‘Democracy incomplete without personal freedom’

Kathmandu, November 29

Former finance and external affairs minister of India Yashwant Sinha today said people should be ready to fight for democratic decentralisation and personal freedom.

Stating that democracy cannot not exist without personal freedom, he said if a person could not protect his/her personal freedom, s/he could not protect the country’s freedom.

Sinha said Gandhi’s concept of ‘Gram Swaraj’ (village self-governance) was also about democratic decentralisation at all levels — national, provincial, district and local.

“Democracy is not complete unless it is accompanied by complete democratic decentralisation,” Sinha quoted Gandhi, delivering a keynote speech at a symposium titled ‘Gandhi Today’ in the context of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement.

Sinha said political leaders at the centre were usually stingy when it came to sharing power, fearing they might lose their authority, but people should not lose faith and continue their struggle following Gandhi’s teaching that ‘if I am pursuing the truth, the truth shall prevail’.

According to Sinha, Gandhi was a comprehensive personality and there was no aspect of life in which he did not express his views. He also said that Gandhi did not become a leader by chance, but because there was a strong element of morality in his personal conduct, and he always implemented in him whatever he told others. “Gandhi led the only popular movement in the world that succeeded with non-violence,” he said.

On the occasion, former Indian minister and Member of Parliament Shatrughan Sinha said Gandhi was not only the father of nation of India, but a global guru.

Shatrughan Sinha remembered Gandhi’s teaching that a person should mandatorily pass through four phases — ridicule, disregard, contempt, and repression — before attaining honour. “If you have commitment, dedication, passion, conviction and devotion, you can achieve anything,” he said.

Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai said leaders and thinkers like Buddha, Marx and Gandhi developed ideas on the basis of resources available at their times, and that they should be described in the present context.

He said Gandhi, and all other thinkers, had a common idea that people should not let their animal instinct prevail over human instinct. “We need to internalise Gandhi’s teaching rather than just describe how Gandhi was,” he said.

Nepali Congress Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi said political movement could succeed only through non-violence taught by Gandhi. “We raised weapons at some point of time, but we have realised that non-violence is the only solution,” he said.

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Ram Karki said Gandhian philosophy was under trial in India, while Marxism was under trial in Nepal. He said neither the party in power in India that claims to be Gandhi’s follower was practicing Gandhi’s philosophy, nor the party in power in Nepal that claims to be follower of Marx was following Marxism.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri said the biggest honour of being an Indian ambassador was the association with Gandhi. He said Gandhi was one of the figures who evolved in his own time, and continued to be relevant today.