despite having a ticket. The coach was reserved for whites only.

According to Gandhi’s words contained in a biography, it was a cold morning and his overcoat was in his luggage, but he didn’t want to ask for it, afraid of being further maligned by authorities.

Gandhi spent the night at the cold railway station, and pondered over protesting against discrimination which further gave rise to Satyagraha.

At the event, Ela Gandhi said her grandfather’s incident reminded people about how change can be for the better or worse.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who visited the site in 2016, sent a message to the audience at the event.

“What went through Mahatma’s mind as he spent the night in the waiting room is not really known to us. But we do know that it led to the evolution of a force not seen before in any political movement,” Modi said.

  AUTHOR
Rising Sun Chatsworth

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