Dubai: The ethos and principles of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as the Father of the Nation of India, Mahatma Gandhi, were hailed as Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, unveiled the bust of Gandhi at the Consulate General of India in Dubai on Tuesday.
Indian Ambassador to the UAE Sunjay Sudhir and Consul General of India in Dubai Dr Aman Puri joined Sheikh Nahyan in offering floral tribute at the bust of Gandhi.
On Monday, January 30, Indians paid tributes to Gandhi, who led their country’s freedom struggle, marking the 75th anniversary of his death which is observed as Martyrs’ Day in India.
Sheikh Nahyan said Gandhi is a man whose legacy is a universal force, deeply imprinted in the moral consciousness of humankind. “I am pleased and honoured to join all of you in this unveiling of the bust of this remarkable man and to honour his vision and achievements.”
He said the occasion recognised Gandhi’s call to rely on non-violence and to be agents of peaceful change. “In my view, today’s event gives us an opportunity to reflect on the state of our world, to look at the individual roles we each can play in improving it for all and most importantly, to focus our attention on the futility of violence as a means for attaining peace and stability.”
The minister said he felt grateful to the Indian missions and the community for celebrating “one of the most influential figures in modern history” by unveiling his bust.
“We in the UAE are proud to call India our close friend, a friend with whom we have enjoyed a long, prosperous, friendly and mutually productive relationship,” he said.
Principles of Gandhi and Zayed
He took the opportunity to recollect the similarities between the principles of peaceful coexistence, tolerance and diversity held high by Gandhi and founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“When our late founder, Sheikh Zayed founded the UAE in 1971 and began leading us into a global society, he made our country into a nation where all people can exercise their talents, pursue their ambitions and fulfill their potential in a peaceful and just environment. In fact, Gandhi’s thoughts about leading diverse populations remind me of Sheikh Zayed’s conviction about the establishment of a culture of tolerance, compassion and dialogue in the UAE.”
“Peaceful coexistence was at the core of Sheikh Zayed and I believe that peaceful means are essential to achieving his objective of a prosperous and harmonious society. I do not exaggerate when I say that the respect for diversity manifested by the late Sheikh Zayed and embraced by our President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as by the leaders and people of the country, has been essential to the development of the UAE. ”
Sheikh Nahyan urged everyone to continue to be inspired by Gandhi’s memories and become more committed to follow his principles. “The spirit of civility, peace and non-violence that Gandhi propagated inspires us all to have peace, tolerance, justice, and prosperity in the world,” he added.
Gandhi-Zayed Peace Centre
Ambassador Sudhir said the impact of Sheikh Zayed and Mahatma Gandhi go well beyond their lifetimes. “As we grow as nations and societies, we feel their presence all around us.”
Speaking to Gulf News, Sudhir said both the UAE and India are working on establishing a Gandhi-Zayed Peace Centre here.
“In the 14th Joint Commission Meeting held in Abu Dhabi in September last year, it was decided to set up a Gandhi-Zayed Peace Centre in the UAE University (UAEU) in Al Ain. Both sides are working on that to make it a reality very soon,” he said.
In his speech, the Ambassador cited upholding values propagated by Gandhi as one of the main reasons for India’s prosperity. Noting that all government offices in India are adorned by Gandhi’s image, he said “it is for a reason that the only person on Indian currency notes is Mahatma Gandhi
because that’s what Mahatma Gandhi means to all of us. And I can say the same about Sheikh Zayed whose country we are all living in and the 3.5 million Indians here can feel that.”
Sudhir said Gandhi’s message of non-violence, peace and harmony is even more important today and both India and the UAE have been working on that on a global level “whether it is the United Nations Security Council, where India was the chair till December of the UNSC Committee on Counterterrorism and then handed over the mantle to the UAE in January this year. Together it is our quest to have a peaceful world.”
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Champion of sustainability
He pointed out that Gandhi had equally promoted sustainability and gave a clear message during his lifetime by stating that the Earth has enough for man’s needs but not for man’s greed.
“I think we all need to look at changing our lifestyles,” he said, highlighting the importance of the ‘Mission LiFE’ project launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Encouraging climate-friendly behaviour, it is an India-led global mass movement that will nudge individual and collective actions towards the protection and preservation of the environment. Meanwhile, the UAE is marking this year as the Year of Sustainability.
Dr Aman Puri said the bronze bust of Gandhi, measuring 42 inches, was sculpted by Indian artist and sculptor Naresh Kumawat and was presented by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi under a special programme of ICCR.
“We already have one at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Now, this will also be another opportunity to remember the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, his principles of peace, non-violence and peaceful coexistence and we could not have asked for a better person to unveil his bust. Every day is important for us to imbibe his principles. In future, we will be hosting special events here,” said Dr Puri.
Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajans ‘Vaishnav Jan To’, ‘Raghupati Raghava’ were recited at the event by singer Somdutta Basu.
The event was also attended by members of the diplomatic community, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (PBSA) Awardees and representatives of Indian community organisations in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
He lives in hearts
PBSA Awardee and a healthcare pioneer, Dr. Zulekha Daud said it was a proud moment for all Indians. “There is no person more important than Gandhiji to us Indians. He lives in our hearts. But it is great to see his bust adorning the consulate here in Dubai,” said the founder and chairperson of Zulekha Healthcare Group, who is believed to be the first female practicing doctor in the country after having arrived here in 1964.
Emirati artist Ahmed Al Awadhi, who is known as Rukni in art circles, said Gandhi is a symbol of India. “I am happy and proud to be here today for the unveiling of his bust. We Emiratis have very good relations with India and respect to Indians. We didn’t have so many things when Indians first came here. We used to get everything from India. My father had business relations with India,” he said.
Consul General of South Africa in Dubai, Andrew Tsepo Lebona said: “It’s a historic event when we are honouring Gandhi, the founder of Indian democracy. I am privileged to say that I was born in Durban where Mahatma started his crusade for emancipation of India. As a family, we have had strong links with India. My mother’s father knew and had consulted Mahatma Gandhi when he was in Durban.”