Of the various national and international campaigns Prof. Radhakrishnan has organised over the last five decades of his active leadership to educate and involve youth in nonviolent leadership and promote the concept of a non-killing and nonviolent society, the seventeen-day Gandhi Peace Bus that he organized in June 2012 from Kanyakumari to Mangalore, touching about 90 places Gandhi had visited in four southern states of India, stands out as a unique programme which revealed Radhakrishnan’s amazing leadership qualities and extraordinary organizational skills.
Described by the media and the public as a journey of pilgrimage for peace and harmony, the Gandhi Peace Bus along the routes and institutions Gandhi had travelled in Kerala, Tamilnadu, Pondichery and Karnataka between 1920 and 1937, turned out to be a highly significant programme of awareness creation for both those who participated in it and the general public. The Times of India hailed it as “a unique youth campaign to spread Mahatma Gandhi's universal message of peace among the people.”
Gandhi Peace Bus to celebrate 6o years of Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi
This youth- focused programme, the first of its kind in India was conceived and led by Professor Radhakrishnan as part of the 60th anniversary of Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (of which presently he is also Working Chairman) and a sequel to the various campaigns for peace and conflict reduction he has been organising in various parts of the country under the banner of the Himsamukt Bharat (Violence-free India campaign).
Those who know Prof. Radhakrishnan cannot miss the fact that he always surprises them like an adept magician who dexterously materialises unbelievable objects out of his hat. The Interstate Gandhi Peace Bus campaign he led with over forty young men and women from different parts of India and over twenty Gandhian constructive workers along the routes Gandhiji had travelled in the four southern states of India in the 30s of the last century to educate Indians on the various challenges confronting them, emerged as a highly creative and challenging and productive initiative which also won him all-around appreciation.
The Gandhi peace Bus caravan
The Gandhi Peace bus from Kanyakumari, southern-most tip of India to Mangalore in Karnataka travelled through over 1600 kilometres in four southern states. The ‘Gandhi Caravan’ as some newspapers described it, consisted of (1) an escort vehicle (2) a vehicle with a Charka spinning group and Prayer Group (3) a passenger coach with participants,(4)Exhibition Van on Gandhi, King and Ikeda as Peace Builders(5)another book exhibition vehicle with Gandhi Literature and Youth development and (6) a well-designed mobile exhibition on Gandhi, freedom movement, the India under transition, religious harmony and such other aspects on which the younger generation
An Advisory Committee with the Minister of Culture Sri K C.Joseph as Chairman offered guidance to the arrangements of the Peace Bus Mission while an elder’s committee under the Chairmanship of Sri P.Gopinathan Nair and Advocate and senior leader Aiyappan Pillai offered valuable suggestions.
Selection of participants was made on the basis of press announcements and nominations from Gandhian organizations on All India basis. A screening committee selected 35 youth and they hailed from seven Indian states such as Chattisgarh, Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Pondichery and Kerala. These youth and 15 senior Gandhian constructive workers and 10 supporting staff constituted the Interstate Gandhi Peace Bus Mission. The member sixty also denoted the Diamond Jubilee of Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.
The Mission of the Peace Bus
The Gandhi peace Bus had before it a mission of revisiting 90 of the places Gandhi had visited between 1920 and 1937 in four southern states of India, holding of 32 seminars/discussions during the journey period on contemporary topics at various places besides the following programmes in which large number of public would be encouraged to participate:
Mass pledges against violence, Human Chain against violence, Women's mobilization against domestic violence, Women's protests against discrimination, Women's assemblies against alcoholism and drugs, Street plays against violence, Senior Citizens against Violence, Non-stop rendering of patriotic Songs by school children Peace canvas by artists, Artists against Violence, Writers against Violence, Youth Assemblies to promote Communal Harmony.
In addition to this there were also interactions, honoring of freedom fighters and Gandhian activists, distribution of Gandhian literature, anti-violence oath-taking, spinning wheel live demonstration, Gandhi-King-Ikeda pictorial exhibition, screening of Gandhi films and Gandhi book exhibition.
Inter-religious Prayers at important places of various religious groups with a view to propagate Gandhian view and concept of Sarva Darma Sama Bhava(equal respect for all religions), (2)Visit to cultural organisations and centres (3)Pay homage to national leaders, (4) Visit to the houses of veterans of freedom fighters, Artists and Gandhians,(5)Video film screening from the mobile Exhibition unit travelling along the convoy,(6)Visit to Khadi, and village industries production units,(7)Administer Himsamukth (Violence Free) pledges ,(8) Encourage the authorities of educational institutions to open Gandhi Peace Clubs in educational institutions to groom the youngsters in the right path of nation building,(9)Free distribution of Literature on communal harmony, heritage of India, Independence movement of India, Gandhian Literature, Condensed Autobiography of Gandhi and Gandhi Quotes.
