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"To India I Come as a Pilgrim:" Martin Luther King Jr.'s Remarkable Trip to Honor His Hero


on 2020/1/25 10:01:09 ( 943 reads )

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NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 20, 2020 (Washington Post): After six full days of travel, Martin Luther King Jr. had finally arrived. He was met with wreaths of flowers and driven to a luxury hotel near the India Gate. He undoubtedly had jet lag, but before he could sleep it off, a news conference was set up in the lobby. "To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim," he told the two dozen reporters gathered there on Feb. 10, 1959. They peppered him with questions. Was it true interracial marriage was illegal in the American South [yes, at the time it was]? Could nonviolent protest work in colonized Africa? Was he a vegetarian?

The Montgomery bus boycott three years earlier had been closely watched in Indian newspapers, particularly since King, as the young leader of the boycott, espoused the teachings of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. Now, he would be spending a month in India to learn more and pay homage to his hero. King first learned about Gandhi as a seminary student in 1949, just a year after Gandhi had been assassinated. He soon wrote about Gandhi in his schoolwork as a person who "greatly reveal[s] the working of the Spirit of God." Six years later, after the arrest of Rosa Parks, King led the 381-day boycott that would make him famous. Of the nonviolent direct action technique, he said, "Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi in India showed it could work."

King had always hoped to visit India, but the civil rights movement kept him too busy for years. Finally, in 1959, a trip was organized and co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Gandhi National Memorial Fund. His wife, Coretta Scott King, and biographer Lawrence D. Reddick joined him on the trip. Everywhere they went, they were treated as honored guests, King later remembered. They had to turn down hundreds of invitations but still had a jam-packed schedule throughout their stays in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. One of their first stops was to the samadhi site, or cremation site, of Gandhi's remains. King and his party laid a wreath of flowers; according to one observer, King was "deeply moved" and knelt to pray for a long time.

He met with India's prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and vice president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who had been close associates of Gandhi during India's struggle for independence. Later, in her memoir, Coretta King said her husband compared it to "meeting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a single day." King met with many of Gandhi's friends and family, who gave him their blessing to continue spreading Gandhian teachings. He visited Buddhist and Hindu temples and with leaders of movements to redistribute land and eradicate the caste system. He also gave lectures at several universities. While in Mumbai, King was also invited to stay at Gandhi's private residence. He wrote in the guestbook, "To have the opportunity of sleeping in the house where Gandhiji slept is an experience that I will never forget."

King gave a final news conference and radio address on March 9, the night before their departure, telling listeners he was leaving India "more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity." Four days later, he returned to the pulpit for a Palm Sunday service. He preached to his congregants about Gandhi's life and martyrdom, comparing him to Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. He told them -- six years before the march from Selma to Montgomery -- about the Salt March in 1930, when Gandhi led millions on a 218-mile nonviolent protest of an unjust law. Hundreds were beaten by British authorities and more than 60,000 arrested, but, "the British Empire knew, then, that this little man had mobilized the people of India to the point that they could never defeat them," King said.

Jesus once said he had other sheep who "were not of this fold," King reminded the congregants, before concluding, "It is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the 20th century was not a member of the Christian church."

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Author Thread
chandra rangnath
Published: 2020/1/26 23:18  
 Martin Luther King's pilgrimage to Gandhi's memorial
Hinduism Today seems starry-eyed about Gandhi, who you think is a Hindu icon. Far from being an icon, Gandhi has done tremendous harm to Hindu Dharma. His unjustified support to and praise of Ali brothers who were largely instrumental in building Muslim militancy all over India during the 1920's was a slap on the face of the peace-loving and gullible Hindu population of the subcontinent. After the gory genocide and mass conversion of Hindus of Kerala in the name of 'Khilafat' in the 1920's, Gandhi heaped more insult on Hindus by praising the Muslim fanatics as 'brave and patriotic'. Gandhi constantly kept telling Hindus that it's in their religion to bear violence and humiliation with patience, which eventually brought untold misery to the Hindu population of India. No HT, Gandhi is not a Hindu icon. No thinking Hindu in today's world would want to adore Gandhi. Yes, ahimsa is 'paramo dharmah' but when faced with genocide and rape, Hindus have as much right as anyone else to organise themselves and hit back.

Author Thread
dr v ramaswami
Published: 2020/6/16 17:41  
 I adore Gandhi
The ones doing great harm to Sanatana Dharma are people like Chandra Ranganath who perhaps are swayed by the modern day misguided, violent, and virulent Hindutva moment. Gandhi was a model Hindu in most ways, and above all in his willingness to sacrifice everything for the oppressed. Until we step up to that level, we have no right even to comment on him. Let us remember that the independence many of us got to enjoy and has allowed us to speak our mind is to a large extent due this great Mahatma. As for Muslims, there are indeed many patriotic Indian muslims and they will be turned off totally by the likes of the comments here. Honestly I wish the magazine did not publish it.
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