2009: Rajmohan Gandhi – Bridges between India and Pakistan

By John Bond

22/11/2021
Rajmohan Gandhi 2011 Caux Forum Human Security

 

The pulsing beat of Pakistani rock star Salman Ahmad resounded around the Caux theatre. Ahmad, who is also a doctor and a UN Goodwill Ambassador, was among 25 distinguished Indians and Pakistanis who came to Caux in 2009 with the aim of building bridges between their countries.

 

Indian-Pakistan Dialogue 2009
India-Pakistan Dialogue in Caux, 2009

 

As a minister in one of Pakistan’s provincial governments said, ‘The cherished goal of peace, security and development will remain elusive until we learn to trust each other. We have gathered here to forge a coalition of conscience.’

‘Coalition of conscience’ is an unexpected phrase from a politician, but it expressed the aim of the man who initiated the gathering – Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the spirit of his grandfather, Rajmohan has devoted himself to bridging the divides across South Asia. As a professor of history, he knows the tragic cost of conflict between Indians and Pakistanis, between Hindus and Muslims. He knows too that hatred can be healed, and his appeal to all is to search their consciences and discover their role in healing. ‘The choice is not between “our” God and “their” God, for God is one,’ he wrote. ‘The choice is between a wind carrying poison, and the whisper of the one God, intimating his sane counsel to us.’

 

Rajmohan Gandhi signing copies of his history of Punjab at a Literary Festival in Karachi, Pakistan, 2014
Rajmohan Gandhi signing copies of his history of Punjab at a Literary Festival in Karachi, Pakistan, 2014

 

Caux proved an appropriate venue for the Indian-Pakistani discussion. ‘Caux is, to my mind, unique,’ wrote an Indian journalist. ‘Four days into our stay I finally understood what made it so. It was the absence of envy. We have built an entire world around the glorification of the competitive spirit. For a few days we all left it behind and talked purely as human beings. We all came away a little changed and feeling a lot closer to each other. I hope we will be able to translate it into action.’

We all came away a little changed and feeling a lot closer to each other. I hope we will be able to translate it into action.

Rajmohan first came to Caux in 1956 with members of his family when they were visiting Europe. His father, Devadas Gandhi, managing editor of the Hindustan Times, said at Caux, ‘If Moral Re-Armament [as Initiatives of Change/IofC was then called] fails, the world fails’. Rajmohan followed him into journalism, first as a trainee on The Scotsman in Edinburgh. There he stayed with a family associated with Moral Re-Armament, was attracted by their approach to life, and decided to engage in the same work.

 

Rajmohan Gandhi, Km Cherian, Mannath Padmanabhan
Rajmohan Gandhi (left) in Thiruvananthapuram, India, with KM Cherian, Chief Editor of Malayala Manorama, and social reformer Mannath Padmanabhan during the March on Wheels

 

Before long he was leading a March on Wheels from the southern tip of India to Delhi, calling for a ‘clean, strong and united India’ in large rallies along their route. Many young people responded, and he and his colleagues held training camps for them, one of which was in Panchgani in the Maharashtrian hills. In 1964, he launched the weekly news magazine Himmat (meaning courage) which, in his words was ‘a flame speaking truth to power and the street’ and ‘a bridge across divides’. It ran for 17 years.

 

Rajmohan Gandhi Leon Sullivan
Rajmohan Gandhi with American civil rights leader Leon Sullivan at Caux, 1983.

 

In 1968 he and his colleagues established a centre, Asia Plateau, in Panchgani. Thousands of Indians have participated in training courses there each year ever since, and many international conferences have taken place, all based on the conviction that everyone can help change their society for the better if they are prepared to start with themselves.

Rajmohan has worked for this better society through many avenues. He has fought for integrity in politics, and served in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. He has constantly used his voice as an academic, journalist and politician to speak for human rights and democracy. A Hindu, he has taken a firm stand against the attempts to treat Muslim Indians as second-class citizens. Several of the 14 books of history and biography he has written focus on the role and condition of the sub-continent’s Muslims.

 

Rajmohan Gandhi in Palestine
Rajmohan Gandhi visiting Palestine

 

And across the world he is welcomed, together with his wife Usha. He is an articulate exponent of Mahatma Gandhi’s approach, and his life is pervaded by his grandfather’s values – values which are as relevant today as ever.

Throughout these years Caux and Asia Plateau have cooperated, and the interchange between the centres has strengthened the work of each to create a more inclusive, just and caring society. Indians have brought to Caux their experience of overcoming corruption, healing divisions, bringing justice into unjust situations.

Among those who have done most to build this cooperation have been Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi.

