New Delhi, July 18: Over 150 volunteers celebrated the 94th birthday of renowned South African anti-aparthied activist Nelson Mandela by riding on their motorcycles through the capital and spreading his message of peace and change.
Organised by the South African High Commission Wednesday evening, members of motorcycle group Free Soul Riders (FSR) rode from the high commission’s office in Vasant Vihar area to Raj Ghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi.
“We all came voluntarily. Although we belong to FSR, the rally was open to anybody who had a motorbike and believed in Mandela and his principles,” a participant told IANS.
“It was not a coincidence that we chose Raj Ghat as our place of gathering today. I always say, if Mandela is our father, Gandhi was our grandfather,” South African High Commissioner Harris Majeke said in his address.
Drawing a parallel between Gandhi and Mandela’s philosophies, Majeke said the South African drew inspiration from Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement of 1906 and India’s struggle for freedom.
He added that after his release from prison, India was the first country that Mandela wanted to visit.
Also present on the occasion, Gandhi’s grandson and noted author Rajmohan Gandhi recalled Mandela’s visit to India in 1990 and said that he would like “Indians to embrace Mandela and his ideology and make him a hero,” just like his grandfather is a hero for South Africans.
“Gandhi and Mandela, both were passionate fighters for freedom, justice and reconciliation,” he added.
Chief guest and Delhi’s Minister for Labour, Industry and Elections, Ramakant Goswamy lauded Mandela’s leadership in South African struggle against racial discrimination and said that “Mandela put his country on the road to democracy and freedom.”
He added that India and South Africa shared a common value system and the “special bond” shared by them makes both the countries stand firmly on the principles of Gandhi and Mandela.
Philanthropist Vikramjit Sahney of NGO Sun Foundation announced the launch of a campaign against AIDS in India and dedicated an old age home in South Africa to Mandela to commemorate his birthday.
“This event aims to spread the message of Madela that we should strive to uplift disadvantaged people, promote tolerance and peace across the globe,” Sahney said.
Later, students from Springdale school presented a dance themed on the Gandhian principles of non-violence and passive resistance.