Orientation to the members of the mission
The Mission had a punishing daily schedule of activities from 4 in the morning to 10 in the night without any break in between what so ever. In the planning of every step the astute leadership quality of Dr Radhakrishnan was very much in evidence, though some of his colleagues raised eyebrows of fatigue.
The first orientation programme to the participants was held at Gandhi Bhavan on 15th July under the chairmanship of Dr Radhakrishnan, the leader of the programme who along with his team of associates led by Prof V. Ramdas, Nanukuttan Nair, Dr Akash Ouchi, Dr Jacob Pulickan, G. Sadanandan, Dr N. Gopalakrishnan Nair, NC. Pillai offered a general introduction to the Peace Bus, its objectives and the general conduct of the participants of the programme. Another session was a General Orientation on the purpose, focus, mission, route, various places it passes through, persons to be met. Sessions of discussions to be conducted and such other items of concentration.
It was a two-hour brain-storming session at which the significance of the mission along the routes Gandhi had travelled, the socio-economic condition of the people at that time, the revolutionary and historic changes that followed etc were discussed. They also visited the Gandhi Museum attached to the Gandhi Bhavan to acquaint themselves with Gandhi’s life and philosophy.
Each member was given literature on the prevailing socio-economic and political situation in South India at the time of Gandhi’s visit as well as the time schedule and other details of the seventeen-day Mission. They were also instructed to familiarise themselves with the details supplied so that in the next session of orientation the following morning would be more focussed. The session concluded with the distribution of 4 sets of khadi uniforms to each of the participants. They spent their night at the Gandhi Bhavan.
The second day began with a community prayer at 5.30 am followed by a discussion on the 1600 kilometer long peace mission and a pledge-taking at the Gandhi statue at the Gandhi Bhavan complex in Thiruvananthapuram.
The party left for Kanyakumari at 7 in the morning and reached Santhigiri Ashram at Kanyakumari where they had breakfast. The Mahatma had been denied entry into the Temple here as he had crossed the seas and violated Hindu ethics. This and much more about the Mahatma would unfold before the eyes of the 40 youngsters as they visited each and every place in and every corner of Kanyakumari later in the afternoon. The Santhigiri Ashram offered hospitality.
Dr Gopinatha Pillai and Janardana Menon of Santigiri Ashram led the next session of orientation. The session was devoted to examination of the relevance of Gandhi’s visit to Kanyakumari and the kind of revolutionary changes Indian society had witnessed following Gandhi’s visit to the South.
Gandhi Peace Bus flagged off
The formal inaugural function of the Peace Mission was led by the veteran Gandhian Dr S.N.Subba Rao and held at the Gandhi Mandap where Gandhi’s mortal remains were kept for public view and homage before they were immersed in the ocean in 1948. Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Chairman Gopinathan Nair, P.Maruthi of Gandhi Youth Forum, Chennai, Dr Akash Ouchi, Adv. Hareendranath offered felicitations. District Collector S. Nagaraj inaugurated an exhibition put up by the Bharat Soka Gakkai on Gandhi, King and Ikeda as Peace Builders. He also flagged off the Peace Bus by handing over a white flag to Prof. Radhakrishnan, the leader of the peace mission.
Distribution of literature and audio, video materials
Release of new books on Gandhi, distribution of Gandhi literature and those related to communal harmony, abstention from alcohol and drugs also were part of the campaign. A theme song composed by Swami Aswathi Thirunal and set to music by Sree Kumaran Thampi, a video film of 30 minutes duration entitled “Along the footsteps of the Mahatma” prepared by the Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, a comprehensive analysis of Gandhi in Kerala prepared by the senior journalist Sri Malayainkeezh Gopalakrishnan, ‘a Book of Gandhi Quotes’ prepared by Department of Public Relations and a few other pamphlets prepared by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi were released by the Chief Minister of Kerala at the inaugural function at the Gandhi Park. Books such as “A History of Indian Freedom Movement” by C Moosath,”Krishnasamy” by Dr N.Gopalakrishnan Nair, and “Gandhian Perspectives on Education” were also released at various points of the journey.
The four major attractions of the Peace bus
The four of the accompanying exhibitions, the first an exhibition bus designed by the Public Relations Department of government of Kerala turned out to be a big hit as it attracted big crowds. The bus which would accompany the Gandhi peace Bus caravan contained a comprehensive exhibition on Gandhi. The second a mobile book exhibition which the Book Mark Society put up in its well-designed mobile unit contained a large collection of literature on Gandhi, national leaders, national movement, literature on harmony and related issues. The other major attraction of the Gandhi caravan was a specially designed truck which carried live models of Charkha and two artisans (women spinners) spinning all the way in order to demonstrate the power and sanctity of charkha spinning to a generation which is not very familiar with its relevance in the emerging scenario. The fourth was a condensed exhibition put up by the Bharat Soka Gakkai on Gandhi-King-Ikeda as Peace Builders.
