India gifts Mahatma Gandhi’s bust to Clarksdale, Mississippi

Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings especially relevant amid a new social awakening in the US, says Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami

A large bronze bust of India’s freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired Dr. Martin Luther King among many world leaders and thinkers, today adorns the front lawn of the Coahoma County courthouse in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

A gift from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Consulate General of India, Atlanta, the bust was presented to city, county, and state officials in a ceremony on Friday by Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni.

The ceremony took place in the week of Gandhi’s birthday and during the celebratory 75th anniversary year of India’s founding as the world’s largest democracy.

Read: Indian community in Chicago celebrates Gandhi Jayanti (October 5, 2021)

“Gandhiji is an extraordinary inspirational force across the world. His most important legacy is his technique of nonviolent moral activism and his principles of courage, truth, and religious tolerance,” said Dr. Kulkarni.

“His principles provided an impetus for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who followed his operational techniques, she said noting Gandhi led India’s epic freedom struggle against colonialism and Dr. King led America’s epic struggle against racism.

“Both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King will continue to inspire generations through their life and the values they stood for.”

The bust, commissioned and supplied by the ICCR under India’s Ministry of External Affairs was designed by the noted Indian sculptor Ram Sutar.

The event was sponsored by the Crossroads Economic Partnership, a collaboration of the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority of Coahoma County; PeopleShores, a social enterprise; and Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders.

Clarksdale and Coahoma County are located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta region, near the Mississippi River.

While the region has suffered depopulation and loss of jobs in recent decades, an influx of new industry, job opportunities, and people during the past four years have begun to reverse the community’s fortunes. The Indian American community has played a significant role in that progress, according to a press release.

Jon Levingston, executive director of the Crossroads Economic Partnership, said, “Having recruited PeopleShores to Clarksdale, which was founded by Indian American Murali Vullaganti, I have seen firsthand their commitment to training their employees not only with technical skills, but most importantly, essential life skills.”

“Their care and thoughtfulness in providing employees new educational and job opportunities are helping to break the generational cycles of poverty that have gripped our region for decades,” he said.

“There is also a fully staffed medical clinic in the PeopleShores building to address without charge the healthcare needs of those citizens who have no health insurance.”

“Their leadership in this endeavor and their embodiment of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi makes this gift even more meaningful and resonant for us,” Levingston said.

“Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and principles continue to be a guiding light now as much as ever. This is especially relevant today when we are grappling with uncertainty in the face of a global pandemic, as well as a new social awakening in the US,” said MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora.

“We are delighted to be engaged in this community-wide effort. We hope the Indian diaspora can continue to serve as a force for good, as a bridge between countries, and as global ambassadors for Gandhi’s message. Our hope is that his legacy is a reminder of what is possible.”

Read: US city in Mississippi Delta region to install Mahatma Gandhi’s bronze bust (October 8, 2021)

Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy, speaking about the gift said, “We are humbled by this most generous gift. Gandhi was among the most courageous and spiritual of men. He led his nation to freedom not with guns but with simplicity, determination, truth, and nonviolence.”

“His efforts inspired the world, including the leaders of our own nation’s Civil Rights Movement, such as Dr. King and the late Congressman John Lewis.”

Coahoma County Board of Supervisors president, Johnny Newson observed, “Gandhi was a transformational leader. He embodied the virtues of tolerance and respect. He showed the world that change can be made without violence and changed the course of a nation forever.”

“We welcome and are grateful for the opportunity to strengthen our bonds of friendship with the Indian American community as well as our brothers and sisters in India,” he said.

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