Rajmohan Gandhi speaking in Indianapolis on confronting “great hates”
Professor Rajmohan Gandhi is a biographer of his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and co-founder of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation in South Asia. NUVO reached him at his office at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he is a visiting scholar at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
Rajmohan Gandhi, peacemaker and biographer of his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi
NUVO: How do you place the topic of reconciliation in context with all of the global conflict going on now, especially interfaith conflict? Gandhi: Who can deny that today we live in a situation of great hate? So I try to point out that interfaith understanding and dialogue, important as they are, are not enough. We must attempt some kind of healing across these great divides, not just getting to know one another or listening to one another. Those are crucial aspects, but we need to go beyond that to some healing of the great hates that exist in the world today. NUVO: What steps can be taken to start the healing of these “great hates?” Gandhi: I certainly don’t pretend I have solutions. But we can look at some of the well-known examples of healing in the world, South Africa is the main one recently and France and Germany after the second world war, and see in what way they apply. In the example of France and Germany, people in both countries saw the need to face earlier histories and get beyond them, and not to let the past overpower you in the present and the future. NUVO: Your latest book [Revenge & Reconciliation: Understanding South Asian History, Penguin, 1999] traces the historical trends of conflict in the area of what is now India and Pakistan. Gandhi: I see history as a clash between two forces, one working for accommodation and reconciliation, one working for revenge. History is a product of innovation and technology as well, of course, but technologies are kind of neutral as far as reconciliation and revenge are concerned. There’s always in each age a clash between these two forces of reconciliation and revenge, at least in my part of the world. But that could well be the story of all humankind, too. NUVO: You are a biographer of your grandfather. What lessons do you take from his life? Gandhi: I was only 12 and a half when he was killed. But I have studied his life, and learned lessons from that. He was born in an extremely conservative family where Muslims were disliked and untouchables were avoided, yet he was a great champion of Hindu-Muslim friendship and justice between the high castes and the low castes of the sub-continent. He fought the British, but he also tried to love the British. There are great divides he conquered in his life and he helped a great many other people in India to conquer them, too. So that’s certainly an inspiration.
WHAT: “Visions of Reconciliation” with Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and biographer of his grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi. He will accompany Betty Williams, awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1976 for her work in Northern Ireland. Presented by University of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Museum of Art as part of the Spirit & Place Festival. WHEN: Monday, Nov. 10, 7-8 p.m. WHERE: University of Indianapolis, Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, 1400 E. Hanna Ave. For more information, call 788-3310.