The Gandhi Peace Bus caravan visited the different areas of Kanyakumari Township before it moved to the Santhigiri Ashram for overnight stay and review of the experiences of the day.
The third day began with an inter-religious prayer which would be an integral part of everyday activity of the Peace Bus. Dr Radhakrishnan discussed the importance of prayer in one’s life and encouraged the members to reflect on the topic. After breakfast Dr. Gopinatha Pillai, Shri Janardhana Menon and Shri P.Maruthi shared with the members of the team their experiences as peace promoters.
Reception at Tamilnadu – Kerala border
Prominent political leader of Tamilnadu and former Member of Parliament Sri Kumari Anandan accompanied the Peace Bus up to the Kerala border where the District Panchayat President Ramani P. Nair, Advocate Hareendranath, Malayinkil Venugopal and others welcomed the Peace Bus to Kerala. Earlier the Peace Bus had conducted discussions at Scott Christian College (Nagerkoil), administered peace pledges at two schools and honored freedom fighters. They also visited the house of the veteran freedom fighter Sankara Pillai’s house which Gandhi had visited.
The team was accorded a moving reception at Madhavi Mandiram in Neyyatinkara, the final resting place of the renowned Tagore - Gandhi disciple and founder Vice - Chancellor of India’s first village university in Gandhigram in Tamilnadu.
Gandhi had stayed a day here at the ancestral home of Ramchandranji where there is now a composite exhibition on the life and work of G. Ramachandran on display besides the school campus of the GR Public School. The highlight of the programme at Madhavimandiram was a seminar Tagore – Gandhi link. Six papers were presented at the seminar on Gandhi-Tagore and Ikeda as educational revolutionaries.
A Social reformer Aiyankali Mandap
After paying homage to the veteran journalist and freedom fighter Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai at the Swadeshbhimani square at Neyyatinkara the team reached Ayyankali Mandap in Venganoor, and paid homage to this great social reformer with whom Gandhi had discussions during one of his visits to Travancore. A public meeting and seminar which was inaugurated by former MP and socialist leader P. Viswambharan was also held at the Ayyankali square. School children presented patriotic songs. Escorted by the NYK volunteers on motor bikes the Gandhi caravan moved to the Gandhi Park in the Trivandrum City around 6pm.
Kerala Chief Minister welcomes the Peace Bus
The Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram welcomed the Peace Bus to the City at the Gandhi Park while the Chief Minister Mr. Oommen Chandy inaugurated the state wide programme on behalf of the Gandhi Peace Bus. In his inaugural address the Chief Minister said, “The land of Gandhiji today is a land of violence, alcohol, and anarchy, political and social unrest. Earnest efforts are to be undertaken to convert this great country of Gandhi into a land of peace &development. A new young generation should come up to fulfil this. The Gandhi Peace Bus led by Dr Radhakrishnan is a courageous initiative towards this direction and I congratulate the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and other organisations supporting it in this very laudable step. The government of Kerala is very happy to associate with this highly laudable initiative, The Chief Minister continued.
The CM honoured each of the peace volunteers with Khadi Shawls. The CM also released Sri Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan’s book on Gandhi and Kerala named “Kerala Karayiloode Gandhiji” and a KGSN produced documentary called “Kaalpadukaliloode”. Minister for Culture KC Joseph opined “majority of the young generation today are so indifferent to socio – economic issues. This must change and the youngsters should think constructively towards the development of nation as a whole”. P.GopinathanNair, Adv.AiyappanPillai, MalayainkilGopalakrishnan, Malayinkil Venugopal felicitated the Gandhi Peace Bus. The Swaranjali music troupe led by Sreekumaran Thampi arranged a special rendering of patriotic songs on the occasion. Later the Minister of Culture Sri K.C. Joseph hosted a dinner to the Gandhi peace bus and exchanged ideas with the members of the team.
Speaker of Kerala Assembly hosts breakfast
The third day, as the young and those from outside Kerala described later, offered them vivid and exciting experiences. The Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly Shri G.Karthikeyan invited the members to a breakfast meeting. From there the convoy visited the Travancore royal family at their palace. Uthradom Thirunnal Marthandavarma welcomed the group at the Kawdiar palace. Dr.Radhakrishnan remembered the great role the Travancore dynasty and the reforms they initiated in Kerala society. The Maharaja said “it is not about ruling, but about giving prosperity and happiness to its people are the real rule and success of rule lies there. The rulers should strictly stick on to the rules and regulations of the land, also the ruler should uphold morality and values. Violence should be curbed then and there without any delay”. The Uthradom Thirunnal also mentioned about the Temple Entry Proclamation and Gandhiji’s visit to the Palace thereafter.
