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US House passes resolution on Mahatma's influence on King

February 12, 2009 00:11 IST

The United States House of Representative on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution recognising the influence Mahatma Gandhi had on Martin Luther King Jr, the great civil rights leader of America, who has been a source of inspiration to President Barack Obama.

Passed by a roll call vote of 406 to 0, with 26 abstaining, the resolution commemorates the 50th anniversary of King's visit to India in 1959. It was introduced by Congressman John Lewis and co-sponsored by five other lawmakers -- John Conyers, Jim McDermott, Robert C Scott, Henry Johnson and Adam B Schiff.

The resolution urged all Americans to commemorate King's trip to India in 1959 to know more about Mahatma Gandhi and the influence his study of Gandhian philosophy had in shaping the US Civil Rights Movement, in creating political climate necessary to pass legislation to expand civil rights and voting rights for all Americans.

Observing that the great American leader was tremendously influenced by the non-violence philosophy of Gandhi, the resolution says King encountered this during his study of Gandhi, and was further inspired by him during his first trip to India. King successfully used this in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights, it says.

A US delegation, including several lawmakers, are scheduled to visit India later this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the visit of Martin Luther King to India from February 10, 1959 to March 10, 1959. During his month-long stay, King was accompanied by his wife Coretta Scott King, and Lawrence Reddick, then chairman of the History Department at Alabama State College.

King visited various places associated with Gandhi. He met then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, land reform leader Vinoba Bhave and other influential leaders to discuss issues of poverty, economic policy and race relations. All this deepened King's commitment to nonviolence, and revealed to him the power that nonviolent resistance holds in political and social battles, the resolution says.

"The trip to India impacted Dr King in a profound way, and inspired him to use nonviolence as an instrument of social change to end segregation and racial discrimination in America throughout the rest of his work during the Civil Rights Movement," the Congressional resolution says.

Congressman John Lewis is part of the US delegation to visit India this month to commemorate the visit. Others are Martin Luther King III and legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock. The delegation will meet in New Delhi with government leaders, social activists, and youth, and will travel around India to some of the principal sites associated with Gandhi.

Two special musical performances featuring Herbie Hancock and others will be organised by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In Chennai, Indian musicians will conduct a special tribute, including performances of music on the theme of non-violence created by leading composer A R Rahman.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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