February 27, 2020
2019-20 is the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the "father" of independent India. He led a non-violent freedom movement for nearly three decades, and popularized worldwide the idea of civil disobedience, best described as peaceful resistance to, and struggle against, unjust laws and unjust governments.
In the US, Gandhi's greatest impact was on Dr Martin Luther King Jr and his civil rights movement in the 1960s. The first pillar of the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, says: "Dr King often said he got his inspiration from Jesus Christ and his technique from Mohandas K. Gandhi" (attached).
Center for Contemporary South Asia (CCSA) at the Watson Institute is paying special intellectual attention to Gandhi this spring. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a writer, former ambassador and governor, who also happens to be Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, is in residence as a fellow. Covering some rare archival materials not yet seen by scholars, he is working on a new biography of Gandhi.
In addition, to reassess Gandhi's political and intellectual significance, CCSA has organized a series of lectures in April and early May.
April 7: Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Brown), Gandhi : His Life in his Words Beyond the 'Story'
April 22: Uday S. Mehta (CUNY), Critiquing British Empire and the Challenge of Representation
April 24: Uday S. Mehta (CUNY), Gandhi's Critique of Political Rationality
May 1: Rikhil Bhavnani (Wisconsin -Madison), Gandhi's Gift: Successful Mass Nonviolence and India's Decolonization
These lectures should certainly be of concern to those interested in non-violence, civil disobedience, religion and politics, imperial and colonial histories, and the possibilities of political redemption in conditions of authoritarianism. But in these violent times of democratic erosion, the significance of these events is perhaps much larger.