32 Seminars and Discussions on Contemporary issues
A very significant aspect of the peace Bus was the amazing number of seminars and discussions that were organised in various institutions and places during the journey. All along the way at many of the strategic locations and institutions seminars, discussions and special lectures were organised during the 17day journey. 32 programmes were organized on a variety of subjects and topics involving a large number of people. The topics were chosen carefully to highlight the relevance of Gandhian thoughts and values in the contemporary socio-economic and political scenario.
The first Seminar was on the topic “Why the Peace Bus?” held at Santhigiri Ashram at Kanyakumari in the forenoon of 16 June. Gandhiji’s visit heralded a variety of changes at socio-political economic life of people in this region. The social situation in the south was such that the evils of untouchability were so rampant that the depressed section of people were not allowed public road, they had no access to restaurants, not even permitted to fetch water from public well, denied temple entry or even women of the depressed section were barred from dressing up in modest clothing, this was the scenario in Travancore when Gandhiji arrived.
The second seminar in the series was held at the same venue where Gandhi had addressed the students of Scott Christian College at Nagerkoil. The focus of the seminar was on women empowerment which was a major concern of Gandhiji. The need of women to realize their role in national awakening was the topic discussed there. The next Seminar was at the G.R.Public School at Neyyatinkara on the subject “Gandhiji- Tagore-GR and their Perspectives on Education”. Nandakumar, Village Development commissioner while inaugurating the seminar opined that “it is these visionaries who pioneered a creative approach to start the constructive educational system in the country”.
The next destination of the Peace Bus was Vengannur, the village on the outskirts of Trivandrum. Venganoor was the place where significant social reforms were initiated by the great social reformer and revolutionary work of Mahatma Ayyankali. Gandhiji came to this village to meet him. It was a historic meeting which heralded significant social changes. Paying homage to the great social area rendition of patriotic songs by a group of 101 school students, a seminar on the contribution of Ayyankali, Pledge-taking by the public against violence were the highlights of the programme held at this place.
Another great step towards ensuring equality and revolution in Kerala history was the Temple Entry Proclamation by the Travancore rulers. So when the Gandhi convoy visited the royal family at the Kowdiar Palace in Trivandrum, the topic of discussion was “Role of Gandhiji in Temple Entry Proclamation” .The VJT hall in Trivandrum had witnessed a great speech of Gandhiji on Women empowerment 86 years back .In his speech there Gandhiji said “I cannot see an independent India when thousands of my sisters are not independent at their domestic surrounding”.
KPCC President Inaugurates Seminar on Women.
A seminar which was attended by over three hundred women representatives at Gandhi Bhavan and inaugurated by Ramesh Chennithala, MLA and KPCC president rekindled Gandhi’s passion and commitment to social change in the minds of those who attended the day-long exercise to critically analyse the problems Indian women face today in their quest for equal opportunity in their lives.
“Spirituality as an Antidote to Violence” was the theme of the seminar at Santhigiri Ashram that was followed. Dr Gopinatha Pillai introduced the topic while Dr Gabriel Mar Gregarios Metropolitan, Ashram Director Swami Navananma Jnana Tapaswi led the seminar. Dr Radhakrishnan moderated it. Janardhana Menon proposed a vote thanks.
The Advaita Ashram at Alwaye was the venue of another major Conference on the theme “Role of Spirituality in combating Violence”. Swami Siva Swaroopananda, head of the Ashram said while inaugurating it, “it is those who are not imbibed the actual spirituality is the cause for fanaticism and they resort to religion as a support for these destructive activities”. The conference which was attended by several religious leaders representing Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and senior political leaders such as Members of Parliament, Members of Kerala Legislative Assembly, Block Panchayat, College Principals, Heads of schools in the vicinity, President Grama Panchayat resolved to organise a major National Conference on the theme as a joint initiative of the Ashram and Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi sometime later as a follow-up initiative.
The seminar series that were held all through the route with meticulous planning and great application and public involvement turned out to be very well-structured and seriously organised events. The seminars and the discussions thus held in different places and in some of the most prominent institutions attracted several most outstanding thinkers, social activists, academics, political leaders etc.
