Opinion: 150 years since Gandhi's birth
his example still shines

In commemoration of the 150th year since Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi's birth, Leadership Network member Arish Naresh writes about why Gandhi's teachings are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.
Gandhi as a young man sitting in a chair

2 October 2019 marked 150 years since the birth of Gandhi

I was born in Fiji and I am a fourth generation Fijian with Indian heritage. In 2011, on my first trip to India, I visited the Taj Mahal as many people do, took endless photos at the palaces and had the pleasure of visiting the states of my ancestors. However, not once did I think about the Dandi March (also known as the Salt March or Salt Satyagraha) or consider walking on the path that Mahatma Gandhi walked on.

As a millennial, it was probably not cool to do something like that, but I now understand the importance of that historic moment and why I should encourage other millennials to visit the site and gain inspiration from the region that led the first non-violence movement in history.

The 24-day march lasted from 12 March to 6 April 1930 as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly. Mahatma Gandhi started this march with 78 of his trusted volunteers.

Walking ten miles a day for 24 days, the march spanned over 240 miles (384kms) from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, which was called Navsari at the time (now in the state of Gujarat). Growing numbers of people joined them along the way.

When Gandhi broke the salt laws at 6:30 am on 6 April 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians.

In 2019, we are celebrating 150 years since this amazing man was born and it is important for millennials to understand and appreciate the work of people like Gandhi and how it has assisted in creating a better world for our generation.

Gandhi’s work inspired others like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr to lead their respective movements in their countries.

Gandhi’s philosophies and constructive programs were relevant in his time and are relevant now as well.

The way we practice his teachings requires a change, but the fundamental principles are still applicable.

One of his most important and often cited quotes is:

 “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Gandhi strongly believed that if you change yourself you will change your world.

The problem with changing your outer world without changing yourself is that you will still be you when you reach that change you have strived for.

The United Nations is currently working on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are seen as the shared vision of humanity and a social contract between world leaders and the people to achieve a better standard of living for all.

Many of these goals reflect the aspirations Gandhi had for society 100 years ago and it makes me wonder how much longer before we achieve a fairer more equitable global society.

My personal mission has been to promote the message of inclusion and diversity through my Opportunities without Discrimination campaign that promotes wearing odd pairs of socks #owdsocks to promote awareness of inequalities in society.

My campaign is very small and does not have the power or the reach of what Gandhi had, but I believe that if more of us started running small programmes consistent with Gandhi’s constructive programmes the world would be a better place.

I also want young people, especially from the Indian diaspora, to remember the Mahatma’s sacrifice. He will be forever remembered as a martyr and it is important that we collectively work towards ensuring that his teachings are passed on to our current and future generations.

Gandhi’s work to fight discrimination is still one of the most relevant pieces of work that we all are battling against.

Race, religion, gender, education level, income inequalities are all forms of discrimination that people around the globe are fighting against in some way or form and Gandhi was one of the pioneers in this field.

He led the battle to give the untouchables recognition and economic inequality.

So next time you visit India, make time to visit the area where the Salt March took place. I know I will.

Leadership Network member Arish Naresh is the Chief of Allied Health at Capital Coast District Health Board, New Zealand, the chair of the New Zealand Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association and the President of the International Oral Health Association. Arish is also the founder of Opportunities without Discrimination (OWDSOCKS) and a previous board trustee for UNICEF New Zealand. Coincidentally, Arish was also born on 2 October.

All views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.