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Nelson Mandela, the "Gandhi of South Africa" had strong Indian connections

Friday, 6 December 2013 - 6:15pm IST | Agency: PTI

Nelson Mandela, who was often dubbed as the 'Gandhi of South Africa', had strong Indian connections and striking similarities with India's 'Father of Nation'.

The anti-apartheid icon shared a special bond for India and this was there for the world to see when he chose the land of Gandhi, whom he called his 'political guru" and a "role model", as his first destination abroad in 1990 after spending 27 years behind bars.

In fact when he was released from prison in 1990, India conferred him with the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour. This even before he got the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. Mandela was the first non-Indian recipient of Bharat Ratna.

An avowed Gandhian, Madiba, as Mandela was affectionately known around the world, always praised Gandhi for his principles of 'Satya and Ahimsa' and followed his philosophy.

"The Mahatma is an integral part of our history because it is here that he first experimented with truth; here that he demonstrated his characteristic firmness in pursuit of justice; here that he developed Satyagraha as a philosophy and a method of struggle," Mandela said at an unveiling of Gandhi Memorial in South Africa in 1993.

"Gandhi is most revered for his commitment to non-violence and the Congress Movement was strongly influenced by this Gandhian philosophy, it was a philosophy that achieved the mobilisation of millions of South Africans during the 1952 defiance campaign, which established the ANC as a mass-based organisation," Mandela had said in his address.

After his release in prison, where he spent years for his anti-apartheid efforts, Mandela often visited India and invited Indian dignitaries to South Africa. He will be remembered as much as an Indian leader and an inspirational figure in India.

As a strong follower of Gandhi's teachings, he was awarded the International Gandhi Peace Price in 2001 for his peacemaking efforts by the Indian government.

Whenever Mandela visited India he considered it a pilgrimage to the land of his political guru. He said that India had great leaders and great people, a place that he will always admire.


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