US Congressional Committee passes bill to promote legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The newly passed bill will aim at establishing an exchange initiative between India and the United States to study the work and legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Jul 30, 2020 14:06 IST
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A key congressional committee of the United States on July 29 passed a bill written by the Civil rights icon John Lewis. The bill aims at promoting the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Gandhi-King exchange pact, which was co-sponsored by Indian-American Congressmen Ami Bera, was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The newly passed bill will aim at establishing an exchange initiative between India and the United States to study the work and legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

Origin of the New Act:

Congressman John Lewis led a congressional delegation to India in 2009 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Pilgrimage to India.

Inspired by his visit to India, John Lewis created the Gandhi-King Exchange Act in order to apply the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to conflict resolution efforts and current policy changes.

Promoting the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.:

As per Ami Bera, the US and India, which are the world’s oldest and largest democracies have long traditions of upholding the shared values of which were championed by figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Congressman John Lewis but they are increasingly under threat in both the countries.

But this newly passed legislation will help in ensuring that those values endure as well as will remind us that by holding true to them, we embody and live up to the best of our two nations.

While noting that Dr. King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were the dedicated leaders who fought for peace,  social justice and social change and civil rights in their respective communities and countries, the bill mentions that the use of non-violent civil disobedience is a shared tactic that played a key role in defeating the social justice in India and the US as well as in other parts of the world.

Features of the new bill

•  The Act will authorize the US State Department, in cooperation with the Indian government, to establish an annual education forum for scholars from both the countries that will focus on the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

•  The bill also seeks to develop a professional development training initiative on conflict resolution which is based on the principles of non-violence and will establish a foundation to address the environmental, social, and health priorities in India.

•  Among other things, the bill also asks the administrator of the US Agency for the International Development (USAID) to establish, along with the Indian government, the United States-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation.

•  The bill also asks the President and the CEO of the United States Institute of Peace to develop a training initiative known as Gandhi-King Global Academy.

•  While asserting that Dr. King Jr’s effective use of Gandhi’s principles was instrumental to the American Civil Rights Movement, the bill acknowledges that there is a long history of social and civil rights movement in the US and in India.

•  The newly passed bill mentions that a binational foundation through which the governments of both the countries will work together and will catalyze private investment towards development objective will provide a productive, ongoing institution and symbol of friendship of both governments and their people.

About United States-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation:

The United States-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation which will be established in the coordination of both the governments, will identify development priorities and oversee and administer competitive awarded grants to private non-governmental entities to address priorities in India such as health initiatives addressing Tuberculosis (TB), pollution and related health impacts (PHI), and water, sanitation, and health (WASH), education and empowerment of women.

About Gandhi-King Global Academy:

The academy will target representatives from non- governmental organisations, governments, civic organisations and, cultural, educational, women’s civil and human rights groups, including ethnic and religious minorities and marginalized communities in the countries with ongoing social, political, violent, or ethnic conflict.

The academy will also include the special focus on the success of inclusion, non- violent movements and representation in conflict resolution, developing a curriculum on conflict resolution tool based on non-violence principles, and make it publicly available online, in person as well as through media.

Who was John Lewis?

He was a civil rights hero not only in the US but across the globe who fought for equality, human rights, justice, and democracy for all. John Lewis shaped the world through his actions of non- violence, just like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

John Lewis recently passed away on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80. He was also a contemporary of fellow civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

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