The amazing range of topics for Seminars
There was an amazing range of topics of contemporary interest discussed in these seminars that followed. Sree Narayana College at Varkala (Sree Narayana Guru and Gandhi Meeting) - ChapterCollege at Kollam (relevance of Gandhi’s visit to the Harijan Colony) Panmana Ashram( Gandhi in Panmana Ashram) Holy Angels Schools at Adoor (Students and community work) St Mary’s High School at Kayamkulam (Youth as agents of peace) Government High School Haripad (Violence free campuses) Montessori Higher Secondary School, Ambalapuzha (Moral values in school syllabus) Gandhi Park, Alappuzha (Gandhiasar evolutionary) Gandhi Smarak Seva Kendram, Mararikulam (Gandhian constructive workers visited) Ananndashram, Kurichy (tolerance as a social virtue) CMS College, Kottayam (Violence free families) Vaikam Municipality (Gandhi a social revolutionary) Satyagraha Memorial School, Vaikam (Vaikam Satyagraha and its relevance) Sneha Bhavan, Mulanthuruthi (Women Empowerment and Gandhi) Government HS. Thripunithura, (Gandhi in Malayalam Poetry) U. C. College, Alwaye (Gandhi and today’s youth) Vivekodayam, Puranattukara (Gandhi’s visit to Puranattukara) Guruvayur Municipality (Gandhi’s Influence on Guruvayur Satyagraha) Satyagraha Memorial, Guruvayur (Relevance of Guruvayur Satyagraha) Kerala Kalamandalam (Gandhi and Mahakavi Vallatthol) Sabari Ashram, Palghat (Gandhi’s leadership for social justice) Victoria College, Palghat (Role of Youth in Peace Building) V.T.Bhattathiri College, Palghat (Reinterpreting History for the Youth) Thirunaavaii (The Sarvodaya Ideal in the present Context) Pattambi (Youth for Peace) Kuttipuram (Gandhi Peace Clubs) Arya Vaidyasala, Kottakkal (Great lives to Inspire Youth) Calicut University, Calicut (Responsibilities of Centres of Gandhian Studies in Promoting Social Values) Gandhi Chair, Calicut University (Indian Education—the need for restructuring) Pakkanarpuram (Kerala Gandhi Kelappan) Vadakara ( Violence free Society) Mahe, Tellichery (Alcohol Free Society), Mahatma Mandiram, Kannur (Vigil Against Corruption) Gandhi Park Payyannur (Contribution of Local Freedom Fighters) Uliyathu kadavu, Payyannur (Relevance of salt Satyagraha today) Padanakavu, Neeleswaram (Gandhi’s Sacrifice for National Reconciliation) Kanhangad (Domestic Violence and the need for public vigil) Kasargod (Gandhi’s Peace Army, the Shanti Sena) Manjeswaram (Fighting social evils the Gandhian way) Canara High School (Restructuring Indian education as Gandhi had wished)
Khadi, Swadeshi and the Philosophy of Charka
The vehicle with Charka spinning which travelled with the convoy was not just a piece of visual attraction or a tableau or float, but it had a very deep and insightful message to pass to the people it met. The message such as simplicity, self-reliance, effective use of time and mind, a shield from western exploitation, a service to the society, and a weapon against poverty were the theme of Charka vehicle. Many youth and school children visited the Charka Van was experiencing the spinning wheel first time live and thus it kindled a enthusiasm to a great degree. Dr. S. N. Subba Rao who had blessed the Yatra at Kanyakumari had said summed up the message these young people led by Prof. Radhakrishnan were trying to communicate: ‘’It is an attempt to enlighten today’s youth about an era where a man had raised the slogan of non-violence and took over an empire with his khadi and charkha. In today’s world, where violence reigns, we thought it would be the best thing to gift our youth in Gandhian style’.
Through the hallowed grounds
The Gandhi Peace Bus, the 60-member pilgrims of peace, young and old, led by Prof. Radhakrishnan on a mission of spreading peace has had an eventful and unique series of opportunities to put their feet on several of the hallowed grounds along which the Mahatma and some of the greatest revolutionaries, social reformers and spiritual giants of India had trodden striving to effect changes in society. From Kanyakumari to Mangalore, Gandhi had met with or held discussions with a number of spiritual leaders, social and political leaders, artists, and members of royal family, women activists, revolutionaries who were striving to effect nonviolent social and political changes.
The Temple Entry proclamation, Gandhi-Ayyankali meeting, Sree Narayana Guuru- Gandhi meeting, the Vaikam Satyagraha, Gandhi’s meeting at Ananadashram at Kurichi, Gandhi’s meeting with the Bishop at Kottayam, the Vaikam satyagraha for social equality, the various institutions and steps Gandhi had initiated, the Guruvayur Satyagraha, the trees Gandhi had planted—the Gandhi Peace Bus had exciting and inspiring moments of reliving those historic moments. Gandhi Peace bus visited Sivagiri Matt, the beach Ashram where the great social reformer Sree Narayana Guru breathed his last and rests in peace. Guru and Gandhiji shared good moments here when the latter visited Guru to ensure his support for national movement for freedom and justice. Gandhiji developed a long and lasting relationship with Guru and they both extended each other’s support in eradicating social evils particularly untouchability prevalent in Kerala society very deeply at that time. The Peace Bus team spent emotional moments in the Ashram, rested under the same mango tree where Gandhiji and Guru had once sat for their epic meeting. It was emotion filled moment for the youth who were present when Swami Prakasanantha recalled those, the head of the Ashram now. The team’s visit to Uliyakovil near Kollam town where Gandhi had dug a well for the depressed section of society was a moving experience to most of the members. So also the visit to ‘Gandhi Karthiyani’ the 90-year-old witness to the Gandhi- magic.
