T&T can learn from the Mahatma
Photo : Mahatma Gandhi
January 30th marks the 69th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the Indian freedom fighter. This article will attempt to analyse his leadership and its relevance to contemporary society.
Gandhi was always opened and ready to embrace all. His assistants resembled the staff of a transnational corporation with the best minds drawn from all quarters of the world.
India’s struggles for freedom from British rule was the fiercest ever fought by any people. His objective was to liberate his motherland from an empire so huge that “the sun never set.” It was no mean struggle and Gandhi knew that he needed men and women drawn from across the globe to fight this battle- not only his wife, son, mamoo and charchi.
Returning from South Africa after spending 20 years (1895-1915) of struggle for the rights of indentured workers, Gandhi acknowledged the contribution of those that preceded him- Krishna Gokhale (1866-915), Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920), Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946) among others. Gandhi immediately joined the existing Indian National Congress and plunged into work with the then leaders- Muhammad Jinnah, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel, Rajindra Prasad, C. Rajagopalarchari, Abdul Kalam Azad and others.
Gandhi’s associates and volunteers were not confined to India. In addition to having a healthy correspondence with Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the renowned Russian writer, Gandhi acknowledged his strategy of civil disobedience was derived from the writings of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), an American. He embraced Father C.F. Andrews whom he fondly referred to as Christ’s Faithful Apostle. An Anglican clergyman, Andrews worked with Gandhi in South Africa and encouraged him to return to India. With numerous reports on the harsh conditions under which Indian indentured servants was living, Gandhi sent Father Andrews to the Caribbean to evaluate the social conditions of Indians. It was this damning report of C. F. Andrews that informed Gandhi to agitate and make representation for an end to indentureship.
Several English and Americans left the comfort of their homes and joined Gandhi in his struggle s to free India. Magdeleine Slade (1892-1982), aka, Mirabehn, left her middle-class home in England and migrated to India and dedicated her life to the liberation of India. Another disciple of Gandhi was Sarala Sengupta (886-1973). Born in England Sarala married a Bengali against her parents’ wishes and was ex-communicated. Settling in India, she and her husband joined the Gandhian movement for India’s independence. Vincnet Sheean (1899-1975), an American journalist, was another disciple of Gandhi. He migrated to India and spent years living in the Ashram and writing on Gandhi and the Indian people.
Panday survived in the politics because he was always opened to embrace all. From 1966 when Panday first entered politics he strived to cross ethnic hurdles to unite the widest spectrum of opposition to the PNM. In 1986 he dissolved the United Labour Front to form the NAR and gave the leadership to A.N. R. Robinson. After his expulsion from the NAR in 1988, Panday denounced Bhoe Teewarie, Winston Dookeran , Suruj Rambachan and others in true Panday style . Nevertheless, when Panday formed government in 1995 he appointed Dookeran and Tewarie Governor of the Central Bank and Principal of St Augustine Campus of the UWI respectively. Dr Suruj Rmabachan was brought out of political exile and placed on the mayoral chair in the Borough of Chaguanas. Kamla Persad-Bissessar who first entered politics on a NAR ticket in 1991 and was defeated by the UNC candidate in 1991, was re-presented by Panday to the constituents of Siparia on a UNC ticket.
The nation has witnessed the jailing of a former Chief Justice and a Speaker of the House because they were phenotypically unqualified for such high state offices. Also, former Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs and Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski of Canada were dismissed prior to the termination of their contracts because the public expressed the view that their foreign background was an insult to the people; and more so that they would not have a good understanding of the culture to help in the fight against crime.
As the world reminisce the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi it would be good for our leaders to adopt his spirit of openness. Louis Fischer, a biographer of Gandhi, remarked that when Gandhi embraced you it was like the entire India was embracing you. Such openness and freedom of spirit would always attract a winning team that can get the task done!
Many leaders fail because they live in constant fear of being challenged and overshadowed by others. For this reason most leaders surround themselves with individuals who own their place in the team not because of exceptional skills but because of their ability to kowtow before the leader and sing his/her chalisa (praise).