When Martin Luther King wanted India to lead the world to peace

January 20th, 2009 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 20 (IANS) Fifty years back from the year Barack Obama will be taking oath as the US’s first black president amidst a war-torn world, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. made a fervent plea to India to take the lead in what he called universal disarmament.This came to light on the 50th anniversary of his visit to the subcontinent when researchers in India rediscovered a rare recording of King Jr.’s address to India on All India Radio.

According to a statement issued by the Indian embassy here, staff in All India Radio rediscovered the recording made by King Jr. at the end of his visit to India along with his wife Coretta Scott King in February 1959 at the height of the Cold War.

In the speech made at the end of his visit, King Jr. expressed anguish at the Cold War that prevailed between the US and the then Soviet Union and called upon India to take the lead in a universal disarmament movement drawing from Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy.

Citing a suggestion, which he said had come to him in the course of his interaction with noted social worker Acharya Vinoba Bhave, King Jr. said: “The issue of world peace is so critical that I feel compelled to offer a suggestion that came to me during the course of our conversations with Vinoba Bhave.”

“The peace-loving peoples of the world have not yet succeeded in persuading my own country, America, and Soviet Russia to eliminate fear and disarm themselves. Unfortunately, as yet America and the Soviet Union have not shown the faith and moral courage to do this. Vinobaji has said that India, or any other nation that has the faith and moral courage, could disarm itself tomorrow, even unilaterally,” he said in the speech, a transcript of which has been made available.

Stating that India might have to take the lead and call for universal disarmament, he said: “And if no other nation will join her immediately, India may declare itself for disarmament unilaterally. Such an act of courage would be a great demonstration of the spirit of the Mahatma, and would be the greatest stimulus to the rest of the world to do likewise.”

He added that if India undertook such a step, it “would automatically draw to itself the support of the multitudes of the earth, so that any would-be aggressor would be discouraged from risking the wrath of mankind”.

In the speech, in which he re-emphasised his intellectual debt to the Mahatma, King Jr. said: “In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.”

He called upon the world to follow the way of love and non-violence shown by the Mahatma.

“Mahatma Gandhi may well be God’s appeal to this generation, a generation drifting again to its doom. And this eternal appeal is in the form of a warning: they that live by the sword shall perish by the sword,” King Jr. said.

“Today we no longer have a choice between violence and non-violence; it is either non-violence, or non-existence.”

He also lauded India’s efforts to preserve the memories of the Mahatma in the form of his letters, writings, pictures, monuments and the work of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.

“These are but a few examples of the way Gandhiji will be permanently enshrined in the hearts of the people of India. Moreover, many governmental officials who do not follow Gandhi literally apply his spirit to domestic and international problems,” he said.

The Kings had travelled to India in search of the roots of the nonviolent social action movement of Mahatma Gandhi, which had led to Indian independence.

King Jr., assassinated in 1968, would have turned 80 Jan 15 this year.

According to the Indian embassy statement, a delegation led by Martin Luther King III, with planned participation by members of the US Congress, legendary musicians and other distinguished Americans, will meet with counterparts in India next month “to underscore the enduring importance of these two great leaders”.

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