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2 Oct, 2009 07:05

Gandhi continues to inspire 60 years on

Friday marks 140 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. Widely considered as the “Father of India”, he remains a powerful symbol in his homeland and abroad.

More than 60 years since his death, his non-violent stance continues to inspire people from all walks of life across the world, including current world leaders.

Mahatma Gandhi is often called the “Apostle of Peace”, as he won India's independence through non-violent action, once thought impossible in a world coming out of the ashes of the Second World War.

Recent films about Gandhi's life show his legacy is still alive and remains influential for a completely new generation.

“Here was a man who said there is a way of resolving or even having a dialogue on non-violent terms,” said Feroz Abbas Khan, director of the 2007 film “Gandhi, My Father”. “Not only did he talk about it, he actually implemented it and he got a nation's freedom purely based on those principles, which then inspired many other countries.”

Indeed, the world leaders of today still look to Gandhi for inspiration. Speaking last month in Virginia, US President Barack Obama, when asked by a high school student which person – living or dead – he would most like to meet for dinner, chose Mahatma Gandhi.

“I think that it might be Gandhi, who is a real hero of mine,” the American president said. “He inspired Dr. Martin Luther King; so if it hadn't been for the non-violent movement in India you might not have seen the same non-violent movement for civil rights here in the United States.”

In New Delhi, the house where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 is now a national museum, drawing thousands of visitors per day.

“They come here to pay homage to something that is called Gandhi, which for them is synonymous with compassion and love,” said Mahatma Gandhi’s grand-daughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee.

Shahab Zahrdenejad would agree. He is a tourist from Iran and believes the world needs more leaders like Gandhi.

“There are many wars between people and there is no strong leadership like Gandhi to talk and to stabilize the condition of countries,” he said.

Although India has undergone great economic and political change since Gandhi’s death, it nonetheless is clear that the appeal of the “Father of the Nation” still commands a strong following both in India and far beyond its borders.