ASTANA – Ela Gandhi, distinguished peacekeeper and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, took part in Building a Nuclear Weapons-Free-World, the international conference held Aug. 29 in the capital. She lectured at KAZGUU University about the international movement Nonviolent Peaceforce, a position supported by the South African Embassy to Kazakhstan.
“I visited Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. I find Kazakhstan’s peacekeeping initiative very logical. This country became independent and made this great step. To be exact, it was one of the first steps of the independent state,” said Gandhi in an interview with The Astana Times.
“You got your independence and you made a decision to dismantle your nuclear weapons, which is really a big step to me. Your state is a good example. Having nuclear weapons, having power means being superior for many countries. Many states consider that they should have such weapons to feel stronger and they think that nobody will attack them if they have such weapons.”
“I think that such mentality has to change. Kazakhstan can show people of the world that the mentality isn’t correct,” she said.
Gandhi was born at the Phoenix Settlement in Inanda, South Africa. She has five children and two grandchildren. One son was assassinated Dec. 16, 1993 at age 29 as part of political violence.
“The messages of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were ignored by those who wanted to use force and considered that it is the only way. Violence is an instinct which works when we meet with evil. We often use force when we want to get rid of something bad. However, this is not the only way and sometimes the quantity of evil increases when we use force. We have to take a look into our inner world to understand the force of nonviolence,” she said.
Gandhi served as a social worker from 1965-1970 at Durban Indian Child Welfare Society and 1979-1989 at the Verulam Child Welfare Society. She noted her major contribution to the profession was taking a holistic, non-racial approach to social work. She also worked as an education information coordinator and was a member of the South African Parliament.
“How do we see people? Do we split them into good and bad ones? Every man has both bad and good qualities. And we have to know how to accept every man and respect him,” she said during her lecture.
“I was banned for many years as a terrorist myself. That is what they called me. What do we mean by terrorist? For me it is not about terror. It is about something else, something that worries us as people. We felt in South Africa that we were oppressed and we had to do something about it. People like Mandela and many others including our ambassador, all of us fought in a struggle against a power that was ruling us, exploiting us and also oppressing us and we have to do something. That makes us terrorists? So when we use this word, we need to think what makes terrorists become terrorists,” said Gandhi.