Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King to use non-violence: US House

February 12th, 2009 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 12 (IANS) The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution recognising Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr and commemorating the golden jubilee anniversary of the American civil rights leader’s visit to India in 1959.

Passed Wednesday with a 406 to 0 vote with 26 abstaining, the resolution recalls how King’s study of Gandhian philosophy helped shape the Civil Rights Movement.

“The trip to India impacted Dr King in a profound way, and inspired him to use non-violence as an instrument of social change to end segregation and racial discrimination in America throughout the rest of his work during the Civil Rights Movement,” it says.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will Thursday send off a cultural delegation comprising Martin Luther King III, and US House representatives John Lewis, Spencer Bachus and Herbie Hancock to India to commemorate King’s tour.

It will begin in New Delhi and travel around India to some of the principal sites associated with Gandhi’s work.

Lewis, often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced”, introduced the House resolution. Five other Congressmen, John Conyers, Jim McDermott, Robert C. Scott, Henry Johnson and Adam B. Schiff co-sponsored it.

King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, travelled to India from Feb 10 to March 10, 1959. Upon their return to the US, King and other leaders of the civil rights movement drew on Gandhi’s ideas to transform American society.

During his month long stay in India, King met the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, land reform leader Vinoba Bhave and other influential Indian leaders to discuss issues of poverty, economic policy and race relations.

All this reaffirmed and deepened King’s commitment to non-violence and revealed to him the power that non-violent resistance holds in political and social battles, the resolution says.

McDermott, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, speaking on the resolution said Gandhi’s principle of satyagraha - non-violence - inspired change for the better throughout the world, and particularly in the US.

In a radio address to India in 1959, King had said: “The spirit of Gandhi is so much stronger today than some people believe”. That statement is as true today as it was 50 years ago, said McDermott.

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