When we at Sarvodaya Mandal Dehra Dun decided to celebrate Kasturba Gandhi’s birthday, we soon realized that most of the people are not aware of the date of her birth, and nor is her birthday observed publically anywhere. To a large extent, Kasturba is already beginning to vanish from our collective memories.
It was with this concern that Sarvodaya Mandal celebrated Kasturba's birthday through conducting two meetings on 11 April 2012. First, in the hope of interesting young girls into the issue who could then keep the candle burning, a morning meeting was conducted at Government Girls’ High Secondary School (Raipur, Dehra Dun). Chinmay Vyas, Sumitra Chauhan, Shailendra Bhandari and Biju Negi of Sarvodaya Mandal threw light on different aspects of Kasturba’s life and character to underline her important role in the country’s freedom struggle. More importantly, it stressed on the need to look at Kasturba outside of Mohandas and as an individual in her own right - that she had an identity and personality of her own. In Dehra Dun, this was the first ever meeting in my living memory on this issue.
Later in the morning and together with a women's organization Mahila Samakhya, a discussion was organized at Arya Samaj Mandir, Dhamawala on the topic – “Kasturba: Gandhi Vichar ki ek Sashakt Stambh” (Kasturba: An Important Pillar in Gandhian Thought).
Elder Gandhian, Smt Vimla Bahuguna, the main speaker on the occasion, spoke about Kasturba being the critical force which enabled Gandhi to develop from Mohandas to Mahatma. She also underlined the fact that Kasturba was a person of independent opinion and often differed from Gandhi on many issues, but once convinced, supported him to the hilt.
Another senior Gandhian, Chinmay Vyas related Kasturba’s role and struggle in the freedom struggle to the struggle of women in Uttarakhand for statehood. In both struggles, the women have played a strong role, but which has largely gone unrecognized and now forgotten. With the current political scenario making a mockery of all the sacrifices that were endured, he urged the women in Uttarakhand to take control of the politics to set right path.
President of the Sarvodaya Mandal Dehra Dun, Biju Negi said, “When we reflect on the life of Kasturba we find that she was a devoted wife, a devoted mother not just to her children but the hundreds who would to their Ashram; that she was a great patriot and social reformer, and that she perfomed all roles with great challenge and quiet dignity.” He further said, “So by observing Kasturba Jayanti, it is our endeavour that we do not obliterate from the pages of history her role and that of thousands of other women who contributed silently to the country’s freedom, and of who we know hardly anything.”
There has been no proper evaluation done of women’s role in the country attaining freedom, whereas Gandhiji has himself on many occasions acknowledged that it was from Kasturba that he actually learnt the philosophy and tactic of satyagrah. Kasturba’s entire life has been the epitome of love, dedication, sacrifice and silence, and on her death, he said, “I cannot imagine a life without her.”
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