(via Azadi Celebration)
I am glad that you are celebrating the anniversary of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, the great freedom fighter in this country and the world.
I came to know Professor Tony Monteiro in the 1960s when he organized the massive petition for the release of Nelson Mandela.
I am glad and I am not suprised that he is continuing the struggle.
I was privileged to know Dr. DuBois personally in 1946, and saw him several times after.
When I first met him, he had an office in the Council on African Affairs, chaired by Paul Robeson, another great American. He was writing the book The World and Africa.
I am glad that you are paying tribute to Dr. Du Bois and other leaders who led the fight for freedom. They helped change the map of the world.
I have in mind people like:
Gandhi and Nehru of India,
Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai of China,
Sukarno of Indonesia, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam,
Aung San of Burma and Ataturk of Turkey.
The history textbooks in the schools here and in other countries focus on Presidents and Prime Ministers, Emperors and Kings, who oppressed and robbed others or quarreled over colonies and caused terrible wars in which hundreds of millions of people were killed and injured.
They deserve little respect. They belong in the dustbin of history.
The leaders of the oppressed people are hardly mentioned. Sometimes they mention “little brown” Gandhi who shook the British Empire and could not be ignored.
These leaders have taught me never to compromise on freedom. It is the right of every human being.
I was born in India, more than 90 years ago, when the British ruled the country.
In the 17th century, India was one of the richest countries of the world. When the British rule ended in 1947, India was one of the poorest countries of the world. It had been robbed by the British – the British who were known as liberal in the Western countries where their propaganda was swallowed.
Imperialism or colonialism was poverty as experienced by us, its its victims.
British rule meant man-made famines in which millions of people died. The officials got rich. They became Lords in Britain.
A Governor in my state, Madras, was rich enough to become a founder of the Yale University in this country.
My family was in the movement for freedom. My father was a follower of Gandhi. He went to prison for three months.
I joined the freedom movement at an early age. I was followed by the police whenever I went home on vacation.
India was mostly illiterate at that time. We started literacy classes, as part of the student movement. They were immediately banned.
I cannot say I suffered very much personally, though I was expelled from college. But hundreds of thousands of people were jailed, tortured and killed.
Police put pins through the nails of a student I knew and tortured him to betray his colleagues.
I do not want to speak much about the sacrifices people made in the struggle for freedom and what they suffered – because you know it in this country.
Where people fought for freedom, great leaders emerged . The greatest of all, in my view, was Mahatma Gandhi. He was able to move millions of people to resist in non-violent mass movements for freedom. That is our precious legacy.
I said that I learnt that there can be no compromise on freedom. I also learnt solidarity with other freedom movements. That led me to spend most of my adult life in solidarity with African freedom movements, including especially the movement against apartheid in South Africa.
I would like to end by stressing that, like the freedom fighters I mentioned, we too have a duty to continue the struggle for a peaceful and just world –
A world in which there is no racism and no violence, where no one makes profit by selling weapons of murder, a world where men and women have equal rights, a world where the color of skin does not bring privileges or humiliation.
Long Live Dr. Du Bois!
Long Live Mahatma Gandhi!
Divya Nair, a member of the Free School, runs a blog titled Minerva's Perch. Her articles document various historical, philosophical and theoretical aspects of topics discussed in the free school.
Blog By Divya Nair
Several members of the free school have come together to form an Organization for Positive Peace, which has articles and readings with a particular focus on the peace movement.
Journal by Organization for Positive Peace