India To Help Maintain Sites Linked To Mahatma Gandhi In S Africa
A seven-foot statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be installed at Tolstoy Farm
India will assist in maintaining all sites connected to Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa, the Indian envoy here said on Monday as the world marked the 154th birth anniversary of the global peace icon. On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, High Commissioner Prabhat Kumar paid floral homage to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the Constitutional Court premises here, which was once a prison where the Mahatma and his followers served sentences during their resistance to discriminatory laws.
Mahatma Gandhi served four terms of imprisonment between 1908 and 1913 here, including his very first sentence in South Africa.
The bust was unveiled in 2012 by then-President Pratibha Patil when she paid a visit to South Africa.
"In all my postings abroad, I have always garlanded the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and now in South Africa, where I am doing so for the first time, it is very special, because Gandhiji was here for 21 years," Mr Kumar said.
After the garlanding, Mr Kumar visited permanent exhibitions at the venue dedicated to the lives of both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years as a political prisoner of the apartheid government before becoming South Africa's first democratically-elected president in May 1994.
The diplomat said he is also looking forward to attending the installation of a seven-foot statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Tolstoy Farm, the once-thriving commune established by Mahatma Gandhi about 30 km south of Johannesburg during his tenure as a lawyer in the city.
After falling into complete disrepair due to vandalism, only the foundation of Mahatma Gandhi's original zinc and wood home was left, surrounded by tall grass, until interventions by Gandhian activist Mohan Hira and the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation (MGRO).
With support largely from the Indian government, Tolstoy Farm has now been restored to some extent with a fruit orchard, a Peace Garden with flowers and shrubs, and a library.
Mr Hira arranged for an artisan from India to sculpt the latest statue at his residence here before moving it to Tolstoy Farm.
Mr Kumar pledged further support for Tolstoy Farm.
"The support from India will continue...all the places connected with Mahatma Gandhi (in South Africa) will receive attention from the government of India," the envoy said.
Standing next to a wall-sized image of the two leaders together, prepared for the exhibition although they had never met, Mr Kumar reflected on the special relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and the African National Congress (ANC) led by Mandela.
"Gandhiji was here and the ANC got a lot of inspiration from Gandhiji and thereafter Nelson Mandela also always admired Gandhi and said a lot about him, so this exhibition is an inspiration for all of us, Indians and South Africans," he said.
The exhibitions are very popular among foreign tourists, who visit the site daily.
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