Remembering a Gandhian at heart and in action
Nirmala Deshpande (October 19, 1929 – May 1, 2008) was a noted Indian social activist, Gandhian, served the most part of her life for the promotion of communal harmony and service to women, tribal people, and the dispossessed in Independent India.
In 1952, she joined Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan movement and undertook a 40,000-km journey on foot (padayatra) across India to carry Gandhi's message of Gram Swaraj. Her adherence to Gandhian principles was remarkable and demonstrated her nonviolent peace marches in Punjab and Kashmir when violence was at its peak. In her public life, She took Gandhian ideals as the only way to uphold a truly democratic society.
Her achievements included a peace mission to Kashmir in 1994 and her initiative in organizing India-Pakistan meet in 1996. The Tibetan cause against Chinese suppression was also close to her heart.
In 2001, when the Indian parliament buildings was attacked by Afzal Guru, Deshpande advocated clemency on the grounds of justice and evidence and almost have won in that conviction.
Deshpande visited many cities in the United States of America in the later years of her life. She was member of a Rajya Sabha, when she died in her sleep in the early hours of May 1, 2008, in New Delhi at the age of 79.
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