 

Rajmohan Gandhi and Usha in Caux photo: John Azzopardi
Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi in Caux

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Watch Caux gives me perspective and renewal: an interview with Prof Rajmohan Gandhi, 2017

 

Watch Rajmohan Gandhi speak about Kashmir and the India-Pakistan Story (13 September 2019)

 

Watch a documentary on Asia Plateau which Rajmohan Gandhi helped create

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.

 

 

 

Featured Story
Off
Event Categories
75 stories 75th anniversary

related stories

Merel Rumping

2012: Merel Rumping – Going out on a limb

When Merel Rumping from the Netherlands first visited Caux in 2012, she had a goal in mind – ‘to explore how I could contribute to a more just world through my professional activities’....

Lucette Schneider

2011: Lucette Schneider – Choices which make the magic of Caux

For many years, Lucette Schneider from Switzerland organized the team which gathered in the early mornings to wash, peel and chop vegetables for the kitchens of the Caux conference centre. ...

Mohan Bhagwandas 2003

2010: Mohan Bhagwandas – Addressing the crisis of integrity

Mohan Bhagwandas is all too aware of his carbon footprint. In the 13 years from 2006 to 2019, he flew 17 times from his home city of Melbourne, Australia, to Switzerland to take part in the Caux confe...

4th Caux Round Table Global Dialogues 1989

1994: The Caux Round Table – Principles for Business

In July 1994, a set of Principles for Business was launched at Caux by the Caux Round Table (CRT), an international forum of business leaders which had been meeting there since 1986....

Iman Ajmal Masroor

2008: Learning to be a Peacemaker – ‘An eye-opener to the world’

2008 saw the launch of an unusual course on Islam’s approach to peacemaking for young Muslims and non-Muslims, devised by Imam Ajmal Masroor from the UK. The course’s coordinator, Peter Riddell, descr...

Mohamed Sahnoun credit IofC France

2007: Mohamed Sahnoun – Healing wounded memories

The Algerian diplomat Mohamed Sahnoun was President of Initiatives of Change International from 2006 to 2009 and founded the annual Human Security Forum at Caux....

Zeke Reich cropped.jpeg

2006: Zeke Reich – Across walls of fear

Zeke Reich is a psychotherapist at a community mental health clinic in Washington DC who has been to the IofC conference centre in Caux several times over the years. He remembers an encounter which ha...

Somalia - First meeting of Benadir and Hawiye – anti-clockwise from right: Sayid Ma’alow, Hassan Mohamud Geeseye, Omar Salad Elmi, Mohamed Abukar Haji Omar, n/a, Khalid Maou Abdulkadir, Dr Ahmed Sharif Abbas

2005: Omar Salad Elmi – Clearing the cloud of mistrust

‘There are two people in the Somali delegation whose names include Omar,’ said the man from the allocation team at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux. ‘As we didn’t have any informati...

Housekeeping Monica and Maya

2004: The Housekeeping Team – ‘My dream of serving the world came true’

Before you arrive in your room in Caux, someone from the housekeeping team will have been there before you, to check that it is clean, that the bed is made up and the light bulbs work. If you can’t wo...

Round Table Burundi 22 April 2007

2003 : Burundi – Ten years of political dialogue

Between 2003 and 2013, Caux was the scene of seven political dialogues between deeply divided Burundian leaders. They brought together representatives of political parties and armed rebel movements, f...

Erica Utzinger and her husband Beni working in the archives

2002: Erika Utzinger - 200 metres of history

The archives of the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre, now held by the Canton of Vaud, are an endless source of precious information. Swiss archivist Eliane Stallybrass describes the work to preserve...

Sommaruga with Amina Dikedi (left) and Msgr Fortunatus Nwachukwu at Caux, 2006 credit: Isabelle Mermindo

2001: Cornelio Sommaruga - ‘Grüss Gott’

'I first met Cornelio Sommaruga at a private dinner party. He was then head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and was just back from Cuba, where he’d met with Fidel Castro, in the...

Club for Young Leaders, Angela 2014, Caux (photo Diana Topan)

2000: Angela Starovoytova and Kostiantyn Ploskyi – Taking off the masks

Around the turn of the Millennium, many young Ukrainians came to Caux. Some of them took leadership in Foundations for Freedom (F4F), a programme for young people which offered courses in the values w...

Ismar and Fabiana Villavicencio credit T Hazell

1999: Gente Que Avanza – Latin America hits town

It was a Red-Letter Day in July 1999 when more than 40 young Latin Americans burst through the front door of Mountain House, Caux, and hugged everyone in sight. Gente Que Avanza had arrived – and Caux...