At the birth place of Shanti Sena, Manjeswaram
The Gandhi Peace Bus reached Manjeswaram, a border village between Kerala and Karnataka in the afternoon of 1st July. It was here where Acharya Vinoba Bhave announced the formation of Gandhi’s Shanti Sena in 1957 during his Bhoodan Tour. The following eight Gandhian constructive workers on that occasion took the Shanti Sena Pledge administered to them by the Acharya:
“We are resolved to organize a Peace Army, whose members will be ready to give their lives for the service of this ideal. The following five pledges must be observed:
- 1. To observe truth, non-violence and non-possessiveness to the utmost of one’s ability.
- 2. Nishkam Seva, disinterested service without desire for results.
- 3. Avoidance of all party politics and power politics, while endeavouring to win the utmost possible co-operation from every individual, regardless of his party affiliation.
- 4. Not to recognize distinctions of class or case and to respect all religions equally.
- 5. To give one’s whole thought, and as much time as possible, to the Bhoo-dan movement.
The members of this Peace Army will work as Lok Sevaks in normal times and as Peace Soldiers in an emergency. We are confident that a Sarvodaya social order can be brought into being in India by the efforts of this Peace Army. This is a glorious aim, worthy to inspire every Indian. We consider ourselves fortunate to be privileged to organize this army under the inspiring guidance of Vinobaji.
We appeal to our countrymen to join us in this great and sacred endeavor and we hereby offer ourselves forth task. (Kelappan, Rajamma, Ikkanda Warrier, Kartha, Janardhanan PillaiGovindan, K.Kumaran, Damodaran Nair)’’
The Shanti Sena of Gandhi’s dream is a peace brigade which with its emphasis on service will arm the nation with inner strength. With a broad- based Peace Plan, it would be possible to achieve a nation- wide Peace Brigade which could be extended to other areas of conflicts. The ultimate aim of such a task force is to train every member to be a peace soldier.
In the context of the growing violence, terror, confrontations of various types which threaten the very existence of the nation; today it has been widely felt that the youth are to be encouraged, motivated and trained to play important role as peace promoters and messengers of harmony at the grass root level. What the Young minds need is exposure to the various problems and inculcation of values in both private and public life. It was realizing the importance of involving youth in nonviolent leadership and preventive peace- action that prompted Mahatma Gandhi to visualize a Shanti Sena.
A hundred thousand people take Pledges and oaths for peace
Another significant activity the Gandhi Peace Bus meticulously undertook in all the places it halted or had programmes of different nature was the care they took to administer oaths and pledges to small and big groups. The following seven-point pledge/oath was administered in 198 places/institutions/groups during the 17 days of its journey:
The text of these pledges/oaths runs as follows:
“Violence and terror increasingly confront us everywhere. Today they threaten to destroy many values associated with every individual and nation. Therefore I declare:
- that I shall shun violence whatever be the provocation
- that I shall resolve all disputes through dialogue and not through confrontation.
- that I shall practice and encourage tolerance of dissenting views and differing faiths.
- that I shall to the best of my ability resist violence with nonviolence.
- that I shall not use any intoxicant or alcoholic drinks.
- that I shall respect women and promote equality of gender.
- that I recognise the power of nonviolence in problem – solving.
‘JAI HIND AND JAI JAGAT’
These pledges/oaths were administered in 68 schools, 26 colleges, at 74 public meetings, at 32 seminars/discussions wherein an estimated 100600 people took these pledges.
Gandhi Peace Bus at Gandhi temple
The team on its way to Mangalore was received at the Gandhi Temple at Garodi, perhaps the only temple in the world dedicated to the Father of the Nation.
Later the valedictory ceremony was held at Canara Girls’ High School; Dongerkery for which Mahatma Gandhi had laid the foundation stone in 1934.N.Yogesh Bhat, Deputy Speaker of Karnataka Legislative Assembly participated as the chief guest on the occasion. MLA UT Khadar, Sri SS Kamath, President Canara High School Association were the guests of honour.Canara High School Association President SS Kamath said that Mahatma Gandhi had laid the foundation stone of the Krishna Mandir in Canara High School premises in 1934. Gandhi was reluctant to lay the foundation stone as he did not believe in laying foundation stones for temples. However, when the management told that the temple is meant for the betterment of students he agreed. He also pointed out that Gandhi used to stick to time, a quality all have to inculcate. Namdev Shenoy,a senior Gandhian constructive worker raised spirits by singing patriotic songs at the valedictory programme.
It would be pertinent to conclude this note on the Gandhi Peace Bus by reproducing the report published by Deccan Herald on the last day programme in Mangalore.”
