Commemoration of the "International Day of Non- Violence" on October 1, 2010

The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, New York commemorated the "International Day of Non- Violence" at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on October 1, 2010. The President of the General Assembly, HE Mr Joseph Deiss, was the Chief Guest. The Secretary-General of the UN, HE Mr Ban Ki-moon, was represented at the function by his Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Vijay Nambiar. The very well attended function had nearly fifty Permanent Representatives of UN Member-States, members of the media and several other dignitaries present.

H.E. Ambassador H.S. Puri, Permanent Representative of India, welcomed the guests at the start of the function. He exhorted the universal relevance of non-violence and the desire for a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding. Linking Mahatma Gandhi's thoughts and principles to the values of the UN, Ambassador Puri noted that in many ways Mahatma Gandhi was the linear progenitor of the UN. His emphasis on human rights and people centric development was echoed in the UN charter and resonated in the Millennium Development Goals.

Speaking at the occasion, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr Joseph Deiss said that honouring Mahatma Gandhi ensured that Mahatma Gandhi's "candle continues to burn". He added that by commemorating this day every year, the UN General Assembly hopes to reinforce the timeless message of non-violence, and to encourage Member States, UN entities, civil society organizations and individuals to step up their efforts to deliver this urgent message through education and public awareness. He also referred to the article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations on the need to settle international disputes in a peaceful manner. He mentioned that the efforts of the UN to promote tolerance, the respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, development and mutual understanding are all underpinned by one common idea: that to make lasting, sustainable change, our efforts must be undertaken peacefully and in the spirit of consent and cooperation. He concluded his remarks by quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and said, "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

Ambassador Vijay Nambiar, Chef de Cabinet of the UN Secretary General read out the statement of the UN Secretary General on the occasion. The Secretary-General called the principle of non-violence as the "greatest force at the disposal of mankind". He noted that the United Nations strives to harness the power of non-violence to overcome prejudice, and conflict, and cultivate mutual respect and understanding among peoples and countries. The Secretary-General underlined that peace may be achieved around the negotiating table, but it is sustained around community tables. Peace starts with people - it flows from the hearts of committed women and men. Communities, families, and individuals all have a critical role to play in defeating violence and creating a culture of peace.

H.E. Ambassador Baso Sangqu, the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations also spoke at the meeting. He mentioned about the historical association of Mahatma Gandhi with South Africa and Gandhiji's fight against discrimination, social injustice and violence. Ambassdor Sangqu recalled the impact of Mahatma Gandhi's views on Nelson Mandela.

H.E. Ambassador Somduth Soborun, Permanent Representative of Mauritius, in his address, extensively quoted Mahatma Gandhi and mentioned that violence in any form does not serve any useful purpose. He went on to say that violence perpetuates violence and leads to greater devastation. He said that Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence endeavored to lay the foundations for peaceful co-existence between different religious and faith with the end result to attain plurality and universality. He also recounted the brief rendezvous of Mahatma Gandhi with Mauritius and mentioned that in 1901 on its way from Natal to Bombay, he had a brief stopover at Port Louis. During this halt, he encouraged the indentured labourers to take active part in politics and educate their children. He also mentioned that the date of March 12, 1968 was decided as the date of accession of Mauritius to Independence as it was chosen by their First Prime Minister, Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam, as in tribute to Gandhi's Dandi March of March 12, 1930.

A book, MKG (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) - Imaging Peace, Truth and Ahimsa (a special edition for the International Day of Non-Violence) published by Mr. Birad Rajaram Yajnik, from India, was unveiled at the function and presented to the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General.

This special book on Mahatma Gandhi is a work of art with a pictorial representation of the life and message of Mahatma Gandhi. The book has images that run a timeline covering major milestones in the life of Gandhiji, which influenced his philosophy, political awakening and his concept of Ahimsa in a concise illustrative format. Speaking at the event, Mr Yajnik said that the world recognized Gandhi a long time ago and continues to find him. He added that it would be appropriate to ensure that the children of our world do not forget the power of peace and truth. Mentioning about one of the abilities of Mahatma Gandhi, he said that one of his strongest points was to be morally right and then your opponent's conscience is your biggest ally.

The UN General Assembly had adopted resolution 61/271 on June 27, 2007, whereby it declared October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, as the "International Day of Non Violence" and invited all Member States, UN organizations, regional and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals to organise events to commemorate this day.