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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

Mandela on Gandhi and Nehru

Tuesday 7 August 2018

The following are excerpts from the letter from prison sent by Nelson Mandela to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations expressing sincere gratitude for the presentation of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 1979 to him. We are reproducing the excerpts from the letter as a token of our tribute to him on the occasion of his birth centenary on July 18, 2018.

Our people cannot but feel humble, at the same time proud, that one of their number has been selected to join the distinguished men and women who have been similarly honoured in the past....

In the upsurge of anti-colonial and freedom struggles that swept through Asia and Africa in the post-war period there would hardly be a liberation movement or a national leader who was not influenced, in one way or another, by the thoughts, activities and examples of Pandit Nehru and the All-India Congress. If I may presume to look back on my own political education and upbringing I find that my own ideas were influenced by his experiences...

Like the All-India Congress, one of the premier national liberation movmements of the colonial world, we too began to assess our situation in a global context. We quickly learned the admonition of a great political thinker and teacher that no people in one part of the world could really be free while their brothers in other parts were still under foreign rule....

Our people admired the solidarity the All-India Congress displayed with the people of Ethiopia whose country was being ravaged by Fascist Italy. We observed that undeterred by labels, the All-India Congress courageously expressed its sympathy with Republican Spain. We were inspired when we learnt of the Congress Medical Mission to China in 1938.

We noted that while the imperialist powers were hoping and even actively conniving to thrust the barbaric forces of Nazism against the Soviet Union, Panditji publicly spurned a pressing invitation to visit Mussolini, and two years later he again refused an invitation to Nazi Germany. Instead he chose to go to Czechoslovakia, a country betrayed and dismembered at the infamous Munich deal...

The oldest existing political organisation in South Africa, the Natal Indian Congress, was founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1904. He became its first Secretary and in 21 years of his stay in South Africa we were to witness the birth of ideas and methods of struggle that have exerted an incalculable influence on the history of the peoples of India and South Africa. Indeed it was on South African soil that Mahatmaji founded and embraced the philosophy of Satyagraha....

After his return to India Mahatmaji’s South African endeavours were to become the cause of the All-India Congress and the people of India as a whole... At the Asian Peoples’ Conference in 1947, at Bandung in 1955, at the Commonwealth deliberations, in the Non-Aligned Movement everywhere and at all times—Panditji and Free India espoused our cause consistently.

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