Sulabh International Social Service Organisation celebrates commencement of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary festivities
Wrapped in a simple loincloth around the body, a stick in hand, slightly bent, looking through his round glasses, he gave India its freedom without using any sword or shield and taught the world valuable lessons of sanitation, hygiene, cleanliness and non-violence.
“De di hamein aazadi
bina khadag, bina dhaal…”
The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi believed in non-violence, the relevance of which is more now than ever before when the forces inimical to peace, amity and tranquillity are taking centre stage and posing a serious threat to civility. There is an immense need to understand and implement the Gandhian philosophy of truth and non-violence. This is imperative in the present day world in general and in our country in particular, which is braving many challenges.
The challenges be they of casteism, classism, gender bias, orthodox ‘traditions’, and most importantly sanitation, hygiene and health. Fondly called ‘Bapu’, Gandhi fought against caste system and was instrumental in abolishing the practice of untouchability. He also preached non-violence and spoke of its significance. A true Gandhian is someone who works on all the issues once addressed by Gandhi and strives to give them the shape that the Mahatma had dreamt of.
One such Gandhian is Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, who not only took upon himself to bring a cleanliness revolution in India and abroad but also took under his wings the so-called-untouchables and the widows and turned their life around.
While the nation is gearing up for the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019 by aiming to achieve a true ‘Swachh Bharat’ and fulfil Bapu’s dreams, Dr Pathak has dedicated the last five decades to the same task.
To mark the 149th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Pathak along with the erstwhile women scavengers from Alwar & Tonk (now elevated socially as Brahmins), women from Hirmithla (ODF village), widows from Vrindavan, village folks from Ludhiana, students from Jammu Skill Development Centre and members of the Sulabh family paid homage to Bapu by offering prayers and flowers at his samadhi at Raj Ghat, New Delhi.
Mahatma Gandhi was the first person, whose attention was drawn towards the plight of the scavengers, and after him, it is Dr Bindeshwar Pathak who worked for the betterment of scavengers. The happy women from Alwar & Tonk, Rajasthan, are an example of the pioneering and triumphant campaign against the five millennia old malaise of untouchability and social discrimination as well as the fight against the prevailing practice of open defecation and manual scavenging. Dr Pathak has given a new lease lives of the former untouchables, enabling them to embrace Brahminism, and thus fulfilling the noble dreams of Mahatma Gandhi without having any power of money, post or authority.
A staunch believer in Gandhian views, Dr Pathak also interacted with children at Raj Ghat and explained to them the importance of Gandhi then and now in the modern era. He encouraged them to follow in his footsteps to set upon the right path of life and take India to new heights.
After this, a colourful ceremony was held at the Constitution Club of India Annexe, New Delhi, where an exhibition was also on show that represented the life and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and beautifully portrayed his early life through various photographs.
The Integrity of Truth - Ram Bahadur Rai
Addressing the gathering as Chief Guest on the occasion, Ram Bahadur Rai, veteran journalist and chairman of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, said, “Earlier the topic ‘cleanliness’ was limited to household discussions only, but today it is the talk of the nation. When the prime minister of the nation himself appeals to the nation for cleanliness then he is directly connecting the masses to Mahatma Gandhi. People are today enthused to be a part of the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi by participating in cleanliness drives. This motivation has come to them from one source of inspiration – Dr Bindeshwar Pathak.”
“Dr Pathak says his books and saplings speak for him and that is evident from his book ‘Road To Freedom’ which not only speaks of the plights of scavenger women but also gives solutions to tackle them,” he added.
He said that Dr Pathak is connected to Gandhi in his characteristic of the integrity of truth. He recalled there was a time when Dr Pathak was often faced with misrepresentation by society and family. He could have taken violent actions against those but he instead, maintaining his stature of a truthful and non-violent person, knocked the doors of law. He fought many cases and in the midst of it all, he taught that truth triumphs. He gave a new definition to non-violence.
“Gandhi will live on because he is the soul of India, voice of India, and that source of inspiration for India which taught humanity to the world. Cleanliness cannot be adopted by merely reading books. It is a portion of life which was taught by Gandhi, and taken forward by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he added.
Dr Pathak Today’s Mahatma Gandhi - Qaisar NK Jani
Present on the occasion as Special Guest of Honour, Qaisar N K Jani (who is known as the Living Statue of Mahatma Gandhi) said, “I travel to foreign countries and at almost all relevant spots, there is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. There is no university or library across the globe where there is no book on Mahatma Gandhi. Such respect and reverence has never been given to any leader of the world, except for the Mahatma.”
