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December 10, 2013

RONN MOTT: Seeds from the same tree

Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in India before the turn of the 20th Century, went to England to study law and decided to settle in South Africa, and he did for 20 years. His work in South Africa was involved in the right of his Indian neighbors to have equal access to civil rights. He also worked for the indigenous people as well. When the people of India became restive during the early days of World War I, Gandhi came home.  

I suppose one could say it is ironic that two men, separated by years, honed their attitudes and feelings about the rights of men in one of the most hurtful areas of civil rights. In India, from the time he returned home from South Africa, Gandhi not only worked for Indian rights but was a strong, national presence for the sovereignty of India as an independent nation. His firm belief was that all men, regardless of religion, could work for a common cause of the rights of man.

These hard-felt beliefs would get Gandhi killed by a Hindu who wanted no part of a country that had Muslims living in it. Gandhi’s belief that all men could live together regardless of activity and religious beliefs failed for the good of a greater India. The result was what is now Pakistan and Bengal, Muslim states on the east and west side of India.  

Nelson Mandela, when released from 27 years of prison life, was able to convince his native South Africans that regardless of how brutal the Apartheid government had been, it was for the good of South Africa not to take any kind of revenge against those who had been so mean to the black population.  

Mandela had been born in 1918, four years after Gandhi had left to go home to his native India. So what Mandela knew of Gandhi was what he learned from his work in India and reading and talking to others about his early work in South Africa.   

I find it very ironic that two of the greatest men in the 20th Century would both get their start fighting for the rights of people in the most oppressive state in the world.

Both of these wonderful humanitarians are now gone, and it is up to us, the living, to not allow their lessons of life be in vain. It was not only their struggle, but it is our struggle.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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