by Sushma Lobo
British Asia News Network
London, Oct 5: The Loomba Foundation, under the tagline of 'Empowering Widows in India' initiated by Lord Raj Loomba, member of British Parliament, following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi celebrated his 150th birthday with a fitting tribute to India's Father of Nation.
Addressing invited guests at House of Lords in London on the evening of Friday, October 4, Lord Loomba welcomed the guests and regretted the absence of chief guest of the event Ruchi Ghanashyam, High Commissioner of India to the UK, who could not attend due to sudden illness. Charanjit Singh, Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK was present in her absence.
"Gandhiji was referred to as Bapuji or Father of nation in India, because of the profound effect he had on our country, and the way he conducted the freedom movement to gain independence for India from the British colonial rulers to race, and how he has inspired many world leaders, including Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. Gandhiji known today as an apostle of peace non-violence."
"What makes Mahatma Gandhi so special? Gandhi could have had an easy life, as he came from a privileged family in India. His father sent him to London to study Law and his future was virtually set. In college, his moment of enlightenment occurred in South Africa, where he went to practice law. He was outraged at the treatment of his fellow Indians and started campaigning for the rights. Gandhi eventually returns to India and started campaigning against the British rule. Not everyone agreed with his peaceful approach, and especially after the Amritsar massacre in 1919, when British troops opened fire on innocent civilians, who had gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, he was enraged and demanded kindness."
"Throughout his life, he faced discrimination and violence, yet he always insisted on non-violent resistance. He was sent to jail 19 times throughout his life, and even at the age of 75. He stood by his beliefs, despite all the pressures he was put under, and we must never forget the sacrifices that he made for the sake of our country."
"We at Loomba Foundation recognize many of Gandhiji's values. Over the past 22 years, since I set up the Loomba Foundation, we have raised awareness of the plight of women who, unfortunately, lose their husbands and suffer in silence to poverty, illiteracy, diseases such as HIV, Aids, , malaria, complex, and injustice."
"We have made great strides by educating children of poor widows and empowering their mothers in many countries in South Asia, Africa, and South America."
"However, the work is just like a drop in the ocean. Much more work is needed to be done by national governments to help the 285 million widows around the world,as recently declared by UN. The Loomba Foundation is honored to have received support from the United Nations, India and the British governments for cause the cause of widows. " he said amidst thunderous applause from the gathering.
Listen FULL speech:
Lord Loomba made special mention of people who supported his Foundation towards fulfilling the cause of widows. Lord Bilimoria, entrepreneur GP Hinduja and others were also present in the event.
Gopichand Parmanand Hinduja, an Indian-born British billionaire businessman, expressed his pleasure to speak at such an occasion.
''The Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi whose need today is much more than what it was before. If you live in the world situation, it is horrible, whether politically or economically, quarrels between US -China on the economic domain, Brexit, Qatar, Iran, Saudi, North Korea, take any place, you can't find peace. So, how this simple man, our 'Father of the nation', with patience, non-violence and truthfulness was able to get the freedom for India can never be forgotten. And this will always remain not only in the history of India, but the history of the world. My late father was his disciple, I remember, whenever he used to have marches, he used to be there. And if you look at our group principles, they were all framed from Gandhi's principles. Because Gandhi was not a businessman, but I don't know if you people have heard that Harvard has given him a degree of best business management guy!''
"We also believe that as business people, we don't have to work for ourselves, We have to work for the society, we have to work to give away, Nothing belongs to us. And these are the very important principles that Hinduja group has been following. Today, if Bapuji would have been there, he would have really played a very important role in the world to bring peace, harmony, and happiness.''
''Today, what we need in the world is happiness. People think happiness is wealth but I think that is the biggest mistake. Happiness comes by giving, by doing something good to others, by helping others, and these are all good qualities.Gandhi, he was an ordinary, very humble person. But when he saw the cruelty, and what the British were doing in India, or what he experienced in South Africa, those challenges really transformed him to do something. He clearly knew fighting would not help, he had to sacrifice his life. He had to do everything, to ensure we get freedom.''
And the most amazing part is that despite all that, the British today, appreciate him. They recognised him well. You will even find a statue outside the parliament.
Business tycoon and member of British parliament Lord Karan Bilimoria in his address appreciated the Lord Loomba's initiative
"Lord Loomba, what you have done in the last two decades, in forming the charity in your mother's memory is remarkable. And you have transformed the landscape of the world in recognising the plight of widows, and the importance of education. International widows day is on 23rd of June and the UN recognises that it's thanks to you and what you have done. The work done by you, your wife and your family is just phenomenal.
''This year, you spoke during a debate in the house roads that you initiated on the centenary of the Jallian wala Bagh massacre. You initiated a debate, where we asked the British government to formally apologise. They have not done that yet. If that apology happens, it will be thanks to what you started in the House of Lords and a lot of us have been following up on since Archbishop of Canterbury apologised . It is the British government that needs to formally apologise. Thanks to the debate you initiated,
I am sure apology from British government will be forthcoming.''
Speaking on Mahatma, Lord Bilmoria said "If you look at the history of this planet, going back, and if you asked to name a handful of the most important people that walk right there, as one of the most important people that has ever lived on earth."
"His influence has touched, everyone. Earlier, GP Hinduja in his speech said that Gandhiji was not a businessman, but if you have heard, he was the founder of the Federation of Indian chambers of commerce industry. My wife is South African, as far as I know Gandhiji's earlier years in South Africa, he spent over two and a half decades fighting, being thrown out of train, the stories we all heard about what he did to build up that peaceful resistance, and then coming here. He also by the way, served in the first world as a stretcher-bearer. Then he came to India. And it was about 10 years later, in 1919, the Jalianwalabagh massacre took place that really spurred on Mahatma Gandhi to go even more for the freedom of India, It took him almost another three decades to achieve that. So one of the lessons is somebody like him is one of the greatest people that ever lived, but it was a lifelong journey. It was not an overnight story. It was a sustained commitment.
Listen Lord Bilimoria's FULL speech
Lord Bilmoria also recalled how his great grandfather and grandfather were connected to Mahatma Gandhi. Bilmoria's great grandfather was a police inspector during British rule and arrested Gandhi at least three times!
"I thank Lord Loomba for organising this event in the house of parliament to commemorate the 150th birthday anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi's life was a confluence of compassion of Buddha, and the Passion of Christ, for the service of humankind. To the west, he was a restoration of the message of Christ. To the east, he was a messenger of Budhha. Great leaders have seen Gandhi from their own perspective. Nehru described him as divine light, Albert Einstein said that the forthcoming generations would not even believe that such a man walked on this planet.
"The great quality of Gandhi was that he became one with the people. He wore only a dhoti as millions of poor Indians used to do in those times. True though that non-violence were known to the Indians right from the dawn of civilization. But it took Mahatma Gandhi to come on this planet. And he was the first man to practice these principles in his life. He used them as a weapon to lead millions of Indians to independence."
Asian Voice editor CB Patel too expressed his views on Gandhi.
Event concluded with vote of thanks proposal by Loomba Foundation Trustee, followed by dinner