“Inter-state Gandhi Peace Bus, a unique campaign to spread Mahatma Gandhi’s universal message of peace arrived in Mangalore after a 17 day journey from Kanyakumari . Speaking at the valedictory ceremony at Canara Girl’s High School, Dongerkery and Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Working Chairman N Radhakrishnan regretted that the content on Gandhi in the school syllabus is decreasing. Gandhi is referred as the father of the nation, who has a list of do’s and don’ts. However, books have not highlighted his fight against all kinds of fascism. This could be one reason that students do not understand the real contribution of Gandhi, he said. He also pointed out that the new and basic education system which Gandhi dreamed every Indian to learn was not implemented then the education system in the country would have been of different pattern; he said and added that Gandhi’s education system emphasized the tradition of the country but also had modernism and scientific temperament. “Science and Technology is important. However, such advancements without moral values cannot be accepted” he said
July 2012 issue of Mangalore Today in a feature described, “This historic andmemorablejourneyfeaturedseveralseminars,discussions,interactions,felicitatations to freedom fighters and Gandhians, distribution of Gandhian literature and taking Gandhian pledge of nonviolence, live demonstration of charkha and screening Gandhi films. Truly Gandhi peace Bus has proved to be a perfect pilgrimage tour that helped in enlightening the younger generation on the significance of Gandhian ideals in the present context when the society is ripped apart in communal tension and disruptive activities”
This unique and youth-centred peace mission which won appreciation and admiration from several quarters was a joint initiative of several governmental and Gandhian organizations such as Indian Council of Gandhian Studies, Kerala Harijan Sevak Sangh, Department of Public Relations and Youth Welfare (both Government of Kerala), the National Foundation for Communal Harmony, Bharat Soka Gakkai, Madhavimandiram Lokseva Trust, Ekta Parishad and Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Book Mark Society. The Gandhi peace Foundation Centres at Trivandrum, Cochin, Mahatma Mandiram (Kannur), Sarvodaya Mandalam, Gandhismaraka Seva Kendram and many other organizations such as khadi federation, Payyannur Firka, Alleppey Sarvodaya Sangh, Kerala Sarvodaya Sangh, Poornodaya Book Trust, and Gandhi Media Foundation extended whole-hearted support.
The Gandhi Peace Bus: What did it achieve?
In the final analysis, one may ask a question “what did the Gandhi Peace bus achieve?”
The Gandhi Peace Bus attracted massive public attention and as media and impartial observers described, it turned out to be a highly imaginative and extremely well-designed and creatively implemented youth awareness programme, the kind of which India had not witnessed earlier. In every sense it was unique and first of its kind.
Many of the participants of the Peace Bus, particularly the young confessed at the conclusion of the programme: “it opened our eyes to many realities of India under transition as well as the enormous potentials and relevance of Gandhian philosophy and action in the emerging new realities of today.”
Another participant who is a student of second year of graduate programme in Karnataka wrote in his report after the programme: “I learned much more things about India and Gandhi’s impact on rural India in seventeen days under Professor Radhakrishnan than what I could learn in two years of my studies in the University. He is a great teacher and amazing organiser”.
To the 40 youth and the other 20 seniors and supportive participants of the programme it must have been an eye-opener in every sense.
To the general public the 17 days of the Peace Bus offered a series of activities such as 32 seminars on contemporary issues, four travelling exhibitions with the Gandhi caravan visiting over 200 institutions, pledge and oath-taking in an equal number of places, several public meetings, cultural evenings, honouring of a number of outstanding public men and women, visiting over 80 places and institutions connected with Gandhi and freedom movement
What did the Gandhi peace Bus see?
The Gandhi peace Bus saw that several of the places associated with Gandhi are in utter shambles and neglect. Many of the places have no trace of their association with Gandhi. Many institutions/schools/colleges which Gandhi visited had no plaque or any trace of their association with Gandhi. The present management or authorities had no idea of their institutions’ association with Gandhi at all. Even many of the institutions dedicated to Gandhian activities are found to be in very bad shape due to a variety of reasons.
At Kottayam CMS college campus where Gandhi stayed overnight, the authorities on a request from Prof. Radhakrishnan decided to retain the building as a museum. Similarly the District collector of Palghat announced a financial support of Rs.3 lakhs to improve the physical condition of the Sabari Ashram. Similarly in many places those in charge of the institutions conveyed their decision to put up appropriate sign boards or plaques to highlight the association of Gandhi with those places/institutions.
Determination of Youth to establish Shanti Sena centre at its place of birth
Perhaps the most outstanding development was the determination shownby the youth of Manjeswaram where Vinoba Bhave launched the Shanti Sena in 1957 to establish a Vinoba - Venkatesh Rao Shanti Sena centre in association with the Shanti Sena Training and research centre, Trivandrum This historic initiative, taking place after 57 years is a very significant development Shanti Sena Centre is being dedicated to humanity at the birth place of Shanti Sena, Manjeswaram.
