Arun Gandhi Hijacks Dr. King’s Legacy
Arun Gandhi Hijacks Dr. King’s Legacy
Modesto, CA – Feb. 2, 2008 – Thirty Indian minorities protested the choice of Arun Gandhi to keynote Modesto Junior College’s (MJC) 14th Annual Martin Luther King Commemoration.
In a protest arranged by Organization for Minorities of India (OFM), Indian Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs waved signs and distributed literature at a reception arranged for Arun Gandhi in the Modesto King-Kennedy Center. Bhajan Singh, the group’s spokesman said: “Dr. King fought and died to give civil rights to American blacks. Gandhi fought to deny civil rights to African blacks. It insults Dr. King’s memory to commemorate him by focusing on Gandhi.” Literature distributed by OFMI challenged attendees to “Protect Dr. King’s Legacy” by rejecting the attempted link between Dr. King and Mohandas Gandhi.
Additionally, Mr. Singh pointed out that Mr. Gandhi devotes his time to harsh criticism of Israeli and American policies, but he is “missing in action” in India. He said, “Arun Gandhi has not acted against the violence in Gujarat, his grandfather’s native state. He has not marched against the murder of Christians in Orissa. He pays lip service to these atrocities, but he refuses to march, to fast, to protest.” In the words of Peter Flanigan, webmaster of Gandhism.net, Mr. Gandhi talks the talk in America, but will not walk the walk in India.
Later in the evening, Mr. Gandhi moved to the MJC Mary Stuart Rogers Learning Center for the main event. Approximately 500 people attended the MJC event. Before Mr. Gandhi began his speech, nearly everyone present had received and read an OFMI flyer detailing the elder Gandhi’s racism.
OFMI confronted Mr. Gandhi with several written questions. They asked if Mr. Gandhi was aware of his grandfather’s South African newspaper, The Indian Opinion, where most of Gandhi’s anti-black writings were published. Not only did Mr. Gandhi acknowledge the paper, but he said his father took over publishing it when Mohandas Gandhi returned to India. One question asked what Dr. King and Gandhi had in common, considering Gandhi’s anti-black writings. Mr. Gandhi claimed the common link was a dream of “peace and harmony.”
While commemoration organizers insisted the event would honor Dr. King rather than Gandhi, Mr. Gandhi’s speech primarily involved anecdotes about his time with his grandfather. Furthermore, the question and answer session was almost exclusively focused on questions regarding Mohandas Gandhi instead of Dr. King.
Consequently, OFMI presented another question: “You claim Gandhi’s dream was for harmony, yet his writings in The Indian Opinion promoted racism and segregation. How does segregation promote harmony?” Ignoring the background to the question, Mr. Gandhi replied: “It doesn’t.” While completely dodging the question, Mr. Gandhi did condemn his grandfather by implication. Mohandas Gandhi’s pro-segregation campaigns are well-documented – hence he did not dream of harmony, at least while in South Africa.
The event was organized by the following sponsors:
City of Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department, King-Kennedy Memorial Center, Modesto Peace Life Center, Modesto Junior College, Yosemite Community College District, California State University, Stanislaus Office of Student Learning, The Modesto Bee, Frailing, Rockwell & Kelly, The Women’s Auxiliary, Kaiser Permanente, Ruben Villalobos, Esq., Project Sentinel, County Bank, Modesto Irrigation District, AARP, and the Associated Students of MJC, Association for Conflict Resolution, Central California Chapter, and Fresno Pacific University.
Prior to the event, OFMI representatives met with organizing committee to express disapproval of Mr. Gandhi as the event’s keynote speaker. They urged the committee to cancel the event or change the speaker out of respect for Dr. King’s legacy. While this request was obviously ignored, OFMI was successful in securing friendships among several leaders of the local African-American community. Gandhism.net and OFMI anticipate assisting these leaders in organizing a forum in the near future for the purpose of analyzing Mohandas Gandhi’s relations with South African blacks.