Rajmohan Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and professor at University of Illinois, spoke to students, faculty, staff and community members about the growth and change in India last Thursday night.
“In 1946, my grandfather said, ‘In [my idealistic] India, the last person would be equal to the first. Nobody would be last and nobody would be first. There shall be no high class or low class, and all people shall live in perfect harmony. We shall be at peace with all the rest of the world. This is the India of my dreams.’ If we are trying to create his India, I think we’re on the right path,” he said.
India has become very tolerant and accepting of diversity in recent years, Gandhi said.
“The president of India right now is a woman. The vice president is Muslim,” he said. “These symbolic shows of diversity show that Indian politics have advanced equality with the help of affirmative action.
The former members of the lowest ‘untouchable’ caste now have leading places in India’s government as well. If democracy and a good life are the same, then I think we can say India has begun to near that.”
Gandhi said affirmative action has had a very positive role in India, even outside of politics.
“Equality is given to everyone in India, no matter what,” he said. “But there is also positive discrimination toward women and children and the ‘original’ inhabitants of India, the tribes that suffered and went through a lot many years ago. The eventual goal of affirmative action, however, is that some day affirmative action will not be needed.”
India’s growth is also obvious on a technological level, Gandhi said.
“There are over 700 million cell phones now in the hands of the Indians,” he said. “That’s certainly a lot of growth. But don’t forget about the starving, the crippled or the homeless, because they’re still there too.”
Gandhi said he thinks India is heading in the right direction and will only continue to grow and form ties with the rest of the world.
“It’s very heartening to me that Indians are becoming internationally known, benefitting the community while finding satisfying careers for themselves,” he said. “India is in the position to build bridges of understanding from the west to Islam. India is one of the best places to build these connecting bridges between the rest of the world.”