Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mahatma Gandhi in Scotland

It was in order to lower the political temperature in Scotland after the September, 2014 Referendum on Scotland’s union with the UK. Rightly so, the authorities organized a week long activities in and around Edinburgh to coincide with the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2. The day is also observed as the International Day of Non-violence on the initiation of the UN.
Naming of Gandhi Avenue in Edinburgh
I followed some of these activities with interest, simply, to renew my own association with Scotland as the Consul general of India in Edinburgh from 2007-08. One of the renowned writers, intellectuals, administrators and diplomats, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, was the main inter-locator and speaker on a number of events in this regard. Gopal Krishna Gandhi, whom I followed from my tenure in Assistant High Commissioner of India in Kandy (Sri Lanka) also served in Kandy before me as a diplomat and dealt with the registration and repatriation issues of stateless Indians of Tamil origin mostly working on the tea estates in the picturesque hill districts of Sri Lanka like Kandy, Nuwara Eliya etc. Gopal Gandhi earned a name for himself in Kandy while doing his diplomatic duties. The elite circles of the Kandyan society loved him very much.  Gopal Gandhi addressed the Parliament of Scotland. He spoke at University of Edinburgh on the theme ‘India Yesterday, India Today’.

With Arun Gandhi at Edinburgh
I am confident his speeches in Edinburgh must have been received well. Incidentally, I received and hosted Arun Gandhi, another grandson of Mahatma Gandhi in 2008 at Edinburgh.

At Gndhi statue in Edinburgh
Mahatma Gandhi is well known and respected personality in Scotland. There is a well maintained park in Edinburgh where a statue of Mahatma Gandhi has been placed in the lush green surroundings. I started the practice of observing International Day of Non-Violence on October 2 at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi with the help and co-operation of Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and the Scottish government. One of the roads leading to the park was named as Mahatma Gandhi Avenue on my initiative in 2007. A senior NRI, Mohinder Dhall was a great help in the process.  A. Hazara,  an old Indian settler in Scotland and his gracious Scottish wife along with other fellow Indians and friends of India established Bharatiya Ashram in Dundee, another small but beautiful town of Scotland. They also celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi every successive year.