“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela after spending 27 years in prison
Nelson Mandela passed away at the ripe age of 95 after a long illness. The first South African Black President had a legendary and sometimes controversial legacy. Credited with ending the apartheid, he also took forward the liberal economic policy of his previous government while also being accused of being a terrorist and communist sympathizer in his younger days. But undoubtedly one of Mandela’s biggest legacy is around reconciling the mightily divided South African society by tackling institutional discrimination.
As is clear from the quote above, Mandela recognized the danger of deep set bitterness as the biggest handicap to his own and his nation’s freedom. He focused on reconciling this bitterness through truth and justice. To that end he formed the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC). Victims and perpetrators achieved justice and closure at the commission through public hearings of experiences and selective grant of amnesties as long as “the crimes were politically motivated, proportionate, and there was full disclosure by the person seeking amnesty”.
The TRC method can be contrasted with the Nuremberg trials which was also able to deliver large measure of justice although under an external judicial authority. The importance of reconciliatory approaches can’t be overemphasized in the face of wide internal conflicts. In the end, despite its flaws, the TRC was generally believed to have been successful.
A similar reconciliatory approach seems to have been adopted by Narendra Modi in his Sadbhavana mission. Gujarat has historically been mired in caste and religion based conflict. Right from the 1969 riots under the Congress govt. (the largest after independence and in which 83% of those killed were Muslims), Gujarat saw intermittent riotsand in 1985, there was a curfew for 300 days in Godhra. While the judicial process runs its course and has already resulted in multiple convictions for past riots, a focused effort for reconciliation across communities was started by series of meetings, padyatras and fasts under Sadbhavana mission.
The results of the mission were far reaching with at least one member from 70 to 75% of the families in Gujarat participated during the 36 Sadbhavana fasts.Over 4.5 lakh people including 1.5 lakh women observed fasts and gave moral support to the Sadbhavana Mission and Sadbhavana Marches saw a participation of over 16 lakh people.
Sadbhavana mission further generated momentum for social welfare with about 40,000 Tithi Bhojans organized in villages through which around 42 lakh poor children were provided with nutritious meals, more than six lakh kgs of food grains were distributed to poor families in rural areas& substantial sum of more than Rs. 4 Crore was donated to KanyaKelavaniNidhi, which will promote girl child education in the state. Many Youth and newlyweds denounced social evils like dowry and child infanticide and pledged to adopt Anganwadis while 10 lakh children wrote essays on the theme of peace, unity & brotherhood.
In step with the widespread development and strengthening of rule of law, it is reconciliatory steps like the above which have given rise to a riot free and peaceful Gujarat. In this sense, Modi has walked on the footsteps of Nelson Mandela’s and understood the importance of reconciliation. His Indianization of reconciliation as Sadbhavana is a legacy which is now sorely needed across the country. Hope the country understands the importance of this mission and chooses its leader wisely in the next election.
- Ellis, Stephen (2011). “The Genesis of the ANC’s Armed Struggle in South Africa 1948–1961”. Journal of Southern African Studies 37 (4): 657–676
- “Truth Telling, Identities, and Power in South Africa and Guatemala”, International Center for Transitional Justice
- Sadbhavana Mission : A touching People’s Movement