It was also pointed out the year 2013 marks the 50th year of Professor Radhakrishna’s association with Shanti Sena. Dr. Radhakrishnan was initiated into Shanti Sena in 1963 by the Gandhi-Tagore disciple Dr G. Ramachandran at a Youth Camp at Mahatma Gandhi College, Trivandrum where at that time Radhakrishnan was an undergraduate student and Secretary of Sarvodaya Vidyarthimandal, guided by the great Sarvodaya leader Prof M.P. Manmathan, Shri K. Janardhanan Pillai and Shri P. Gopinathan Nair.
It is well-documented that since 1963 Shanti Sena became a passion for Radhakrishnan and his close association with G. Ramachandran in Gandhigram and Prof Glenn D. Paige in Honolulu (Hawaii) witnessed Shanti Sena training programmes and campaigns for peace being organised in over 20 countries abroad and in almost all the states of India in association with such leaders as Baba Amte, Nirmala Deshpande and Dr S.N.Subba Rao. A research scholar of Madurai Kamaraj University has pointed out that during the last 50 years Radhakrishnan has conducted nearly a thousand youth training programmes.
The Shanti Sena Training Centre commissioned at Manjeswaram represents an important phase in Radhakrishnan’s quest and commitment to training in nonviolence and conflict management. A veteran Gandhian constructive worker of Vorkadi Sri Venkataeswara Rao and Radhakrishnan have been exploring quite some time the possibilities of setting up of a Shanti Sena Centre at Manjeswaram. Rao’s sad demise a few months ago in the midst of his tireless efforts to make arrangements for the interstate Gandhi Peace Bus under the leadership of Dr Radhakrishnan was a big blow to the associates of Rao. As a humble tribute to his memory, the Centre is dedicated to the memory of Venkateswara Rao as well.
The VVR Shanti Sena Foundation, incorporated as a Public Trust in association with Indian Council for Gandhian Studies (New Delhi), Himsamukth Bharath Foundation and Gandhi Media Foundation, among other objectives seeks to encourage and involve Youth in Conflict Management through the Shanti Sena of Gandhi’s Dream. Among the Objectives of the Shanti Sena Centre at Manjeswar are:-
To train youth in the art of peace-building, peace-making and peace keeping initiatives as Gandhi, Vinoba and other national leaders propagated.
- a. To promote communal harmony and religious amity among people.
- b. To promote the Shanti Sena ideal of peace and harmony so that future generation gets inspired from courageous and selfless service Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave rendered to the society.
- c. To undertake youth training and leadership programmes in conformity with the Shanti Sena Centre of Thiruvananthapuram
- d. To institute Fellowship/Scholarships and other prizes and incentives for Gandhian workers engaged in Gandhian constructive programs.
- e. To arrange seminars/workshops/training programmes/annual lectures, publications etc
- f. To take up projects for study and research on social, economic, environmental and political problems affecting our country or other countries with a view to the proper understanding of the problems and solving them in a peaceful and non violent manner.
Establishment of Gandhi Peace Clubs in educational Insistutions
The Foundation has already initiated a series of programmes to reach out to the student community through Gandhi Peace Clubs. In over hundred schools Gandhi Peace Clubs have been established.
Strengthening the Gandhi networking
The Gandhi Peace Bus brought together almost all the Gandhian organizations in the three states and a host of NGOs, youth organizations, particularly Nehru Yuva Kendra, District Information units, national service scheme, NCC units, Bharat scouts and games.
For the Gandhian constructive workers of various hues and persuasion the Gandhi Peace Bus provided an opportunity to replete and rededicate their commitment to the promotion of Gandhian ideals .The peace Bus reminded them of their common goal and shed their inhibitions and frustrations if any. And every one of them proved to be inspired agents of social change. It proved to be a god-sent opportunity to come together and work together to fulfill a pledge each one of them made to the nation during the Gandhi centenary. A revival of common interest and a commitment to united action swept through the minds of the Gandhian fraternity thanks to the Gandhi Peace Bus.
Follow- up work
Among the notable items of follow-up work besides the opening of the Shanti Sena centre at Manjeswaram, three important initiatives deserve mention here before this note is concluded. One is the effort of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi to oragnise a statewide forum, the Gandhi Yuvajana Vedi (Gandhi Youth Form) in order to encourage aspiring youth to imbibe Gandhian values. The second is the efforts that are already under way to set up Gandhi Peace Clubs in educational institutions and encourage the various Gandhian organizations, individuals and groups to examine possibilities of ironing out differences of opinions and move towards strengthening the shared values of Gandhian passion for social harmony and sustainable peace. Three regional meetings to realize the objective were held and there is a renewed hope and optimism seen among the Gandhian fraternity in Kerala particularly now