Mumbai: 20-member delegation team from US gets a glimpse of Gandhian thought

Sep 29, 2018, 13:20 IST | Hemal Ashar

Police personnel from New York, Miami, Los Angeles in city get a glimpse of Gandhian thought at Mani Bhavan

Mumbai: 20-member delegation team from US gets a glimpse of Gandhian thought
Frank Straub captures Gandhi for posterity. Pic/Bipin Kokate

As October 2 comes closer, an old, bald man with round rimmed spectacles perched on the nose, jumps out of our currency notes and into our consciousness. Gandhi Jayanti is around the corner. Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of Ahimsa is in the spotlight.

On Friday afternoon, a delegation of members from the US police foundation, the New York Police Department (NYPD), Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Miami police and several other law enforcement officials visited, "the home of Gandhi."

The approximately 20-strong delegation is in India to participate in the world summit on countering violence and extremism, by the Art of Living Foundation (AOL). One stop on their itinerary was Mani Bhavan at SoBo's Laburnum Road, significant in Mahatma Gandhi's Indian freedom struggle and archive of Gandhi's life.

Terror survivors
The cops, many of them so well built that they could fill up a Mani Bhavan room with their presence, strode in the steps of Martin Luther King. King, who was hugely influenced by Gandhi, had visited Mani Bhavan 60 years ago.

"I am no Martin Luther King and I am not here to change the world," laughed Frank Straub, Director, Strategic Studies & Center for Mass Violence Response Studies.
Straub should know about violence. He is, after all, a 9/11 survivor. He witnessed a plane crashing into the first tower in New York. When the second tower collapsed, "I was directly underneath the tower. I hid under a fighter truck and I survived, the man running behind me did not," he said. With that, all those accounts of 9/11, the still surreal scene of planes plowing into the towers became all too real.

Peace ambassadors
As the delegates walked through Mani Bhavan, photographers rushed towards Straub and 26/11 survivor, Dilip Mehta, having a conversation. It was a Kodak moment, two survivors exchanging views. Mehta said, "I am living a second life. I was in the Taj Mahal hotel on the 21st floor when terror hit Mumbai. I am getting emotional."

Coordinator Mandar Apte, from the Business of Peace Innovation Lab in Washington DC said it was important, "for this delegation to become ambassadors of non-violence. We are going to Bangalore from here and Indian police will exchange views with the US police. Both sides will take away a lot from the cross cultural exchange." Straub ended, "We saw the worst of evil in India and the US. We need to develop a narrative to counterbalance those forces of evil."

Profound thoughts
The group watched a film on Gandhi, after which we saw them file out of Mani Bhavan, some stoically ready to face the heat outside, others looking pensive, perhaps mulling about Gandhian thought.

Julie Noni, senior head officer with the LAPD, called her visit, "intriguing. In the US, I am looking outside of myself for answers. Here, I am being taught to look inside."

When Larry Juriga, Chief of Police (North Miami), was asked about gun violence in the USA, he said, "Gun violence is part of all violence. Today, as I stand in the home of an apostle of peace, the lingo has changed. Our language as cops is usually guns, tasers and handcuffs. That lexicon should be compassion, empathy and de-escalation."

The group which is in India till September 30, will now leave for Bangalore. They will be part of a collective gathering brainstorming solutions to modern day conflicts through Gandhian principles of non-violence, at the AOL Center in India's Garden City.

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