“I maybe a look-alike of Bapu but the person really next to him, in reality, is sitting on the dais – Dr Bindeshwar Pathak – who has given Bapu a practical form. I see a lot of Bapu in him. His simplicity, sincerity, down-to-earth behaviour all of them are imbibed in Dr Pathak. He is his true descendant. He is today’s Mahatma Gandhi,” he added.
Fundamentals & Secondaries of Gandhi - Dr Bindeshwar Pathak
Delivering the keynote address on the occasion, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak clarified separately the fundamentals and secondaries of Gandhi. He said, “When I founded Sulabh in 1970, I decided to separate the fundamentals of Gandhi from the secondaries of Gandhi. The fundamentals of Gandhi are: truth, non-violence, honesty and integrity, ethics and morality, love and compassion for others, no difference in speech and action, trusteeship of wealth, welfare of people, constructive work, prohibition, sanitation, eradication of untouchability and social discrimination especially against the untouchables (manual scavengers), health, village development, small-scale and cottage industries, female education, equality in all religions, etc.”
“The Secondaries of Gandhi are: the food habits, the choice of wearing clothes, freedom to choose one’s lifestyle, language, freedom of faith and expression. In the Gandhian fundamentals I adopted first the truth and second the non-violence. I have used non-violence for creating and reconstructing. Had we not maintained honesty and integrity, Sulabh would not have gotten the acceptance by the government and the society. “The kind of acceptance Sulabh enjoys today is due to our honesty,” said Dr Pathak.
“Through the use of non-violence, as enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi, I have rescued the untouchables from untouchability and social discrimination. Technological invention (such as the two-pit pour-flush compost ecological toilet) and human compassion have helped to restore the human rights and dignity of the untouchables and bring them in the mainstream of society,” he added.
Adopt Fundamentals to Implement Philosophy
Dr Pathak emphasised that to implement the Gandhian philosophy we have to apply our mind and think how the society can accept the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He was of the opinion that everybody takes and likes the food that one’s mother had fed him when he was a child. If the family is non-vegetarian, then the child will have non-veg food, and vice versa. So when a person comes to him to join Sulabh at the age of 30, he never asks them to change their food habits. To be a true Gandhian one doesn’t need to adopt his secondaries (food and clothing habits) but adopt his fundamentals to implement his philosophy.
Truthfulness, non-violence, honesty, integrity, ethics, morality coupled with vision, mission, commitment, capabilities, action and efficiency are some of the ingredients of the philosophy that Dr Pathak follows and urges others to consider, too. He, indeed, is a Gandhian with a difference.
Gandhi of My Life
Dr Bhaskar Chatterjee, IAS (Retd) and former director general and CEO of Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, presided over the function. Also present were Sulabh officials Awadhesh Sharma and S Chatterjee, Amola Pathak, and erstwhile scavenger Usha Chaumar (now Sharma). Usha narrated the story of how from manual scavenging to living a life of dignity, she has come a long way with the help and support of Dr Pathak, whom she called the “Mahatma Gandhi of my life”.
Speaking on the occasion, Anil Dutt Mishra, advisor to Sulabh, recalled that 50 years ago when the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi was celebrated, then in the form of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak a new avatar of Gandhi emerged. Now when we are gearing up for the 150th anniversary celebration, Dr Pathak has pledged to ensure that there isn’t anybody who is poor, hungry and if there is any, then they will be immediately addressed.
He said, “Gandhi was a creative soul. Being Gandhi means ancient wisdom in a modern context; it means never compromising with the fundamentals of the life and this we need to learn from Dr Pathak. He has given true tribute to Gandhi. Sulabh is the name of simplicity and the Sulabh revolution is of non-violence. Gandhi is not a person but an ideology. Similarly, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is no more just a personality but a thought process which we know as ‘Sulabhvaad’,” Mishra added.
Later a cultural programme was presented by the students of Sulabh Public School. The students attired in colourful dresses, presented a short skit on ‘Bapu Gandhi’ which enthralled the audience. As a mark of respect to the father of the nation, students shared their views to give out a message of Mahatma Gandhi. Members of the music department presented a short play on the plight of a newly married bride who was forced to do the family occupation of manual scavenging to which she was never accustomed to before marriage.
The entire programme created the perfect ambience for remembering this great leader who is looked upon as a role model for embracing truth and non-violence all through his life not only in India, but also by the Global community.
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