International Conference on “Mahatma Gandhi and Diaspora”


Diaspora Research and Resource Centre (DRRC) - Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad-Bharat (ARSP) organised a two-day International Conference in New Delhi on 17-18 September, 2019 on the topic: “Mahatma Gandhi and Diaspora” in partnership with the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti (GSDS), New Delhi. The conference was organised in commemoration of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of Culture and Vice Chairman GSDS Shri Prahalad Singh Patel. Eminent Gandhian Shri Ramjee Singh was the guest of honour. Former Ambassador Shri Virendra Gupta, President ARSP, former Ambassador Anup Mudgal, Chairperson DRRC, Shri Narayan Kumar, Hon. Director, ARSP were also present on the occasion. International participants from Mauritius, Fiji, USA, California, Suriname, Netherlands, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Maharashtra, Varanasi and New Delhi took part in the conference.
The conference discussed the influence of Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of “Satyagraha” on the thought process of diaspora, first in South Africa and girmitiya countries followed by a global foot print, which in turn characterised the Indian diaspora world over in the contemporary times. The Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence have left a deep impression on the larger national character of Indians, including the diaspora.
Another highlight of the conference was a special session with Smt. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, Gandhiji’s granddaughter and former Vice Chairperson of GSDS. Smt. Tara Gandhi shared her personal experiences with Gandhiji, which added a very special feature to the proceedings and outcomes of the conference.
The four technical sessions deliberated on the relevant themes with greater depth: They were:
1. Mahatma Gandhi and India Diaspora – I, was chaired by Mrs. S.N Gayan, Director General, Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius. The other speakers at this session included: Mr. Dharam Yashdeo Dhuny, Chairperson, Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund, Mauritius; Dr. Annapurna Pandey, Department of Anthroplogy, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA; Dr. Sheetal Sharma, Assistant Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Mr. Anil Joshi, Former Second Secretary, Indian High Commission to Fiji; Prof. T.P Singh, Professor, Department of Political Science, & Coordinator, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi; Dr. Rajni Sarin Medical Doctor & ARSP Member and Dr. Rajiv Ranjan Rai, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Migration & Diaspora studies, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalya, Wardha.
2. Mahatma Gandhi and India Diaspora – II, was chaired by former Ambassador Shri Virendra Gupta. The speakers in this session included: Prof. Triloki Nath Pandey, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz; Dr. Amba Pande, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Dr. Mrs. Sarita Bodhoo, Chairperson, Bhojpuri Speaking Union Mauritius; Prof. Chandra Shekhar Bhatt, Former Professor of Eminence, Tezpur University & Professor of Sociology & Director, Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad; Dr. Vidhan Pathak, Assistant Professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Delhi; Mr. Chandraprakash Ramkalawon, President, Gandhi Bhawan Laventure, Mauritius; Dr. Munnalal Gupta, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Migration & Diaspora studies, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalya, Wardha and Mr. Rakesh Pandey, Editor, Pravasi Sansar.
3. Gandhi and Inclusive Development was chaired by former Ambassador Shri Anup Mudgal. Smt. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee was the special guest on the occasion. The other speakers included: Mr. Anil Dutta Mishra, Eminent Gandhian Scholar and Writer Editor, Sulabh India; Ms. Ruchika Sinha, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Noida International University, Greater Noida; Prof. Vimlesh Kant Verma, Former Professor of Linguistics, University of Delhi and Mr. Amit Gupta, Joint Secretary, ARSP.
4. Core Values of peace and non-violence in contemporary times was chaired by Shri Shyam Parande, Secretary General ARSP. The speakers in this session included: Prof. Gita Dharampal, Dean of Research, Gandhi Research Foundation, Maharashtra; Dr. Narinder Mohkamsing, Associate Professor, Anton de kom University, Suriname; Dr. Neerja A Gupta, Principal, Bhavan's Arts and Commerce College, Khanpur, Ahmedabad, Director cum Coordinator, Study Abroad Program and Diaspora Studies, Gujarat University, Ahmedabad; Prof. Subhash Chandra, Associate Professor.(Hon.); Intercultural Open University (IOU), Netherlands; President GHA & Chairman Board – Global Harmony Association, India GHA and Amb. Manju Seth Retd. Foreign Diplomat.
A round-table discussion organised as part of the conference was chaired and moderated by Shri Narayan Kumar.
The conference generated serious interest not only amongst the academicians and scholars but equally among the political/diplomatic community and media, as such a wide ranging and contemporary themes were seen in full sync with the recognition of Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution towards the Diaspora. The participants explained in detail as to how Mahatma Gandhi touched upon every important aspect of human society- political, social, economic, gender, cultural, international relations, sustainability, technology and faith. They also made out a convincing case that Gandhiji’s philosophy was not limited only to the realm of philosophy or history but was equally relevant in contemporary times if the humanity was genuinely interested in creating a society based on the principles of peace, non violence, justice and equity. Indeed, the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The Whole World is One Family) is not possible without the Gandhian values of peace, non violence and open mindedness.
The conference culminated with an equally impressive valedictory which was presided over by Shri Shyam Parande, Secretary General of ARSP. President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Dr. Vinay Sahsrabuddhe was the chief guest of the occasion. Shri Ram Bahadur Rai, President of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) was the guest of honour.
The participants reiterated that today, the Indian society and Diaspora are valued as much for their skills as for their commitment to peace and tolerance. In the same manner, Gandhiji’s own personality, thoughts and tools were directly influenced by the hardships faced by the Indiana diaspora in South Africa and Mauritius. It may be recalled that all these tools of Gandhian philosophy were first experimented with and within Diaspora. This has been an important two-way stream, the diaspora influencing Gandhiji’s initial political thoughts, which in turn shaped their larger character and image. Any efforts to study Indian Diaspora would seem impossible without getting intertwined with the life and message of Mahatma Gandhi.