Nov 01, Colombo: The Annual Mahatma Gandhi Oration organized by the Sri Lanka India Society was delivered by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at the refurbished Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo.
High Commissioner of India Ashok K. Kantha was the Chief Guest at the oration. Members of Parliament, members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the Sri Lanka India Society, friends from the media, members of the civil society and school children attended the event, the High Commission said in a release.
In her Oration, Dr. Coomaraswamy, renowned academic, lawyer, and Human Rights advocate analyzed the difficulties faced in following the principles of non-violence advocated by Mahatma Gandhi by giving examples of the various dilemmas faced by her during her tenure as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. She, however, concluded that the path of violence begets more violence. She urged to follow the principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha and to devote efforts, learning from the past mistakes, towards building of a just an equal society where an individual could enjoy his or her rights to the fullest.
In his address, High Commissioner Kantha highlighted that it was most appropriate that the first event at the refurbished Indian Cultural Centre was dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi- Father of the Indian Nation and whose Birth Anniversary is on 2 October, as per the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, is celebrated worldwide as the 'International Day of Non-Violence'.
High Commissioner Kantha highlighted that Mahatma Gandhi's vision and example were relevant even today and would continue to be relevant in future as well, as he was a person who led by example, was a man of action and a great communicator.
"The principles of Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Satyagraha not only inspired the freedom movement of India but also were a source of inspiration for legends like Martin Luther King and leaders like Nelson Mandela," he said.
The High Commissioner highlighted that it was due to the vision of Mahatma Gandhi that India after Independence chose to be a secular, democratic republic with universal adult franchise.
The High Commissioner also recalled the visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Sri Lanka in 1927, during which he visited a number of places and interacted with all the communities, people of different political thoughts and of all religions.
The High Commissioner highlighted that Mahatma Gandhi called Sri Lanka the "nearest neighbour" to India and said "it is through that prism that we view our ties with Sri Lanka."
The evening also included rendition of Bhajans by children of Sakthi Illam and a speech by a student dressed as Mahatma Gandhi. There were also colourful dance performances by students of Abhinayakshetra.
This was the first major event organized at the refurbished Indian Cultural Centre, which now has better facilities and amenities for hosting different cultural events and for the students enrolled in various courses offered at the Centre such as Hindi, Yoga, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Hindustani and Carnatic vocal, Tabla and Veena. The Centre has a big library with a large collection of books on various subjects including contemporary releases and a reading room with Indian and Sri Lankan newspapers, periodicals and magazines.
The second phase of the Indian Housing Project was also launched on 2nd October 2012, as the Indian Housing Project will assist in rehabilitation of thousands of people especially in the Northern Sri Lanka. The Government of India under grant assistance is assisting in reviving the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Matale and the project is being implemented as a Small Development Project in partnership with the UDA and Mahatma Gandhi Sabha. Under the Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship Scheme funded by the Government of India, 150 meritorious and needy students from Sri Lanka, six each from all the 25 districts, are provided scholarship to continue their studies and complete GCE Advance level. The number of students availing scholarships was increased by 50% to 150 from the current year and the scholarship amount has also been increased to Rs 2,000 per month.