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Homage to MLK and Gandhi

Umah Papachan
May 2009
Homage to MLK and Gandhi

On Saturday, April 4th, Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan paid rich tributes to Dr. King and highlighted the similarities in the civil disobedience movements led by Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, at an event marking the 41st anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event was organized by The King Center, in partnership with Atlanta Gas Light and support from the Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA) and the MLK National Historic Site.

Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., president and chief executive officer of The King Center introduced Justice Balakrishnan as “the highest-ranking legal officer of the world’s largest democracy.” The event was also attended by Bernice A. King and Martin Luther King III, daughter and son, respectively, of Dr. King. The newly-refurbished Eternal Flame, which symbolizes Dr. King’s legacy, was ceremonially lit by the pair of siblings, along with other King Center officials.

Martin Luther King III warmly recalled his visit to India along with a congressional delegation in February 2009. King III, who had met with Balakrishnan during that visit, told the gathering, “Having recently returned from India, I now have a stronger appreciation of the phenomenal dedication that is required to administer the world’s largest democracy. Today we are deeply honored by the presence of India’s highest ranking justices. And I would add that another Indian attorney, one of the greatest leaders of human history, Mohandas K. Gandhi, is also honored in this historic site with a statue and an exhibit room, because he so profoundly inspired my father and influenced our freedom struggle.”

Consul General of India Sanjiv Arora congratulated the members of the Gandhi Foundation on maintaining the legacies of Gandhi and Dr. King. “The Gandhi-MLK connection is of paramount importance in the relations between our two great countries and democracies. We cherish this historic association and are strongly committed to continuing our cooperation with The King Center, GFUSA and all others involved in spreading the eternal message of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Balakrishnan joined the congregation in reciting some of Gandhi’s favorite devotional songs. In his address to the gathering, he underlined the eternal message of Mahatma Gandhi. This was followed by a visit to the Gandhi Room in the Freedom Hall and the laying of wreaths at the King Crypts by Balakrishnan. Later, the Gandhi Foundation hosted a community reception luncheon for the visitors at Haveli Restaurant.

Andrew Young’s documentary explores Gandhi-MLK legacy

Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young made In the Footsteps of Gandhi to pay homage to the man who largely inspired the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. in his fight against racism and segregation.

As a friend and associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ambassador Andrew Young, civil rights leader and humanitarian, has been influenced by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi for 50 years.

To celebrate the Mahatma’s legacy, and to pay homage to the man who largely inspired the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. in his fight against racism and segregation, the former Atlanta mayor took a film crew to India to make a documentary.

The hour-long documentary, Andrew Young Presents: In the Footsteps of Gandhi, was premiered recently at the Richard H. Rich Theater at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, in partnership with IAFS, the Indo-American Film Society.

Maya Angelou, the 81-year-old poet and writer, has lent her distinctive voice to narrate Gandhi’s inspirational words for the documentary. The documentary explores the long-standing relationship between Gandhi and King and their philosophies of non-violence and passive resistance. Their faithful believers continue to preach that non-violence is still relevant in the 21st century as it was 50 year ago, and that it can be used as a powerful weapon against atrocities, oppression, wars and terrorism.

As the producer and host, Young takes us on a historic tour of Gandhi’s home and explores his continuing legacy. The film contains never-before-seen footage of Dr. King’s historic visit to India in 1959 with his wife Coretta Scott King and his interview with his children in his Atlanta home. Young also examines how Gandhi inspired his country to fight for independence against its colonial oppressors.

“It was my third visit to India and how remarkably the country has transformed into this vibrant democracy,” Young told the 30-odd audience while speaking in a panel discussion along with Dr King’s son, Martin Luther King III, the founding president and chief executive officer of Realizing the Dream Inc., a non-profit organization formed to carry on the legacies of his parents; R.K. Sehgal, Commissioner of Georgia Department of Economic Affairs, and Viren Bhandari, CEO, Equifax, Inc., India.

“This is the sixth film in a series in little over a year. This documentary revisits the past so that we can find and create a new vision for the future. India is our leading partner in the fight against terrorism and we should take lessons on how they have handled the horrific aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year. India bounced back and surprisingly did not retaliate against Pakistan. On the other hand, we after 9/11 attacked Iraq. It was an act of defensive violence; a need to protect home and property,” Young added.

King III recalled his stay at Mumbai’s Taj Hotel with his wife Andrea Waters King after the terrorist attack of last year: “We met the general manager whose wife was killed and the many young brave staff who put their own lives at risk to save others. We also discovered that the FBI came there to assist the Government of India in finding out who were behind these attacks, they were Islamic militant Pakistanis. It was a very positive involvement by our government.”   

“As you all saw us in this documentary, we visited seven States and various communities in New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Kerala. We met many young people and hope that through the work of promoting my father’s legacy and that of Gandhi, we can reach out and talk about peace and non-violence and find solutions in our ever increasingly dangerous world,” King III said.

He said the experience was an emotional journey: “I remember my parents shared that experience with us when we were children. And to retrace their steps, it was a life changing experience for my wife and me.”

Andrew Young said the Mumbai terrorist attacks showed how in the 21st century, “a new non-violent movement is still relevant today and our relationship with India will provide us with the solutions to terrorism.”

Referring to the recent Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire, which depicted the grinding poverty in Indian slums, Young said, “Gandhi’s legacy still lives on even today. He said the worst form of violence is poverty. We met committed community organizers (in India) that go into these slums and educate these bare-footed children, hence giving them hope for the future.”

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